What do I need to do to become a professional translator? Is professionalism in translation and ethics something one is born with or is it something a professional translator learns over a period of time and with experience? Does a professional translator need to join a professional translation body or institution to be considered a “professional translator” with a membership certificate? Do new translators need to join a firm or a translation service in order to succeed? To what extent constant training is part of a professional translator’s life in order to achieve a respectable high-quality human translation portfolio although his/her translation work is good to begin with? What are the different translation levels professional translators and translation companies offer?
From the first day, it is imperative that you ask yourself what you need to do as a professional in general in order to become a point of reference as a professional translator because of your ethics, knowledge and approach. It is the first point in your checklist. This will not only help you answer the above questions, it is the first step of your career as a translator. Write the five things you will need to do and the five things you will never do as a professional translator. They must be the lights that will guide you in your career and you should never betray yourself. Perhaps one or two will not become so important or prove not so relevant when you are 5 or 10 years into the profession, as translation is an ever-evolving industry – but some things are permanent and you draw the red line.
The True Professional Translator
Many translators have worked in-house at translation companies and then moved on to a freelance career. Some have been freelancers from the start. Only a few become staff translators after a period as freelancers, and even a smaller number create their own translation companies. The difference between a serious, professional translator and an amateur translator does not depend on whether you are employed at a translation company using many translation tools, handling hundreds of translation memories, featuring human translation services, quality assurance procedures in translation, and machine translation technologies. You well be a freelance translator who is fluent and literate in at least two or more languages. One key point for a true professional translator is often overlooked and it is a high command of his/her native tongue, free of errors and stylistically a model. Professional translators only translate into their mother tongue (unless they are required to translate into another language they know very well, for example translators whose mother tongues are rare). A professional translator knows when to say “no” to a job because it is far from his/her field or expertise. This is called work ethic. Meeting deadlines, so important in our profession, is called dedication.
An amateur translator is a person who takes on translation jobs in his/her spare time. He or she will use the knowledge gained from a separate field in which he or she has expertise in order to do translation work. Many field engineers how to do some translation work when working in foreign fields. Journalists, too. Doctors are known to have translated some specialist works into their languages because no translator could match their technical knowledge. But such bilingual people, should never be considered professional translators despite their obvious familiarity with the subject field because of their lack of tools which would make their work more efficient, and very often the purely linguistic knowledge and training required.
Professional translators’ main source of income depends solely on their translation services. They work as such full-time. True, they may have to deal with several subject fields during their career, many times even during the same week, but because of their knowledge and training can use tools that help them to search, locate and organize terminology. They can select the best terms as experts in engineering, computing, medicine or economics use them. Moreover, they use their language skills in order to write well in their target language and create work suited for their audience (that is, the clients). Sometimes, they have proof-readers help them to give a final OK, reading the target version only. A professional translator, just as a professional in most areas, is willing to improve, learn new techniques. The world does not stand still. Professional translators nurture their fluency in both their source language and target language, recognizing that translation is both a skill and an art that needs continuous honing and personal, honest effort. Just like going to the gym, translation needs to be exercised every day.
Translation Business Ethics
Developing and applying deep respect for business ethics is also part of being a professional translator. As mentioned above, a true professional translator must know when to accept and refuse a translation job as part of his/her ethics if he/she feels not qualified to take the work on. It is important to know how to charge clients and not to undercut the market, how to respond to clients who disrespect you or take you for granted. It is common sense many times, because behaving and approaching business in an ethical manner will be not only beneficial to you as a translator, but also your business in the long term.
One of the most common instances of ethics being a factor in translation revolves around those times you have to deal with private information concerning the parties you are translating for. I have had to deal with some military information over my career, as well as commercially and industrially sensitive data. Some people would have paid money for such important pieces of intelligence and information. But giving in to greed and disregarding your principles will come at the cost of your integrity and professionalism. Professional translation companies will have issued an NDA (Non-Disclosure agreement) to you before you work for them. Breaking that NDA can have serious legal consequences.
Pangeanic is one of the world’s best translation companies offering professional human translation services. Pangeanic provides High-Quality Professional Translation Services 24/7 from its offices in Japan, China and Spain. Every translator that works for Pangeanic has to pass stringent tests and must be detail-oriented. Our community of approved translators is not be the largest, but all professional translators are certified and approved by our HHRR department. As of January 2015, we count on 1,000 certified translators from all over the world from a pool of 7,000 registered translators.