Interpreter / Translator

How to Become an Interpreter or Translator
Interpreter Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of an Interpreter / Translator
Interpreter Salaries
Influential Professionals in this Field
Leading Organizations in this Field
Top Cities for Interpreter / Translator Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become an Interpreter or Translator

Interpreters and translators are often put in the same group because they tend to have similar jobs. Both jobs require the interpreter or translator to communicate in more than one language, to be able to understand and interpret spoken and written statements in such a way so that the other party is able to understand. Interpreters and translators work with both spoken and written language. Also included in this field is work for the deaf in the form of sign language.

Because of the field of interpreters and translators is broad, becoming one of this elite group can either be simple or challenging depending on the scope of work. One may choose to work within a bilingual school system or choose to interpret for the deaf. Many colleges and universities employ interpreters and translators whether or not this is their primary function. Probably the most well-known use of interpreters and translators involves politicians and high profile business people.

Becoming an Interpreter / Translator can be difficult if the ultimate job position is at a high level. As with most jobs, it is likely that anyone new to the industry will begin at entry level. Many businesses or organizations will require three to five years experience in the field before the interpreter or translator will even be considered for anything beyond a low level position.

In order to become an interpreter or a translator, one must be able to speak at least two languages. It is imperative that the interpreter or translator not only understand the words that are written or being spoken, but one must also understand the context and meaning behind the words.

There is no standard certification procedure for interpreters/translators. The American Translators Association offers the most extensive training programs and is an excellent resource for anyone considering work in this field. The National Association of the Deaf is an excellent source for those wishing to learn to begin a career as a sign language interpreter.

What does an Interpreter do?

Looking at the occupation in the broadest sense, an Interpreter / Translator is the person who reads or listens to text or words that may be foreign to an intended audience. The Interpreter / Translator must take the concept from one person and transform it into a language or document that can be easily understood by the other party. Interpreters / Translators must be fluent in at least two languages, although many are multilingual.

What skills or qualities do I need to become an Interpreter / Translator?

Most Interpreters / Translators are required to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree. The degree does not necessarily have to be in the area of language or communications but may focus on another area of expertise, such as science. Many <>organizations also require that Interpreters / Translators complete a job specific training program.

Because the field is so broad, there are many different areas which require many different skills. For example, an interpreter must have solid communication skills, as well as public speaking experience. The ability to develop interpersonal relationships and rapport with people on all levels is also important. The Interpreter / Translator must always be aware of the needs of each party and be conscious that the interpretation or translation is clearly received and understood.

When it comes to translators, this often refers to a person that works with written documents. These may concern a number of topics and can be targeted toward diverse audiences. For example, legal documents and scientific articles may be two of the items that will need to be deciphered by the translator. Unlike an interpreter, the translator does not need the same level of public speaking experience. However this position requires much stronger writing skills, and the ability to interpret concepts from one language to another. This can be extremely difficult, particularly when words in one language have a completely different meaning in another. Also unlike interpreters, a translator's work tends to be more one-sided. While an interpreter is required to receive and provide information in two languages, a translator most likely gleans information from one language and translates into another, illuminating the back and forth. A translator may also be required to learn the vernacular of any particular industry, such as medical terminology.

How much does an Interpreter make?

Because work for an Interpreter / Translator can be sporadic, many tend to work on a freelance basis. This can affect the average salary for the job position. As of 2006, an average hourly rate for an Interpreter / Translator was $17.10. As of 2007, a job position with the federal government netted an average of $76,287 annually. High-level government full-time Interpreters / Translators can earn more than $100,000 per year.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

By and large Interpreters and Translators don't become famous, even though many hold high-level positions. Many prominent Interpreters / Translators are listed on the ATA web site, along with skills and work experience. Three highly skilled and experienced Interpreters / Translators are:

Fouad Kheir
New York Metropolitan area
Specialty: Arabic to English

Steve Shabad
New York Metropolitan area
Specialty: Russian to English

Carl Stoll
Washington, D.C.
Specialty: Multilingual

What are some leading organizations in this field?

Three of the top leading organizations for interpreters and translators:

American Translators Association (ATA)
225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590
Alexandria, VA 22314

Translators and Interpreters Guild (TTIG)
8611 Second Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910

National Association of the Deaf
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3819
301-587-1789 TTY, 301-587-1788 Voice

What are the top cities for Interpreter / Translator jobs?

Urban areas tend to have the most job opportunities for Interpreters / Translators. The top cities for this position include the Washington, DC area, New York City metropolitan area, and Los Angeles. The top end job opportunities in these locations tend to be awarded depending on the amount of experience. Due to widespread immigration, many jobs are becoming readily available in smaller cities and rural areas.

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