What qualifications do you need?

Strictly speaking, qualifications are not necessary to be eligible to work as a translator, although for some areas such as court interpreting, you need to do a special course and get an official certificate. Where qualifications do add value is in the finer techinical points of translation and they will also lend credibility to your profile.

As Brunner points out, “For the more complex translations, the really important aspects to observe are professional formatting and layout, a proper command of translation software and a lot of other aspects which are not strictly connected to linguistics. So I only ever work with people who have a translation degree or even better, an interpreting degree, just to make sure they are up to the task technically.”German translations documents cvs contracts

How many languages do you need to speak?

Most translators and interpreters speak three or four languages and you will obviously need to speak at least two languages fluently. Remember though that it’s a case of quality and not quantity, and you should avoid biting off more than you can chew.

“I speak German, English, Spanish and Italian, and dabbled in French and even Greek at one point”, says Brunner. “As an interpreter or translator, four languages is pretty much all that you can do though – if you want to maintain them to a high standard, that is, and have a life at the same time, of course.”

Where can translators and interpreters work?

Translators have a lot of options here, from working for translation companies to forming their own business, working as intepreters or getting involved in sectors such as dubbing, subtitling and gaming.

The EU is another popular destination and currently employs about 2,000 translators to handle eleven languages, with monthly salaries for permanent staff going from €4,349 to a whopping €18.370.

As Brunner says, “The EU certainly offers one of the most interesting and well-paid employment possibilities for translators. The admission exams are awfully hard though, and I’ve seen some excellent people fail there. Subtitling is also interesting for a translation agency, especially if you can offer an all-in-one package.”

Do translation graduates often end up as translators?

A lot of language students tend to plump for translation degrees, though not all translation graduates go into the field upon graduation.

“A lot of students of translation don’t actually work as translators. Some go into tourism, others into the language business. I myself worked as a director of a language school for many years. So for a student of translation, there are a lot of fields that they can work in.”

Is translation a good business to get into?

The work can, it seems, be a mixed bag and go from the tedious to the very interesting. Entrants should also be aware that the internet has brought with it a significant drop in rates and a highly competitive arena:

“The translation business is as strong as it’s ever been but more people are offering the service, and some bilingual people are selling themselves cheap in the online marketplace for as little as 4 cents per word – that’s 4 euros, not dollars! That’s quite ridiculous, and it harms the global translation community. Plus, there are millions of translation businesses out there, and competition is fierce.”

How can newcomers stand out?

Given the high competition and falling rates, many aspiring translators could well be discouraged. According to Mr Brunner, offering quality is where they can excel.

“The quality will make the difference. Not only do they need to do a good translating job, they need to think how they can add value – for instance, we offer SEO consultancy and we can also put work directly onto our customers’ websites, saving them valuable time. Things that like that add value, and make our clients come back.”

Mark Heaney is a freelance writer living in Valencia, Spain. He has also worked for an english german translation company and teaches English to foreigners. His great passions are linguistics, football, and fashion.


Choose your German Translation Agency carefully

German to English and vice versa is the most common language combination worldwide. That`s right, bigger than Chinese, Japanese, French, Arabic, and other languages which might be more widely spoken than German. The main reason for this is the busy international information exchange between Germany and other, English-speaking countries. Especially in sectors like world politics, engineering and technology, this language combination is by far the most requested. So if you or your company set out to search for a professional language service for the first time, make use of the fact that other people have done the research for you. Here, we present the five best choices for your project:

Mark is one of the friendliest project managers out there.

Mark is one of the friendliest project managers out there.

  • Best German translation agency no. 3: G.Brunner Translation

At G.Brunner Translation, only native-speaking, professional staff take care of your projects. Every one of the linguists has been professionally trained during a minimum 5 years academic career, and they all know what they are doing. This makes G.Brunner an excellent option. You know that you pay a fair price for the quality which you are getting. So many online services use improperly trained persons whose only “claim to translator fame” is that they have spent a period of their lives abroad, or that they have grown up in a bilingual household. There is much more to the profession than that. You need to know how to use the right tools, be computer-literate and able to research terms and expression quickly and efficiently. For this, a specialized training is a minimum requirement.

  • The best German translation agency no. 2: G.Brunner Translation

This company gets our vote as no. 2 because of the additional guarantee of a professional, third-party revision of each project. All too often, other companies use one tried-and-trusted linguist and then just forward the end result to the client. Often, that person is not even on the premises, but only known to the agency by email! And even if they should happen to be properly qualified, who is to guarantee that they are not having an off day? Four eyes simply see more than two, and G.Brunner revises every project, large or small, carefully to ensure that the high quality standards which the company owner, Mr Brunner, has set himself, are met. Often, the owner himself reads through the finished job before sending it to the client personally. The “revision guarantee” is not an empty promise, but the best guarantee for receiving an acceptable end result.

Just as important as the quality of the finished product is customer service, and that is where GB Translation Agency gets out vote as the overall winner. Only a few people manage the business of this language service, and they seem to be always available by phone or email, fast to deal with enquiries and generate quotes, and if something cannot be done in the desired time frame, they are honest enough to tell you straight away. What you see is what you get with this online translations service. On the financial side, there are no hidden costs. Quotes are definitive and tax is always included in the price, unlike other similar businesses. Instead of “fair trade”, this company provides “Fair Translation” services for German – German and many other language combinations. With them, your peace of mind is guaranteed, as all language matters can be outsourced to reliable persones who know how to treat their clients.

We hope that after reading our “Top 3” above, you know who to contact for your next project. 🙂

Have you ever outsourced work to one of our “three winning companies”? Which aspect of their work did you like the most? Let us know in the comments!



You’ll find a Translation Institute anywhere

If you are starting to get interested in translation (at any age), the next translation institute probably isn’t very far. Contrary to what most people would think, most universities do have a separate translation and interpretation department within their faculties of linguistics, and there is a plethora of other options as well, like schools for linguistic mediators, as some of them like to be called. You don’t necessarily need to study at a university, but a variety of private institutions satisfy the same need. Just approach your university or ask around, or use the internet. Even if you live in a small town, there is probably somewhere you can go to take up some sort of translation course.

You don’t need a Degree

Even if you can’t find an official school of translation anywhere nearby (although they are widespread, as said above, especially in countries such as Germany, France, or Italy), you should know that owning a degree is not a strict requirement as translation is not a protected profession. Anyone who thinks they are good enough in more than one language can do it. It’s just that with a proper translation degree you can charge more, and you get an excellent preparation for your job.

Translators earn a lot of Money – if they do Things right

Which brings us to the next point, the remuneration. As much fun as translation might seem in the beginning, it soon becomes just as boring and monotonous as any other job. So you will want to earn some money for the hassle to be worth it for you. If you manage to approach your job in the right way, you can start out for example by advertising your services on online translation platforms, and then gradually build a reputation – online and in real life – by networking and providing quality services. In my case, it only took a few weeks after graduating from university and I was already translating websites into German like a pro, or interpreting at fairly large events. Accept that the money is not so great at the beginning, but gets better and better, and work the crowd.  

Translation Degrees prepare you to do Loads of Things

In the modern world, the equation degree = job in that sector is no longer valid. Translators for one find employment in many different sectors; many much more interesting and fun than actual translation. Some of my ex-colleagues work in tourist offices, advertising agencies, as online marketers, and in a variety of other fields. But the translation degree covers so many different aspects that it is a great way of preparing for a variety of different jobs.


Are you interested in studying translation, and need more information? Just let us know in the comments, and we’ll be more than happy to help out. Or have you studied translation and now you work as something completely different? We’d be interested in hearing your story, too!




Remember when you were at university doing your translation degree. Remember your teachers telling you about the holy grail of translation, the monolingual dictionary?

Monolingual dictionaries, was the reasoning, are much more useful than bilingual dictionaries because they help the translator really understand what a thing is about, by describing the term in question rather than just offering a couple of translations into the target language, without any context to explain them, and thus, they can mislead a translator and you and up using a completely wrong word?


I have not believed this from day one, although some of my colleagues bought into the myth and swore by their monolinguals. That is, their big, fat Collins dictionaries or whatever.

I have refused monolingual dictionaries from day one, and here I am, ten years in the business as a successful translator (even if I say so myself). But I had a nostalgic moment today and suddenly remembered how monolingual dictionaries were sold to us at translators’ school, and how they were made out to be somehow the purer form of the art, as opposed to the linguistic fast food crap that a bilingual dictionary was. Instant lookup of the translation term? How rude!

Have you ever really used monolingual dictionaries, and do they translate to the age of the internet? Maybe I got it all completely wrong? Let’s talk mono and bi in the comments.



After another year fighting it out (and collaborating) with the agencies and freelancers in the translation business, the time has come for a summer break.
Off to Lanzarote with the girlfriend tomorrow… (And with her whole family, but that’s another story :-)) So how does a translator spend his holiday? Rent quads, cycle along the coast, or try to put on a bit of a tan? Yes, quite possibly.

Bring the notebook? Quite definitely not. While I admit that I will probably carry my all singing-all dancing smartphone to check my emails every few days, if I can have the discipline to stick to that rhythm (an auto-responder is set up with a picture of me, on the island), more serious hardware stays at home. Just to make sure it’s not only unlikely, but actually impossible for me to work.

So thanks for reading, I shall be off to enjoy my holidays, and you enjoy yours, whenever you decide to take them and wherever they may take you (unless you’re on a permanent vacation, that is).

Do you usually manage to completely disconnect and stick to that Check your emails twice a week routine? Any ideas for putting your business on hold, while on holidays? Let us know in the


I should be lying on the beach by now instead of fighting it out with translation agencies…

First of all, dear readers, sorry not to have posted anything for a while. I’ve been too busy with- you guessed it… translations!

Today, I received an email from a translation agency for an IT translation over the weekend. I wasn’t too bothered about it so I made a proposal. The following row ensued (see this link) – you’ll only be able to see it if you are a member of Translatorscafe, though. Please follow it and say what you think, you can use comments on this page or write directly in the forum. Makes for a good read… Which is why… we make all this effort to market our services ourselves instead of having to deal with agencies like them!

Any other experiences like that when working for agencies guys? I’m glad I distanced myself from most of them by now… and today, got rid of one more!! Let us hear some stories in the comments

People love writing about this topic; after all, we’re all in in for the money. No-one can claim they are still having that much fun doing translations after a couple of years in the business. All things considered, translating is quite a boring, solitary exercise, whichever way you look at it. BUT… it gives you a certain freedom which only freelance work can provide (the ability to travel when you want, the lack of a superior etc.) which more than compensates for these obvious disadvantages. And it usually pays well, too. Even if you don’t always manage to negotiate your desired rate, if a job is reasonably well-paid, you will still earn more in an hour than most people in a whole morning.

So how should you go about getting the money off your clients? Here’s a few things you should consider:


  1. In the initial email, be as clear as possible.

There is a certain temptation NOT to mention the money too much in the initial email correspondence, and to refuse to mention exact payment terms to the client, just because you’re too embarrassed to bring up the topic, and you don’t want to make it look like you’re only after the money, and for a whole lot of other reasons, especially if you’re a young translator and you’re new in the business.

However, if you are not clear about your terms in the beginning, it becomes much more of a hassle afterwards. A client is simply not very willing to discuss payment details after the work has been completed, not necessarily because they don’t intend to pay you, but because it is no longer an urgency for them and they’re already deep into something else. That’s just the way business goes. Paying people is simply the last thing on an agenda when there’s a lot going on.

Here’s how I do it: At the end of the “quote” email (the one where you tell the client how much damage you’re going to do to their budget), include a whole paragraph (3 or 4 sentences) about how you would like to get paid. Here’s an example:

“Payment has to be completed on the same day the text is delivered. Payment options include PayPal, wire transfer, and credit card. All payment details are included in the invoice issued together with the translated text”

You see, this block of text, for example, does not sound overly aggressive and still it includes all the necessary information. By accepting your quote, the client implicitly accepts these terms. You have it in writing and everything is reasonably clear before you even start. Not all clients will read your emails thoroughly, but you can always remind them later just by saying that “we’ve already agreed on this in out initial email correspondence” or something along those lines.


2. Don’t bother with formal quotes.

Sometimes, people will demand a “formal quote”, which is supposed to be some kind of document which looks a bit like an invoice and includes your company details etc. I regard this as a waste of time. If you’re a serious freelance translator, you’re probably working on another project already, and you will barely have enough time to answer all your emails. I have often refused to issue formal quotes, and it has never been the reason for my not getting a job. Again, it depends on how you say it. Try something like this:

“Hi, I am sorry but we don’t do “formal quotes”. We regard email correspondence as perfectly valid for official quotes and to be honest, we are always extremely busy so we try to keep paperwork to a minimum. Please just treat the previous email as a formal quote. Thanks!”

Your clients are after the best service and the best price, so don’t be shy about telling them what you think. They will accept your offer based on these simple metrics and not based on your skills as your own personal secretary.


3. Payment terms: NOW, please!

I have had many a discussion about this particular point with colleagues, but let me get this off my chest. Ask for the money immediately after the delivery. Or if possible, before! General business practice this is not, but, hey, it works for me! It the initial email, clients are informed (see point 1) that they have to pay me immediately on delivery. When the translation is done, I send them an email saying that (a) the translation project is finished, and (b) they have to pay right now in order to receive the document. I include wire transfer and PayPal/credit card as payment options (more about that later) and demand proof of payment to be emailed to me. Most banks include an option to send a confirmation email about a transfer to the beneficiary, so it is usually not a problem for the client to send you proof of payment. Sometimes, a client might insist that it is impossible for them to process the payment right now, because they are out of the office or for whatever reason, but then it’s still up to you… You can either trust the client and send the text anyway, or you can insist that if you don’t get paid, the text will not be sent. As translation projects are usually rather urgent, this leaves them with no option. Even if the client is well pissed off at you by now, it would take them much longer to find someone else to do the job (plus potential legal trouble with you).


All in all, if you’re running a translation business, however small it may be, getting people to pay you on time is essential for your peace of mind and for the proper functioning of your business. It is important to be as straightforward as possible about this, and find the right tone when you bring up the subject.


What are your experiences with good, bad, and non-payers? Which payment methods do you use? Let’s talk about it in the comments.