Pick the Right Translation Studies

Translator Education

Formal and college-grade diplomas are usually prerequisites for all Spanish translator education. Anything less than that will not give you the language skills necessary to produce a translation professionally. Many translators will pursue a language college degree. Others will start their studies in a specific knowledge field such as engineering, marketing or medicine without thinking about translations. Later on, they will discover the pleasure of translating and will then pursue the skills to convert their trades in a translation living.

After a period of time that will vary from one year to three years, you will have a few clients that will be able to generate considerable income for you. It is when you will feel like a “professional translator” able to make a live from this work.

There are two different education paths a translator will follow, and we will discuss a little about each one of them along advantages and disadvantages:

Scenario A. Someone will have a college education in a major like engineering, science, medicine, etc., and many years later, this person will start to do the translation.

Scenario B. Someone will have a college education focusing on language/translation and will start to do translation right after studies.

Sample Spanish translator education path for someone in scenario A:

Step Duration Cash Flow
Undergraduation in Sciences 3 years – ($ 90k)
Work in Field 2 years + $90k
Work in Field and part-time doing translation 1 year + $60k
Preparation for certification (on your own / only study no work) 3 months – ($12k)
Certification – ($0.5k)
Work in Field and part-time doing translation as certified translator 1 year + $75k
7+ years $ 122.5k

A similar scenario for someone studying engineering would have a much higher initial investment and also a higher return in the 6th and following years.

Sample Spanish translator education path for someone in scenario B:

Step Duration Cash Flow
Undergraduation in Spanish with focus in Translation 3 years – ($ 60k)
Certification – ($0.5k)
Work exclusively with translation (developing clientele) 1 year + $20k
Work exclusively with translation (developing clientele) 1 year + $40k
Work exclusively with translation (consolidating clientele) 1 year + $60k
Work exclusively with translation (consolidating clientele) 1 year + $75k
7+ years $ 134.5k

These are some known advantages and disadvantages of each education scenario:

Scenario Advantages Disadvantages
A Higher compensation Higher initial investment
More career choices (field or translation) More time invested
Less competition in the field of specialty Less fields
B Smaller initial investment Smaller compensation
Less time invested Less career choices (only language/translation)
Broader choice of translation subjects Hard to compete with specialists in their fields

Choice of Language

Most of the translators will work with a language strictly related to their own heritage. People of Hispanic origin will work with Spanish translations, Brazilians will work with Portuguese translations, and Russians will do Russian translations.

A singular group is the group of American translators with no heritage languages other than English. They will study a foreign language with passion and will become excellent translators from the foreign language to English. This is something always true: it will be times easier to translate from another language to your mother language to the opposite. In fact, most translation agencies will require the translator to work only on jobs meeting this condition. This means that for the particular group of Americans learning a second language, there will always be a huge field of work.

For this particular group of people choosing what language to learn, it may be worth of researching the compensation and demand per language. Each language has a specific offer/demand and related compensation.

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Market Price of a Language

Chinese, for example, is a complex language to be learned by people from the West. For us, it is an exotic language, and most people would expect a high compensation for translation involving Chinese.

The truth is that Chinese is one of the most affordable translations in more than 400 existing languages. The reason is the following: imagine how many translators you will find among 1 billion human beings. Although there is a high demand from companies all around the world going after the Chinese markets, there is a huge number of professional translators working in this pair.

Another counter-intuitive case is German. German is an old language, including in western civilization, and no novelty at all. Nonetheless, its translation cost is almost double the cost of a comparable translation related to Chinese. The reason is that the German-born population is small, and it is growing at smaller and smaller rates. Someone that speaks German natively and understands Financial terms in an expert level will probably make huge money working as an executive in the Banking industry. To find someone with this level and do translation work will cost you a high, high price.

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