A translator makes sure that source content in one language is adequately transferred into a target language. The content of the source and the target can be written or spoken. Moreover, there are several variations of this job. From interpreters to transcreators, the exact role a translator takes on can vary a lot. But no matter whether additional skills are needed, all translators have to be fluent in at least two languages, whereby the target language should be their mother tongue. Some translators get credit for their work; that means they are being named as the person responsible for the translated content. As a freelance translator you won’t always be publicly mentioned as the author of the translation. Depending on what companies/industries you work for and the medium your translated content is published on, your name might actually never get mentioned.
Types of Translations
Depending on the content and any additional skills a translator needs to apply to a task, there are four different types of translations:
In the traditional sense, interpreters follow a spoken conversation in one language and translate it into their target language saying the sentences out loud. This usually takes place in real-time. That means the interpreter is present while the conversation is taking place. There is no pause button or the chance to go back and listen to a sentence again. This can only be done when the conversation was recorded and when a live interpretation is not required. Another way to describe interpretations is to point out the fact that, contrary to localisations or translations, there is an element of inaccuracy. Interpretations don’t have to reflect exactly what was said, which would be impossible in a live situation; the overall meaning is of essence. This is why not only vocal interpreters, but also those who translate a written source, can be regarded as interpreters if the translation is done very liberally.
In contrast to a translation, a localisation requires the adaptation of country specific terms and facts. This is why a localisation does not necessarily involve two different languages. A localisation could also be a ‘translation’ from English (US) to English (UK). Here are some examples of what a localisation could entail:
- The conversion of a currency (£43 instead of €50)
- Product and trade names (Vauxhall instead of Opel)
- Terminology (Pavement instead of Sidewalk)
- Slang (Wicked instead of Cool/Awesome/Funky)
Transcreations are usually required in the marketing/advertising industry. Transcreators combine the skills of an interpreter and a localiser by coming up with target content that reflects the source content’s meaning and yet appeals to the new market. McDonald’s slogan “I’m lovin’ it” is a great example for a transcreation. As you would know, I’m lovin’ it doesn’t merely mean I love it, which is why translating it literally could become difficult. In French the slogan is “C’est tout ce que j’aime”; literally translated back into English this would be “This is everything I love”. However, in French itself, it’s the closest it can get to “I’m lovin’ it”.
Basically every translation that does not fall under one of the other categories can be regarded as a translation. This doesn’t mean that translations are easier to do; it simply states that a more literal approach is applied.
Skills every Translator has to have
The Tools for Translators
Depending on what type of translator you are and who your clients are, you might need different or further tools. Although an important tool for many translators, Microsoft Word will not be discussed in detail, as you probably know what it is. The following list therefore does not cover everything.
Besides the tool you use to write your translation down, the dictionary is the most important tool for any translator. It helps you to look up any word you might not exactly know how to translate. Linguee is one of the most popular online dictionaries for freelance translators. It is especially useful when it comes to industry specific terms. Wordreference, on the other hand, will provide you with the most common translation, i.e. words and phrases people use in everyday life.
Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools are very popular with clients who have high amounts of translations to be done on a regular basis. CAT tools will not only suggest translations based on the tool’s knowledge on how to translate certain phrases, but it will also make sure that a text is being translated consistently throughout. Several translators can therefore work on different sections of a text and the outcome will still be consistent. Two of the most frequently used CAT tools are SDL Trados Studio and memoQ .
Grammar and spell checker
Once you finished your translation, tools that automatically check your translated text for grammatical errors, such as Grammarly, can be very helpful. This is especially true because Microsoft Word does not always spot every single mistake. It will be impossible for you to see them in your own text without technical help or the aid of a proofreader, no matter how often you read through it – our brain is extremely good at filling in the blanks or correcting errors without us being consciously aware of it. This is also the case with spelling mistakes. If you want to make sure that your text is as perfect as it can be before sending it to your client, make sure to double and triple check for any errors using reliable software. CAT tools already have this feature integrated.
PDF word count
Also helpful is a PDF word count, should your potential client provide you with a PDF rather than a doc file for your cost proposal. However, be careful using online PDF word count services, asthey might store the uploaded files online. Depending on your client’s confidentiality requirements this could be an issue. Monetary Language Services claims not to store or analyse the files submitted beyond counting the words contained in that file.
Industries that hire Translators
In an increasingly global world with plenty of online businesses expanding to new markets, translators have become an important asset to almost any industry. It would be virtually impossible to list them all, so here are just a few examples of industries known to hire freelance translators:
Translators are hired by the travel industry to translate a variety of written content, such as destination descriptions, marketing materials and blog entries.
With the advent of independent publishing, publishers have arisen that are in need of translators to make their bestsellers accessible to new markets. But the traditional publishing industry is also on the look-out for new talent to help them expand their readership.
Private health care is an industry to be reckoned with especially. It offers freelance translators well-paid opportunities in a variety of areas. In an increasingly global environment, healthcare tourism has become increasingly popular, which requires private clinics to promote themselves in several languages.
Due to the myriad types of translators, industries and alternate requirements of projects, it is pretty much impossible to give an accurate picture of how much a freelance translator should earn. What can be said for certain, however, is that most translators are paid per word rather than per hour, although per hour is also an option preferred by some clients. This is especially true when it comes to interpreters. We will, nonetheless, attempt to provide you with a rough payment guide. It might still be wise to take it with a pinch of salt, and should you be unsure if this guide is at all applicable to you, please search for information that reflects your particular situation.
High quality translations take time and that time should be adequately compensated for. Depending on the ‘difficulty’ of the topic, the source and target language, the expertise required, and any further requests a client might have, prices can quickly go up.
A natural translation is a translation that reads as if the content was written in the target language itself. Readers won’t be able to tell that it is a translation. Word-by-word translations often ignore the syntax of the target language and adhere to the source language’s syntax.
Hourly payments can range anywhere from $5 an hour to $80 and more. Please note that the location of the freelance translator also plays a role in how much he/she will need to make per hour in order to sustain a successful freelance business.
Information Translators need from Clients
These are the pieces of information translators need to see in a client’s job description to know whether they are the right candidates and to be able to give an estimated price and project duration:
Related Job Profiles
Depending on the type of project a freelance translator is being hired for, there are quite a few freelancers with other skill sets that could work alongside the translator. Proofreaders, who correct grammar, syntax, and stylistic errors, should be part of any translation job, in order to give the target text that final polishing. Editors expand on the work of a proofreader by making sure that the text is readable, consistent and adheres to the publisher’s standard. Although proofreaders are always essential, editors tend to be hired for books, magazines and any publication that requires such rigour. Graphic designers could be hired to highlight the transcreated lines and slogans with the use of equally captivating imagery. A web designer makes sure that the target content (and the graphic designs) finds the right place on a client’s website. Transcribers might need to be hired prior to the translator in order to turn recordings in the source language into a written text which then can be passed on to the translator to be translated. Voice over artist could also be hired to use the translated text for a recording in the target language.