The most important misunderstanding right away: translator and interpreter – they are two different professions! Erroneously, even some racing sites consider the two terms synonymous.
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Interpreters verbally mediate, so to speak, “live” between two or more people with different languages. Translators, on the other hand, transfer written texts into another language, ideally their own native language. They also review the translations of their colleagues and may also perform a variety of other related tasks, such as desktop publishing or video subtitling.
Translators spend most of the working day at their desks. Most of them, that is, the free ones, don’t even have colleagues, at least not on the site. Very few freelancers come together to form office communities; most work alone and at home. The daily profession of translation can be roughly summarized:
- The smallest part of language workers are interpreters or work, among other things, as interpreters
- Most of the translators are women
- Most translators in Germany work as freelancers, often for several translation agencies.
- English has most of the translation volume
Almost all the jobs come from people the translator has never met personally.
Translators are pure brain workers. They have a pronounced feeling and interest in everything spoken and written, verbal and non-verbal expression, and communication in general. They learn languages faster than average and are very thorough in dealing with them. They value absolute grammar correctness and appropriate formulations and avoid unnecessary phrases and empty words.
It goes without saying that the future translator speaks at least one foreign language and knows its relevant culture. You are not afraid of technology and you can use your powerful computer quickly and efficiently, because you work with sometimes very complex software, which makes your work easier, as soon as you master technology. Find information quickly, mainly on the Internet, you can evaluate its reliability and correctly process it in the text. He always considers that his knowledge can be expanded, he constantly educates himself in his languages and subject areas and keeps up to date.
How to become a translator?
You can study translation. In universities and technical colleges, usually offer regular courses of study in the most important languages (English, most also French, etc.). The translation student usually spends several stays abroad to get to know the country, the people, and the language for himself.
In principle, vocational courses also qualify for translation work, as a foreign language correspondent. They are also accessible without a high school diploma, but are mostly subject to a fee and do not qualify for all parts of the translation work. For example, foreign language correspondents are generally not eligible for a judicial oath that allows them to legally translate official documents and deeds or to issue certified translations. Rather, it is a business occupation and most foreign language correspondents primarily have secretarial duties in a foreign language context.
Where do most translators work?
The vast majority of translators work as freelancers for a wide variety of clients, either directly for private and/or corporate clients, but often also for translation agencies. As in all industries, the decision for or against self-employment is fundamental and also a question of type.
In addition, as an entrepreneur, you must carry “soft skills” with you, which should not be underestimated: if you want to be successful, you must be able to maintain pleasant and productive contact with your clients, work thoroughly and reliably, deliver on time, and monitor your figures.
All of this is not for everyone. In return, the freelance translator can reject jobs that they oppose for any reason and also determine when, where, and how they would like to work.
Permanently employed translators are quite rare and can only be found in a few large corporations with their own language services or very large translation agencies. In the few companies in question, in addition to technical tasks such as legal translations, trained translators often also undertake other office tasks such as foreign trade correspondence or technical documentation in their native language, which is also the language of the company and the country.
Anyone who needs or wants to keep an eye on their money can work as a project manager, where salaries are generally higher. For him, the actually translated part of the job is minimal and he will only scan incoming translations before delivering them to clients. He spends the whole day delegating the work that comes from translation agencies to external freelancers. That is why it maintains a network of translators and is also there for clients.
The project manager is necessarily more concerned with business than linguistic issues. It literally stands between the client and the translator, who is not allowed to contact the client directly in case of inquiries. If the two parties have different points of view, the project manager must convey what requires high social skills and inner calm. This is in high demand because translators in project management report that constant juggling is sometimes quite exhausting – for example when you accepted a rush job from a client but can’t find a suitable translator quickly.
How to be successful as a translator?
Of course, the best way to start is after extensive training. Those who finish a career in translation receive a degree that is valued and protected in the market. Then you are also allowed to translate certificates and other official documents and stamp them, which opens up a large area of activity for you. Whenever someone wants to study abroad or get married, they need a sworn translator who will prepare their documents accordingly.
As in most other professions, additional training is important. Anyone who believes that they have finished learning and then can rest will not be successful as a translator for long. A good translator doesn’t just have to keep up with changes in their working languages, most subject areas, especially technology, are constantly evolving.