Juliano Martins

How Can Polyglots Become Translators?

Being a polyglot can bring much more opportunities than simply being able to talk to people on the streets of foreign countries, reading books in other languages and having fun abroad. All countries are connected and interacting with each other, with an intrinsic communication necessity that will always exist. Therefore, translation is one of the most important tools in a globalized world. Polyglots love practicing languages, and working with translation can be a dream come true for many of them, who will be able to have constant contact with languages, people and cultures, while developing a promising career, working anywhere for clients from all over the globe. In this talk, we will learn how to transform a passion for languages into a passion for making communication possible for other people and how to make it a fulfilling, lucrative job that you can do in the comfort of your home. We will also learn how to find and increase the number of clients, making them loyal customers of your linguistic services. The translation market is growing each year. You just need to know how to infiltrate it and take advantage of an endless flow of words that need to be translated.

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  • RonP says:

    Hi Juliano! Thank you for a brief and informative presentation, aimed at those wanting to become a ‘language services provider’. You made many good points. It brought back memories from my days as a translator/editor/proofreader. Christine made some good comments too, to keep in mind for those new to the profession. I loved your last slide ‘Chance favours the prepared mind!’ – I used to have it as my motto on my laptop’s screensaver. Best wishes from Edinburgh

  • Yvonne Chi says:

    Thank you Juliano, very valuable info/insight into the translation industry!

    Dejla, for your question on the few words jobs, I had one before where I needed to translate a slogan/brand name of sort (can’t remember exactly). It was rather difficult to capture the meaning and be creative and original at the same time. In that case I believe you’d quote per project over per word.

  • Hello from a fellow translator,

    Thank you for the presentation, Juliano. Nice work on the charts and statistics!

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to add some points and my personal view for the conference attendees interested in becoming a translator.

    As mentioned in the presentation, professional translators usually translate into their mother tongue. There may be exceptions of course, for example if you have a rare language for which there aren’t many translators. What I would like to emphasize is that if you do translate into a foreign language, you should always have it edited and proofread by a native speaker. In fact, you should ALWAYS have an editor/proofreader, but it’s even more important when translating into a non-native language.

    I’m not a fan of platforms. Fiverr, Upwork and the like are a waste of time in my opinion, because anybody can create a profile on such sites and offer their services, even if they have absolutely no qualification. So you will be competing with a lot of non-professionals who only want to earn some pocket money. The prices offered on such platforms are very low. ProZ is a bit better, as it is a very well-known site specifically for translators and you may find some good clients there, but also lots of agencies looking for the cheapest translator.

    Contrary to Juliano, I prefer working with direct clients, but I can understand that some translators prefer agencies. When you just start out, it’s easier to work with agencies, as direct clients would normally look for more experienced translators.

    I won’t comment on the rates mentioned in the presentation, as I don’t know the Brazilian market and what is considered a fair or good rate there. What I do want to emphasize is that as a freelance translator, you run a business and it’s up to YOU to set your prices, not the agency to dictate theirs. When you hire a plumber or an accountant, you don’t tell them what you will pay them either, they charge you their price. Agencies always try to get the lowest price possible so they can make a higher profit, that’s how business works. You can always negotiate and should refuse to work for fees that are too low. In my experience, direct clients haggle much less over prices, as they are used to hiring external providers, such as lawyers or consultants. For direct clients, I usually quote a project fee, not a fee per word.

    I can see why Juliano recommends diversification. If you want to work for agencies, it’s indeed better to be able to work in several areas, but this is not the case if you want to work for direct clients. No law firm will hire you to translate their documents if you claim to do everything from law to medicine, IT to physics, etc. They are only going to hire a specialist legal translator. The best and most successful translators I know are specialized in one or two fields, often with postgraduate degrees in that field.

    And, if I may answer Dejla’s questions:

    1) You can absolutely work as a translator with only one language combination, that’s actually quite common. Yes, there are many translators who work with English and German, but there is also a lot of work in that combination.

    2) You normally charge a minimum fee for small translations to cover the time spend.

  • Felix says:

    Hi Juliano, thank you for the talk! I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the general conditions of the translation industry. Particularly, I liked your gathered data and charts from the past years of your working field.
    Cheers, Felix.

  • Dejla says:

    Hi Juliano! Thank you so much for the talk! It was the one I was looking forward to the most. I’ve been thinking of pursuing a career in translation for a while now and your talk really encouraged me to look further into it.

    I have two questions:
    1) I speak 7 languages at different levels, but there are only 4 I am actually fluent in. However, when it comes to translating, I feel like I can only deliver excellent translations in English and German.
    Is that enough to start a translation career? I am worried that I will not be unique enough, because there are so many people that speak those languages. Should I become more fluent in one of my other languages (i.e. Arabic, which is in high demand right now, I assume)? Or is that language pair enough for a start?

    2) You said some jobs are only a few words. If you only get paid like 30 Cents for a word, that’ll be a dollar for a job. Is it even worth it to take those certain jobs and go through the hassle of e-mail back and forth with clients/agencies?

    Thanks again for being so open.
    Greetings from Germany

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