Best way of becoming a German translator

by Frauke

Hi there,

I am of German nationality and have learned German as part of the curriculum in Germany.

However, I have always worked in international companies. I have lived in the UK since 2005. Now with the pandemic, I would like to re-invent myself to get up to speed to confidently and professionally offer German/English translation service, but would probably need to brush up on my professional German.

I would like to receive some recommendations on the best and most efficient way to go about it.

Many thanks,


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You sound very well suited!
by: Joanna

Hi Frauke

Thank you for contacting me, and I’m delighted that you’re interested in a career in German translation.

First off, in terms of your language abilities, you look well placed. It sounds as though you learned German as a child, which will always give you a head start over older language learners – I see that with my bilingual children all the time!
Only you can judge your current German skills – but if you feel totally confident that you thoroughly understand articles written in quality German newspapers such as Die Zeit, or FAZ, then it’s probably the standard you will need.

And anyone who has already read some of the articles on this website will know what I’m about to say! Translation is a profession, and if you are serious about being a translator, you’ll need to demonstrate professionalism and dedication to the industry. That means getting qualified, not only to assure you of your abilities, but also because serious translation agencies are usually certified, meaning they are required to work only with translators with relevant and demonstrable qualifications.

I would recommend considering the Chartered Institute’s Diploma in Translation: it is a respected qualification in the translation industry. You don’t need to have completed any specific translation course before taking the exam, it’s purely a test of your immediate translation abilities, making it particularly suitable for Quereinsteiger! There are many online and distance courses available to prepare you for the exam.

In terms of working as a translator, I don’t know your background, but would certainly suggest you translate in a field in which you already have considerable professional experience.
As you’ll be translating from German into English, you’ll have the advantage of being at home with all the relevant English terminology, plus you’ll probably already know which industry stakeholders will require your translation services.
Here you’ll find my 30 top tips for anyone thinking about a career in translation.
And I would thoroughly recommend you research further. Corinne McKay is a very well-known translator and guide and has written several best-selling books on working as a freelancer. I would probably start here: Thoughts on Translation: The Translation Industry and Becoming a Translator.

I wish you all the very best. Do come back if you have more specific questions, and let us know how you get on!


Thank you!
by: Frauke

Hello Joanna,

thank you very much for this wealth of information:-). Indeed German is my first language and I can read all articles and understand them in newspapers like the FAZ. So the Chartered Institute’s Diploma in Translation will probably gauge where I am at and what I will need to achieve to get to the standard required.

Thanks again for your detailed feedback.
Kind regards and have a good weekend,


Further insight in working as a freelance translator appreciated
by: Julie

Hi Joanna

Thank you for all your invaluable tips and suggestions!

I am half British, half American but grew up in Germany to then come back to the UK for my A-levels before studying German with European Studies. After a career in international development, studying a Masters thereafter doing EFL and freelance German tuition followed by working as a political researcher, I have now decided to complete the postgrad Diploma in Translation at the Open University, which I start in February.

I am hoping this is the right career move for me since I am a little daunted about the best way to break into this profession, as a freelancer!

Any further insight very much appreciated!



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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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