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Getting Started: A Freelance Translator

Audio Podcast Transcript

[Check back for the posting of the live interview]

RE: Hi and welcome to An Education in Translation. This is our second podcast. Today is March 19, 2014. My name is Rachel Evans and I am the educator and host behind “An education in Translation.” Today… I would like to implement a segment I like to call Career Day. And I am happy to announce that we will be talking with Janine Rhyans. She has agreed to join us from Denver Colorado by phone. Isn’t that correct Janine?

JR: Yes I have.

RE: Ok, Janine is a Spanish to English translator, and she is also a Translation Studies student at the University of Denver. So I thought that it would be a great idea for those of you out there who are interested in careers as a translator to sort of pick the brain of a translator, someone who has started the journey, on the journey, to kind of figure out what got them interested in the career.  What kinds of things that they are doing in order to become a translator? And what kinds of things do they have to deal with in their profession? So Janine, what I like to ask you is−if you don’t mind sharing with our listeners­­−how did your interest in translation develop?

JR: My interest in the translation and interpreting field developed when I was in high school. I actually had an internship with a non-profit organization that frequently used translators and interpreters, so I was able to kind of study how they worked and get a sense of, a little bit of a sense of, what the career field was like. And so also in my previous jobs, I have had the opportunity to translate informally. So when I saw that the University of Denver had a Spanish translation program; I thought that it would be a good opportunity for me to study the translation field.

RE: Ok, so what did you like best about translation, what attracted you to it?

JR: I like the challenge of translating one language to another and being able to kind of play with words. Also, I like that you have to use both of your language skills, and that it builds on my natural strengths as a writer and in research.

RE: Ok, so how would you briefly describe your language learning journey? Was it a difficult process for you, and if so, why? And what were some of the things that helped you along the way?

JR: I would say that my language journey began because I have always been fascinated with languages, and I always liked this idea to be able to communicate with a person in multiple ways. I started studying Spanish in middle school and I continued in high school, and then I decided to major in the language in college. I would say that probably one of the challenges for me was speaking, because I am naturally a quiet and shy person. And so I had to make an effort to speak.  So, I just… you know I made that effort to speak in all of my classes.

RE: Ok, so what do you want to do with your translation skills?  I know that you have a choice of working for a company (being an in-house translator) or working for yourself (being a freelance translator). I also know that you have a background in education and in accounting. So, are you interested in using your translation skills toward those things, or would you like to do something else with your skills?  

JR: Ideally I would like to work as a freelance translator and proofreader.

RE: Have you chosen a specialization, If so, what are they? And then, do you think that it is necessary to choice a specialization?

JR: The areas that I plan to specialize in are business, art and international development. I do have a background in business and accounting, and I also have strong interest in the art field and in international development. I think that it is good to specialize in translation because it helps you to focus on developing a knowledge of industry terminology. It also helps you to focus on what types of translations jobs you would like to take.

RE: Right, because there are so many options out there―

JR: Yeah

RE: You know there are so many industries that could use, you know, translation services. You know you have the medical field, the legal field, um, the business field. So it can get pretty overwhelming, so I guess narrowing down your focus, you know, would be a big help.  It will help you to be more marketable and then you can say that you mastered a particular area, that you have a particular expertise in a certain area.

JR: Yes, that is true.

RE: Ok, so what steps have you taken or will you take to reach your goal as a translator? What are some of the things that you are doing on a regular basis to meet that goal?

JR: Well, currently I am completing my program at the University of Denver. And while I have been studying, I have also been doing volunteer translating. And I have been putting together a portfolio of my translation work.  I also have started taking professional development classes in the business field, sort of more entrepreneurial classes.

RE: Ok, I think that it is really important — I am really glad you mentioned that you are putting together a portfolio… And that you are putting together a focused resume, a professional resume and things like that because sometimes when you are in school — sometimes people don’t tell you these things and

JR: Right—

RE: when you are done with your degree, you get out there and you do not know why you are not getting jobs. You are just — you are clueless and I think that it is helpful to hear somebody say; ok you need to be working on this. You need to be doing this. And that can help you reach your goal sooner.

JR: That is true.

RE: So if you have already taken steps, which obviously you have. We have just got through talking about those. Are you finding the process difficult? And if so, what are the challenges that you are running into?

JR: I think anytime you start something new the process is difficult, so you just have to take things in small steps. And also for me―because I work full-time―it is also finding the time every day to do something to work on my goal.

RE: Right, right. So what would the ideal translation career look like for you? If you could um you know put together where you want to see yourself in five or ten years, what would your job look like?

JR: I think the ideal career probably initially would be to work uh part-time as a translator.  But then long-term, I would definitely like to work full-time as a freelance translator.

RE: Ok, and uh I would imagine that your long-term goal, that you said, is to work full-time as a translator.  Is there anything else that you would like to add to your skill?  Would you like to add an additional specialization, or do you feel comfortable with the specializations that you have already chosen?

JR: I think for right now I just I kind of want to focus on those three, but yeah, maybe in the future I would definitely be interested in learning more.

RE: Ok and what advice would you give to both school-aged students and college students who might be contemplating a career in translation? What would you tell them?

JR: I would say to research the field, the translation and interpreting field. And maybe talk to professional translators and interpreters to find out what their education background is, what their career path was. I would also say; you know if you want, you can start to volunteer for different non-profit organizations as a translator or an interpreter. I would just say; you know just go for it.

RE: Ok, thank you so much. Now

JR: Thank you.

RE: If you would like to learn more about Janine’s experiences and the things she has to deal with as a translation studies student and as a rising translator; you can follow her on her blog. Janine if you would share with us where we could go to read your blog and any other places on social media that you may be.

JR: My blog is called, and I am also on twitter Janinetranslates.

RE: Ok, thank you so much Janine and to all of our listeners out there.  I hope that this was helpful to you and I just want to say; good luck to all your future endeavors.

JR: Thank you for having me.

RE: Your welcome, thank you.

Be Sure To Take Your Supplements Next Term!







For many years the popular concept of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic (the three Rs) was sufficient in preparing students for the work force.  As the industrial aged turned into the information age the required skills needed for the work force naturally changed with it. Due to advance technology, many careers and jobs today also require a creative component.  Academic courses that help develop creative skills such as foreign language are often classified as electives.  Unfortunately, electives carry a stigma of being less than and not as important as core courses.

As a translator and an educator, I certainly would love to see more people earn their living using their language skills. A large percentage of job announcements list speaking a foreign language as a desired skill or a requirement to qualify for a position. If you plan on being a worthy competitor in the national and global job market: learn a second language.

As a high school or college student you may have already decided on a career.  However, in our competitive society there are many others who aspire to have the same careers as you do. How then can you set yourself apart from the rest? What could you offer that others do not have? Do not underestimate the power of supplementary skills. Stop and consider this; every industry has a use for language services. As a language service provider you can work in any industry that you choose. Examine the following chart for possible linguistic careers in an industry that interests you.



Specialized Area of Translation/Interpretation

Job Description



Military Language Specialist

Cultural Specialist

Military Linguist

Interpret for the UN, interpret during political negotiations or serve as a code breaker for military intelligence. (You can potentially earn six figures if you can speak an unpopular language spoken in political hotspots)
Law Legal Translator

Legal Interpreter

Interpret and/or translate for court, Police departments and law offices.
Medical Medical Interpreter

Medical Translator

Interpret for patients who are English limited proficient. Translate medical brochures/journals.
Entertainment Transcriptionist



Voice-over Artist


Translate transcripts from audio and video. Write captions and subtitles for TV, Movies, and video games. Do voice-overs for commercials , TV and Movies.
Computers & Technology Website Translator Provide website translation and localization services.
Education Translator


Foreign Language Teacher

Translate educational materials, interpret for students and/or parents who are English limited proficient, Teach ESL or a foreign language at any level of education.
Business Technical Translator

Business Translator

Business Interpreter

Cultural Consultant

Translate owner/instructional manuals and product labels. Write correspondence or interpret at business meetings/conferences calls, translate/transcreate intellectual property (Ads or music lyrics). Serve as a consultant on international marketing campaigns.


I encourage all college and college bound students to put more thought into their elective choices. Even if you are not interested in providing language services as your primary focus, do not let this deter you from achieving fluency. Just as vitamin supplements can help replace what has been lost or fill in what has been missing from one’s diet, so can supplementing your career with marketable skills to ensure longevity and success.  As you decide on what courses to take for next term; remember, do not forget to take your supplements.

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