5 things you can do to become a better translator while still studying

Are you thinking about pursuing a career as a translator? Or maybe you are already studying to become one and are looking for ways to increase your chances of finding a job? Here at Navitep, we process a number of freelance translator applications daily, some from fresh graduates. And we must admit, some of them are truly impressive and go to show that young translators have a high degree of awareness of what it takes to do the job and how to approach a wide variety of texts.


Inspired by these young professionals, we prepared 5 tips to help you make the transition from university to working life as smooth as possible.


  1. Study hard and make the most of your university time

It may sound obvious, but in fact it can never be stressed enough: getting the diploma is one thing and learning the translation skills is another. Being a translator is rewarding because you will also learn and improve your translation skills as you work. And yet, there is probably no better place than university if you want to hear honest feedback on your work from someone who is a professional and also has a vast theoretical background.


While it is true what they say about choosing an area of specialisation, don’t narrow down your interests too early. If your educational institution offers elective courses, take them and try out different types and areas of translation. So, if you are interested in audio-visual translation, why not take that course in Bollywood movie translation? Even if the Bollywood movies that make it to your country are few and far between, you will still learn a lot that can be applied to translating other types of audio-visual content.


  1. Get hands-on experience

Don’t be shy and aim high: perhaps instead of your usual summer job, you could serve an apprenticeship at the local translation agency? In fact, it doesn’t even have to be local – translation is becoming an increasingly decentralised industry and, especially with the rise of cloud-based CAT tools, there is no need for translators to work at their employer’s premises. If you would like to get a better idea of what it is like to serve a remote apprenticeship as a translator, you can read this article (available only in Finnish). Depending on your language combination, you can check whether you are eligible for a translation traineeship in a European institution, such as the European Parliament.


Volunteer – apart from practicing translation and gaining insight into different areas, you will also do something good for others at the same time. Some websites to check out are those of the Rosetta Foundation and Amnesty International but of course there are many more non-profit organisations that might need your help. You may also consider translating TED speeches or Wikipedia articles. However, don’t forget that you want to make a living as a translator and translating is hard work that should be paid for. So, you may want to draw the line at some ‘volunteering opportunities’ if you suspect that your translation, instead of benefitting a community, would only help the company to save some money.


  1. Learn something else in addition to linguistics

The majority of translation adepts dream of translating literature or movies. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s also worth bearing in mind who the largest demand drivers in the language industry really are – these are certainly not publishers but mostly state governments, international institutions, and e-commerce and private companies from different sectors. And translating for them usually requires deep understanding of the subject matter.


Practice shows that – whatever your interests – no knowledge goes to waste in the translation business (although there are probably more translation jobs related to marketing rather than, say, music). So, it definitely makes sense to learn something specific apart from translation, no matter how: by taking up a new hobby, studying additional subjects, or working. As a language specialist, you may consider gaining some experience as a technical writer, content specialist, or any other occupation in which the ability to express things precisely in writing is of vital importance. And if you decide to study additional subjects, consider studying them in the language you want to translate from (e.g. in Finland, there are many educational institutions where you can study in Swedish).


  1. Join a translators’ association

As a student, you will probably be entitled to a discount on your member fee (or even exempted from it!). By participating in the events and trainings organised by your association, you will be able to sharpen your skills. Such trainings are also a great opportunity to network with your older colleagues and find out how they got started in the profession!






  1. Stay on top of translation technology

While it is widely accepted that machines will not be able to replace human translators (at least not in the foreseeable future), ignoring the technological developments in the translation industry would be foolish. You will not be able to offer competitive rates, decent turn-around times and high-quality translations if you don’t take advantage of CAT, terminology and QA tools or machine translation. Actually, many agencies require the translators to use a specific CAT tool and inability to comply with this requirement often results in the job being offered to another translator.


So, instead of opposing technology, make it work for you. Try different tools – many translation software companies offer free trial periods or even freelance licences free of charge. Make the most of them! If you need help, reach out to product support, browse the help centre, look for video tutorials or ask for help on translation forums. After getting the hang of the first few tools, you will see that many of them are similar and you will be able to learn new ones more quickly.

After graduation

As you can see, there are actually quite a few things you can do to improve your chances of finding translation jobs. Here at Navitep, we are crossing our fingers for you and we wish you luck in finding your own place in the translation industry! We are also looking forward to hearing from you after your graduation and matching our projects with your skills.


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Patrycja Dittmann