Most people think that in order to become a skilled translator that the only requirement is knowledge of a foreign language. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Being able to speak a different language fluently is required, but it isn’t all that makes for a good translator. I know, first hand, that being knowledgeable or skilled in a certain area doesn’t make you an expert. I know a little about poker, but never played well enough to play with the professionals. However, ever since I’ve been playing at poker stars, I’ve learned plenty of tricks and tips to up my game. Anyone can learn to play a game, just as anyone can learn to speak a foreign language. It’s the other qualities and characteristics that you possess that determine whether or not you’ll excel at your chosen field. Here are the qualities of excellent translators.


It goes without saying that in order to be a professional translator, you have to be bilingual or multilingual. It helps to have language qualifications in the form of a degree, but a degree is not required in most cases. A good translator must have a high level of language skills and a nice understanding of native languages. When it comes to speaking and translating foreign languages, you have to understand the cultural context of what’s being conveyed. So, this is important as well. An excellent translator must not only understand the source language completely, but also be able to convey any variations, vagueness, humor, or sarcasm and be able to translate that from one language to the other.


Translators are master communicators. Excellent translators are able to communicate very well. Being able to communicate effectively about travel plans, availability, as well as project-related information is important. If a translator is confused or has any questions regarding a project, they should never guess, but instead, ask questions to get the answers they need. Great translators have the ability to translate words in a way that’s clear and easy to understand.

Rich Vocabulary

Definition of dictionary written and focused on with tassel lying on it

Definition of dictionary written and focused on with tassel lying on it

An excellent translator must act as a human dictionary, not only in the foreign language, but also their native language. This makes the translation process much easier and more understandable. The translator should know a wide variety of words and their correct meaning. It is also important for the translator to have decent writing skills as well since being able to turn thoughts into words can really come in handy during the translation process. Having the ability to experiment with different words and being able to express ideas in a brief way, especially when you’re limited with words, is really important.


A good translator doesn’t just translate for money, but to actually help others. They have a passion for this type of work and really enjoy translating. An excellent translator takes their job very seriously and puts their all into the delivery of each job. Being passionate about words, their native language, and reading really helps to do a great job translating as well.


An excellent translator is accurate in every word being translated. To be an effective translator, you should provide an exact transfer of all information. Sometimes, it may be tempting to edit, use synonyms, or correct the source text, however, it should never be done. The translator’s job is to simply deliver the information in the known language, not to edit or insert themselves into the text at all.

Management Skills

Delivering translations often involves being extremely flexible, working on tight deadlines, dealing with stress, needing to be patient, and much more. This is why having excellent organizational and management skills are necessary. Being able to stick to a routine is crucial. Also, having the self discipline to stay on track and check off tasks is very important as well. Translators who are always available get more jobs. Having to turn down projects due to having too many other obligations or not being familiar with a certain topic is never a good thing.

Time management skills are necessary

Time management skills are necessary


An excellent translator has specialist knowledge on a particular subject. Some projects may require extensive knowledge on a certain subject, which is not something that every translator will be able to provide. This is when being a specialist comes in handy. When you narrow down your services to one or two areas that you specialize in, yes, it may limit the number of clients you can serve, however, it may be very beneficial in the long run. Providing your services in a specific niche will let your potential clients know that you’re an expert in your field. This makes you much more appealing than a general translator, which means you can charge more money. Also, you won’t have to be in competition with a number of other non-specialized translators for the job.