If you are fluent in more than one language, becoming a professional translator/interpreter may be a great job for you!
As a professional you could work as a freelancer or for a translation agency to bring in some cash and start a rewarding career, but before you start to advertise your interpretation services you should take a few steps to prepare yourself to be a great translator.
Make sure you are really fluent: Language translation and interpretation is tricky business and it can really help or hurt a company. Make sure you’re the one helping by being truly fluent. Fluency is having native proficiency in speaking, writing, and understanding a language.
Get comfortable with equipment: Modern interpreters and translators use technology to create high quality work. If you plan on being a simultaneous translator you will need to be able to use interpreter consoles and sound proof booths. In many cases consecutive interpretation requires the use of microphones and specialized headsets.
Get certified: Certifications provide proof to employers that you are qualified to offer interpretation service. American Translator’s Association and the Translators and Interpreters Guild are two good places to start. Some agencies require a bachelor’s or masters degree so check with the places you want to apply.
Brush up on your writing: Good writing is important. When professional writing has punctuation, spelling, or grammatical error it distracts and gives the wrong message about the company (and your ability as a professional.)
Once your education is complete, you’ve got the basics down and your writing skills are solid, it’s time to get to work.
For linguists just starting out in the industry it can be hard to find a first job. Websites like Proz.com and American Translators Association can be valuable tools for translators and interpreters alike.
These sites and several others allow linguists to create a profile as well as view and apply for various jobs through individuals or agencies.
Employers can also log “kudos” or other reviews of your work that will help potential employers make a decision on hiring you for their next project.
While becoming a professional translator/interpreter is a long road, the payoff is an exciting career that can take you all over the world!