Translators come from any number of backgrounds, some start translating immediately after leaving university, while others work for the majority of their lives in a completely different career and begin to translate later in life. Retired accountants, lawyers and doctors all play an important role in the translation industry; they bring the essential combination of technical knowledge and language skills which is an vital when translating specialist texts.
Translators work in a number of ways, some work for translation agencies, and benefit from the work of the agency’s sales departments, who help generate new business; others work directly for the end client and most do a combination of both. Employers, end clients and translation agencies alike, are looking for candidates who have a degree in modern languages and/or translation, or a number of years’ relevant experience. However most will ask for the translator to provide sample translations to ascertain the quality of their work. In some instances a degree is not essential, if for example you are fluent in two languages you could study for a Diploma in translation. The Institute of Linguists’ Diploma in Translation is highly respected in the industry and can be studied part-time alongside your usual employment. Candidates are required to complete a general module and two semi-specialised modules. The examination is tough and many fail on their first attempt, but it acts as an excellent indicator of quality. Government agencies will require certification of any qualifications that you may have to ensure that you are of the standard they require.
There are a number of academic institutions in the UK which offer undergraduate and post graduate degrees in translation. Some universities have links with local businesses and offer short work placements to provide students with practical experience. Work placements with translation agencies are really helpful, allowing candidates to see how the translation process works and gain useful contacts which could help them when starting a freelance career.
There is a growing need for translation services in the UK with the Government spending an estimated £500 million every year. There has never been a better time to start a career in the translation industry.