How to Become a Spanish Translator in 4 Steps
Sometimes, it can seem like living your dream is perpetually just out of reach.
If your dream is to use your Spanish skills in a productive way that constantly challenges you to keep learning, you might just be able to make that dream come true with a Spanish translator job.
All you need is a solid grasp of the Spanish language, a thirst for knowledge and, of course, this guide.
- Is a Career As a Spanish Translator Right For Me?
- 4 Steps to Become a Spanish Translator
Is a Career As a Spanish Translator Right For Me?
What Is a Spanish Translator?
The basic duty of a Spanish translator is to convert documents from Spanish to another language or vice versa.
Many people confuse translators and interpreters, but a Spanish translator works with written texts while an interpreter only works with the spoken language.
Typically, a translator’s duties do not overlap with the duties of an interpreter.
Translators usually convert text into their native tongue, so if Spanish is your second language, you will most likely be translating from Spanish to your native language.
Who Hires Spanish Translators?
The need for translators is on the rise. In fact, translator and interpreter jobs are growing at a much faster rate than usual.
Some common employers of translators include:
- Government agencies. You can expect to translate a wide variety of very formal, dense texts if you choose to work for a government agency.
- Hospitals. You would need extensive knowledge of medical vocabulary and, if you are interested in interpreting as well, excellent interpersonal skills.
- Law firms. A strong understanding of legal terminology in both languages is essential for this position.
- Any company or organization that deals in Spanish-speaking locations may need a translator for both business-to-business and business-to-customer documents.
Who Should Pursue This Career Path?
Naturally, you need to have a good grasp of the Spanish language, as well as your own native language, to be a successful translator.
If you are a beginner to Spanish, you will need to work hard and remain focused if your ultimate goal is to work in this industry.
However, just knowing the language is not enough. Proper translation is about more than just literally translating the document word-for-word.
Often, you will need to understand the nuances and bring the overall meanings of the text across in your translation, as well.
Ideally, you already enjoy reading and writing in both Spanish and your native tongue.
Finally, consider your personality! Extroverts might be better suited to become interpreters since you would be dealing with many different people over the course of your career.
4 Steps to Become a Spanish Translator
Do you feel that you are a perfect fit for a Spanish translator job? Read on to see how you can make it happen.
1. Become Fluent in Spanish
It is easy to misjudge your own level of fluency so it is crucial to get an honest opinion. To do so, you can take a proficiency test to find out where you stand.
You should be ranking at the highest level of proficiency if you intend to become a Spanish translator.
If you are not quite to the level you need to be, try strengthening your vocabulary skills, working on your understanding of Spanish grammar and reading more in Spanish.
Most translators specialize in a specific area of translation, like health or business, so it is a good idea to choose your specialty early on and work toward improving your vocabulary and general knowledge of that particular area of interest.
Read Spanish blogs, news reports and anything else you can get your hands on regarding the area of expertise you want to have. You can even begin to train your mind to think like a translator by converting some of the Spanish content you find into your native language.
This can be done in a number of ways, but it’s important to incorporate some authentic content into your studies.
The FluentU website and iOS / Android app is one place where you can learn the language in context, hear many different accents and practice your translation skills.
The program uses videos like music videos, movie trailers, news segments and inspirational talks to teach Spanish at all levels.
Use the dual-language subtitles to test your translation abilities by turning off the English translation the first time you watch and trying your hand at translating.
Then, check the official, language-expert-approved translation by toggling the English subtitles back on for the second play-through.
You can also use personalized quizzes to study up on words that you’re learning (including speaking them out loud) or try the quizzes that follow each video for translation-style questions.
It may take time, but with a bit of work, you can reach the necessary level of Spanish proficiency to start working on the next step.
2. Get Certified
Some employers require at least a bachelor’s degree in Spanish or specifically in translation. However, many places will accept a certificate of proficiency, as well.
Here are some great options for getting a Spanish certificate:
- University of Massachusetts Boston offers a great program if you’re located in the United States.
- American Translators Association (ATA) certifies translators through a test that costs $525. The results are accepted by many employers as official proof of competency in the language. Just note that you need to be a member of the ATA for four weeks before taking the test.
- If you are not sure whether you are prepared for the exam, then you might want to take a practice test.
3. Boost Your Resume
As you begin to explore translator jobs, you may realize that most require extensive experience.
Luckily, this experience does not need to be paid work and there are many places that would welcome your translation services as a volunteer.
Check with a local nonprofit organization, a religious institution or even the nearby school—these are all places that could always use a translator.
You can also try working or volunteering within the sector in which you are interested in doing translation work.
Another way to get practice and experience is by translating articles on Wikipedia!
4. Apply to Jobs
Keep in mind that you will likely have to start with an entry-level job and work your way up to a better position over time.
If you are working as a freelancer, you might have to take some lower-paying jobs first.
Any experience is something you can add to your resume, which will lead to better and better offers—so stick with it!
You can check job search sites like indeed or professional social networking sites like LinkedIn to start your job hunt.
There is also a dedicated job search to find government jobs.
To get support, share your experiences, ask for advice and see what others have to say about the experience of being a translator, try joining an online community for professional translators like the Proz forum.
As you start your journey to become a Spanish translator, remember to constantly improve your language skills. Languages are dynamic and change over time, so your skills will have to keep up.
You might get lucky and land an amazing job right away or the process may take a long time. Do not get discouraged! Believe in yourself and your skills, and you can get your dream job of being a Spanish translator.