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Foreign Languages-Translate Books & Documents

Elizabeth Elting and Phil Shawe started their translation business in 1992 in their dorm room while studying for their MBA’s. They ran the first year of business with $5000 in their credit card advances and ate four-for-a dollar Ramen noodles at every meal. Today their company TransPerfect Translations Inc. (which has 13 U.S offices and 4 overseas sites) earns annual sales of more than $18million and they were already listed as two of Entrepreneur’s “Young Millionaires in 1999”. This is only one success story of two ordinary people stepping in to the business of Translation and achieving great heights.

The translation industry has reached tremendous growth today. The number of members of the American Translators Association (ATA) has more than doubled in past seven years. This is mainly due to the advancement of the internet and the emergence of e-commerce as the trading mechanism of the next generation.

What is more encouraging for the bizymoms who wish to start up their own home business is that the majority of the 3000 odd translation companies in the U.S. are small home based operations which operate with basic office equipment, a computer, a modem, a fax and couple of dictionaries.

To start up as a translator you need to know at least another language. Do not get discouraged now. You need not be a native speaker or extremely fluent in another language to start things up. You could follow a translation course to improve your understanding of the language. Depending on your requirement you should select the course. For instance if you wish to be a literary translator, you may specialize in side out of one language. However if you opt to handle commercial text knowledge of many languages is important. Nevertheless as a translator of books and documents you need excellent writing skills. Further you need patience, attention to details, expression and composition to aid your work. It is advisable however to focus more on simple projects at the beginning although literary translations may appear challenging and glamorous.

Another related business to translating industry is copy editing. If you initially start editing translations prior to begin translating you have an excellent opportunity to learn the mistakes, pit falls of language and expression.

So how can you start working? If you are within an English speaking country it is advisable to find out non-English publications. Immigrant communities, chamber of commerce bulletins are generally rich sources of such opportunities. If you live overseas it is much easier to find out local companies or academic institutions which have international relations. Although in general most of these organizations seek qualifications, it depends on the language you deal in. By the way you should not get put off by one or two rejections at the beginning.

Success Tips

Before you start translating make sure you are equipped with dictionaries and guidelines to aid you. Having dictionaries on the computer may save your time although it is not a necessity.

Beware of translation software. Please note that none of them can complete the job for you regardless of their level of complexity.

Show your professionalism through the achievement of your deadlines. Sometimes you may be the last step before publication. In that case your delay will cause your client to halt the publication which in turn may result in serious financial losses to them.

Make your own glossary. This will save your time and keep you away from headache later on.

Last but not the least never give up.

I wish you all the best for your translation business.

If you like to know more on translation industry, please check the following links.

Launching a Translation Career-

Life as a Translator -

American Translators Association (ATA) -


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