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Translator or Interpreter Job Description, Career as a Translator or Interpreter, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

income translators interpreters language languages

Education and Training: College

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Translators and interpreters convert one language into another. This service allows concepts and ideas to be exchanged between languages and cultures. Translators and interpreters are employed all over the world, helping people to communicate.

Perhaps the hardest job in this field is literary translation. Literary translators work with fiction and poetry. Translators must have a thorough knowledge of a poem's or novel's "source" and "target" languages. The source is the language in which the work was originally written; the target is the language into which the work is translated. To be successful at this very delicate job, translators need literary expertise as much as multilanguage fluency. Literary translators are generally self-employed; however, many support themselves by teaching in colleges or working for organizations requiring translation.

Many translators work freelance or part time for commercial translation agencies. When they are needed, they work on special projects that are suited to their talents and areas of knowledge. Some work for import-export firms, which are usually located in port cities. The U.S. government employs a few hundred people as translators and interpreters. The United Nations and its organizations also employ translators and interpreters.

Interpreters are not writers; they are speakers. They make it possible for people who do not speak the same language to talk to one another. A simultaneous interpreter interprets what the speaker says as the speaker says it. A consecutive interpreter waits until the speaker has finished talking and then interprets. Simultaneous interpreters need speed; consecutive interpreters need a good memory. Both need accuracy.

Education and Training Requirements

Prospective translators and interpreters should begin a thorough study of at least one foreign language as early as possible. Those who speak a foreign language at home should continue to study it in school. Interested individuals also should take extra courses in writing while in high school.

A college degree is necessary for most work of this type. In college future translators and interpreters continue to study foreign languages and hone their writing skills. Some colleges offer students the opportunity to spend a year studying in another country. Depending on the type of translating they plan to do, candidates might choose to take courses in other fields as well. Technical translators need a background in engineering, science, business, or politics. Literary translators often earn doctoral degrees in the literature of foreign countries.

Literary translators usually study the languages of those countries that produce the most literature. Many work with Italian, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese writings. However, the ability to translate from a language that few others know can make the services of a prospective translator or interpreter more valuable. German and Russian are most useful to technical translators. Japanese and Arabic are becoming very important in business. To work at the United Nations, translators and interpreters must know at least three of the official languages, which are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Getting the Job

Many translators and interpreters start as bilingual secretaries. A bilingual secretary must be able to perform all clerical tasks in at least one language besides English. Both office skills and language skills count here, and this job is a good way to begin working with languages.

Candidates should register their names with the personnel departments of as many international organizations as possible. They should also join a professional association such as the Translators and Interpreters Guild or the American Translators Association and send these organizations a resume, giving details of their education, travel abroad, language ability, and any special qualifications they might offer. Good typing, shorthand, and knowledge of science, politics, or engineering are the most useful skills. Employment agencies can help place bilingual secretaries, translators, and interpreters. Jobs are sometimes advertised in the classified section of newspapers or at job sites online.

People can begin their careers as literary translators by actually working on a previously untranslated book and sending a sample of their translation to the author or to a publisher. If a particular sample is very good, a candidate may be asked to complete the translation. Interested individuals should also apply to magazines that publish translations. They, too, will ask to see a work sample. College language instructors and college placement officers may be able to help prospective translators find work.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

It is possible to begin a language career as a bilingual secretary and advance to more demanding work as a translator or an interpreter. The need for people in this field is greatest in large urban areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Some translators and interpreters have worked their way around the world.

Translating and interpreting are small and very competitive fields. The profession is growing, though, as countries and businesses have more international dealings. Therefore, there will be faster than average growth in the field through 2014. Competition for these jobs will be keen. Multilingual rather than bilingual ability offers an individual the best chance of landing a job.

Working Conditions

There is a great difference in working conditions for translators and interpreters. Interpreters work at the very places where their translations are needed, including business meetings and other conferences. They generally work under a great deal of pressure. Translators usually work in libraries or quiet offices, often surrounded by dictionaries and other reference materials. Freelance translators and interpreters frequently work at home but also attend international conferences of all sorts, taking notes and doing secretarial jobs in several languages.

Because many translators and interpreters are freelancers, they have no job security. They may have no work for weeks or months at a time. Most take other jobs where they can use their knowledge of languages to supplement their income.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries for translators and interpreters vary, depending on language, subject matter, skill, experience, education, certification, and type of employer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly income for a qualified translator or interpreter was $16.28 in 2004. Experienced interpreters and translators can earn more than $27.45 per hour. Interpreters and translators with special skills, such as those working in software localization, generally command higher rates. Federal employees earn an average of $71,625 annually.

Freelance, or self-employed, translators may charge by the word or by the hour. Some freelance translators earn $20 to $30 per hour. Interpreters may also work on a freelance basis. Freelance conference interpreters earn approximately $300 per day. Interpreters who work as escorts for foreign clients earn at least $100 per day.

Where to Go for More Information

American Literary Translators Association
University of Texas at Dallas
Box 830688 Mail Station JO51
Richardson, TX 75083-0688
(972) 883-2093
http://www.literarytranslators.org/

American Translators Association
225 Reinekers Ln., Ste. 590
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 683-6100
http://www.atanet.org/

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators
603 Stewart St., Ste. 610
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 267-2300
http://www.najit.org/

Translators and Interpreters Guild
962 Wayne Ave., Ste. 500
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(800) 992-0367
http://www.ttig.org/

Translators and interpreters who work for the federal government or a private company usually receive paid vacations, sick leave, and health insurance. Freelance interpreters must provide their own benefits.

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over 6 years ago

As an established translator, I'll add a few helpful tips to this introduction to the profession:

1) If you want to work as a translator or interpreter, be sure you don't get the two mixed up: translators work with the written word and interpreters work with the spoken word.

2) Unlike interpreters, who must work into at least two languages, most top-tier translators only work into their native language. Few people can write as well in a foreign language as they can their first tongue, even if they speak the foreign language with great fluency. Successful translators are very good with languages, but they are outstanding writers in their native language.

3) Financially, the most successful translators are those who specialize in one specific field, such as medicine, business, or law. If you wish to become a translator with a credible specialization, it would be helpful to have a degree or some professional background in your area of specialization (e.g., an MBA and business experience for business and financial translators, a paralegal degree or law degree for legal translators, etc.).

4) The reason it's hard to include salary information for translators is because the range of salaries is so wide. Staff translators (who work for an employer) might start out at $30,000 USD and work up to $60,000 or more after 5-10 years. Freelance translators start out with a low yearly income (they are starting their own business, after all), but after a lot of hard work, and 5-10 years, a freelancer could reasonably expect to make $50-60,000. However, I know translators with a decade of experience who probably only make $20-30,000, and I know translators with a decade of experience who are making almost $100,000. As a freelancer, it all depends on your translation skills, work ethic, and above all, your business acumen.

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about 7 years ago

I would love to become an interpreter. I'm already fluent in English, and I'm working on Arabic (which is spoken in my household), French (I've taken it for three years so far), and American Sigh Language (been teaching myself, and I'll be taking it in a few years, in high school), and I plan on learning Italian in college. (I'm in 8th grade now.)

What are the chances of someone with fluency in those 5 languages (4, if you're not counting ASL) and college credit in political science classes, getting a job with the UN?

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almost 7 years ago

I'm interested in becoming a German Translator for the USA. I was born in Germany and I recently graduated from Kutztown University of PA with my BA degree in German Studies/Communication & Culture. Any information is gladly appreciated. I'm a private German tutor at the present time, but I'd like to be a German interpreter for some company. Even if I just have to translate documents from German to English and vice- versa. I'm fluent in both languages.Thank You.

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almost 10 years ago

Very informative website, I just wish I could get more information about a translators salary- even an estimate.

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almost 6 years ago

Am a student at moi university in Kenya and for those people with problem in translating one language to another they can contact me. I can translate all languages.

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almost 6 years ago

A very good site with a lot of information. I am a teacher of English and French and am looking forward to becoming a translator one day. Wish someone could help me get started.

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about 5 years ago

I'm a sophomore and I have 3 languages that I use in my household.English,Spanish and American Sign Language. My grades aren't the best (working on getting them back on track) but is there any courses or necessary class that I should take now before I start college in a few years?

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almost 6 years ago

i want to be terp with you in Iraq Baghdad. so what i need to to do or how can i contact you?
i been interpreter with coalition forces 5 years
with my best regards
thanks
joe

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almost 7 years ago

I have:

(a) a bachelor's degree in English

(b) twenty-seven years' experience as a translator and a teacher

(c) a good command of Russian and English

(d) strong skills in English and Russian grammar and composition

My work experience enables me to be strong in technical vocabulary as well as in formal and figurative language. I believe my skills and experience could be of value.

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almost 6 years ago

I am a Kenyan who is fluent in Swahili language both in spoken and written. Working as a swahili tutor and translator and I have found this site to be very useful to me. Congratulations!Hongera sana!

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about 6 years ago

Hello I am Emma ,now Iam Postgraduate studnet in one of the UK universities , in fact this website is an informative one . What I intend to state is what are the problemes that face the translators or interpreters in their job .
I will be grateful to those of you who comment or send any problemes

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about 6 years ago

hi...i want to know about the job of translator.....as i have a gud command over hindi,punjabi,and urdu...n english also...i'm a post graduate in punjabi...could you please suggest me about it....please..i need your help

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about 6 years ago

I AM A LEGAL TRANSLATOR
AM AFRESH GRADUATE OF PHAROS UNIVERSITY IN ALEXANDRIA -EGYPT
,,LEGAL STUDIES AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,,
AM A LANGUAGE SCHOOL GRADUATE
AM GOOD AT ARABIC AND ENGLISH

ON MY BEHALF I CONSIDER MY SELF A GOOD TRANSLATOR AM CAPABLE OF HANDLING ALL KINDS OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS.
BUT JUST NEED AN OPPORTUNITY.WHICH I FEEL SO RARE TO FIND ANY WHERE...

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over 5 years ago

dddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

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over 6 years ago

hi, i want to become a translater one day, and really looking forward to it, I am fluent in two languages, afrikaans and english i want to learn i want someone to help me with spanish..contact me... =)

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almost 6 years ago

my name is abubakar i live in turkey i have many problem in this country please assist me i speak six language im from somali i speak arabic
english turkish hindi somali and suwahili i mean kenyanand tanzaanian
please i need a job

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almost 7 years ago


If you have economic ties with Kazakhstan and you 'll need to translate something into Kazakh from English or vice versa , you are welcome!

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about 6 years ago

I have done written and oral translation with other translators in Arabic, French, and English for publishing companies, and for individual clients.

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over 5 years ago

Hi! my name is Ibtissam i would love to work as a french/english or english french/translator. As well as somali/english english/somali. I have study french since i was 6 years old. I'm fluent and confident in french, english, Italian, Somali, but can speak Arabic. Would not work as arabic translator though. I live in Canada and would love to work in usa and canada

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over 5 years ago

Iam mustafa abdel karim ali from sudan ,I know well both arabic and enlish,written and spoken .guraduate of translation in 2006 sudan university diploma of translation for three years from arabic into english and vice versa i took legal translation,political,economic,sceince,journalism translation.I also have experience in the field.please feel free to contact me on number-0249991096128

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over 5 years ago

hello "" i am iraq boy 20 years old " so i am looking for a job as interpreter in turkey "" i can speak english arabic and turkish

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over 5 years ago

iam a translator spent about 10 years in this demandign job,but still i do bleave, at the begining of misty winding and rocky way of transtation.Please help me to add somthing new and benifical to job.

thank you very musch.

T.M.R.

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about 3 years ago

I work as freelance Trilingual interpreter Mandarin and Japanese. Normally I perform assignment for Medical assessment, translation between doctor and patient or between insurance co.with clients health care. Also providing conference call for various social service agencies.

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over 4 years ago

Dear Sir/Madam,
how can I apply to a freelancer translator job please.
Regards,
Noor Ahmad

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about 5 years ago

I am intrested in being a interpreter and have been for some time. I am using the program Rosseta Stone to learn and speak Japanese fluently. Is it really neccesary to go to college?

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about 5 years ago

Thank you for this kind of information regarding the job of translators and interpreters, I wish to receive further especially the vacancies pertaining to their positions. I'm a translator but presently in unemployed position.

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about 5 years ago



My name is ashish mishra from India

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about 5 years ago

I'm a sophomore and I have 3 languages that I use in my household.English,Spanish and American Sign Language. My grades aren't the best (working on getting them back on track) but is there any courses or necessary class that I should take now before I start college in a few years?

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over 5 years ago

This was INCREDIBLY helpful!! Thank you so much! I am a native Chinese teenager and speak fluent Mandrin. This was my first language. I have spoken I learned English at the age of 2 and am also fluent. I have always LOVED writing, and actually want to incooperate writing into my future as well. However, I am also taking French, and will not stop for many years. My goal is to become completley fluent in Mandrin and French verbally, comprehensively, reading and writing. I noticed that you need 3 languages to become a part of the UN as a translator. :)

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over 5 years ago

i would like to become a spanish translator to help my raza comunicate with others.

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over 5 years ago

I'm a Nigerian but I schooled and grew up in Republic of Benin so all my certificates, degrees, everything is in french.I speak and write french as fluently and without mistakes as possible. My English is not bad at all, at least for someone who schooled in a french country. My problem is I have lots of interest: i would like for example to become a professional and recognized bilingual secretary, would also like to dive a little into reinsurance (the international aspect), and I'll even love to become a personnel manager because I had my masters in Sociology. Can u please help?

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over 5 years ago

I'm a Nigerian but I schooled and grew up in Republic of Benin so all my certificates, degrees, everything is in french.I speak and write french as fluently and without mistakes as possible. My English is not bad at all, at least for someone who schooled in a french country. My problem is I have lots of interest: i would like for example to become a professional and recognized bilingual secretary, would also like to dive a little into reinsurance (the international aspect), and I'll even love to become a personnel manager because I had my masters in Sociology. Can u please help?

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over 5 years ago

IT IS ME AHMED,TRANSLATOR (ENGLISH-ARABIC

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over 5 years ago

expert in arabic and english translation.

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over 5 years ago

give more about indian institutes offering the course.

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over 5 years ago

Very professional

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over 5 years ago

hi its a good side i want a job has a translatior job i can speek arbic and dari with peshto and urdu and hinko and english litle bit also

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almost 6 years ago

Hi,My name is Abha.I am fluent in German & English.I am looking for a job in Stuttgart Germany.

Thank You

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almost 6 years ago

i want to be terp with you in Iraq Baghdad. so what i need to to do or how can i contact you?
i been interpreter with coalition forces 5 years
with my best regards
thanks
joe

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over 7 years ago

hi, my name is Rachel. love this site, it was a big help. I am about to enter college, and have been taking Spanish since I was 5, am basically fluent, can read write and speak the language. I am taking german and French as well and definitely interested in working for the UN later on after college. I am interested in an internship of some sort maybe through the UN or elsewhere. if someone could send me information or get into contact with me, that would be great. thanks!

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over 7 years ago

i am a 17 yr old and i want to translate the russian language i think this site helped alot to start my translating career i am fluent in 2 lanugages english and spanish and i am currently learning russian if anyone would like to help me with my russian you can contact me at the email above thanks o and i also want to work for the united nations as a translator and a interpreter

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almost 8 years ago

It was very informative. I am interested in Japanese language and just started the elementary course. wish to know more about career as a translator as a japanese translator.I am fluent in chinese, english and malay, any info please email to me. Thanks.

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over 8 years ago

it was very helpful. i am nigerian, although english is my first lanuage, i studied it at the university. currenty studying french and i hope to work as an interpreter for the united nations.please i would be interested in how to get started. i can be reaced by emai on/at joghuma@yahoo.com

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over 8 years ago

Sort of informative. However, I need info on becoming a French Interpreter for the United Nations. I'm only in the 12th grade though. Any info please e-mail me at AislinnJ@verizon.net. Thank You.

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almost 10 years ago

It is a very inforamtive website, but needed some more guidance. I needed information regarding that I want to be a japanese language translator and I wanted to specialise in business japanese. I'm looking out for schools or universities in Los Angeles. Please feel free to email the suggestions if anyone has regarding the above matter at surabhi_rungta@yahoo.com

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almost 10 years ago

Very complete website, however I am looking for a translation center website in Los Angles CA. If any information, please email me on stephanie.nehme@gmail.com

I am fluent perfectly in 5 languages (French, English, Arabic, Spanish and Italian) and would be looking for a job in Los Angeles starting the end of '07.

Thank you!