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How do I Become a French Translator?

Vanessa Harvey
Vanessa Harvey

To become a French translator you will need to master the French language, both as it is spoken and as it is written, on a college level. You also will need mastery of at least one other language. French and the language or languages that you speak, read, write and understand will form your "language pair."

If you become a self-employed translator, you will have the option of translating from French into your target language and from a target language into French. Be aware, however, that you will need to assure your customer base that, although French is a language you learned, you are able to accurately translate into it. Employment in a translation agency or the translation department of a large firm could limit you because you might not be permitted to translate into French if it is not your native tongue.

French translators can seek work in Luxembourg, where it is the country's official language.
French translators can seek work in Luxembourg, where it is the country's official language.

Translations into one's mother tongue are usually of superior quality when compared to translations into a learned language. Acquiring professional credentials are highly recommended whether you do freelance work or seek employment, because they attest not only to your knowledge but also to your professionalism. A bachelor's degree, Master of Arts or certificate earned from an institution of higher learning that is regionally accredited could prove very valuable. Keep in mind, however, that many clients and potential employers are well aware that learning a language in a formal classroom is considerably inferior to learning by immersion. Usually, immersion refers to living in a country or region where the official or dominant language is the one from or into which you wish to translate.

This is precisely why professional experience is sometimes more impressive than credentials when you seek to become a French translator. If you have completed projects to the satisfaction of a client or have worked in the position of French translator, you will want to have reference letters as part of your portfolio. Volunteer work also is valuable, especially if you were remunerated.

Your decision to become a French translator should include deciding whether you will specialize or do general translations. For example, if you want to do legal translations, you will need to focus not only on legal terminology, but also on the laws of the regions in which your translations will be used. Following this advice should be of help to you regardless of where in the world you live.

French is a language spoken in many nations spanning multiple continents whose speakers claim it as a native language or as a first language. It is the official language of France and one of the official languages of Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Millions also speak French in the North African countries of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco; in other parts of Africa, such as Cameroon and Senegal; on the island of Haiti; and in Asian nations such as Vietnam.

Québécois is the name given to the dialect of French spoken in the Canadian province of Quebec. A language with so many speakers spanning numerous nations will always have multiple dialects. Unless you specifically choose to become a French translator from or into a chosen dialect, it usually is a good idea to translate into what is generally considered the standard — the French of France.

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    • French translators can seek work in Luxembourg, where it is the country's official language.
      By: Hugh O'Neill
      French translators can seek work in Luxembourg, where it is the country's official language.