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How Do I Become a Linguist Translator?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 17, 2024
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Someone wishing to become a linguist translator must have good second language skills and many linguists study at least one foreign language during high school. Additionally, many linguists study languages in college or enroll in short-term courses that are offered by community colleges. Translators are often required to translate written documents, in which case these individuals must have a good knowledge of grammar and some familiarity with commonly used word processing systems.

Many linguists take foreign language undergraduate degree courses in which they are taught how to read, write and communicate in another language. While most linguists are tasked with translating recent statements or documents, some people specialize in translating historical records and ancient texts. Since languages change over the course of time, people involved in translating documents that are written in ancient texts often take postgraduate degree programs during which students are taught about a specific language in its ancient rather than present form. While many college students focus on learning a single language, some universities offer dual honors programs although these courses usually involve students learning languages that are closely related.

Someone wishing to become a linguist translator may have to enroll in short-term courses at a community college in which word processing and office skills are taught. Linguists must be able to quickly and efficiently translate materials and some employers require translators to pass typing examinations during which an applicant’s ability to produce error free material is put to the test. Additionally, linguists employed by travel firms and transportation companies are required to have good customer service skills. Therefore, someone wishing to become a linguist translator may have to gain some experience working in the hospitality field at a resort or hotel.

Many translators are self-employed individuals who work for clients on a contractual basis while other employers including government agencies employ full-time translators but most companies require both in-house and contracted linguists to have prior work experience. Some wishing to become a linguist translator can gain experience while working as an unpaid volunteer. Many people volunteer to work for aid agencies to gain experience with using foreign languages on a daily basis.

In some nations, industry associations administer examinations for linguists. Many employers require prospective translators to achieve certain passing scores. These examinations test the candidate's knowledge of the language as well as their ability to interpret the meaning of documents when texts cannot be precisely translated. People who fail to pass these tests sometimes become self-employed linguists for private clients who are not concerned with translations being entirely accurate.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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