The 5Ws for Emerging Translators and Interpreters (Part 4: When?)

11/26/2023 03:47 | Brianna Salinas (Administrator)

Dear colleagues,

The challenging question for newcomers to the language profession continues to be: What do I do when I don’t know what I don’t know? Answering this question takes some reflective thinking. The 5Ws method used in this series offers guidance to new T&I professionals.

In this, the fourth installment of this series, we explore the “When?” of the 5Ws with the following questions:

1) When is it a good time to accept a translation or interpreting job? 2) When is it productive to negotiate rates? 3) When should one engage in learning more about the profession? 4) When is a good time to seek certification in any specialty? 5) When do we know we’ve reached the point where mental overload could affect our health and performance?

Here are some suggested answers to these questions:

  1. When accepting a translation or interpreting job, ensure you are qualified to perform well. Never say yes to a job when it is unrelated to your expertise in the field. It can backfire, and your professionalism may be called into question. You always want to be at the top of your game. I’ll offer an example: Early in my interpreting career, I accepted an offer received via email, but I quickly discovered that I needed more training to prepare to work professionally. Fortunately, during that experience, my booth partner was a seasoned and skilled interpreter. She rescued me multiple times. I felt inadequate. In the end, she encouraged me to work harder at mastering relevant glossaries before accepting the next interpreting assignment — and she was right.
  2. When negotiating rates, ask other professionals if you do not know the going rate for translation or interpreting work, mileage, or lodging expenses for overnight events. You may need to call, email, or text that person. Belonging to a local ATA chapter gives you unlimited opportunities to do this.
  3. When you know you need to improve your skills, you must act accordingly. You don’t want to be unprepared as a language professional. The field is always evolving. Staying current and actively sharpening your skills in your language pair is vital.
  4. When the opportunity arises to join a certification study group, don’t miss it. Do everything within your reach to get certified as you work towards your goal. (In the first installment of this series, you can find tips on discovering “Who” you want to become in the language profession.)
  5. When, in your heart of hearts, you find yourself headed toward a mental overload, seek help. The high calling to interpret or translate demands highly skilled professionals. But this demand for accuracy and professionalism in all areas of the language industry does not come without a cost—your physical and emotional well-being. Make it a top priority to discover how healthy habits in nutrition, exercise and other daily activities that provide balance and peace of mind can keep you on track and fuel your productivity as a new language professional.

Combining all five steps above will help prepare you to embark, well-equipped, on the great adventure you have chosen toward a career in T&I. 

This is the fourth installment of a five-part advice column for new (and not-so-new) translators and interpreters.

Read the first installment, “Who?”, here,  the “What?” here, the “Where?” here, and stay tuned for the final installment: the “Why?” 

Have a question for Teodosia? You can get in touch by leaving a comment here or, if you’d rather remain anonymous, by emailing

Teodosia Rivera has been working as a professional translator and interpreter since 2018. She is a member of ATA’s Interpreters Division, Spanish Language Division, and Translation Company Division, in addition to two ATA chapters: the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF) and the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS). Teodosia has established her own business since participating in professional development in the language profession. She brings with her the background of a classroom teacher, having taught for more than 20 years in Osceola County, Florida. “I am still growing and learning,” she says.

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