In scientific and academic terms, Language is a complex system of communication of ideas that can function through various channels, including oral, written, and signed. Languages, such as English, French, or Spanish, are an example of these systems and each has their particular set of rules. Language is the code people use to convey and transmit ideas from one person to another. Professionals working in this field are usually well versed and fluent in at least two different languages, meaning that they can take an idea coded in a specific language and convert it to another while retaining the same meaning and intention.
Most Language professionals work with their native tongue and a second language acquired later in life. However, they can also be specialists in only one language and dedicate their lives to the analysis and research of all elements surrounding said language, as is the case of Linguists. Other language professionals include Translators and Interpreters. They may work in several different institutions and fields, including academic research, Education, and international relations and businesses.
These experts can be considered communicational bridges, as they are in charge of bringing together cultures that are separated not only by geography, but also by languages. Their job is to overcome these differences and show people that there are other cultures that might have different points of view, but can coexist nonetheless.
Languages professionals are usually responsible for the following:
- Relaying messages, spoken, written, or otherwise, in a different language than the original while maintaining the same meaning, tone, and intention.
- Creating and updating a glossary or terminology bank with technical and culturally-different terms and jargons specific for certain fields.
- Maintaining a sense of style, coherence, and uniformity that goes along with the original message.
- Transferring concepts in the source language to the target language by ensuring that the correspondence selected respects the nuances and meaning.
- Ensuring that the meaning and intonation of a message conveyed stays faithful to the original.
- Doing research previous to an assignment in order to be familiar with the subject matter.
- Understanding the languages’ origins, history, evolution, and its past and current use.
- Being proficient in the use of complex terminology and technical language (e.g. business jargon, legislative terms, and technical-scientific vocabulary).
All professionals working in the Languages field usually share the same characteristics, which include, but are not limited to:
- Having a strong grasp of the languages they’re working with, grammar structures, and specialized or technical terminology.
- Displaying impeccable communication and interpersonal skills.
- Displaying high levels of cultural sensibility.
- Having exceptional analytical and investigative skills.
- Being proficient in word-processing programs and Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools.
- Having strong organizational and time management skills, being capable of working under constantly changing priorities.
- Being able to work as part of a team.
It is a common misconception to assume that any bilingual person may be a Translator or Interpreter. Professionals in the field of Languages are academically prepared to understand and accurately interpret a message in one language and retransmit and convey it in another. Language professionals are trained in Linguistics, the scientific study of language; they also possess vast knowledge of grammar, syntax, semiotics, as well as a country’s culture and historic backgrounds. Additionally, they understand the processes involved in retaining and conveying the same tone and intention as the original message.
In order to become professionals in this field, aspirants must first obtain a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages, English, Literature, or Linguistics. This can be done in several recognized colleges and universities. Once they have obtained their degree they may choose to pursue a specialization in Translation or Interpretation if they prefer a more practical job. Aspirants interested in a more academic and research-oriented field of work may choose a master’s or doctoral degree in Linguistics.
The titles of “Certified Translator”, “Certified Interpreter”, and other specializations in the area are issued by the regulatory governmental bodies for these professions. In the United States, depending on their area of expertise, these professionals can be certified by different institutions such as the federal courts, The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, and the U.S. Department of State, among others.