Personality traits of translators
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Do you remember the first time you attended a conference or event for translators? Did you feel “at home” and that you had so much to talk about with the other attendees? I know I did, and not only because we shared the same profession. I truly believe that professional translators who enjoy their job share quite a
few personality traits. Here are a few that I can think of.

1. Curious

We translators are curious, we want to learn and find out, not only
things in a specific area, but in general. I recently received a translation
project dealing with research in peace and conflict resolution. I was thrilled
to learn more about this through translating and researching. Many translators
are as a result of this also well educated.

2. Detail oriented

We want to find just the right word and just the right way to say
something, and we usually dig deep until we find this. This is also an
important trait for proofreading. We read the whole sentence, not skipping one
single word, and find the things that ought to be adjusted.

3. Disciplined

Many of us work independently as freelancers and have to manage our own
time and work schedule. Deadlines help, but it takes discipline to sit by the
computer to finish a project when your family or friends are calling you to get
out and “play”. It also takes discipline to allocate those extra hours in your
day to marketing, upkeep etc.

4. Business savvy

Part of our discipline ties into our business knowledge. We know that we
run our own little business and that we have to be responsible to our customers
and treat them right in order to make them come back. We know that each
interaction is part of our long term marketing and we try to be as professional
and service oriented as possible.

5. Technical

I know, translation is an art, but in today’s world most translator have
to be at least a little technical in order to survive. We work on computers,
communicate through email, use different computer tools in our daily work and we
have to be able to back up our work, solve minor technical issues and
communicate electronically.

6. Self-confident and driven

It takes hard work and time to find customers; especially the ideal
customer, and we need to be able to trust our competence in order to keep going
sometimes. We need to be able to handle a few rejections, set goals and work
towards them.

These are a few personality traits that seem common in many translators.
The interesting thing is that I have also heard about things that many of us do
NOT like to do, such as accounting, invoicing, taxes etc. I know that is true
for me, but I do it anyway, or find someone else that can do this for me so I
can focus on what I like to do, translate. What other personality traits do you
think are common for translators and other linguists? Please share!

Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.


  1. Great list, Tess, but I think I’d have to add a modifier. These are the traits of thriving professional translators. I know many translators who are missing one or more of these factors (often 4, 5 or 6) and hobble along with business going “OK” or “the same as five years ago” or “worse than five years ago” or similar.

    • Tess says:

      Thank you Karen! Good insight, so these translators should then focus on 4, 5 and/or 6 to thrive. It can be overwhelming sometimes.

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  3. Lisa Carter says:

    What a list! I think you (and Marta) have captured the essence of what many of us in this profession are about. Sure makes us sound great, doesn’t it?!
    The one hindrance for many of us (at least translators, not necessarily interpreters) is our insular, somewhat introverted nature. It can make going to conferences hard, but it is usually worth the effort.

  4. Marta says:

    So true, Tess! I had your post at the back of my mind for the whole day, and finally Rebekka Wellmanns (@wellrebekka) incidentally showed me what other, important trait we all share: we think outside the box. I like calling it “creative logics” and I think it does justice. Translators are able to step out of usual thinking processes, translators look for new solutions and translators never stop thinking of alternatives.

    • Tess says:

      Very good addition Marta! Thinking outside the box is both valuable and necessary sometimes and it is true that we have to do that very often. Thanks!