It goes without saying that being freelance translator requires a full set of characteristics.

This post deals with the most important language background features, the basic requirements each translator must meet to successfully start and later develop a translation career.

The working skills and mental attitudes, which are equally important for being a great translator, will be described in later posts.

A great translator can stand out in the crowd by better developing the 5 following language background characteristics: education & qualification, writing & self-expression, experience, linguistic expertise, specialisation.


Bilingual people develop the natural gift to detect nuances and express ideas and thoughts in two languages.

However, translation requires specific knowledge and skills that can be acquired through education, such as specific terminology, phrases and contents in some general fields.

While linguistic education provides a rich general vocabulary and accurate knowledge of grammar rules, the actual knowledge and qualification is acquired through active dealing with the specific fields of expertise.

The difference between an average and a great translator lies in the efforts to improve their qualifications, which makes them better translators and opens more opportunities to work with well-paying agencies and clients.

A detailed post on education & qualification will be published soon.


Being a writer – professional or amateur – is another gift that helps to become a great translator.

A person with proficient self-expressing skills is also likely to clearly express other people’s thoughts and ideas.

Some publications, legal documents, technical descriptions, etc. can include quite complex language structures, which must first be understood well, then broken into pieces and finally put together like a puzzle.

A great translator – the master of self-expression – overcomes that challenge and provides a naturally sounding translation, whereas an average translator might confuse the reader and kill the reading flow with a literal translation.

A detailed post on writing & self-expression will be published soon.


In modern times, experience is much more than just having worked in an industry for years.

In other words, thousands of hours worked millions of words translated don’t make a great translator just like that.

The Internet is full of translator communities and forums, magazines, articles, videos, blogs, technical manuals, etc.

There are also a plenty of CAT tools available on the market (they will be described as part of the working skills).

All these can also help an inexperienced translator to do a good work.

An average translator would mainly rely on previously acquired linguistic knowledge without changing habits and techniques, while a great translator adds continuous improvement of using information sources and technical tools that.

That additional experience can make the difference when it comes to translation speed, quality and consistency, as well as mastering technical challenges.

A detailed post on experience will be published soon.


Linguistic expertise is the result of qualification, writing skills and experience.

It’s the skill to accurately determine and translate specific terminology, phrases and contents, where even slight differences in the intonation can completely alter the meaning of a context.

That can be accomplished with diligent learning from previous translations, read publications, watched videos, attended conferences, etc.

An expert in any field can tell the difference between an average and a translation done by a great translator.

A great translator’s work includes accurate specific terminology, phrases, context and intonation as if it was written by an expert in that field.

A detailed post on linguistic expertise will be published soon.


  1. Modern technology and increasing international business have globalised the translation industry.

    Machine translation tools and the emergence of new translators – especially in countries with low wage levels – have made it harder for translators in developed countries to earn for a decent living.

    Nevertheless, internationally active companies and individuals, especially those in highly demanded fields or niches, are willing to pay huge amounts for high-quality and accurate translations and localisations.

    While great translators specialised in highly demanded fields and niches can make a good income from translating of websites, presentations, reports, specifications, manuals, etc., unspecialised translators in developed countries must heavily fight against cheaper competition and MT.

    A detailed post on specialisation will be published soon.

Each individual main category and their individual characteristics can be read about on the Apollo Transolutions blog.

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Characteristics of a Great Translator | Part 3: Experience

Characteristics of a Great Translator | Part 3: Experience

❞ Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.  Auguste RodinMany translators at the start of their career are sometimes confronted with challenging and demanding translation projects. They have to answer the question to themselves whether they are...