Becoming a Translator: What Does it Take?

We publish many articles addressing the subject of automated translation and machine translation given that the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are becoming so important in the language service industry. However, we always like to note that humans are indispensable for the industry. Professional linguists, translators and interpreters remain the core of the translation industry and getting qualified is not always very easy! Although you can certainly work as a freelance translator with no official qualifications, investing in your training can certainly increase your value, and will allow you to take on work that is reserved for the most highly skilled translators and interpreters. In some countries, legal documents need to be translated by certified translators, too, so there is a world of work if you are interested in making the investment.

Translating for Legal Equivalence

Some countries have specific guidelines that must be met in order for a translation to be acceptable by a legal jurisdiction. Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States all have specific requirements. When translating legal documents, translators must swear an oath that they attest that it is the legal equivalent of the source text. Often, only translators of a special class are authorized to swear such oaths. While the legal requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, many times the authorization is only given after very detailed testing is undergone. Additionally, a translator may be legally able to perform the oath in one industry or area of law, but not another, as intense expertise is necessary.

The European Masters in Translation

The European Commission has partnered with higher education institutions across Europe that offer master’s level translation programs. The European Master’s in Translation is a quality label that ensure the attainment of agreed professional standards and market demands. Students who graduate from a program that is a member of the European Master’s in Translation network are eligible to use the European Master’s in Translation trademark, much like quality control seals that are on food or cosmetics labels.

The goal of the European Master’s in Translation is to improve the quality of translator training to enhance young professionals’ integration into the labor market. The EMT translator competence profile outlines the competences of all graduates of an EMT university program. There are six minimum competences that certified language professionals must have. They are:

  1. Translation service provision competence: this competence covers the interpersonal and production dimensions, having to do with the translator’s social role, together with the translator’s relationship to the client. It includes elements of planning, management and self-evaluation to comply with professional standards.
  2. Language competence: the translator’s ability in the original and target language.
  3. Intercultural competence: a two-dimensional construct which includes the ability to identify and compare cultural elements, as well as the ability to analyze the macrostructure and coherence of a text and reproduce it according to particular standards.
  4. Information mining competence: the ability to develop strategies for documentary and terminological research, including working with experts and using technological tools effectively.
  5. Thematic competence: this is the translator´s ability to find information which helps them to understand the themes of a document. This also includes the development of knowledge in specialized fields, concepts, and terminology.
  6. Technological competence: a translator needs to be able to rapidly and effectively use a range of software tools which assist in translation.

If you are working with a translator who took part in a European Master’s in Translation, then you know they have studied to meet industry standards, and the quality of their work is recognized by the European Commission. So, while it may not be strictly necessary to complete a master’s, the EU’s seal of approval is very valuable, and means investing in a career in translation can be quite rewarding. We work with the best translators and interpreters and always prefer when they are highly qualified, especially in linguistics!