Translator article illustration


Translators transcribe written documents from one or more languages to another, ensuring that the message and nuances therein remain in the translated material. They translate material backed up by an understanding of it, including commercial and industrial documentation, personal documents, journalism, novels, creative writing, and scientific texts delivering the translations in any format.

Translators typically do the following tasks:

  • Accurately translate written texts or spoken content from the source language to the target language.
  • Ensure that the translation considers cultural nuances, idioms, and expressions to convey the intended meaning effectively.
  • Review and edit translated content for accuracy, grammar, and coherence.
  • Conduct research to understand specific terminology, industry jargon, or cultural references relevant to the content being translated.
  • Some translators specialize in specific fields such as legal, medical, technical, or literary translation, requiring expertise in the respective subject matter.
  • In addition to written translation, some translators provide interpretation services for spoken communication in various settings, including conferences, meetings, or interviews.
  • Work closely with clients, editors, or other stakeholders to ensure the translation meets their requirements.
  • Use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools and software to enhance efficiency and consistency in translation projects.
  • Ensure the final translated content meets high-quality standards and is culturally appropriate for the target audience.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to translator:

translator coordinator
speech-to-text interpreter
medical translator
language leader
translation project manager
editorial translator
language specialist consultant
business translator
translator reviser
technical translator
language specialist
sworn translator
financial translator
video game translator
scientific translator
linguistic coordinator
literary translator
book translator

Working conditions

Translators may work independently as freelancers or be employed by translation agencies, multinational corporations, government organizations, or international institutions. The role involves working with various texts and topics, and translators may work remotely or in an office setting. Meeting deadlines and managing multiple projects are common aspects of the job.

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in translation, linguistics, or a related field is often required for translator positions. Fluency in at least two languages, including proficiency in the source and target languages, is essential. Specialized training or certifications in specific industries or translation tools can enhance qualifications. Practical experience gained through internships, freelance work, or entry-level positions contributes to the development of translators. Continuous learning, staying updated on language developments, and networking within the translation community contribute to the ongoing success of professionals in this field.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Translator is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Translator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to translator.

translation agency manager
sign language interpreter
lawyer linguist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of translator.

  • Information confidentiality: The mechanisms and regulations which allow for selective access control and guarantee that only authorised parties (people, processes, systems and devices) have access to data, the way to comply with confidential information and the risks of non-compliance.
  • Spelling: The rules concerning the way words are spelled.
  • Office software: The characteristics and functioning of software programs for office tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, email and databases.
  • Grammar: The set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of translator.

  • Speak different languages: Master foreign languages to be able to communicate in one or more foreign languages.
  • Master language rules: Master the techniques and practices of the languages to be translated. This includes both your own native language as well as foreign languages. Be familiar with applicable standards and rules and identify the proper expressions and words to use.
  • Translate texts: Translate text from one language to another, conserving the meaning and the nuances of the original text, without adding, changing or omitting anything and avoiding expressing personal feelings and opinions.
  • Translate tags: Interpret and translate tags from one language to another striving for accuracy in the target language.
  • Proofread text: Read a text thoroughly, search for and review errors, and correct them to ensure the content is valid for publishing.
  • Develop a translation strategy: Perform research to understand the subject material better and formulate the right questions to get the information needed.
  • Follow an ethical code of conduct for translation activities: Carry out translation activities according to accepted principles of right and wrong. This includes fairness, transparency, and impartiality. Do not use judgment or allow personal opinions to affect the quality of the translation or interpretation.
  • Comprehend the material to be translated: Read and analyse the content and themes of the material to be translated. The translator must comprehend what is written in order to translate the content best. Word-for-word translation is not always possible, and the translator must navigate the language to maintain the sense of the text best.
  • Consult information sources: Consult relevant information sources to find inspiration, to educate yourself on certain topics and to acquire background information.
  • Follow translation quality standards: Comply with agreed standards, such as the European standard EN 15038 and the ISO 17100, to ensure that requirements for language service providers are met and to guarantee uniformity.
  • Observe confidentiality: Observe the set of rules establishing the nondisclosure of information except to another authorised person.
  • Apply grammar and spelling rules: Apply the rules of spelling and grammar and ensure consistency throughout texts.
  • Maintain updated professional knowledge: Regularly attend educational workshops, read professional publications, and actively participate in professional societies.
  • Preserve original text: Translate texts without adding, changing or omitting anything. Make sure the original message is conveyed. Don’t express your own feelings and opinions.
  • Provide written content: Communicate information in written form via digital or print media according to the target group’s needs. Structure the content according to specifications and standards. Apply grammar and spelling rules.
  • Revise translation works: Compare and perform bilingual editing by reading the translated work and comparing it to the original text.
  • Translate different types of texts: Comprehend the nature of the type of text to be translated, for example, commercial and industrial documentation, personal documents, journalism, novels, creative writing, certificates, government documentation, and scientific texts.
  • Review translation works: Read thoroughly translated works in order to ensure accuracy and achievement of the purpose.
  • Use dictionaries: Use glossaries and dictionaries to search for the meaning, spelling, and synonyms of words.
  • Update language skills: Research or practice language skills to stay current with language changes in order to translate best or interpret.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of translator. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Literature: The body of artistic writing characterized by beauty of expression, form, and universality of intellectual and emotional appeal.
  • Court interpreting: The form of interpreting where it is mandatory to accurately translate everything the source says in order not to mislead the people who have to make judgments on the cases.
  • Types of literature genres: The different literary genres in the history of literature, their technique, tone, content and length.
  • Linguistics: The scientific study of language and its three aspects: language form, language meaning, and language in context.
  • Postediting: The process of revising a translation, usually generated by a machine, and improving the accuracy of the text in the translated language.
  • Technical terminology: Type of language used in a certain context, containing terms that have a meaning specific to a particular group or activity, such as in industry, medicine, or law.
  • Semantics: The branch of linguistics that studies meaning; it analyses of words, phrases, signs, and symbols and the relation between them.
  • Scientific research methodology: The theoretical methodology used in scientific research involving doing background research, constructing a hypothesis, testing it, analysing data and concluding the results.
  • Transcreation: The process of reproducing commercial content, usually brand-related, in other languages while conserving the most important nuances and messages. This refers to the preserving emotional and intangible aspects of brands in translated commercial materials.
  • Unseen translation: The translation technique whereby unseen extracts from Latin and Greek prose or verse are presented to translators for them to translate the excerpts perfectly in a determined language, for instance, English. It aims to evaluate vocabulary, grammar, and style and increase linguistic knowledge.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of translator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Develop terminology databases: Collect and submit terms after verifying their legitimacy in order to build up terminology databases on an array of domains.
  • Coach employees: Maintain and improve employees’ performance by coaching individuals or groups how to optimise specific methods, skills or abilities, using adapted coaching styles and methods. Tutor newly recruited employees and assist them in the learning of new business systems.
  • Write research proposals: Synthetise and write proposals aiming to solve research problems. Draft the proposal baseline and objectives, the estimated budget, risks and impact. Document the advances and new developments on the relevant subject and field of study.
  • Follow work schedule: Manage the sequence of activities in order to deliver completed work on agreed deadlines by following a work schedule.
  • Type texts from audio sources: Listen, understand and type content from audio sources into written format. Keep the overall idea and understanding of the message together with relevant details. Type and listen to audios simultaneously.
  • Make surtitles: Translate lyrics for opera or theatre to accurately reflect the meaning and nuances of the artistic libretto in other languages.
  • Use consulting techniques: Advise clients in different personal or professional matters.
  • Conduct scholarly research: Plan scholarly research by formulating the research question and conducting empirical or literature research to investigate the research question’s truth.
  • Make abstracts: Write abstracts and resumes of documents summarising the most important points.
  • Improve translated texts: Revise, read, and improve human or machine translations. Strive to improve the accuracy and quality of translations.
  • Adapt text culturally: Adjust text so it is culturally and linguistically acceptable to the reader, while preserving the original message and nuance of the text.
  • Use computer-aided translation: Aid the language translation process by using computer-aided translation (CAT) software.
  • Develop technical glossaries: Organise technical terms used e.g. in scientific and legal settings into terminology databases and glossaries to aid future translations.
  • Create subtitles: Create and write subtitles to ensure they synchronize with the dialogue.
  • Work with authors: Consult with the text’s author to be translated to capture and preserve the intended meaning and style of the original text.
  • Write scientific papers: Present the hypothesis, findings, and conclusions of your scientific research in your field of expertise in a professional publication.
  • Perform project management: Manage and plan various resources, such as human resources, budget, deadline, results, and quality necessary for a specific project, and monitor the project’s progress in order to achieve a specific goal within a set time and budget.
  • Perform sworn translations: Translate documents of all kinds and affix a stamp indicating the translation has been performed by somebody endorsed by the local or national authorities.
  • Keep up with language evolution: Study the evolution of the language and integrate language changes into the performance of job activities.
  • Identify new words: Determine if there are new words being used by a significant number of people by doing research.
  • Analyse text before translation: Understand the messages conveyed and the nuances of the text in the original text to be translated.
  • Use translation memory software: Facilitate efficient language translation using translation memory software. This software collects and stores previously translated texts and their translations, broken down into segments. It looks for matches between these previously translated segments and the present text.
  • Decode handwritten texts: Analyse, understand, and read handwritten texts with different writing styles. Analyse the overall message of texts to ensure coherence in the understanding.
  • Translate language concepts: Translate one language into another language. Match words and expressions with their corresponding brothers in other languages, while preserving the original text’s message and nuances.

ISCO group and title

2643 – Translators, interpreters and other linguists

  1. Translator – ESCO
  2. Translator job profile |
  3. What Does a Translator Do? | India
  4. Featured image: Photo by Brett Jordan
Last updated on December 28, 2023