How to Become a Certified Translator


Authored by Donna Johnson in Careers and Employment 
Published on 10-05-2009

As the years have passed, many companies have expanded to begin doing business globally instead of just within their own countries. Such an expansion will naturally bring company representatives into contact with people who do not speak the same language as they do, necessitating a translator to facilitate business negotiations. If you are bilingual, you can become one of the certified translators that companies large and small rely on every day.

The first thing you should know about becoming a certified translator is that you will generally be dealing with the written language of your choice, not the spoken language. Interpreters are generally used for verbal communication, whether in person or over phone or Internet conference. If you feel you are stronger at the written word than the spoken word, becoming a certified translator could be perfect for you.

Before you attempt to become a certified translator, you should also be fluent in your chosen language. A basic understanding of the language at a conversational level will not suffice. If you grew up speaking a second language or have studied a second language for several years, including at the college level, you will be much better suited to be a certified translator. There is little to no room for error on the part of a certified translator, as you will often deal with business deals and documents that have a lot of money at stake. In such instances, everyone on both sides of the table must fully understand the deal with no miscommunication.

Once you feel you are ready to become a translator, you should join the American Translator’s Association, or ATA. The ATA offers a certification test that you can take after being an ATA member for 4 weeks and meeting other requirements. These requirements include experience as a professional translator and certain educational requirements. You may also take a practice test for a small fee before taking the certification test to ensure that you are in fact ready.

The ATA offers certification testing in various cities throughout the year. You can find a listing of upcoming test dates and cities on their website, atanet.org. In order to take an ATA certified translator test, you must register and pay the testing fee no later than 2 weeks before your chosen test date. It is best to register and pay the fee as soon as you possibly can, though, as testing dates may very well fill up long before the final deadline. You will learn whether you passed or failed the exam within 15 weeks.

If you pass the ATA certification test, you will be able to note this certification on résumés, business cards, websites, or any other form of advertising that you do for your translation services. This can make you more likely to get translation jobs, as prospective clients will have confidence in your ability to deliver accurate translations in your chosen language. Although becoming a certified translator will require some work and money upfront, it will pay off greatly in the long run as you establish your career.


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