FAQs on Getting Started
Where can I find the best language resources?
If you are interested in literary translation, contact the American Literary Translators Association directly at www.utdallas.edu/alta/.
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www.translatorscafe.com, look under Forums or TCTerms
community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?nav=start&webtag=ws-languages&redirCnt=1, the Languages Forum
There are also many associations you could join, such as these:
American Translators Association, www.atanet.org
International Medical Interpreters Association, www.imiaweb.org
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, www.najit.org
International Association of Conference Translators, www.aitc.ch
International Association of Conference Interpreters, www.aiic.net
The Interpreters Guild of America, www.interpretersguild.org
International Federation of Translators (FIT), www.fit-ift.org
You could attend the New England Translators Association's annual conference in May (details are posted under Conference in March each year) or some of the many educational seminars offered by the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org and www.atanet.org/conferencesandseminars/index.php), or even the ATA’s annual conference, held in a different city each year.
T & I Classes. The ATA also has a list of courses in translation and interpreting: www.atanet.org/careers/T_I_programs.php.
Corinne McKay has an online course, Getting Started as a Freelance Translator, as well as a book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator. Cost of course is $350.
There are no government-mandated requirements, only market requirements.
Ideally, a freelance translator needs the following:
Expert translator and long-time NETA member Ilse Andrews advises:
outlook details.) However, some translators are much busier than others. Some are so busy they start subcontracting and become agencies. At the other end of the scale, many translator hopefuls never find any work at all. The work available varies according to language combination and field of specialization.
Make a market plan, as with any new business. If you do not know how to do this, take a course at SCORE (see https://boston.score.org/) or a local community college. Many translators get started by registering with agencies. You can google translation agencies. Agencies vary in quality and solvency, from the very good to the very bad. See Riccardo Schiaffino's website for ways to do a background check on agencies. Other translators get most of their work through referrals and networking. To get started on networking, become active in translator organizations and in discussion groups, write articles, attend NETA and ATA conferences, and/or give speeches to industry trade groups. Here are some well-known websites where you may be able to find work:
www.translatorscafe.com Directory of translators, interpreters, and agencies; posts jobs
To incorporate your business, you would file articles of incorporation with the secretary of state for your state. There are pros and cons to incorporation, the cons being mostly that it requires time and money. The main pro is that you can protect your personal assets because they are separate from your business assets, which belong to the corporation. If you function as a sole proprietor, which most freelance translators do, you are liable for any claims against your business. For a proincorporation article, see www.inc-today.com/incorporation-articles/insider-secrets-about-corporations-or-why-should-i-incorporate.html.
The ATA also offers disability and life insurance. See www.atanet.org/membership/sponsored_services.php#liability.
For more considerations on liability insurance, see the Language Realm.
You should also have software for compression and decompression of archived software, and for file format conversions. Some kind of terminology or glossary management software is useful. Finally, depending on your languages and whether you often work with the same sorts of documents or repetitive texts, translation memory software like Trados, Wordfast, or STAR Transit, among others, could be invaluable.
To manage your workload, project management software is useful, as well as software for word counts and for recording and tracking time spent on a project, if you are paid by the hour.
The Translation Journal, at www.translationjournal.net, is a very useful online magazine run by Karen Hodgson. It contains language-related articles, a Q&A section with tips, tools, book reviews, online resources, and more.
The ATA Chronicle is another significant resource for translators and interpreters.
If you want certification as a translator, you could take the ATA certification exam. This is a three-hour session where you choose two out of three passages to translate. Once you are ATA-certified, you must maintain your credentials through attendance at language-related seminars, conferences, and other means described on their website. See www.atanet.org/certification/index.php for details.
To be a certified court interpreter, you must pass an examination. There are two levels of certification, state and federal. Not all states offer state certification. The Office of Court Interpreter Services in Boston offers occasional court interpreting classes as well as the state certification exam and information on the federal court exam. Their number is 617-878-0269. For information on certification of federal court interpreters, see http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/federal-court-interpreters/federal-court-interpreter-certification-examination.
For more information on court interpreting and certification, see www.najit.org.
As of October 10, 2009, a new certification process came into being for medical interpreters, available nationwide and organized by the International Medical Interpreters Association. Certified medical interpreter status is available in Spanish, Russian Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Industry-leading certification credentialing service PSI confirmed that the exams meet their standards for educational and psychological testing and that the certification process adheres to the best practices of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. For more information see www.certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org. Also, go to www.imiaweb.org, the website of the International Medical Interpreters Association, and click on Certification.
Some translators charge an extra fee of $10-$20 for obtaining notarization. Good places to find a notary are your bank, town hall, or local library.
For a stock phrase, the certification format should include the certifier's name, signature, address, and date of certification. A suggested format is:
Certification by Translator
I, (typed name) , certify that I am fluent (conversant) in the English and ____________ languages, and that the above document is an accurate translation of the document attached entitled ________________________.
For translations for the USPTO (United States Patent Office), notarization is not required. Patent attorney clients will usually provide a template.
For some honest salary and other financial information, see Bureau of Labor statistics and this article in US News. Both provide helpful information on expected income. Obviously there are many variables that can alter these figures, but they provide a good rule of thumb. See also Translation & Interpreting Rates.
T & I Rates.
To find out about agency reputations, consider joining a payment practices list, such as the tcr list or www.paymentpractices.net. While both are international, the former tends to center on US agencies, while the latter centers on European agencies. Both charge a nominal fee. Both are tightly monitored and have rules that you disobey at your peril (for the benefit of all)! The World Payment Practices forum on Yahoo is a free service that reports on agency reputations. Note: There is no guarantee that the agency itself isn’t reading what you write, so it’s advisable to be temperate in language and stick to the facts. ProZ.com has a Blue Board under Directories with feedback on working with clients. The service is free, but you must be a paying member to get full details. And TranslatorsCafé.com offers similar services under Community, Hall of Fame and Shame for members. You can also post a message on the NETA discussion list to ask about the agency.
To find out about a direct client, do everything possible to make sure the person is legitimate:· See if the person has a LinkedIn account, and if you have any mutual contacts.
· If their email address is linked to an organization, call it to verify their identity.
· No phone number and no mailing address are red flags.
· Ask for references.
· Require a down payment (translators request anything from 50% to 100% up front), and make sure the payment
goes through before you proceed.
Every translator has received at least one email offering work that is actually a scam. These are some red flags to watch out for any time you receive an unsolicited request for translation:
Misspellings or awkward English in the email
Few or no details about the project, such as language combination and subject matter
No agency name, address, or phone number given
Terms that sound too good to be true
The Proz website has a
good summary of common scams and how to investigate unknown
potential clients. You can also check the online directory of known translation
If I do work for an agency, how do I make sure I get paid?
If you have doubts about a particular agency, have them pay via PayPal or credit card (set up a merchant account), take payment in advance, or request COD. Google “payment practices” +translation for other suggestions.
Do I need to join the ATA as well as the NETA?
NETA is not affiliated with the ATA, but we do support each other. We offer ATA certification exam workshops and sittings because some agencies use certification as one of their criteria for selecting translators. (Check atanet.org and click on “Certification”). So the decision is really up to you.