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From Au Pair to translator

by NiamhReading time: 4 min.
Become a translator: How the Au Pair program can help you
Your Au Pair year is coming to an end and not quite sure what to do next? Why not put your language skills that you have developed while Au Pairing to use and become a translator!

What does a translator do?

As a translator you are expected to translate written texts from one language to another language. Translators are usually expected to translate into their native tongue, however this is not always the case. The key goal of a translator is to aid communication and ensure the message in the original text is conveyed into the second language correctly. Translators must adhere to the originals texts style as much as possible. In order to do this translators must research topics before translating in order to ensure they have the correct vocabulary and any technical terms.Translators often liaise with the original author of the text to ensure they are expressing the message correctly. Translators also need to be conscious of their target audience and any cultural nuances that may exist.

How much does a translator earn?

It varies from country, for example in the USA a translator can have a salary of approximately $34,000 annually. While in Germany the average salary is €29,000 and in Spain the average salary is around €23,000. Of course the salary depends on how much experience you have and what qualifications you have. Similarly a translator's salary depends on where they work. Many people have an image of translators working in the European Union Institutions or for the United Nations. Although these are both possibilities, they are not the only options.
Translators can be:
  • Freelancers: Freelancers are self employed and are often hired by specific clients or translating services to translate documents. Most translators fall into this category. The topics freelancers translate vary. They can have a different subject matter each day or choose to specialise in certain topics such as legal, scientific reports or news. Freelancers have the great advantage that they can work from anywhere once they have Wi-Fi. Many freelance translators travel the world while working. As freelance translators don’t have set working hours they can choose to work when it suits them.
  • In-house translation companies: If working from home isn't for you, you can work in an in-house translation company. In-house translation companies translators have specific working hours that they work in the companies office.Their weekly schedule is usually 9-5 Monday to Friday.
  • Multinational corporations: Often large multinational companies will hire their own translating team rather than using an in-house translation company. So if you like working in a large company with lots of employees this might be an option for you! Many translators work in industries that combine both languages and technology such as software localisation.
  • Public Institutions: Public Institutions usually hire their own translating team as their documents can contain confidential information. Translators often work in EU institutions and bodies such as the European Council, European Central Bank, European Parliament to name just a few. Translators often work in the United Nations.

Where to start?

The first thing to do is to update your CV and include some of the skills and qualities which are required to be a translator (which you can find below).The next step is to then create a general cover letter which you can later tailor to each job you're applying for. Your cover letter should include a brief summary of relevant skills and qualities you possess and your motivation for wanting to be a translator. After that you should translate your CV and cover letter into the languages you speak. You are applying for a translating job so why not showcase your language skills from the beginning. The next step is to decide if you want to stay in your Host Familiy's country, return home or go somewhere else. Then you're ready to apply for jobs. In your applications if you have previously studied languages in university include grades you achieved in translation module for language modules.

Skills and qualities required for translators:

  • Writing Skills
  • Computer and IT skills
  • Time Management skills
  • Accuracy
  • Linguistic skills
  • Reading comprehension skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Cultural knowledge
  • Research skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Adaptability
Although most translators often have a bachelor's degree the most important requirement is to have native-like proficiency in at least one second foreign language. If you are a native speaker of a minority language such as (Irish and Catalan etc.) the demand is often so high that no bachelor is required. Translators who have a bachelor may not have a bachelor in language but in a completely different subject should not worry. It is a positive advantage to have experience in another subject. If you don’t have a bachelor in languages it might be worth considering doing a language course and getting a certificate to show your language level. However, if you would like to work in a public institution you will need a bachelor's degree and possibly a master's degree in translation depending on the institution so please keep this in mind.

How being an Au Pair can help you become a translator

Your Au Pair year gave you the chance to attend language classes and perfect your language skills while also enabling you to be fully immersed in your Host Countries culture. While au pairing you had to organise not only yourself and your schedule but the host children and their schedules. Organisational skills are extremely important for translators so why not highlight this on your CV: nothing says adaptability more than leaving your home, friends and family and traveling far away to live with a family you don't know. In your CV explain how you are an open minded, tolerant individual who welcomes diversity and that during your Au Pair stay you quickly adapted to the new culture and environment of your Host Family.

Career Development

If you are unsure if being a translator is for you why not do an internship first. Many companies and translation agencies offer internships. Similarly, the European Union bodies and institutions offer internships in translation for 3 to 6 months. There are a few requirements you must be proficient in at least one of the working languages of the institution (English or French) and you must have completed at least four semesters of university. Many translators starting out will do a sample translation for an agency. Initially, you will be given smaller projects but after a bit of time once you have more experience you will be able to take on more important projects. Progression as a freelancer can be difficult as it can be hard to accumulate clients. However, once established as a freelancer you could progress on to open your own translation agency. Prospects of progression in multinational corporations are good particularly if you have technical knowledge in the fields of sciences, engineering etc.

Are you interested in learning more about job opportunities after the Au Pair stay? Then have a look at our overview article here
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