BlogPersonal & Professional Wisdom

New Skills For Translators


In our globalized, hyper-connected world, the role of translators has certainly become crucial but also increasingly complex. As professional linguists, our task no longer consists of “simply” reproducing a source text into a target language; now more than ever, we are required to be multi-skilled to meet the challenges of global communication in a fast-paced, tech-driven environment. In this short article, I will try to outline new skills that translators should consider enhancing in order to be competitive on the market. These views are based on my freelance and in-house experience over the last eight years.

Internationalization and localization

These are definitely the must-have skills for translators who want to play an active role in the digital tech age. Linguists working in this field have the chance to truly act as consultants for developers and product managers to help design digital products that can effortlessly go global.

Transcreation and copywriting

These two words are not new to the language industry but have become essential to meet companies’ needs in an increasingly globalized market. To stand out from the crowd, each company speaks a specific and personalized brand language that must be originally shaped (and not only reproduced!) in all target languages.

CAT tools and Global Content Management Systems

The use and knowledge of these tools is often a prerequisite to work with LSPs and sometimes also with direct clients. Most of them certainly require an investment in terms of license purchase and training, but the benefits are invaluable: improved productivity, user-friendly interfaces and lots of useful features, not to mention that, if you become an expert user, you could also consider enriching your business by offering training and consultancy services focused on these technologies.

Semantic SEO

Nowadays visibility in search engine results is a primary focus for most organizations and translators can play a key role to achieve it. How? For each target country, linguists are the ones who can identify the most suitable keywords and metadata for website content in order to increase traffic and brand awareness.

Social media

If you imagine translators as solitary workers in front a PC, you could not be more wrong. The language industry community is becoming more and more active on social media. You should therefore consider creating an account in order not to miss relevant information and events (training, webinars, useful documentation, etc.) and, who knows, also to gain advanced social media skills to be leveraged for your own business.

Machine translation and post-editing

Despite the resistance of many linguists, it is undeniable that machine translation and post-editing have been trend topics in the language industry over the last few years. This is why a fair understanding of the associated processes and best practices is recommended even if you currently do not work on these kinds of projects.

Getting started

If you are unsure where to begin to get training on these subjects, relax: lots of resources are now available either for free or at an affordable cost.

As for my experience, I was able to get a lot of information from global LSPs that I work for. Don’t forget you are a valuable resource to them, so it is in their best interest to provide you with all the tools to help you perform your tasks in the best possible conditions. Also, some LSPs and industry associations regularly organize very informative webinars freely available to everyone: for instance, I am currently following two webinar series held by Vistatec and Elia, the European Language Industry Association.

If you have some budget for a comprehensive certification recognized both in the industry and by universities, you could go for the Global Digital Marketing and Localization Certification, an online training offered by University of North Carolina Wilmington and Localization Institute. For me, this course was very useful to connect to all the bits of information I had gathered about content marketing, social media, search engines and SEO from a multilingual perspective.

As for lower-budget solutions, there are quite a lot of resources as well.  For example, if you are looking for training on localization and internationalization best practices, I recently started the Localization Essentials free course presented on the Udacity platform by localization experts from Google.  Also, I found several interesting courses available on the LinkedIn Learning platform, for which you have a free-month trial with reasonable fees afterwards.

Finally, do not hesitate to look around you: I am sure there are a lot of events in your area – like the ones hosted by Women in Localization – which are an invaluable source of training and networking opportunities. Where can you find them? On social media, of course!

This is only an overview of all the opportunities you have to expand your skills as a translator. Sure, they come along with some challenges, but if you take them on, you can be sure of being an active part of the great transformation of our time. Please feel free to reach out to suggest new ideas and provide feedback based on your experience!

Susanna Fiorini