How to become a Korean Translator?

As a Korean learner, you can make a career as a Korean translator. But, how? Read on!

If you are learning Korean, becoming a translator could be your dream. But how do you turn this into reality? Let’s find out!

Do you think your Korean language skills only offer you to enjoy K-Pop, K-Movies, and K-Drama? Well, then you are missing the trees for the wood!

Cultural dominance in entertainment led to Korean becoming a popular language. As a result, millions are already studying or want to learn Korean. The number doesn’t include over 75 million native speakers.

But the Korean language is more valuable than admiring various aspects of the K-wave.

It also provides vast job potential in a variety of fields.

One such option is a Korean translator. It is an excellent career choice that offers good pay and a favorable work environment.

The job interests many aspiring linguists who want to dive into everything in Korea. They want to know what it takes to get this full-time employment.

How can fluency in Korean help throughout your career as a translator? How much money can you make, and where to find job opportunities?

This post will give you a better and more complete understanding of the profession! Let’s explore more!

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What does a Korean translator do?

As a Korean translator, you change the written text from Korean to another language or vice versa. You do this by writing, analyzing, and editing.

It implies that one must be fluent in at least two languages, including Korean. So, one conveys messages from one language to another with no trouble.

Translators usually convert documents into their native language. If Korean is your second language, you will translate it into your mother tongue. Of course, this isn’t the case all the time.

A translator’s task is to understand the text in the source language. It then rewrites it into a natural and correct form in the target language. This should be both accurate grammar and culture-wise.

Translators ensure the translation conveys the original author’s meaning and the exact context as much as possible.

So, one must understand every document’s detail before starting translation.

Translating is vital for most business meetings, live events, conferences, and document works.

Korean translator career

Can a machine replace human translation?

In short, no.

Because of language complexity, machine translations can never replace human translation. At least not anytime, soon.

The reasons are obvious.

One word can have two distinct meanings in different languages. So, what works in one language might not work in another. It also relates words to context. As a result, it might lead to wrong translations.

Korean translator apps and software keep getting better and better. Yet, it is far from good enough.

The variation of word order, grammatical rules, and character combinations w.r.t. context doesn’t allow machine translators to give accurate results.

The honorific system and culturally sensitive situations make it more tricky.

Each Korean syllable, for instance, gives a unique character that has its own meaning.

For example, 공 has 5 Chinese characters: ball, merit, public, gong, and labor. You can only tell which isn’t satisfying by the context and computer output.

Even though machine translation is fast and cheap. There is a sizeable gap in quality.

And that’s why professional Korean translators are still in demand around the globe. Hence, human professionals are the only ones who can meet complex and mission-critical needs.

How is it different from interpretation?

Most people often confuse translators and interpreters as similar professions. But both are different jobs.

There is one key difference between a translator and an interpreter.

A Korean translator deals with written information. But, an interpreter only works with spoken language.

Another way to put it, translation involves changing written texts. On the other hand, interpretation focuses on spoken words. So, a translator’s role does not overlap with an interpreter’s.

When a foreigner speaks on official business, you will see an interpreter along with them. Sometimes, when the language barrier stops, successful verbal dialogue.

Interpretation is more complex as one needs to know what someone is saying in their language. Then, tell everything in another language different from the original speaker’s.

They pay interpreters more than translators because of the job difficulties. That is because they need accuracy and pro-activeness.

Types of translation

You can translate various kinds of text. There are three broad categories.

Korean translator jobs

(i) General Translator

Usually, one starts their career as a general translator. So, people also refer to ‘generalist’ or ‘translator for general-purpose.’

This work covers non-specialized content.

You don’t need to be a specialist or need any special knowledge in the field to understand it. Any professional translator can handle the work.

The text may still contain some technical words and jargon. Still, most people can understand to a large extent. This is easy to research with little to no effort.

For example, information about most businesses and their products and services. It also covers social media, website content, non-technical reports, and more. All these fall under this category.

(ii) Specialized translator

Beyond the general need, most translation works in this category demand specialist translators.

Although the average time to learn Korean depends on many factors. It often takes 3-4 years to become a translator.

It takes many years to earn success and establish authority in specialized fields.

There are many types of specialized translations. For instance, finance, legal, medical, education, commercial, marketing, scientific, travel, technical, etc.

Because of the craze for Korean movies and dramas, there is massive growth in multimedia content.

This leads to the demand for voice-overs, dubbing projects, scripts, and subtitles. Also, the need to translate lyrics of Kpop for learners is rising.

There is also plenty of work for audio translation, video games, and transliteration. All these demands have gone up recently.

Does literary work attract you? Then, you can translate texts from Korean to your mother tongue or vice versa.

These include novels, short stories, plays, essays, and poems. Plus, texts about history, literature, culture, etc., are available.

There is also an enormous market for the conversion of self-help, science, and research. You can find many possibilities in publishing positions and educational books in various fields.

(iii) Transcreation

Transcreation is the concept of converting content from one language to another. This process keeps the existing tone, intent, goal, context, and style.

They do not change sentence-by-sentence as it is.

It allows translators to inject their own creativity and cultural knowledge into the content. But, again, this is to make it resonate with a new audience.

They do this to make the text more suitable for the reader. But, of course, many factors play a role in that.

For example, cultural nuances, localization, and marketing make it more exciting and language-wise. 

While most who offer these services are copywriters. Still, you can find many translators with creative minds who do these jobs. And they earn more than translators.

Is Korean translator a promising career?

There are many reasons you could make a career in translation. Let’s explore more!

Career as a Korean translator

1. Work as a freelancer and enjoy a flexible lifestyle

If you want to enjoy a flexible lifestyle, a career as a freelance Korean translator is a perfect choice.

Most translators are self-employed. That’s the beauty of this profession!

Besides being your own boss, you’ll have flexibility in your work hours as a translator.

Thanks to progress in technology and the high-speed internet, you can have a successful career in translation. And, you can do it at your comfort from anywhere.

You don’t need to worry about managing your time to follow a fixed schedule. Instead, you can choose your workspace, hours, and pay rate. 

In short, it gives you more control over when you work.

For example, you might get a translation job that requires 100 hours to finish.

Now, it is up to you with total freedom when you complete these hours. You can work as much as you need in a day/week to finish it before the deadline.

To sum up, they get what they want, and you do it the way you want.

2. You can make good money

Translators are among the most sought-after careers for Korean learners. The top reason is high earnings. As a result, this occupation is pretty popular in the global job market.

A skilled translator is always in high demand. They earn well for their expertise, experience, and specialization.

The average pay for translators is higher than for other language-related jobs. Also, job openings for translators are rising much faster than average.

While there is a need for all languages, less spoken and difficult ones like Korean are more in demand.

Plus, the rapid emergence of South Korea on the global business stage has also resulted in good pay.

Unlike most other jobs, freelance translators get paid per project, page, or word rather than per hour. 

You can also work regular hours and earn a paycheck every week or month.

3. You’ll gain valuable new skills

There are many things as a translator you will learn along the way.

You will enhance your writing, editing, and grammar skills. Plus, your vocabulary will increase over a period.

Besides different aspects of Korean, you will learn cultural sensitivity and industry-specific knowledge.

You will also know how to build your client base, approach customers, manage timetables, and juggle many projects.

You will gain technical details and manage various apps and software for your work. Being technically savvy about digital products itself has many perks.

Disadvantages of a translator

There are some negative aspects too.

First, there is no guarantee of work. So, incomes are very fluctuating.

Many translators only have short-term temporary contracts. Freedom and flexibility are positive aspects. But you also often get stressful deadlines and complex projects.

Thus, you work hard to maintain your reputation and impress the clients and agencies you work with.

There is also the possibility that you might not get your desired job each month. Long periods of no work as a freelancer are common in the field. And that’s a notable shortcoming of a Korean translator.

There are also some questions about future job prospects because of the improvement of machine learning technology.

Although online tools can never replace human translators. Yet, for some non-important work, employers don’t hire translators these days.

This is because of easy access to online tools like Google or Bing Translator.

You may finally get bored as a translator. This is because you will do repetitive work and stare at a computer screen almost always. So, if you crave creativity, it may not be the best career path for you.

Despite some noticeable flaws, the benefits of a translator far surpass its disadvantages.

How to become a Korean translator?

Becoming a translator is an ideal job for language learners.

And why not?

The translator position offers superior pay, the opportunity to travel and work anywhere. It also further improves your Korean language ability.

But how do you make it a reality?

There are four broad criteria and vital abilities, which include.

How to become a Korean translator

1. Education for translators

You typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a translator. But, there isn’t any certain degree or subject combination necessary.

As a school or college student, if you aim to be a translator, focus on learning and improving languages.

For example, you can pursue a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Korean for a full-fledged career as a Korean translator.

There are also specialized programs for translators. This is once you achieve a certain level of competence.

Aside from language skills, you need to know industry norms and sector-specific elements. The technical aspects, technology, terms, nuances of the work, and etiquette all benefit you.

2. Higher Korean language ability

The translator requires very high language abilities in at least two languages. Something like near-native or the most advanced level of official language exams.

Whatever your native language is, you can find work that involves Korean and your native language.

This study goes beyond grammar. It has activities like reading newspapers and watching Kdramas to learn Korean. This helps you immerse yourself in Korean culture. And you gain a deeper understanding of the language.

You should target the highest level of proficiency if you wish to become a Korean translator. And, if you are not there yet, keep improving your language skills until you are at a more advanced level.

You need advanced language skills for translator jobs.

For example, native, CEFR C1,/C2, TOPIK V/VI, or a comparable reference system in at least two languages.

An MA in Korean or a long-term course can be a good choice. You can also try a specialization translation program to stand out in the crowd.

If you study through self-study or a one-on-one tutor, try to get an official certificate. Most employers ask for reliable documents to check your Korean skills.

Certifications like TOPIK and KLAT scores can confirm your fluency. It also boosts your chances as a translator.

3. Knack of writing and translating skills

Do you have a natural flair for writing and have an excellent command of the target language? Then, a translator could be a good possibility.

Insincerity, incompetence, sloppiness, and mediocrity have no place here.

Knowing the language well differs from being able to translate well. An individual can be proficient in a particular language but still ineffective as a translator.

To sum up, fluency in one language does not guarantee success as a translator.

You need strong writing skills and adapt to diverse writing styles as per the situation.

4. Good references and contacts

Nowadays, almost every company hires translators for their essential business work. But, such jobs are hard to find through advertisements and job portals.

A solid resume with tons of experience and contacts can help you find success.

Once you decide to be a freelance translator, focus on improving your connections. Increasing more references will help you in the long run.

For that, create your profile on various job portals. Also, connect with HRs and recruiters on various business networking sites like LinkedIn.

You can increase your personal contact with professionals in this field. You can even send your C.V. or contact relevant companies.

How to get the work

Many employers provide software to help to complete the translations on the computer. And this makes it easy and possible to work in remote places. Thus, you may work from anywhere in the world.

There are many translation service providers and companies that hire Korean language experts.

Korean translator salary

Don’t spam them once you have created a list of agencies you would like to approach. Instead, take the time and go through their websites.

And if you are going to be an independent translator. Then you need skills in marketing and business practice in the competitive freelance market.

The more language education and experience you have, the better.

Your contacts can be a significant advantage!

How much does a Korean translator make?

A good paycheck is a top incentive for this profession.

Translators’ salaries vary.

It depends on various factors, like language abilities, experience, nature of work. But, of course, the language combination also matters.

Suppose you are doing specialized translation, transcreation, or into less spoken languages. In that case, you can earn a higher rate than general translation.

You will get a decent monthly salary if you work in an organization. But, as a freelance translator, you get the rates depending on the word count, page, or project.

Conclusion — Could this be a profession for you?

It’s a challenge to imagine a translator career if you learn Korean.

But if you dream big and work hard, this dream can someday come true. Of course, it takes lots of motivation and persistence, but don’t lose hope!

If you are hardworking and passionate about language, a career as a translator may be for you. But before you decide, consider all the pros and cons and whether it would suit you.

The translator is a favored profession for Korean learners. This is because of high salaries, rising scope, and flexible working hours. You can engage by doing work related to your passion, i.e., Korea.

Do you plan to make your career as a Korean translator? You can share your thoughts and questions in the comment below!

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Vikash Gupta

I’m a linguist, lifelong learner, educator, blogger, and fun-loving guy. I write at studyfrenchspanish.com, languagenext.com, joyofkorean.com, joyofchinese.com, and joyofjapanese.com.

6 Comments

  1. I am also expecting to become a Korean translator but I have already done my graduation in another field and it’s been 1 year since I am studying Korean by myself. What should I do? Please help me.

    • Becoming a successful Korean translator takes a long time, i.e., a few years, possibly more. You can start a professional course through any learning center or continue through self-study. In either case, aim to achieve an advanced level, something like TOPIK level V or V1.

  2. I am very interested in learning Korean and wish to work hard to learn this language. I want to become a translator in the incoming years. This time I started to study by myself, and I think one day I will reach my dreams, so how can you assist me in studying this language?

    • I don’t teach Korean. So, I would suggest finding the right Korean teacher or learning center. I will write about Korean learning resources in the time come that can benefit Korean learners.

  3. Does age matter in starting a career as a Korean translator, interpreter, or transcreation? Is it possible for someone (aged 30+) to work in the South Korean entertainment industry as a translator, interpreter, or transcreation?

    • Age is no barrier to making a successful career as a Korean translator or interpreter. You can find plenty of opportunities in various fields, though it may or may not be easy to find jobs in the entertainment biz for for foreigners.

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