The simple answer to this question is that anyone who has a comprehensive knowledge of their own native language and another foreign language can be a professional translator.
But this is only a generalized answer and the devil is in the details. In order for someone to become a good professional translator, they must fulfill the following three conditions:
We should differentiate between a professional translator and a court interpreter seeing how there is a significant difference in the type of work they do but also in the process involved in becoming either one of them. You could say that the title of court interpreter is ranked higher on the professional ladder than that of a translator.
What kind of education does a professional translator need?
People usually think that graduating from the Faculty of Philology is required in order to start one’s career as a translator. Even though most people in this line of work did start with that degree, it’s actually not a mandatory prerequisite. Many translators don’t have a degree in any language, but rather knowledge and expertise related to medicine, architecture, banking and others. They use that knowledge in order to specialize in certain areas.
So far more important than the faculty degree is the functional knowledge of one’s native tongue and a foreign language, which should be thorough, systematic, comprehensive and very broad. A lot of studying is required to get to that point, which is why all knowledge gained through the Faculty of Philology is invaluable, but it’s also important to use the foreign language in practise. This is why professional translators have usually spent a period of their lives living in the foreign country where their foreign language is spoken.
Also, many translators today additionally expand their knowledge in post-graduate studies, studying the theory of translating and professional translation while additionally expanding their vocabulary and improving their grammar knowledge.
How to gain experience?
Through work and practice. It’s important to read a lot of literature in the foreign language in order to gain a better grasp on the sentence constructions and the specificities of the language. It is good practice to converse with native speakers often, if they are willing to mentor you.
Another important activity that helps build experience is volunteering in a translation agency where you can work on projects with more experienced colleagues and learn the tricks and tools of the trade.
What does specialization involve?
If, as a translator, you decide to specialize in a certain area that interests you, you will actually be in much higher demand than if you become a ‘general practice’ translator. This way, you will focus on gaining and refining your knowledge in a certain area and become a highly valued translator.
There isn’t really any single area that’s better to specialize in than the other, because there is a high demand for translators in all of them – ranging from medicine, law, nutrition to fashion, IT industry, marketing and sports.
Of course, over time you can expand your knowledge into multiple areas and become proficient in two, three or even four – which is a rarity because of the sheer scope of knowledge and vocabulary that is required.
How do I become a court interpreter?
In order for someone to become a court interpreter, they should fulfill the conditions issued by the Ministry of Justice. This ministry officially publishes a call for court interpreters when there is a need for more experts in this position. The requirements are:
- That they are a legal adult who is a citizen of the Republic of Serbia
- That they possess a comprehensive knowledge of a certain language
- That they are fully educated on the appropriate use of all legal terminology
- That they have a minimum of five years of experience as a professional translator
There is no test involved when a call for court interpreters is issued, but you have to have completed a special course for court interpreters which is held at the Association of science and expert translators of Serbia in Belgrade.
Keep in mind that being certified as a court interpreter can be a very lengthy process, but if you ask any court interpreter they will tell you it pays off in the long run.