e all know that one of the most important things for a linguist to do is to specialise. It’s one thing to know how to translate, but translators who claim to be experts in every type of text demonstrate not only a misunderstanding of the word ‘expert’ but also a lack of understanding of what a good translation…
Using Your (Other) Skills as a Translator
People are often surprised by the ‘news’ that foreign language ability is far from the only requirement for a translator, but in reality it’s often our other skills and attributes that are most likely to determine our success in this line of work. In a market where it is becoming more and more necessary to identify and promote our own unique qualities, I thought it would be prudent to write about how our other skills (i.e. ‘not languages’) can help us to become more successful as translators (and interpreters).
First, write a list of all your skills and positive attributes. The only items forbidden from this list are ‘translation’ and your working languages. Seriously, no matter how absurdly irrelevant it might seem, write it down. If you’re having trouble getting started, try thinking of clubs and societies you are or have been part of, or begin with social skills. For example, I’m an ENFJ Myers-Briggs personality type, meaning that I can be highly empathic and understanding of others’ points of view, as well as an excellent communicator. Not so irrelevant to translation after all, right? Other items on my list are going to include writing essays, observing connections between facts or events, playing music, crafts and juggling.
Then start thinking of ways you can use these skills to attract clients. I’ve worked for a company that produced electronic musical instruments, so understanding the difference between a minor and major third came in handy there. Writing essays requires the ability to order information to make a point, and helps when writing blog entries like this one. I’m currently working on a craft project which I hope will result in some cool Instagram pics, more Twitter followers and generally more exposure – who knows, maybe I’ll even get a client or two out of it. As for juggling… honestly, in this age of social media, you never know! It’s never been more important to engage our audiences and draw their attention to who we are and what we have to offer, and nothing says ‘engaging’ like a dynamic video involving juggling. Of course the idea needs some work to make it relevant to my followers, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to put that skill to work for me as well.
You are unique, you are talented in a great many ways, and you bring so much to the table. You know that, I know that, and the world should know it too. Leave no stone unturned in your quest to discover new angles from which to market yourself, and you may find that those skills you thought had no bearing on your professional life end up being serious contributors to your success.