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Language Translator and Interpreter Careers, Jobs, and Training Information

Language Translator and InterpreterCareer and Job Highlights

  • These workers enjoy a 20 percent self-employment rate
  • Part time work is common
  • A bachelor’s degree is a typical qualification for job candidates
  • Prospects depend on specialized language and training skills

Translator and Interpreter Career Overview

Interpreters and translators make intercultural communication possible through language, idea, and concept translation. It is important that they understand the substance of translated material in order to do so effectively. They should also be sensitive and considerate to the cultures in which they work.

Interpreters and translators have similar job profiles that involve having special language aptitude in two different languages. They usually translate into their best known, or “active,” language from their secondary, or “passive,” language.

Interpreters convert languages into others. They should have a good understanding of what is communicated and be able to make clear and accurate verbal expressions. Strong memory and research skills are also important.

Before an interpreter begins his work, he should research the material and language to be translated. Usually the interpreter will be present at the location where the translation will occur, but it is not uncommon for interpreters to do this over the telephone.

Two types of interpretation include simultaneous and consecutive interpretations. When interpretation is performed simultaneously it takes place at the same time the speaker is talking. Interpreters should be extremely familiar with source language. These kinds of interpreters usually work with one or more other people in order to segment the interpreting process. Simultaneous interpretation is common at international conventions and in courts.

As opposed to interpretation done simultaneously, consecutive interpretation occurs after the speaker has finished talking. Interpersonal communication often utilizes this form of interpretation.

Translators write, analyze, and edit written material to convert it into another language. Translators undertake work that varies in style, subject matter, and length. This process usually entails making an initial pass-over to get a general understanding of the material, researching any unknown words, and doing additional research on the subject that may be unclear. They also correspond with original source providers or organizations that issue the documents.

To translate effectively, both words and fluid concepts should adequately be replaced with the target language. Translators should also take into account cultural terms, expressions, and idioms that have bearing on the meaning of the content. Often, words, sentences, and expressions have several meanings in other languages, so translators work cautiously in revising final work.

Technological changes have altered the way that translators work, re-orienting focus onto computer and electronic use. Computers and the Internet allow translators mobility in their work as well as to access language and research sources with greater ease. Machine-assisted translation tools also help reduce time and effort by comparing past translations with current ones.

Translators and interpreters are found in many different fields and will continue to specialize in needed areas of study. Common fields of interest include areas in social service, entertainment, and business.

Conference interpreters work with non-English language speakers of many organizations. They typically work at international conventions and may be required to know more than two different languages, a necessary requirement to work for such organizations as the United Nations.

The most common type of interpretation at conferences and conventions is simultaneous, although consecutive-type interpreting is not uncommon. Interpreters listen through speakers in booths and then interpret the words into the targeted language through a microphone-headphone relay. When only a few people require interpretation, whispering methods are used where the interpreter simply positions him/herself behind the listener and whispers the translation.

Guide or escort interpreters help foreign travelers to communicate with those of the host country. They work on both professional and casual levels, often working with other interpreters on a single assignment. Typical workdays are 8-hours and involve much travel.

Judiciary interpreters and translators assist people in court who do not speak English. These interpreters should refrain from becoming emotionally involved without altering the substance of what is communicated. They should also understand general and specific legal procedures in both the U.S. and other countries. They work in many different settings, including preliminary hearings, client-attorney meetings, trials, arraignments, and depositions. They should generally have a working knowledge of legal and judicial terms and jargon, and be able to sight-translate written documents by verbally reading them.
Literary translators convert literature between different languages. This includes translating books, journal articles, short stories, and poetry. In connection to creative writing, this kind of translation requires sufficiently reproducing the content of work in a certain language. To do this, translators often work with the actual authors to produce the most adequate content translation.

University education professors are the most common workers in this field, although there exists some well-reputed literary translators. Literary translators seek publishing by submitting work samples—approved of by the author—to publishing companies.

Localization translators have enjoyed increasingly large numbers of opportunities. Basically, they completely adapt a product into a different culture and language, whether it is software, Internet, or manufacturing products.

Localization translators should have a strong understanding of the relevant language, technical terminology, and the audience that will receive the product. The chief aim of these translators is to have the product appear to have been manufactured in the target selling country. Often, these workers will be computer savvy and have related scientific or software knowledge-skills.

Medical interpreters and translators offer language assistance to those receiving healthcare benefits by helping them communicate with medical staffs. They translate medical documents and brochures into targeted languages, and should thus have a good understanding of medical terminology and cultural awareness. They should express sympathy without becoming too emotionally attached to patients.

Sign language interpreters help those who are deaf communicate with those who can hear. Interpreters should be fluent in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English. In similarity to any foreign language, this kind of interpreting requires both conceptual and substance fluidity along with single-word replacement.

Sign language interpreting involves both regular communication and transliteration, which is based on more English word labels and order. Lip-reading, or oral interpreting, is another common method, along with deaf-blind, tactile, exact English signing, and cued speech interpretation methods.

Cross-cultural communication is necessary in our society, thus requiring the use of interpreters and translators. These workers translate ideas, concepts, and words, to help people communicate effectively between cultures.
Interpreters and translators have similar job profiles that involve having special language aptitude in two different languages. They usually translate into their best known, or “active,” language from their secondary, or “passive,” language.

Despite similarities within job profiles, translators and interpreters have many differences, requiring unique sets of aptitudes and skill levels. Translators, for instance, usually only work in a single source language while interpreters traverses many different languages.

Interpreters convert languages into others. They should have a good understanding of what is communicated and be able to make clear and accurate verbal expressions. Strong memory and research skills are also important.

Before an interpreter begins his work, he should research the material and language to be translated. Usually the interpreter will be present at the location where the translation will occur, but it is not uncommon for interpreters to do this over the telephone.

Two types of interpretation include simultaneous and consecutive interpretations. When interpretation is performed simultaneously it takes place at the same time the speaker is talking. Interpreters should be extremely familiar with source language. These kinds of interpreters usually work with one or more other people in order to segment the interpreting process. Simultaneous interpretation is common at international conventions and in courts.

As opposed to interpretation done simultaneously, consecutive interpretation occurs after the speaker has finished talking. Interpersonal communication often utilizes this form of interpretation.

Translators write, analyze, and edit written material to convert it into another language. Translators undertake work that varies in style, subject matter, and length. This process usually entails making an initial pass-over to get a general understanding of the material, researching any unknown words, and doing additional research on the subject that may be unclear. They also correspond with original source providers or organizations that issue the documents.

To translate effectively, both words and fluid concepts should adequately be replaced with the target language. Translators should also take into account cultural terms, expressions, and idioms that have bearing on the meaning of the content. Often, words, sentences, and expressions have several meanings in other languages, so translators work cautiously in revising final work.

Technological changes have altered the way that translators work, re-orienting focus onto computer and electronic use. Computers and the Internet allow translators mobility in their work as well as to access language and research sources with greater ease. Machine-assisted translation tools also help reduce time and effort by comparing past translations with current ones.

Translators and interpreters are found in many different fields and will continue to specialize in needed areas of study. Common fields of interest include areas in social service, entertainment, and business.

Conference interpreters work with non-English language speakers of many organizations. They typically work at international conventions and may be required to know more than two different languages, a necessary requirement to work for such organizations as the United Nations.

The most common type of interpretation at conferences and conventions is simultaneous, although consecutive-type interpreting is not uncommon. Interpreters listen through speakers in booths and then interpret the words into the targeted language through a microphone-headphone relay. When only a few people require interpretation, whispering methods are used where the interpreter simply positions him/herself behind the listener and whispers the translation.

Guide or escort interpreters help foreign travelers to communicate with those of the host country. They work on both professional and casual levels, often working with other interpreters on a single assignment. Typical workdays are 8-hours and involve much travel.

Judiciary interpreters and translators assist people in court who do not speak English. These interpreters should refrain from becoming emotionally involved without altering the substance of what is communicated. They should also understand general and specific legal procedures in both the U.S. and other countries. They work in many different settings, including preliminary hearings, client-attorney meetings, trials, arraignments, and depositions. They should generally have a working knowledge of legal and judicial terms and jargon, and be able to sight-translate written documents by verbally reading them.

Literary translators convert literature between different languages. This includes translating books, journal articles, short stories, and poetry. In connection to creative writing, this kind of translation requires sufficiently reproducing the content of work in a certain language. To do this, translators often work with the actual authors to produce the most adequate content translation.

University education professors are the most common workers in this field, although there exists some well-reputed literary translators. Literary translators seek publishing by submitting work samples—approved of by the author—to publishing companies.

Localization translators have enjoyed increasingly large numbers of opportunities. Basically, they completely adapt a product into a different culture and language, whether it is software, Internet, or manufacturing products.

Localization translators should have a strong understanding of the relevant language, technical terminology, and the audience that will receive the product. The chief aim of these translators is to have the product appear to have been manufactured in the target selling country. Often, these workers will be computer savvy and have related scientific or software knowledge-skills.

Medical interpreters and translators offer language assistance to those receiving healthcare benefits by helping them communicate with medical staffs. They translate medical documents and brochures into targeted languages, and should thus have a good understanding of medical terminology and cultural awareness. They should express sympathy without becoming too emotionally attached to patients.

Sign language interpreters help those who are deaf communicate with those who can hear. Interpreters should be fluent in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English. In similarity to any foreign language, this kind of interpreting requires both conceptual and substance fluidity along with single-word replacement.

Sign language interpreting involves both regular communication and transliteration, which is based on more English word labels and order. Lip-reading, or oral interpreting, is another common method, along with deaf-blind, tactile, exact English signing, and cued speech interpretation methods.

Language Translator and Interpreter Training and Job Qualifications

Interpreters and translators have different educational and language backgrounds. While some may have grown up knowing two or more languages others have not.

Proper high school preparation courses include those in English, foreign language, and computers. Other worthwhile directions include spending a prolonged time in a foreign country or having some form of regular contact with another culture. One should also spend considerable time reading and learning about other cultures and languages, including English.

Many options exist outside of high school for training and education in foreign languages. Translators and interpreters may major in a foreign language although this is not always required. Instead, jobs require training in how to do the specialized translating or interpreting work; many colleges and institutions offer courses, seminars, and programs in these areas. Master’s degree programs are available for those with desires to work in technical fields such as engineering, finance, or localization interpreting. Specialty training programs exist for those who wish to interpret in community courts or in health areas.

No standard form of certification exists in the U.S. for translators or interpreters. However, The American Translators Association, The Translators and Interpreters Guild, and the national Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translaters are three organizations that offer different accreditation and certification programs.

Passage of a three-phase test offered by the U.S. Department of State gives someone the recognition of having adequate skills levels to be successful in a particular field. This test covers simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting, and conference-level interpreting sections.

Recently, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the National Association of the Deaf have come together to produce an exam, and both associations offer sign interpreters with certification options.

Successful agency workers will typically have three to five years of translation or interpreting experience.

Practical learning experience for translating can be gained through internships, mentoring programs, company residency work, or any informal work available. Other options include escort interpreting when one works beside a more experienced worker. Services with greater demand for work are of course the easiest to enter into, such as health / medical and court interpretation. After gaining ample experience, interpreters typically are able to advance to performing assignments with greater pressure or responsibility, perhaps as an editor or manager.

Language Translator and Interpreter Job and Employment Opportunities

As a result of the growing industry, employment for translators and interpreters is expected to increase at rates faster than the overall occupational average through 2012. Greater numbers of bi-lingual and multi-lingual U.S. residents through expanding international relations will contribute to rapidly growing demand figures for these workers.

Translating and interpreting work has become easier through advances in technology, but this is not expected to affect employment figures dramatically because of the value of productivity already performed by these workers.

Translators who can speak Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Japanese, Korean, or Chinese are in high demand. Changing political and world environments often shift the demand to other languages.

The largest number of job opportunities exists in larger metropolitan areas, but this is likely to change as more people move into rural or smaller communities.

Job competitiveness varies according to specialty. Jobs in localization, law, and health will experience the highest demand due to the rise of technical Internet expansion and international trade. An increasing demand for interpreter and translator jobs will likely grow out of recent Federal Laws that require Federally assisted healthcare service providers to offer language services to those in need. The Civil Rights Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and others require that interpreters be present in certain circumstances. Interpreters for the deaf will likely continue to have the most open job opportunities as not nearly enough qualified people can perform these jobs. Conference and literary interpreters and translators, however, face declining job opportunity outlooks in the future.

Historical Earnings Information

Approximate hourly wages for interpreters and translators range from $9.40 for the bottom ten percent to $26.00 for the top ten percent. Average hourly earnings in 2002 were $15.70. Highly skilled and trained workers can earn an annual salary of over $100,000.

Earnings and salaries vary depending on skill level, experience, certification, education, and many other character factors. Highest earnings are usually held by those practicing in a language field that is high in demand, such as in Japanese and Chinese which carried the highest average wage levels in 2001. Additionally, specialized jobs in areas such as localization typically enjoy higher wage earnings. In 2003, the Federal Government tabulated that an annual approximate salary of $64,234 went to language specialists.

Wage earnings vary depending on work availability. Freelance interpreting differs from other kinds of translators in that freelancers are usually contracted out at an hourly rate as opposed to on word or hourly-based wages.