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31.10.2014
I'm a freshman in college, and I'd like to know what I should study in order to become a freelance translator. I think that freshman year of college isn't the right time to contemplate becoming a freelance translator. Becoming a freelance translator is such an unlikely career path that most of the ones I know fell into it. This situation might be different for translators between European languages, where there are more degree courses in translation and there's more of a career path. I’m getting ready to apply to colleges and seriously thinking of getting into translation. For 3 and 4, I think something like a BFA followed by an MA in translating & interpreting might be a possibility if you want to go the academic route.
And of course, the contacts you make working in the field often become your first clients when you start translating.
About the writers I am also the author of the book and accompanying materials on this site, How to Become a Translator, written with the aim of sharing my experience of the translation business with aspiring freelance translators. Translating seems to be one of those special talents that doesn't correlate well with intelligence.


Being a freelance translator essentially means spending a lot of time by yourself, head down at the computer.
That's true in my case — I started freelancing on the side in grad school in order to pay for some medical bills, and after a couple of years decided to make a go of it full time. But for my language pair (Japanese to English), it seems like just about all the freelancers I know are ex-something or others. In fact, because so few people are suited to being freelance translators, it can be a great career if it's right for you. Instead of sitting there at 18 thinking, "I'm going to study finance and Japanese and become a freelance financial translator," I'd recommend studying the finance, studying the Japanese, and getting that MBA with the goal of working in the field. Ideally, translation as a professional skill (as opposed to as a way of learning a language) shouldn’t be taught until post graduate level. But to be a good translator it is not enough to have studied a language, even combined with a specific field.
That’ll give you more time to decide if you really want to be a translator, and the experience will serve you greatly should you decide to become one.
This new step-by-step ebook by Ceylan Sonmez will show you how to start your entrepreneurial translator journey into the U.S.


When I get time, I also do some freelance translation, for corporate customers and for the UN War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. Firstly, being a translator requires subject and linguistic knowledge that take a long time to acquire. Many otherwise intelligent people with a good grasp of their "A" and "B" languages just can't seem to make a good translation.
Then if, at some point, you find the opportunity to do some freelance translating, go for it. That’s one reason why mere college study is far from enough to prepare one as a translator. Sonmez has been a successful freelance translator for over ten years, building her business through hard-work.




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