Journey to Become a Specialized Translator

Specialized English to Spanish technical and legal translator


"Every expert was once a beginner" would perhaps be a fitting inspirational quote to get started. Although it is true that everyone needs to start somewhere, knowing and choosing where to start is a key decision in life. I've learned that if one wants to specialize in a certain professional niche, loving it and being extremely curious about that particular field is a good indicator of whether or not one is on the right path.

Immersing in a foreign culture in order to discover a career path

When I look back at my own career path, I start wondering why I chose a career in mechanical/electrical engineering when I was 17 years old. Considering my cultural and family background (born and raised in Guatemala City), I took this path because being really good in physics and math in high school could lead me to a career providing more opportunities, yet it was also because at that age one really has no clue what one will actually enjoy doing as an adult.

It took me about five or six years to realize that engineering wasn't really for me. Therefore, I decided to embark on an adventure to discover a new culture (which entailed speaking English as a foreign language). Moving to Chicago and working in miscellaneous jobs (particularly in the food service industry) forced me to get up to speed with my English listening and speaking skills.

Falling in love with languages

In Chicago, being strongly influenced by good friendships, I discovered my passion for literature, philosophy, and ultimately linguistics. More than eight years ago I started reviewing and relearning Spanish grammar in order to become a native instructor of the language.

It was fascinating to relearn, for example, the differences between ser and estar, the preterite versus imperfect, or indicative versus subjunctive. I find it funny that, unless one has a passion for languages, knowing the differences between these aspects of grammar could go unnoticed in one's life; however, for new learners of Spanish, understanding them is essential.

Business Law Spanish Translator in San Diego

Genesis of a specialized translator

It wasn't until I moved to San Diego that I discovered translation and I was excited with the opportunities it offered as a professional career path. After two years of language instruction in Chicago, I started working for a language school in San Diego, which in turn is a language services provider (LSP) for Child Welfare Services of San Diego County. I have had the fortune to work closely in the translation of child custody and adoption documents, granting me a well-rounded perspective of family law concepts and terminology.

In the fall of 2013, heeding a coworker's recommendation, I began the Specialized Certificate in Translation at UCSD Extension Program. The gates to a wonderful world were opening–later I discovered translator's associations, including the mighty American Translator's Association (otherwise known as ATA) and my local Association of Translators and Interpreters in the San Diego Area (ATISDA), which this year was approved by the ATA as one of their affiliates.

In 2016, I've been working toward specializing in legal and financial translation. Ever since I launched my business at the end of spring, I have completed one specialized course, Business Translation, which focused on banking, insurance, and international trade. And I am currently taking a legal translation course from Cálamo & Cran, which is an online program based in Spain and it is accredited for continuing education points by the ATA.