To be a translator is not easy. No fence to entry into translation as a profession makes newcomers confident that being bilingual only will do. However, it demands more than that and one must not expect this to be that simple.
Translators must bear in mind that they must not raise any credibility issue with their clients in terms of language. In the case of Indonesia, the most popular language pair in demand is English-Indonesian where hundreds of translators jump in without deeper knowledge on English grammar, let alone specific knowledge. Having a degree and/or credentials in language will be of much help not only in terms of high quality output but also in terms of reasonable, premium rates. Translators must also avoid fatal typos in any correspondence with clients and in works submitted.
Knowledge in specific fields is the next determinant of becoming a successful translator. Translators must realize that each field has a set of vocabulary to be grasped before accepting real jobs. Such knowledge will help translators to best translate terms from the source language into the target language without any blunders in jargon. Nevertheless, as translators are not experts, and do not have to be ones, my legal translator facilitator and mentor, Evand Halim, wisely emphasized that “a translator is not an expert who knows everything, but one who knows where to go when in trouble”. This is why a good translator is a good researcher, who will find myriad ways to conquer difficult terminologies.
As being specialized does not mean confined, one translator can specialize in a number of areas so long as s/he uses their best efforts to gain [more than] sufficient knowledge on those areas. In this case, note that a translator needs to identify the field in which s/he has the strongest skill, and then the fields of interest.
Also, capacity enhancement through courses and training will create competent translators. I, being specialized in legal translation (and oil and gas translation as my immediate field of interest), took legal translation courses and legal English test for my credentials in a prominent private university in Indonesia. I then realized the need to refresh and simultaneously hone my English grammar skill and knowledge in addition to those I acquired during my college years in the English Department of UNPAD. I consequently attended an English grammar course for writers and translators in the same private university above with the same facilitator.
Since there is more knowledge and stricter competition now, specialization has taken on new significance. By specialization, more efficient translation can then be ensured because translators are familiar and contented with the material being translated. Not only does specialization benefit translators, it also helps clients choose the right translators for their projects. Using CAT tools adds to the skills not only to meet the increasing requirements but also to help boost the productivity of translators. These are, among others, the reasons why HPI (Association of Indonesian Translators) builds Indonesian Directory of Translators and Interpreters as the database for users to easily find credible translators matching their needs.
Last but not least, though rarely exposed, talent is important. Talents for languages and writing play a vital role to translators to ensure readability of their outputs and to stand out from the crowd.