How to start a career as a translator? Although having the proficiency in the target language and the source language is a must, it’s not adequate. To start a career as a translator, the candidate is required to obtain a certification from an accredited institution, which proves the competency of the translator to translate various documents in the language industry. In the U.S., most of the certified translators obtain their certification from American Translators Association (ATA). There are also universities offering degrees in translation, the completion of which may also prove your eligibility for becoming a professional translator. This article is mainly for those who plan to take the ATA exam and become a certified translator in the United States.
Although ATA expects each candidate to be well-trained in the translation of the target language, ATA itself doesn’t offer any coursework, nor does it set any requirement on the training process each candidate has to go through. Some candidates get trained in their schools, while those with a higher proficiency in both languages may choose to prepare for the exam through self-study.
The ATA chapter and its affiliation may hold ATA exam workshop in certain areas throughout the year. You may click here to find the chapter in your area and see if they are holding one soon. More importantly, make sure that you do the official ATA practice test, which has the same level of difficulty and may provide you some good ideas about what will be tested in the real exam.
For the same combination of languages, a candidate can take the ATA exam only once per year. You may find the exam date on ATA website. It’s a 3-hour long open book exam.
The exam contains three passages, and the candidate is asked to translate two of the passages. Each passage contains around 250 words, and highly specialized terminology would not be in these passages. The context and relevant instruction would be given along with the passages. In order to get a passing grade in the exam, the translator should make sure that the explicit meaning, content, usefulness, and understanding of the passages would not be compromised even though there might be a few minor errors.
If you pass the exam, congratulation! With the certification from ATA, you are almost ready to start your career as a translator! But keep in mind that besides language skills, certain computer skills and professional skills may also be valued by companies in the language industry, and you are strongly encouraged to learn those skills to thrive in the industry. Moreover, nowadays many translation companies are working on legal, medical, and business project; you may have a huge advantage if you have some background in these fields. Some coursework you took in college, or some internship experience, may all add to your competitiveness and help you secure better opportunities in the job market.