Found in Translation: 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.
- So You Want to Be a Spanish Translator: A Brief Overview
- How to Become a Spanish Translator: 4 Simple Steps to Success
So You Want to Be a Spanish Translator: A Brief Overview
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 and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but the two are very different. A Spanish translator works with written texts while an interpreter only works with the spoken language.
The interpreter is the person you see during speeches, alongside a foreigner for official business and in other cases when a language barrier prevents successful verbal communication.
Typically, a translator’s duties do not overlap with the duties of an interpreter.
Instead of interacting directly with people, a translator’s work is mostly independent of others. Translators work with texts to convey the meaning of the author in a different language. Typically, translators 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.
Translators can work remotely since many employers provide software assistance and expect the translations to be done electronically. This means that, depending on your clients and job, you might have the freedom of working from anywhere in the world.
Another opportunity to work remotely and use your valuable language skills is by becoming part of the FluentU team!
We hire paid freelancers to work on everything from blog posts (like the one you’re reading right now) to translating and language checking. The FluentU community is made of individuals from around the globe with all different language backgrounds and skills.
Joining our team is an opportunity to maintain a completely flexible work schedule in a calm, supportive and collaborative environment.
Plus, working with FluentU is a great way to gain experience in the professional world of language services, which includes translation services.
Check our “Jobs at FluentU” page to see what positions we’re currently hiring for!
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 typical, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics—an expected increase in the industry of 18% is forecast by 2026.
Many government agencies hire translators to help facilitate smooth interactions between the government and citizens. You can expect to translate a wide variety of very formal, dense texts if you choose to work for a government agency.
Hospitals hire translators to work with medical records. You would need extensive knowledge of medical vocabulary and, if you are interested in interpreting as well, excellent interpersonal skills.
Law firms also hire translators on a regular basis. A strong understanding of legal terminology in both languages is essential for this position.
In addition, any company or organization that deals in Spanish-speaking locations may need a translator for both business-to-business and business-to-customer documents. If you hear that a local company is planning to open a branch in a Spanish-speaking country, you might want to inquire about a job in the field!
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 languages is not enough. Proper translation is about more than just literally translating the document word-for-word. Often, you will need to get the nuances and overall meanings of the text across in your translation, as well. If you have tried your hand at some translation practice over the course of your studies and you find that it comes easily to you, then you are already on the right track.
Ideally, you already enjoy reading and writing in both Spanish and your native tongue. As a translator, you will be working with the written language every day, so it is important that you like it! Bring a grammar nerd is also a good quality to have since you will be dealing with the intricacies of both languages and in many cases, accuracy is essential.
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. Confidence and quick thinking on your feet are important here.
Introverts, on the other hand, would enjoy the translator job more, since it requires little to no interactions with people.
How to Become a Spanish Translator: 4 Simple Steps to Success
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 (or Advanced) in Spanish
This is a very obvious requirement, but you will need to have an excellent grasp of the Spanish language if you want to become a translator.
Before you check off this step, you should test your 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 there yet, then do not continue onto step two just yet. Instead, keep working on your Spanish skills until you are at a more advanced level.
A few good ways to improve your proficiency include strengthening your vocabulary skills, working on your understanding of Spanish grammar and just reading more in Spanish.
This can be done in a number of ways. For example, FluentU’s website and app provide personalized language lessons by taking authentic content—like music videos, movie trailers, news segments and inspirational talks—and adding interactive learning features to it. The program lets you see every word’s definition, pronunciation and in-context usage, create customizable vocabulary lists and take personalized quizzes.
Most translators specialize in a specific area of translation, like health or business, so their knowledge of a single area of vocabulary is comprehensive. If you have a translator career in your sights, 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.
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.
This is especially true if you are interested in translating in a field that you have experience with—for example, if you worked as a nurse for a few years, you might have better luck getting a job as a translator for a healthcare service even if you do not have the relevant degree.
To get certified, you will need to take a special program. These are offered in many places around the US (and worldwide) so check your area for opportunities. If you are located in the US, two good programs to look into are offered by the University of North Georgia and the University of Massachusetts Boston.
One of the most common certificates of Spanish competency is offered through the American Translators Association (ATA). This professional organization certifies translators through a test, which costs $525. The results are accepted by many employers as official proof of competency in the language.
But there is a catch: In order to qualify to take the exam, you must be a member of the ATA for at least four weeks. So if this is something you are considering, then get registered with the organization soon!
If you are not sure whether you are prepared for the exam, then you might want to take a practice test. Practice tests also come at a cost but you will receive your test back with the errors marked so you can use it as an opportunity to see what areas need improvement and adjust your studies accordingly.
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 and many would be happy to allow you to practice with them as they will also benefit from this. It is a win-win situation!
Another way to get practice and experience is by translating articles on Wikipedia!
You can also try working or volunteering within the sector in which you are interested in doing translation work. Remember that this kind of experience is also useful.
4. Apply to Jobs
The last step is not as easy it as it sounds. As with any other industry, landing a job as a translator can be a difficult task, especially if you are a beginner.
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!
There are many resources online that you can use to find and secure a good Spanish translation job. You can check job search sites like indeed or professional social networking sites like LinkedIn. 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 own 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.