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Working as a Translator or Interpreter

Now, with about 6,500 spoken languages in the world, what chance do you stand to get a job working as a translator or interpreter? Well, that depends on whether you really, really want this kind of a job AND on how well prepared you are to be acceptable to employers and agencies who need skilled translators and interpreters.

Let’s start with what is involved in this type of profession. At the most basic level, you would be responsible for converting information from one language (the source) to another (the target), by using your knowledge of the languages, cultures and the subject matter being discussed.

As it says, knowledge of the languages is primordial. You can be a world-renowned scientist in your field, but if you don’t know how to express a subject in your field in the target language, you’re doomed as a translator or interpreter. Google Translate just will not do! To test this, you only need to choose a text in a different language than your own and have it translated by the Google translation algorithm, then test if you understand what it says and you approve of the quality you received. The answer is a crying out loud: NO!

Requirements for a translator or interpreter (using English)

  • You must be fluent in English and another language;
  • A bachelor's degree isn't a strict requirement but most employers prefer job candidates who have one;
  • You will need training in translating and interpreting, which is available from colleges and universities, and other training schemes. You need this especially if your work is going to be in a hospital or a courtroom;
  • In terms of your portfolio of skills for this profession, you will need to amass quite a few soft skills, like active listening, good verbal communication, reading comprehension, writing and cultural sensitivity, being able to work with people, punctuality and reliability, attention to small details; objectivity to mention just a few.

Some interesting facts about these two professions

  • In 2014, translators and interpreters earned an average of $43,590 and hourly wages of around $20;
  • Approximately 64,000 people worked in this field in 2012;
  • Translators often work from home;
  • 20% of people in this field are self-employed;
  • Jobs in these fields are usually full time, and most people work during regular business hours.

One funny (really funny) take on the job of an interpreter

Now, you do realise how interpreting in real-time can be stressful because you will have to keep up with the speaker. You would often have to face tight deadlines. Another inconvenience of this type of jobs is that translators and interpreters who are self-employed may face long periods without work and have other times when they are very busy.

However, until our next lesson on this profession, I’d like to leave you with a great smile on your face today, by pointing you to the funniest interpreter I’ve ever seen online: Catherine Tate in "The secretary who speaks 7 languages!"

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