Part-time translators -- your time to shine has come!

This month, we'd like to call all our part-time translators to share their career experience with us, starting with their decision to become a translator! :)

We'd love to hear more about what inspired you to become a part-time translator and what the journey has been like –  did you always know you wanted to do translation at some point, or did you end up translating by chance? What do you do for a living, and how does translation fit in your life? Have you ever considered becoming a full-time translator in the future? 

Looking forward to learning more about your experiences!


  • 1

    Hi everyone!

    I have always loved languages and I actually hesitated a lot between Translation studies and Philology, finally choosing the latter, in the speciality of Classics.

    I became a teacher but I kept my interest in translation and editing. I focused almost all of my continuous training in that direction, but as I was working full time as a teacher, I liked the job and I was really making a living of it I never took the leap. 

    Until last year, when for family reasons I had to move to Argentina and leave my job. That’s when I took the opportunity to focus on translation. 

    I had been registering in different translation platforms but it was by chance that I came across Gengo: I found out through a Facebook advert that they were looking for English to Catalan translators. It was fun because, although Catalan is my mother tongue, it never crossed my mind that it would be my first target language. I have always felt my proofreader training is more solid in Spanish and, concerning the source languages, have more experience with French, which I had been teaching for years and also mastered from living and working in France before I started teaching, while I have never lived in an anglophone country.

    Well, to sum up, Gengo has been my first employer as a translator and I’m really happy I found this opportunity, because I discovered I love doing this work. I mean I love everything of it: not only the fact that I’m working with languages, something I always wanted, but the particular that I can do it as a freelancer, that I have clear deadlines, that I need to do lots of research and this makes me improve my skills and learn new things. So yes, of course I have considered becoming a full time translator, and I definitely would love that!

  • 1

    The love for language was always there in my mind since my childhood and this resulted in mastering a multiple number of languages over a short period of time. But was always struggling to find a proper area or job to implement them. Thanks to Gengo for providing that platform and helping me use my leisure time in one of my hobby which equally advanced my skills in the languages

  • 1
    peanut butter

    Interestingly, I have logged in to the Gengo website on this occasion for the first time in quite a while, only to leave Gengo permanently. In the distant past, I had done translations occasionally as favors to friends, in fields in which I was quite familiar. Then I entered retirement, kicking and screaming. I have learned in the meantime the joys of being inefficient, but I was too restless to simply go down for the third time in warm maple syrup. I almost didn’t make it in to Gengo, but passed the test my third time. In first working for Gengo, having to get each translation right with the clock ticking was an exhilirating challenge. The senior translators were strict but fair when they judged my work. I owe a lot to them. My work with Gengo was essentially a residency in translation. Enough pay to fund the occasional overseas trip, for example, but not enough to live on. The real benefit was learning how to do translation as a serious business. So why am I now leaving Gengo? I cannot name all of the reasons here, but would like to take this opportunity to point out a couple of failings that Gengo (and other translation agencies of its type) has in its business model. One is that the mechanism for communication between customer and translator works poorly at best. The elaborate mechanism for enabling such communication is too clumsy and bureaucratic to really be serviceable. Oh, it’s there all right (the agency can maintain) and many a translation has been helped by it. Still, for the most part in practice, the under-use and clumsiness of communicating with the customer point to an intrinsic deficiency. Another problem is the almighty deadline. This is likewise an intrinsic problem in the business model. For Gengo and most other translation agencies, deadlines cannot be dispensed with. Being able to consistently get the job done in time is a badge of honor for a translation agency and for a translator who mechanically cranks out assigned work. A critical assumption behind this is that the customer adequately understands the culture of the intended readership and knows exactly how to communicate a message to that readership. This may work for a legal document that must be translated quite literally, but not for much else. Quite often, even in reporting something as cut and dry as scientific research, the author is not really aware of the ground rules observed by the readers of another language and culture. Getting a certain text faithfully translated into another language bypasses, to some extent, this lack of awareness and sometimes leads to failure of the author’s true message to get across to the readers of another language. For companies like Gengo, I have translated pieces that I knew would not be received by the target audience in the way that the author intended. What could I do? To engage in a discussion with the author in order to suggest a more effective way of presenting the message is not the job of a translator, nor can the translator charge the customer for such friendly service. Add to that the clumsy mechanism for relaying messages back and forth between customer and translator. And if that’s not enough, the translator is constrained by a deadline, so working with the customer to suggest changes in the original becomes unrealistic. The translator must then acquiesce to acting like a bureaucrat and mechanically translate the manuscript at hand. Not all jobs are like this, of course, but such perfunctory work comes up often enough that I have to wonder how much a translation agency like Gengo can offer what the customer really needs. Unfortunately, I cannot suggest a solution to the problem for a company like Gengo. Gengo is successful at what it does, so it will surely continue as it is with justifiable pride, yet with a failure to be sure that it is meeting its customers’ most fundamental needs. My personal solution is to attempt a business model not really of translation, but rather of ghost-writing the content of one language into another language. This requires close collaboration with the author and no more than an approximate deadline. Once again, I thank Gengo (especially its senior translators) for giving me an opportunity to learn what translation is really about.

  • 2


    I have never considered translating as a job for me, though I actually do a lot of translating on my very own (Swedish) web site, where I indulge myself in different subjects. While trying to catch my thoughts in words, framing and reframing; jolting and questioning them it has become clearer and clearer that the meaning behind the words never are exactly the same, not even between two people using the same language and brought up in the same culture. Or in my case, one people talking to herself – me!

    I have found that translating is a very helpful means to reveal the differences and nuances in what we mean with the words when we talk and write. This slip becomes even more evident when translating between two languages, in my case English and Swedish. Trying to find the meaning forces me to reframe my thoughts and by doing so discovering new perspectives and deeper understanding.

    So, while I was looking for a part-time job in spring 2019, I accidentally saw that the Gengo site needed translators. I checked it out immediately, glad to have found an alternative to google translate. An alternative that have the need of translation in front without evading the complexity in the task, but instead dealing with it. An opportunity for me to earn some money while exercising my skill and my interest. I took the test and luckily for me my English understanding was good enough, so I passed. I started at once. Translating towards a deadline, was new and challenging. Often, I come to think of a better translation hours after – but then it is too late. And not always the customer has a chance to answer within time. Some of the tasks shows that there is an abyss between cultures.

    Anyway, I think it works surprisingly well, considering how complex a translation task can be. The staffs service work is great, they are fantastically encouraging and helpful and to get the translation revised is a huge benefit. The web site functions are shifting changing in order to make it easier for me as translator and probably to meet the customers need.

    Still it is not well paid enough to make a living on it and the need for my service is not there all the time either. But that is all right. It suits me to free-lance and work when I have a moment over.

    My main project is a writing project including seven texts. I have just finished the first text which also is the last and seventh, binding them all together.
    My area of expertise is design and social planning in the sense as an act of mind and body. I have a MSc in landscape architecture, regularly practise gesture drawing and have taken classes mainly at “Gerlesborg school of Fine Art”, Arne Isacsson, Per Liljenberg, Georg Suttner and Gerd Ohlsson have been my main teachers.

    I run a B&B and sell paintings online. This summer I have been quite busy with my B&B and not so much time for Gengo translations.

    On my “to do” list is a translation of Hanna Arendt “The Life of the Mind” which I think ought to be translated into Swedish. I guess it will be a full-time translation period doing so.

    Edited by Marica
  • 0

    It has been a wonderful experience working for Gengo.I would certainly love to work Full-time if and when opportunity arises.

  • 0

    Its been great working with Gengo. I was inspired to work as a translator by my uncle who is a translator with the United Nations besides my love for languages which led me to study linguists, modern languages option at university. I have a talent of learning a new language in a short period of time, here I mean going deep into the history of the language. I am a teacher by profession and as now I am a Continuous Professional Development Advisor at district level whereby I train teachers/teacher mentors on the competence based curriculum. Being a part time translator would be a great opportunity to me because I would more exposed to improving my translation capabilities and I hope given chance as a full time with Gengo would be an advantage to expanding my career as a translator and a professional translator some time to come. 

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