Becoming a German interpreter

by James

So, I've been learning German for about 6 years, and I am basically fluent. I have taught myself German for the most part and have recently begun to take classes in college. I'd really love to be an interpreter. I do speak German daily. I have been told that I speak German quite well, without an accent or mistakes, but of course, I am not a native German speaker and never will be, even if I learn to speak it completely accent free.

I know that in order to be a good translator I need to have a perfect knowledge of my mother tongue, which since I have been learning German I have gained a new respect for English. I just need to know if there are any sites or companies that will hire part time interpreters who don't have specific credentials, but can prove their knowledge through small translation tests, whether it be, written or spoken. I really hope you can help me.

Vielen Dank im Voraus.


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Tips on getting started
by: Joanna

Hi James

Many thanks for your question about working as a German interpreter.

As for anyone working in German translation, i.e. the written word, a German interpreter will generally interpret from their second language into their mother tongue, i.e. in your case, spoken German to spoken English. So your German sounds on the way to being sufficiently good.

Yours is the classic problem – how to get started. Experience and qualifications are automatically favoured and that’s no help to someone starting out. I can’t suggest any site that will employ you – it’s a competitive market so professionals get the jobs, and sites offering jobs for translators with “no experience needed” are just not serious/can be scams. (I’ve just been reading about one on TranslationDirectory.)

Some ideas:
If you are serious about becoming an interpreter then you’ll need either a relevant university degree or professional qualifications. What qualification will you get on completing your German college classes? Have a look at the American Translator’s Association website ( and speak directly with a chapter near you about making the first moves into the profession. To get some practice, what about looking for local German associations or German groups near you? They might need your German interpreting services or at least offer an opportunity for you to practice your skills.

If you plan to offer similar German-related services (transcription, proofreading etc.) then what about promoting this idea with your own website, to get you known to potential customers? After all, you found minr :-)!

You could also try advertising your services with a jobs platform like CraigsList, where a wide public, who wouldn't necessarily think of approaching a professional languages agency, are looking for one-off translation or interpreter services. I've translating wedding speeches and similar this way.

I hope this has been of some help.


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German to English Translation

Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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