If you are fluent in at least two languages and enjoy working with the written word, you may consider working as a translator. This is a job translating the written word from one language into another.
It is not the same as an interpreter, who translates the spoken word. If you are considering work as a translator, there are a few qualifications you need to have, including at least a bachelor’s degree in your non-native language. You may also need to belong to a reputable translators’ association, depending on where you apply for work.
The paying markets for translators vary widely depending on the type of translations needed and the languages involved. As of writing, Spanish, French and German translators are in high demand in the business realm. There is an increased need for translations into Japanese, Chinese and Russian in an increasingly global world. In the next decade, the need for translators in the United States is expected to increase at a faster pace than most other occupations.
International Publishing Houses
Books popular in their own country are often translated into other languages by publishing houses so the book can be sold in other markets around the world. In some cases, translated versions of books sell more in their second and third languages than they did in the original language of the book.
To be successful translating at literature, you need to be a wordsmith in your own right. There may be dozens of words conveying a particular emotion when translating from one language to another. Choosing the one most closely reflecting the original intent of the author is critical.
Law Firms and Legal Organizations
International law encompasses everything from drafting peace treaties and trade documents to processing immigration paperwork. The proper translation of a legal document has a profound impact on trade, human rights and international relations. If you have an affinity for law or a legal background, you may be interested in becoming a translator for an international law firm or a legal organization. Translating jobs range from translating civil lawsuits for The Hague to translating immigration documents for new arrivals to the United States. The United Nations is one organization with a staff of translators at all times to keep up with the exchange of legal documents across dozens of languages.
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In addition to being fluent in at least two languages, you need a good working knowledge of legal terminology and how the legal systems work. Unless you already have a law degree or at least a paralegal education, you need additional qualifications. There are a variety of courses available through colleges and universities for legal translation. Most of these last anywhere from eighteen months to two years.
Any government agency working with the public, particularly in areas with a high immigrant or ethnic population, has opportunities for translators. Bilingual reports, ordinances and meeting minutes are routinely posted by local, state and federal government entities to ensure everyone has equal access to the information.
Law enforcement organizations also need translators in order to investigate anything from human trafficking to illegal imports. A few United States agencies who use the services of translators include the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Charity may begin at home, but over the last century it has evolved to encompass the globe. Many of the most recognized charities in the United States now have a global reach, including international relief organizations. Even local churches and nonprofits often have charities operating in foreign countries due to outreach programs. Technology has brought global disasters into homes and increased individuals’ awareness of needs around the world.
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Translators are needed by these organizations so they can properly convey their mission to organizations in other countries through various printed materials. For organizations offering health care services, animal welfare and environmental protection, proper translation of documents is crucial to proper implementation of their resources and bridging any cultural divides.
International Businesses and Trade Organizations
International business requires understanding of everything from shipping documents to product descriptions on items sold overseas. Human resources documents, such as employee guidelines and resources, are also essential. Trade organizations have the same need for accurate documents.
There are many international corporations who hire in-house translators because they have a high volume of documents needing translation on a regular basis. For other businesses only needing occasional translation services, there are specialized translation services. In fact, translation services for businesses is one of the fastest growing sectors for start-up businesses and the growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Literary and scientific magazines used to be published in one country and kept their focus within their home borders. With today’s online capabilities and a resurgence in interest in literary offerings from around the world, more magazines are seeking translators in order to reach a broader readership.
There are also general interest magazines, such as women’s publications and fashion magazines, publishing overseas editions of their publications. While these magazines often have staff and writers in specific markets, they also regularly use translators for key stories of interest across international lines.
Travel Agencies and Touring Companies
Travel agencies and touring companies have locations around the world. Hotels, tour guide companies and restaurants all offer services to an international audience speaking a multitude of languages. Whether a travel brochure for a local winery in Italy is needed or an introduction to local customs for foreign visitors is called for, a translator is invaluable. Local maps and guides translated into the language of their guests encourage international travelers to return to a destination.
Travelers usually search the internet for information on traveling overseas, so travel agencies need to offer their services in more than one language online. If they want to offer international tours, they need to reassure their website visitors they are 100 percent capable and reliable in any language.
Contract and Freelance Opportunities
There are an incredible number of freelance opportunities for translators today. The larger job boards list contract translator positions lasting from a few months to a few years. Some of these are international positions while others are performed remotely. The same goes for one-time freelance jobs. There are several freelancers’ websites listing individual assignments ranging from translating an online sales page for a start-up retail site to translating love letters for someone in a long-distance relationship.
A key to success in this arena is specialization. If you are an engineer or have experience in human resources, you are ahead of the pack applying for translating jobs involving technical writing or human resources. As you take on assignments, create an online portfolio showcasing your work and highlighting your versatility or specialization. As your reputation grows, so do your opportunities.
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