This is the third post in the series of posts about the characteristics of great translators.

The first two posts described the language background features and the working skills, while this post deals with the most important mental attributes the best translators in the industry show.

Mental characteristics are hardly measurable, but their impact on a translator’s success is huge.

The following most important mental attributes can – among many others – make the difference between great and average translators: passion & genuine interest, curiosity & continuous learning, self-discipline, focus, self-criticism & humility, patience.


Perfect knowledge of the rules, grammar and terminology of a language still doesn’t make a great translator.

Being passionate for learning specific cultural characteristics, reading and watching contents, communicating with people or even spending some time in the respective region, are good ways to become proficient in transforming most contents from one language into another.

A great translator is genuinely interested in a culture and its individual fields, which is of huge advantage when specific, complex or boring contents have to be localised to sound natural and be reader-friendly.

An average translator, to the opposite, would stick to their overall linguistic knowledge and provide rather literal translations, which sometimes might not be fully pleasant to the reader.

A detailed post on passion & genuine interest will be published soon.


Cultures, language trends, areas of expertise and technical tools are undergoing a continuous development process, which is why every successful translator must be ready to stay up-to-date with these trends for all languages they translate.

Hand in hand with the previously described passion comes curiosity.

A curious translator learns new things faster, deepens the existing knowledge better, and improves working skills such as research, CAT tools, keyboard shortcuts, etc. as well.

A great translator enjoys the never-ending learning process of language trends, fields of expertise and technical tools, which ensures a maximum productivity and quality of their translations.

An average translator, on the other hand, might be less eager to expand their linguistic and technical knowledge; therefore, their translation productivity and speed could suffer.

A detailed post on curiosity & continuous learning will be published soon.


While curiosity and passion for the never-ending learning of language trends and working tools are important characteristics for any translator, many stressful situations and frustrating translations require iron discipline.

When, for example, the deadlines are tight, huge projects require to work overtime or on weekends, or much time has to be invested to translate complex ideas or research technical details, that attribute comes in place.

A great translator is a master of self-discipline when it hurts.

The deadlines would be met and the translation quality kept on a high level no matter the circumstances, whereas an average translator would take the easier way, sometimes at the cost of quality and punctuality.

Highly disciplined translators are very often favoured by agencies and clients when awarding huge and well-paid projects.

A detailed post on self-discipline will be published soon.


Concentration is an essential feature when, for example, huge translation projects require high consistently, or challenging small details must be translated with the highest accuracy.

Some people have a natural high focus, but that state can still be achieved with the right balance between work and breaks, relax periods, sleep and the consumption of right foods.

A great translator practices routines that enable them to pay full attention to terminology, consistency and proofreading, even in stressful situations or when working overtime.

An average translator, on the other hand, has more of a short-time focus and can easily get distracted, which can influence their translation quality in some high-stake situations.

A detailed post on focus will be published soon.


Strive for perfection and pride of the own work are desirable traits to any professional, but there is a thin line between self-confidence and overconfidence.

Furthermore, the right dose of self-criticism, asking for and accepting constructive feedbacks, even honestly asking the client for further help after an unsuccessful research, can be helpful to optimise the own translation.

A great translator always sees improvement potential and is open for any type of feedback or help when they get stuck in a matter; as opposed to an average translator, who are sometimes too proud and self-confident to accept and implement improvement suggestions.

What’s more, an honest attitude contributes to the strengthening of relationships with clients in most cases.

A detailed post on self-criticism & humility will be published soon.


Despite the Internet offering many opportunities and increased flexibility, and numerous agencies and companies searching for good translators, finding the right agencies and companies, sending them personalised applications or registering on their websites, doing tests or trial translations, etc. can be a long and discouraging process.

There are no shortcuts to jump in and achieve a full-time career as a freelance translator, but training programs, translator communities and job portals offer valuable suggestions on how to go through that process faster and smoother.

A great translator knows that good things come to those who wait; they invest the time needed to showcase their skills on personal profiles and job portals, apply even to hundreds of agencies and companies, just to start collaborating with few of them.

All that effort eventually pays off once they make the breakthrough and work on huge and well-paid projects; contrary to the average translator, who could get discouraged after unsuccessfully sending a few (standardised) applications.

A detailed post on patience 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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