Tag Archives: translator

A Translator’s Role Defined

A new document was created and published earlier this month that offers descriptions of linguist roles, i.e. translators, interpreters and terminologists. A BIG THANK YOU to the five professional associations and the industry professionals (see at the end of this post for the names) who worked on and supported this project, which is a valuable resource to all linguists and their clients.

You can download and read the document in PDF format here.

I wanted to highlight the Translator description, which also includes a description of what certified translators do.


(from ATA’s website)
“Translators work with the written word, converting text from a source language into a target language. This is far more than replacing one word with another. The translator must also convey the style, tone, and intent of the text, while taking into account differences of culture and dialect.
Often, the finished document should read as if it had originally been written in the target language for the target audience. But this is not always the case. Highly specialized content may require the translator to retain elements of the source language culture in the target language translation. A professional translator will have the expertise to know the best approach for the translation.”

Translators must be familiar with the dialects, registers, and terminology needed for the type of translation project they are responsible for. When working in teams, translators may be responsible for editing, proofreading, summarizing, localizing, and transcreating.

My Bible.

My Bible

(from the Interagency Language Roundtable website)
Translation “is a complex skill requiring several abilities. Consequently, extreme care must be exercised in hiring translators or assigning translation tasks to them. To do otherwise entails the risk that imprecise or even wrong information will be conveyed. Competence in two languages is necessary but not sufficient for any translation task. Though the translator must be able to (1) read and comprehend the source language and (2) write comprehensibly in the target language, the translator must also be able to (3) choose the equivalent expression in the target language that both fully conveys and best matches the meaning intended in the source language (referred to as congruity judgment).”

Certified translators can provide documentation indicating the certifying or assessment body, any subject area expertise, the proficiency level, the specific language combination(s) assessed by translation testing and the direction of translation permitted (see US Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, Procurement Series Translation and Interpretation. What Does It Mean to Be a Certified Linguist?). Certified translators maintain their certification through continuing education credits and are bound by a code of professional conduct. When translation certification exams are not available for a particular language pair, sample translations reviewed by highly-qualified third parties may provide an acceptable practical alternative.


Association internationale des interprètes de conférence (AIIC)
Mano a Mano
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT)
National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC)
Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI)

Team Leaders
Helen Eby, Esther M. Navarro-Hall

Drafting and Editorial Team
Helen Eby, Esther M. Navarro-Hall, Carol Velandia, Milena Waldron

Contributors and Consultants
Jennifer DeCamp, Barbara Inge Karsch, Judith Kenigson Kristy, Uwe Muegge, Sue Ellen Wright

Further reading
On Advocacy: An International Joint Effort
Translator and Interpreter Descriptions

By Catherine Christaki from Lingua Greca


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How I fell into freelance translation

On this grey overcast morning in Sri Lanka I have been thinking about what to post as my first translation-related blog. Being fairly new to full-time freelance translation I still have a lot to learn and I have learnt some of this through reading other translators’ blogs so  I hope that what I will post in the coming months and years will be of benefit to new linguists joining the freelance translation  and/or localisation profession and other freelancers (work-from-homers) in general.

Freelance translation

Freelance translation

So, whilst thinking about what to write…the pro’s and con’s of Google translation or something about establishing yourself on social media, how to find new clients maybe, it suddenly dawned on me that most translators I know were educated in or trained to do something else and I always find it really interesting to read how they became translators.

Here is my story:

After leaving London (and a very well-paid job) in 2004 to travel, my first stop was Sri Lanka. I had a job in a hotel bar and all was going great until Boxing day, 2004 – the Indian Ocean tsunami. Luckily I wasn’t hurt and I didn’t lose any friends. The tourists all left though so there was no more job. I stayed on and did some voluntary work but soon discovered that my resources weren’t endless and I needed to find some paying work. I went to Holland in 2005 and worked in a restaurant for 3 months but decided I wanted to go back to Sri Lanka and this is when my foray into freelancing started.

Google was my freelancing friend in those early days. I searched endless websites for freelancing work (initially many were scams or pyramid schemes but I soon learned to avoid those). In 2006 many new freelancing websites were beginning to surface or get media attention; elance.com, freelancer.com, oDesk.com to name a few. So I joined them ALL and started building my profile and looking for writing work. Now anybody can call themselves a writer and join these sites so I struggled at first. After dropping my rates to ridiculously low levels I was becoming discouraged and I realised I needed a more marketable skill than just “writing”.

So, armed with my Economics and Philosophy degree I started searching for more specific writing jobs; financial writing, banking articles etc. I joined some essay writing sites such as Essay writers. These paid a lot better but god was the work boring and tedious. Basically students are outsourcing their essays, theses etc. to professional writers because either they can’t be bothered to do their own work or their English is dreadful.

During quiet times I went back to my other freelancing sites and I stumbled across some Dutch to English translation work quite by accident. I really enjoyed the work and started searching for jobs using my Dutch! I am Dutch and speak the language fluently but only then did I realise that because I am truly bilingual – this is an enormous marketable skill!! I was 33 years old and had only just realised this. This was six years ago and I haven’t looked back.


  • Start by joining as many agencies as you can initially (online) and you can then stick with those that have the most work or offer the best rates per word etc.
  • Google your specific language combinations – agencies which specialise in your languages will be more likely to hire you.
  • Familiarise yourself with translation associations and societies.  Even if you don’t join them straight away – they have great resources such as free downloads and useful links on their sites. Here is a comprehensive list of ALL organisations & associations.
  • ProZ.com is a great place to start learning everything about translation and looking for jobs too. I will post more good links soon.

I have been a full-time Dutch => English => Dutch freelance translator and localisation professional for 2 years now and I love it!


Filed under The life of a freelancer, Translation titbits