Do you love languages? Do you have a particular aptitude for Spanish? Are you passionate about helping people communicate? If you answered yes to these questions, you might consider becoming a Spanish translator.
In this article, we’ll go over what being a Spanish translator entails, help you figure out if this career path is for you, and share some tips on how to become a Spanish translator.
- What does a Spanish translator do?
- Is Spanish translation for me?
- How to become a Spanish translator?
- Final thoughts
What does a Spanish translator do?
A Spanish translator transfers texts either from one language into Spanish or vice versa. Most translation work is carried out electronically with the help of a computer and various computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools.
Translators often specialize in one field, such as legal translation, literary translation or intellectual property. The possibilities are endless; if there is a field you are passionate about, there will be a translation niche you can specialize in.
Moreover, Spanish translators can work for the government, law firms, private companies, translation companies, or as freelancers. When it comes to the work model, translators can work in-house or remotely/from home, depending on if they are employees or freelancers and the company they work for.
Is Spanish translation for me?
If you aren’t sure whether you should become a Spanish translator, in this section, we’ll cover some topics such as salary, skills, and requirements that will help you make a decision.
Is there a demand for Spanish translators?
Yes, there is a lot of demand for Spanish translators. In fact, this is the language with the highest demand worldwide. This is not surprising as Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world by native speakers, right after Mandarin.
When it comes to the United States in particular, there is also a huge demand for Spanish translators. One of the main reasons is the fact that the country shares a border with Mexico, one of the largest Spanish-speaking countries in the world.
How much can you make as a Spanish translator?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, translators and interpreters in 2020 made an average of $49k per year. This covers translators from all languages (as well as interpreters) but at least gives you a rough idea of what you could be making in this field.
Payment can also vary depending on the state you live in and the field you work in.
When it comes to Spanish translators in particular, According to Zipia, they make an average of $43k, with the high earners reaching over $60k and the lowest paid ones making $27k a year.
What qualifications do I need to be a Spanish translator?
There are no specific requirements for Spanish translators but you should be fluent in Spanish and English (or the second language of your choice). You should also have a strong knowledge of the cultures related to both languages so you can understand cultural references and nuances.
We’d also recommend a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, linguistics, or translation studies, but we’ll look into this in more depth later in this article.
Top skills for Spanish translators
It’s clear that you need outstanding language skills to become a Spanish translator, but what other talents would be helpful in this career path? Here are some of them.
- Computer and CAT tool knowledge
- Interpersonal skills
- In-depth research skills
- Great writing skills
- Organizational skills
- Attention to detail
- Time management
How to become a Spanish translator?
Now that you know what being a Spanish translator entails, it’s time for some tips on how to become one. While other countries may require specific degrees or have registration requirements, this is not the case in the United States. Therefore, there is no clear-cut path to becoming a Spanish translator here.
Below, we’ll go over the most common route to become a Spanish translator.
Become fluent in Spanish
You might be tired of hearing this by now, but studying and being fluent in Spanish is key to becoming a good translator.
Ideally, you would start studying Spanish in high school to make sure you reach a higher proficiency level, but some people take it up later in life and still succeed. You can find some information on how to become fluent in Spanish as an adult in this article.
As Spanish is quite common in the United States, you might be lucky enough to have grown up in a Spanish-speaking household. However, this does not mean you can forego any formal studies. You should actually study both languages in depth to ensure you have the proper skills to be a good Spanish translator.
Another great way to improve your language skills is by spending a few months or a year in a Spanish-speaking country.
At the end of the day, what matters is that you are fluent and have a good understanding of grammar, syntax and word choice in both languages.
Get a bachelor’s degree
Again, a bachelor’s degree is not compulsory, but we highly encourage you to get one. Most employers and translation agencies will expect you to have one.
You have several options here. As we’ve mentioned, your degree can be in Spanish, translation, or linguistics, for example. Some universities or colleges offer combined translation and interpreting degrees, while others offer language, literature and translation degrees. You could also get a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and later a master’s in translation.
Pick a specialization
Picking a specialization is not compulsory either, but most translators pick a particular area or field. This means you can provide higher quality translations in that field and will also help you find work and better-paid jobs.
There are countless translation specializations you could choose from. Here are some of them:
- Legal translation
- Medical translation
- Business translation
- Financial translation
- Technical translation
- Intellectual property translation
- Literary translation
- Marketing translation
- Travel/Tourism translation
- Audiovisual translation
- Website/Software localization
Getting an additional degree or having practical experience in these fields is definitely a plus.
Beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you can get training by taking courses and attending workshops (either in person or online).
There are plenty of online courses available on translation in general as well as the area of expertise of your choice. AulaSIC offers a variety of courses in various specialization fields as well as project management, proofreading, and useful software. Udemy offers great options to complement your studies, including practical tips on how to quote jobs or specialized courses on financial translation.
As we’ve mentioned, translators often work with CAT tools (software applications that aid the translation process). You can get training in this area from the providers of the specific software—like Memsource or more comprehensive courses like the one provided by Proz.
Moreover, translation associations also hold regular conferences and workshops to help you perfect your skills. The American Translators Association (ATA), for example, has plenty of resources for both students and professional translators. You’ll find a list of upcoming ATA events here and you can find the top global translation events here. If you have a specialization area, you can also attend industry events to both gain knowledge and network within your field.
Once you have the proper training, it is also important to gain relevant experience. Jumping directly into the job market without practical experience might not be the wisest choice. You can find volunteer or internship opportunities that will help you get experience in Spanish translation. You can also translate documents that you find online to practice your skills and find a mentor to give you feedback. These experiences will help you boost your resume and also give you the opportunity to make mistakes while minimizing risks.
We’d also advise you to prepare a translation glossary with the terminology you come across in your studies and your work. This will save you time and ensure accuracy in your translations.
A certified translator is one who has proven the quality of their work in some way. Certification requirements vary from country to country but, in the United States, translators earn their certification when satisfactorily tested by the government or a professional institution. The main institution providing English-Spanish translator certification in the US is the American Translators Association.
Although certification is not compulsory for Spanish translators, this is a great way to stand out from other translators and shows how committed you are to your profession. Certification can also open career doors for you and makes you more trustworthy in the eyes of potential clients.
If you want to know how the ATA certification works, you can read our article on this topic.
Becoming a Spanish translator can prove challenging, but it is a very rewarding profession. If you have a passion for the Spanish language and find joy in helping people communicate, this is the perfect career path for you.
We hope this article helps guide your first steps toward becoming a Spanish translator.
Updated September 13, 2022 in Translators