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Top 3 skills a translator should have

What are the top 3 translator skills?

What are the most necessary translator skills? You might work as a freelancer or as a member of a team. Either way, it is essential for a translator to have a certain skillset. But the idea is to stand out among your peers. Eventually you will have a successful career with a language service provider.

There is a long list of skills for a translator to have. Here we have provided a short list of those skills. Bear in mind, however, that this list has been streamlined for convenience. Therefore, it is essential you do further research into this skillset.

The skills needed can be divided into two broad categories:


Translation-related skills

These include, but are not limited to, ethical choices, professional decisions and understanding clients’ requests.


Native language skills and English

Crucially, a professional translator should have outstanding linguistic and cultural knowledge of their own language. And, assuming English isn´t your native language, mastering the English language is the single most important skill you should have. From selling your services to translating and reviewing from/into English, customer will judge you on how close to native your English is.


Perfecting the craft of writing

You can take special courses to polish your writing skills. Some customers have a set of guidelines for their translations. It is fundamental that you stick to these requirements. For example, your customer tells you the translation should not exceed a certain wordcount. The ability to stick to this instruction shows how refined your translation skills are.


Strong attention to detail

Your ability to stick to detail no matter how elusive will improve your ranking among suppliers. Paying close attention to  figures, dates and prices shows that you are very conscious of the what you are doing. Because at the end of the day your customer needs you to translate ALL the content.


Adapting the style to the target audience

Ask your customer whether the text should be formal or informal. Should you use young people’s terms or expressions used by an older generation? Do they want you to stay close to the original text or write a loose version of it and in a more attractive style?


General business skills

These could be easily defined as the ability to work with clients. It is not enough to be educated in two or more languages. As a translator you will have to deal with customers. Always. And the better your skills, the more successful you will be. Making business dealings easy for your customer will give you an edge over your competitors. This means being very responsive and as flexible as possible.


Keeping confidential information secure

more often, translators are tasked with the responsibility of translating sensitive, personal and confidential contents. This could be an information on birth or death certificates or even a legal agreement between two parties. It is therefore important for translators to provide assurances to involved parties on the safety of such informations and that no unauthorized personnel can have access to such documents. The client in most cases request for a confidentiality agreement signed by the translator before awarding a contract.


Never missing a deadline

Customers might forgive translation mistakes, but they will not forget a missed deadline. Miss two in a row and the customer will start having doubts about you. If you miss three, your customer will start looking elsewhere. It´s as simple as that.


Following a code of conduct

Finally, every translator should follow a specific code of conduct in terms of ethics. This includes things such as:

  • Accuracy
  • Professional practice
  • Confidentiality
  • Impartiality and managing conflicts of interest


Going the extra mile

Finally, customers (whether corporate or LSP) will love translators who go the extra mile. Someone who does a bit of extra formatting proactively. Or someone who points out mistakes in the original in case it helps.



A translator can only be successful, if he/she is able to combine the translation-related skills and general business skills without any hassle. The main thing is that a transaltor should always be ready to learn new things. Finally, keep an open mind  throughout your translation career.

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