Exciting Times for Translators

Exciting Times for Translators
By Brandon Chen

With the globalisation of many businesses and increasing multi-cultural diversity in many big cities, the need for translators and interpreters is on the rise. With Internet and email, as well as online easy payment options, it is easier to operate as a translator independent of global and geographical boundaries. Translators are not confined to working in offices fixed hours per day, 5 days a week. You can work as little or as much as you want, and the hours are flexible as long as deadlines are met.

While there is a wider range of translation agencies to choose from, there is also increased competition from the increased development of translator education. High qualified translation is only just a pre-requisite for many translation assignments. Experience counts equally if not more when it comes to specialised or more complex assignments. A translation agency would rather choose an experienced translators with a secondary studies in the related field of the translation assignment.

The important of experience cannot be understated. Some fresh Masters or Phd holders may think they can demand higher rates based on their degree. But truth to be told, experienced and hard-working translators who may not have the post graduate degrees can produce higher quality translation. The rigors of day-to-day translating and a true passion of translation can never be substituted by a degree.

If you are a novice translator, experience is exactly what you need. The other thing to acquire would be a local government accredited translation certificate for the languages you would like to specialise in. Treat every assignment big or small with equal respect.

There is always room for improvement. Translation is not the conversion of one language to another for mere understanding. Apart from being critically accurate in translating, there is also translation that reads better. Accuracy and readability are both important. There may be three versions of translating a single sentence and they may mean the same thing to a degree of 95%. The 5% difference is the detail which differentiates an exceptional translator from an average translator. Moreover, the difference is usually picked up easily by native speakers.

We have seen translation from two separate translators that were both acceptable by translation standards. But the difference in every phrase and sentence was astounding. We did not have to think twice about the translator to pick, even if it meant a lesser profit margin.

Some good translators commit themselves each year to staying in different countries just to be fully conversant and up-to-date in their specialised languages.

Usually, more specialised or technically complex assignments are outsourced to translation agencies, who need to manage translators from a wide range of languages. Novice translator should never be afraid of taking up the more difficult assignments. On the other hand, they should spare no effort to fully understand and produce quality translation. The ‘no pain – no gain’ clich’ does apply. Translators get stronger in their craft through more research and study during hands-on translation assignments.

Before accepting the translation job:

    1. Ensure the agency can be trusted, have a website and contact details.


    1. Ensure you can tackle the subject matter or know the experts who can advice you when you hit a road-block.


    1. Estimate the time and give yourself some allowance for emergencies. Your reputation depends on it.


    1. If in doubt, ask or convey your assumptions with regards to the translation.


    1. While it is easiest to ask the agency for a rate, you should also know the rate you would be happy to work for and express that confidently when asked.


  1. Always state whether your price includes Goods Services Tax (GST), which can be a significant sum of money. Payment should be finalised before beginning the assignment. You should also know when you will get paid!

The Translation Process

    1. Read and follow the brief closely. Do not accept the job is there is an unrealistic deadline.


    1. Do not change file names but you may add an international language code at the end of the file name. (Example, CN for Chinese or DE for German)


    1. If applicable, preserve the source text layout. Otherwise, choose a formal layout and font. Do not use the spacebar to create an indent or start a new page because it may damage the layout. Remember Samuelsson-Brown’s commandment “Thou shalt not use the spacebar” from his excellent Practical Guide for Translators (2004: 114).


    1. Translated text may increase or decrease depending on the language. If there is a confined space for the text and this becomes an issue, translators should have a best-approach in mind and discuss with their agency.


    1. Accuracy is critical. Slight differences in translation can have devastating consequences especially for contractual or instructional documents. Always get help or subject references when you can for maximum accuracy.


    1. Translators can be independent problem solvers, and highlight problems in the source text for agencies to verify with clients. For example, if a page is missing, or if text is cut-off, agencies should be informed.


    1. Spend time and utmost patience in proof reading your work. Never be distracted or tired during this process. If it takes more than one read-through to weed out all mistakes, spend that effort gladly. Never send out incomplete or draft translations.


    1. Spell checkers do not recognise all errors. For example, mushroom soap wouldn’t be highlighted by a spell checker.


    1. Pay attention to measures and date conventions, and spelling difference between UK and US English for example.


  1. Be loyal to your agency and never try to contact their clients without expressed permission or worse, solicit business from your client’s clients.

It’s an exciting time for translators. If you have the right price, attitude and certification, translation jobs are abundant. You can work from wherever you want and plan your holidays whenever you want!

Sydney Translation


Sydney Translation is a translation agency based in Australia, providing translation service for individuals, communities, businesses and government departments.

Our agency provides Australian government accredited translators and interpreters.

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