Expats for Hire: Translators

How to successfully put your language skills to work as a translator

[Editor’s note: This is the first article in a new series that will be devoted to helping you find work in the traditional “expat” trades, many of which draw upon English-language skills. Articles will include tips and resources from successful professionals in the field and are geared both at those who already work in a particular area and want to increase marketability, as well as those who are just starting out.]

If you are a native speaker of English who possess strong reading comprehensibility in Czech (or other language) you may be able to find work as a translator in the Czech Republic. Dagmar McCaffrey, co-owner of The Villa a Prague-based company that offers a diverse package of language services to clients, has shared with us some tips for capitalizing on your linguistic acumen.

What special skills are required? 

For would-be translators of Czech to English, McCaffrey suggests taking stock of your wider skill set. “A good translator must not only master the language that he/she translates from/to, but must also have research skills, the ability to follow different styles, and be a good writer and proofreader.” While this may sound like a daunting number of prerequisites—cultivated over years of work experience—the good news for those just starting out is that there’s work to be had. 

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Who gets the most work? 

“There’s a real gap in the market for native-English speakers who translate from Czech,” McCaffrey says. “Most translations of this kind are done by Czechs who are fluent in English, not the other way around. This is fine for translations of official documents (birth certificates, diplomas etc.) that need to be done by court-certified translators (soudní překladatel) but isn’t always the best choice for clients who want more natural translations for their company website or marketing materials.”

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Who is hiring?

In terms of specific industries that regularly seek translators, McCaffrey notes that her company frequently prepares documents for the financial, legal, retail, and academic sectors, though she advises translators without a lot of local experience to approach non-profit organizations, schools,  and hospitals, adding that, “Volunteer work will help build your portfolio and give you references and referrals.”

How much to charge?

Once you’ve reached the point when your services are in demand, knowing how much to charge can be confusing. McCaffrey explains: “Rates are typically calculated per standard page (normostrana) which is 1,800 characters, including spaces, but can vary depending on the difficulty of a translation, turnaround required, format, etc.” The latest recommendations (2011) from The Association of Translators and Interpreters (Jednota tlumočníků a překladatelů) are as follows:

From CZ into EN, GE, IT, SP, RU, FR – 430 Kč per standard page
From EN, GE, IT, SP, RU, FR into CZ – 390 Kč per standard page

McCaffrey admits that rates often depart from these figures with some translators offering a standard page for as little as 150 Kč and some translators and agencies charging much more than 430 Kč. (Proofreading can be billed either by standard page or by hour, depending on what has been agreed with the client.)  

Translation work do’s and don’ts:


  • …deliver your translation on time.
  • …flag uncertainties (suggest a translation but insert a comment when clarification is needed).
  • …know your capacity and manage your time well.
  • …ask your client about their preferred style.      
  • …give finished translations a first and second reading to make minor corrections.
  • …work as a team with a native-Czech-speaking partner.
  • …learn to use computer assisted software (CAT) which can be useful for technical texts.


  • …delegate work to other people when you are delayed with your translation.
  • …take on projects that are beyond your expertise.
  • …be afraid to ask questions.
  • …translate into anything but your native language.
  • …forget to use spell-check (this applies for native speakers too)!

Helpful resources

McCaffrey suggests Czech web site AAAPOPTÁVKA.cz. “Though it isn’t a free service, you’ll need to register and pay a monthly fee after which inquiries are sent to you.”

Translatorcafe.com is an international on-line translator forum. 

Czechlist is a Facebook group where “Czech<>English translators, interpreters and other language professionals to discuss terminology, language problems, professional issues.”

Are you a working translator or does your firm regularly hire translators? Share your thoughts on  what makes a good translator or good client and any additional advice you may have.

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