There are countless languages in the world, most of which are spoken by many thousands, some by billions of people, and among them there are those who speak two languages at once. It would seem that such statistics give reason to believe that the translation business is devoid of any prospects, if only because the translation services market is full of potential competitors.
Once you start your business, however, it becomes clear that the translation market is actually a relatively small number of truly serious competitors, with the business acumen and brave enough to debunk the myths that reflect misconceptions about the translation business.
Among those who deal with translations, there is an opinion that when translating a text into a foreign language, one can fully rely only on its native speaker, for whom this language is native. It was this assumption that formed the basis of the first myth associated with the translation business: a native speaker never makes mistakes. Once you get involved in the translation business, you will very soon find that many clients, especially knowledgeable and erudite ones, almost always ask to attract native speakers of a foreign language, believing that they also have a natural writing talent. Despite the fact that the number of English speakers exceeds a billion, not every native speaker will be able to professionally assess the linguistic accuracy and adequacy of the translation, and only a small part of the English-speaking population can be trusted to carry out translations within the framework of business. It is a mistake to believe that every native speaker of a foreign language is an unsurpassed master of words and, moreover, a good translator. Working with text requires, first of all, a complete understanding of the language of both the original and the translation. When announcing vacancies, it is important to understand that not all native speakers are endowed with a translation gift, even if you consider that, as a rule, they are the ones who are best able to provide the highest quality translations.
The second myth is related to the assumption that the customer’s priorities lie solely in the area of quality. Of course, no one will argue that a customer who has contacted a translation agency hopes to receive a legal translation performed with impeccable quality. But quality is not always the main indicator. Many clients, when visiting the office of the bureau, will be very pleased if they are treated to a cup of tea with cookies or sweets. And research suggests that for many clients, translation speed is a key factor, not translation level. This does not mean at all that the customer will be satisfied with receiving a translation completed in a short time, but of low quality. The point is that the quality criteria used in business differ somewhat from academic standards, and often the preference is given to the practical significance of the translation. In universities, future specialists hone their skills and achieve impeccable translation quality through correct grammatical design of the text and the use of a neutral style. However, business clients are usually indifferent to all these fruits of education – the requirements of each customer are specific. For a lawyer, it is important to follow generally accepted legal terminology and an unambiguous statement of legal provisions; a mechanical engineer will require the translator to have comprehensive technical knowledge and proficiency in specialized technical terminology; the publisher of a mass magazine will expect a literate, easy-to-read text from the translator. But, despite the different approaches to quality, all customers are united by one requirement – to strictly adhere to the deadlines for the translation. After all, in the end, if a foreign client plans to sign a contract, he needs to get a document as soon as possible on which he can put his signature. If the next issue of the magazine is expected, it is necessary to provide the readers with the long-awaited material. Business practice allows several parties to participate in the creation of one document at once, which means that any delay can lead to adverse financial consequences. Thus, those involved in the provision of translation services should always remember that a quality policy should be based on customer satisfaction and professional knowledge of specialized terminology, and that the ability to provide translations in a short time is as important to the client as quality.
By dedicating yourself to translation, you will quickly find that it is quite a lucrative endeavor, even for beginners. The third myth, based on the assumption that the translator’s activity is not profitable, is not true. In recent years, many successful businesses (in the Netherlands or Eastern Europe, for example) have succeeded in changing the traditional notion that translators, like slaves, work from dusk to dawn in cold attics and work on translations to make ends meet. Yes, a translator has to do intense and very laborious work, and regardless of the degree of computerization, translations will have to be done manually for a long time to come. But nevertheless, if you are able to provide high-quality translation services in a short time that meet the highest customer requirements, very soon you will be adequately rewarded for your work and you will understand that customers see you as a reliable and serious partner.