Translators are communication and language experts who read, comprehend and translate written messages from one language to another. Their main goal is to produce a text that carries the same meaning as the original one, maintaining all the relevant elements to do so, without necessarily using the exact same words. Most Translators are self-employed, but some may choose to work for an agency dedicated to providing such services.
Translators usually specialize in and work with two languages, their native language, and any other chosen language. However, they may also specialize in a third or even a fourth language, provided they possess high levels of fluency in either one. For Translators, being bilingual is not enough; since these professionals are often considered communicational bridges that bring together two or more different cultures, they also need to be fully immersed in all of them.
There is a common misconception that Interpreters and Translators are the same. Even though they’re both language experts, these two careers shouldn’t be confused with one another, and the main difference between them is what they translate. While Interpreters work with oral communications, Translators work with the written word; notwithstanding, many of these professionals provide both types of services.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Translators are required to complete.
- Translating written communications from one language to another, adhering to the author’s original message, sense, intention, and style to the greatest extent possible:
- Doing the necessary research before undertaking new projects in order to have a better understanding of the message’s context and to use the correct lingo, jargon, and other technical terms;
- liaising with Authors, if possible, in order to better understand the message they want to convey, as well as the literary and cultural aspects of the piece;
- studying and analyzing the particularities and context of the target audience;
- always keeping the scope of the text in mind;
- keeping cultural aspects of the target language in mind;
- consulting the Author, if possible, when in doubt regarding specific terms in the source or target language;
- translating content in all kinds of formats (e.g. journals, articles, books, poetry, short stories) into another language;
- using specialized tools, such as computer-assisted translation (CAT) software, in order to maximize efficiency;
- proofreading and correcting all pieces and already translated material, guaranteeing it’s error-free;
- reviewing the technical accuracy and logical structure of the document;
- modifying and editing the material according to the client or Editor’s feedback; and
- submitting the final product within the pre-established deadline.
- Building specialized or technical glossaries, terminology banks, and a variety of resource databases by compiling data and information from already existing sources:
- Knowing specialized terminology and common terms in both languages (e.g. medical, legal, and administrative terminology).
- Translating texts and other documents from one language to another, maintaining a sense of style and pace that is similar to the original.
- Performing research on specific terms and technicalities related to the field at hand.
- Creating and updating a glossary or terminology bank that may be used in future projects.
- Maintaining a style and sense uniformity that goes along with the Author’s intended tone.
- Ensuring that time is managed in an efficient way in order to meet project deadlines.
The average Translator salary in USA is $43,102 per year or $22 per hour. This is around 1.5 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $30,000 while most experienced workers make up to $60,000. These results are based on 348 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Excellent computer skills:
- Being proficient in word-processing programs, translation memories, glossaries, and CAT tools.
- Strong grasp of the languages they’re working with, grammar structures, specialized or technical terminology, and proofreading.
- Impeccable communication and interpersonal skills:
- Writing and reading clearly and proficiently in the languages they translate;
- being capable of thinking through or understanding new, complex, and technical concepts in order to convey them through another language; and
- being capable of maintaining a friendly and professional relationship with their clients.
- Possessing high levels of cultural awareness and sensitivity:
- Being knowledgeable about the cultural backgrounds of both the source and the target languages, as well as about the respective audience.
- Analytical and investigative skills:
- Effectively researching, reading, and interpreting information.
- Great attention to detail and high levels of thoroughness:
- Having outstanding proofreading and editing skills so as to accurately and efficiently review the final translations.
- Outstanding levels of honesty and responsibility:
- Handling sensitive or confidential information;
- being capable of separating their emotions and prejudice from their work; and
- following strict ethical guidelines and client confidentiality rules.
- Strong organizational and time management skills:
- Being able to comply with established deadlines;
- being capable of working under pressure and within tight deadlines;
- being versatile, flexible, and willing to work within constantly changing priorities; and
- having strong multitasking skills; being able to work independently and as part of a team in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
- Customer-oriented, self-motivated, reliable, and objective-oriented.
Every professional Translator works under the premise of conveying the original message fluently; they provide the information following the same parameters observed by the original version (they stick to the same style, ideas, and facts) but must also allow the language to flow freely and error-free. Furthermore, Translators are obligated to accurately duplicate cultural references (e.g. slang, expressions), which are rarely translated literally. Likewise, they aim to provide a text capable of maintaining the author’s intention of transmitting a particular idea or impression to the readers in an understandable manner according to their context.
Having at least 2 years of work experience and a bachelor’s degree in Translation, Interpretation, Modern Languages, or English is ideal for these professionals. Specialized Translators who work in more technical fields, such as Engineering, are usually required to complete more advanced studies, usually a master’s degree in the designated field. A good way for these professionals to learn firsthand about the occupation is to start working in-house for a translation company, through volunteer work or internships.
Translators can get certified and take tests to get their skills and qualifications acknowledged. The field’s most sought-after certifications include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Certifications in 27 languages and English, offered by The American Translators Association;
- court certifications, granted by institutions such as The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators;
- taking The U.S. Department of State’s exam to become certified/sworn Translators; and
- taking The Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT).
These professionals are usually self-employed and working from home is a popular trend in this field. Due to the nature of their job, Translators are likely to work at odd hours, such as at night, on weekends, holidays, etc. However, periods where work is scarce are also very common; therefore, they need to be able to appropriately manage their finances.