If you are reading these lines, it means that you have been attracted by one of the most fascinating humanitarian professions, in our opinion, – a translator. This is a versatile and interesting job that is suitable for those who are very fond of learning a foreign language, who are fascinated by the process of translation, as well as those who have a broad outlook and are open to new knowledge.
Unfortunately, the network lacks comprehensive information on how, in fact, to become a translator. Information is presented one-sidedly: most often only one option is considered – admission to a university. In fact, there are more options! We will consider them in this article. We will tell you about the possible paths to the profession and what you need to become a translator, but you just have to choose the option that suits you. Let’s talk about whether it is worth becoming a translator. Enjoy reading!
In translators right after school or higher translation/linguistic education?
To enroll as an interpreter at a university is perhaps the first option that comes to mind for graduates. Let’s consider it from all sides.
What subjects do you need to become a translator?
Foreign and Russian languages are two exams that will definitely be needed when entering any university for the specialty “translation and translation studies”. The third exam is history, social studies or literature, it all depends on the university. When entering, for example, Moscow State University, you need to take an additional entrance exam in the language.
English is the most popular language among applicants. However, this does not mean that when applying for a translator, you only need to take it. An applicant can take any other available foreign language and participate in a general competition with those who took English.
Where to go to become a translator?
Many state universities train translators. To decide on a university, think about your options and priorities.
If you live in a small town and for a number of reasons it is uncomfortable for you to leave for the capitals for education, pay attention to the universities in your region that are recruiting for the specialty “translation and translation studies” or “linguistics”.
And if you live in the capital or in a large million-plus city, then choose according to your capabilities and be sure to pay attention to how students and graduates respond about the translation department of the university. Studying at Moscow State University can be prestigious, but for admission you need very high USE scores.
From our own experience, we can say that the main thing is the desire to learn. You can apply to any university with it.
For translators without higher education
For a long time, it was believed that in order to become a translator, it is not necessary to graduate from a university with a degree in translation: the profession was open to everyone who had a craving for translation. The situation began to change with the approval of the professional standard “Specialist in the field of translation”.
According to the standard, from September 1, 2021, to work as a translator, you must have a higher specialized education or a higher non-core and additional professional education (pass a professional retraining program in a translation specialty).
In practice, this means that the standard has set a threshold for entering the profession: now, when hiring, companies will pay attention to the candidate’s education. It is expected that its introduction will improve the quality of translation services.
However, it will take some time for the standard to work in full force: our certified legal translation agency is only learning about the standard and are looking at it, and the pandemic is getting in the way. But sooner or later it will end, and then bureaus and companies will pay close attention to the standard. In the meantime, you can be a translator without a higher specialized education.
If you ignore the standard and talk about the current state of affairs, you can’t become a translator without education at all: knowledge of a foreign language is not enough, knowledge of it is only the tip of the translation iceberg.
Professional translators have excellent knowledge of foreign and native languages, knowledge of translation theory and the ability to apply it in practice, including knowledge of translation transformations, and, most importantly, have background knowledge in the field in which they specialize. Where to learn all this, bypassing universities?
Advanced training courses for translators
Translation courses do not provide a diploma of higher education (only a certificate of completion of the course is issued). Their value is different: they provide practice-oriented knowledge that will be useful in the daily work of a translator. If universities provide a fundamental academic and linguistic base, then courses teach how to work in the real conditions of the translation market. To put it even more simply, universities are theory, and refresher courses are practice.
Courses provide specific knowledge for work in a particular industry. For example, medical translation is now in great demand , and many translators would like to work in this area, but they cannot, because they are not versed in medicine. Translating what you do not understand is the main translation taboo. Translation courses are designed to compensate for the lack of specific knowledge.
Those who are wondering “how to become an English translator” are the luckiest of all – the absolute majority of translation courses with English. Another plus of such courses is that they are taught completely online.
There are courses for both beginners and practicing translators. If you are just starting out in translation and do not have a translation background, our basic course for beginner translators will suit you . It is based on the English language, the main requirements for training are English language proficiency at the B2-C1 level.
Once the basic translation skills have been mastered, it is possible to immerse yourself in more complex translation topics and think about choosing a specialization. For example, you can go into court interpreter services or industry-specific writing : technical, marketing, medical, audiovisual, legal, economic, etc.
You can learn industry translation in combat conditions right during the execution of an order, or you can take courses where experienced translators will share verified information.
Can translation courses be considered professional retraining programs?
Let’s return to the conversation about the professional standard “Specialist in the field of translation”. At the moment, none of the commercial translation courses available on the market are officially professional translation training programs. However, theoretically, such courses can be counted as retraining programs if their content meets the requirements for such programs.
That is why our translation school organizes its activities in accordance with the requirements for additional professional education courses.
The only professional retraining program available to those who wish to formally pursue additional translation education is called “Translator in Professional Communication”. We wrote about the pros and cons of this program in this article.
From non-translation specialty to translation
Not every translator has a higher translation education. Many people come to translation from technical specialties that have nothing to do with translation and languages: mechanical engineering, pharmacology, metallurgy, medicine, etc. There are also many lawyers and translators.
Such specialists have industry knowledge, their translations are terminologically accurate, but they lack a theoretical translation base, and written Russian is often lame. You can also “gain” specific translation knowledge at advanced training courses, for example, at the same basic course or at a translation course from Russian into English.
Is becoming a translator worth it?
A burning question. It excites those who would like to become a translator, but have heard about the bleak prospects of the profession: they have long been saying that translators will be replaced by machines, it is no less common to hear that translators receive little, that this is an unstable and thankless job.
There is also an opinion that a translator is an inferior specialty, but an application to the main one. But good translators are always in great demand. All in your hands!
Is it possible to become a translator after grade 9?
The answer to this question may vary. If you are interested in studying to be a translator in a college, then the answer is no: only universities train translators with a state diploma. But if you are interested in whether it is possible to become a translator after grade 9 in principle, then the answer is: “very difficult, but possible.”
The main obstacle is that with the adoption of the professional standard “Specialist in the field of translation”, only people with higher specialized education or who have completed professional retraining courses are officially admitted to the profession. In addition, in the 9th grade, the student most often still does not know a foreign language well enough, and there are no linguistic educational institutions where he could improve his language by getting a profession.
However, already while studying at school, you can gain translation experience in practice and translate first for yourself, and then for your translation portfolio. For starters, you can work in volunteer projects, translate for free. This will provide valuable experience, and over the years your skill will increase. The main thing is to continue to improve language skills and practice, you can also take translation courses.
How to become a book translator?
A translator of literary works is called a literary translator. This is a fascinating creative work, which is not at all as simple as it seems at first glance. Many people think that a literary translator simply opens a book, equips himself with a dictionary and starts translating.
It is not that simple! Literary translators hone their skills for years: first they translate into a table, they can redo the translation many times.
You can learn literary translation on your own, constantly practicing, analyzing and improving your translations. This is what most of those who love to translate books do. But it’s one thing to just translate, another thing to earn a living doing it.
Every literary translator dreams that the publishing house will release a book in his translation, but only a few reach this level. To do this, you need to be very well-read, have artistic and translation flair and talent.
The good news is that literary translation is a skill just like any other type of translation, and it can be trained. If you feel that you lack the skill, then we advise you to pay attention to our two courses in literary translation. We emphasize that literary translation is not so much a flight of creative thought as a matter of technique and practice, and one can learn to translate well.