So You Want to Be A. Translator

Article excerpt

Translators work with words.

They convert documents from one language, called the source language, into the language of the people who need to read the translation, known as the target language.

The translated document should read as clearly and accurately as the original.

Translators can work on: scientific, technical or commercial material such as reports, manuals and brochures; legal documents, such as contracts; literarywork: translating novels, plays and poetry; media translation, such as websites, film scripts and subtitles for films; educational work, including textbooks and travel guides.

Literary translation is very skilled but word-for-word accuracy is not necessarily as important as conveying the style; translators have to be able to reproduce the literary style intended by the original author. A large amount of translating work involves commercial, technical and communications expertise.

Community languages are also important for public services in areas with a multiethnic population.

Hours and environment Staff translators work normal office hours. Freelance translators work hours to suit their workload and may work evenings and weekends.

The work is normally desk-based with a word processor, reference books and specialist dictionaries to hand.

This means that translating can be a very solitary occupation. It may be necessary to visit clients, experts or organisations, but most contact is by e-mail, phone or post. Skills and interests To be a translator you should: be fluent in one or more foreign languages; be able to write clearly and appropriately in the languages you offer; be self-motivated and able to work at speed; have a meticulous mind to search for the correct word or phrase; have a keen interest in developments in your specialist fields; be discreet and trustworthy as you may have to translate confidential documents; be neutral and free of bias, even if you do not agree with what you are translating; have good IT skills, particularly word processing. Entry Most translators have a degree in languages or in translation and interpreting. Normal entry for degree courses is five GCSEs (A-C)/ and two A-levels/ three H grades. You might need A levels/H grades in English and a relevant foreign language.

Translators may also hold postgraduate translating qualifications, and many live and work in another country to gain experience and learn about the culture.

An Access to Higher Education qualification may also be accepted for entry to certain courses. If experienced in a related field, you may be able to gain recognition of skills through Accredited Prior Learning (APL). Please check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

Entry requirements vary, but most international organisations require two other languages besides English. For the UN, these are Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. In business, there is a demand for Japanese and Chinese, as well as the languages of the EU. If you wish to work as a translator with the EU you need to be a native speaker of one of the 14 EU languages and be fluent in three others. …