4. 10 Essential Translation Skills That Linguists Can’t Miss 

January 26, 2021

Being a translator is a challenging job and requires a lot of hard work and study as they need to constantly permanently develop their skills and stay connected to at least two different cultures. If you want to pursue this career and earn a living as a translator, it’s better to know that translation is not merely about replacing a word with the similar meaning one in another language, but to understand the broader context and smoothly adapt the message to other cultures with any conflicts. Then what are translation skills you should prepare to be a part of this field? Let’s take these highlights below into consideration. 


Be able to write well  

This is one of the core translation skills. A translator must enjoy writing and exploring words and phrases, testing out what goes where best. In some cases, translators have to complete the target related to word counts or character counts that’s finite, but if translators are able to write with flair, they’ll know how to fully express the idea to adapt to both the meaning and conditions. 


There are various ways to enhance your translation writing skills such as taking a writing course, collaborating with your peers to find out how they localize the message – what kind of words they use. Another method could boost your writing skill would be reading your translations out loud to determine any unnatural phrasing and spend time polishing your wording and expression. 


Cultural Intelligence 

As a linguist, you often have to encounter the cultural barrier between two different countries and it will be risky if you’re not familiar with one of them as it could fuel the misunderstanding in your translated content. A practical example would be the order of time implication, in English, it’s likely to understand that 10/02/2019 will mean October 2. However, some Asian countries will refer to it as February 10 which may lead to adverse results if it is mentioned in legal or financial documents. Therefore, it is essential to locally sympathize with the target audience who will be reading your content. 


You can enhance your cultural competence in various ways but the best option would be visiting or living in the second country. Other potential possibilities to improve your knowledge about the target countries include: actively watch foreign language films, follow the related-field native authors, reading the literature of the relevant countries, etc. Continuous exposure to these materials will increase the chance to come across the popular cultural factors and promptly realize jargon in the source file to accurately translate it to the target language.  


Specialist knowledge 

Ideally, you should have expertise in at least one particular field. You may acquire this specific knowledge by studying a second language combined with a degree in a specialist area such as business management, economic laws, electrical engineering, finance, etc. With a certified degree in a certain domain, you can access to higher profile clients and even earn yourself an authority in the field. Another way to become a specialist in a field is by working in that environment, this often happens when you’re in a different position and discover your interest in translation career by chance. 


If you are a freelance translator, having expertise will also create a chance to market yourself to ideal clients since you can define the niche market group and approach them easier and able to get more replies. 


Adequate IT skill 

You don’t have to be proficient in technology but the working process will be more convenient and seamless if you’re familiar with common softwares such as Microsoft Office and especially CAT Tools. CAT Tools is vital to a lot of translators who do a lot of similar and repetitive work like computer game or software translation as it provides necessary functions like a quality check, generating statistics about the translation process, Import, and export many different file formats, etc. Therefore, be prepared for some technology elements in your translation skills. 


Being non-judgmental and remain neutral 

In translation, remaining the content meaning and style intact from the original is extremely important requiring translators to work without judging the materials or apply their perspective on it, not what they would prefer or think is correct. Otherwise, the audience can misunderstand the original description and the distorted translation may negatively reflect the brand image. If translators discover factual errors in documents, they should first double-check that they can prove their point, then notify the client to get more details about the problem. Some clients may assert that they want the original text to be kept intact. In that case, place your findings in writing but translate as instructed. 


Strictly follow the deadlines 

Any client will require you to stay on the working timeline so that other stages of the process won’t be affected. If you’re insufficient of self-discipline and respect for time then your success as a translator will be limited whether you are a freelancer or internal translator. 


Ensure the source files are highly secured 

Most of the source materials clients hand out to translators are confidential and not officially released yet to the local market. A minor information leak could fuel a serious situation and adversely impact the company image. Therefore, every linguist should be self-aware of their importance in the process. To ensure that the information is secured, some clients may require you and your company to sign a confidentiality agreement before sending out any content. 


You may need a lot of time to become an experienced and professional translator. To accelerate this process, apply these 7 translation skills to agilely achieve the goal. Besides, frequently evaluate yourself and keep the thought in mind that you always have more to learn as this is a challenging job and require you to regularly update your knowledge, twist your style and reinvent yourself every time you handle a new project. However, it also delivers great satisfaction whenever positive feedback from your client comes with a repurchase decision. 




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