Meenakshi Gaur & Mamta Singh
One of the career options that has been gaining importance in the wake of this technological revolution is translation. With the world shrinking into a global village, linguistic abilities are being appreciated more than ever.
Translation can be a rewarding career, either as a full-time vocation or as a supplement to your writing jobs. The skills you learn as a translator - patience, attention to detail, expression, composition and can help your writing enormously.
Translation should not be viewed as an activity that involves only word-by-word translation of text from one language to another. In actual practice, it involves moving the soul of a text into a different body. One of the best ways to improve your skills as a translator is to analyze the translation work done by other writers. This will give you an idea of the level of creativity required while executing the work as a professional. Always keep in mind that just like all other careers, it will take time to learn the craft and the business. You need to spend the first few years of your career in learning the nuances of the craft.
The advent of the internet has helped organizations to spread their tentacles outside the home markets. As a result, there is an acute shortage of foreign language translators for handling an organization's external communication needs in overseas markets. Success, however in these markets can only be achieved by gaining an in-depth understanding of the needs of the customers, which is only possible when you have a solid translation backbone. Translation, in our opinion is set to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the coming few decades. This is one of the reasons why many youngsters are opting for a career in translation.
When you embark on a translation career, it is advisable that you begin with dull, ordinary subjects that are easier to translate as compared to challenging literary texts. Beginning with easier texts will help build up your confidence which will come in handy when faced with complex hard to understand text. Start with small companies, as they will be more willing to hire freshers. Try building up a career profile by working on every type of text. Once you have attained a certain degree of confidence you can target import export agencies for assignments. Working for these agencies will give you just the right exposure to develop yourself as a professional translator.
You can even work for multiple organisations by choosing to operate as a freelancer. That way you can build a regular source of income by signing agreements with multiple agencies wherein you get paid for doing a certain amount of work every month. Once you have gained sufficient experience you can begin to charge more. If freelance work does not interest you then there are plenty of opportunities for experienced translators in government and non-government agencies, universities, training centers and multi-national companies.
First Step to begin with?
If you are still studying and are interested in pursuing a career as a translator, start early. Identify the language/s that interest you, and start learning them while you are still studying.
Other languages for which demand still exceeds supply are Japanese, German and French.
After you decide upon the language you wish to learn, explore whether institutes where these languages are taught are available in your city. For example, Max Mueller Bhavan offers courses in German, and Alliance Francaise is the one-stop location for French. Even Delhi University too offers a list of International Languages such as French, German, Arabic etc.
Although, there are no established institutes for learning Chinese or Japanese, with the popularity of these languages growing, several institutes have mushroomed recently. Searching the Internet for these institutes in your city may yield good results.
While enrolling in part-time language courses is a good option, acquiring a degree in the language of your choice goes a long way in launching your career as a translator. Universities such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as well as University of Pune offer graduate and postgraduate courses in various foreign languages. Although companies prefer hiring translators with a degree in translation, such courses are still few and far between.
How to get started with the career in translation?
Let's look at what it takes to become a translator. First of all, you do to know another language. Like all careers (especially writing) it takes time to learn both the craft and the business. Let's say you are already comfortable with reading general texts in a language. Translation courses are usually post-graduate level. Some focus intensively on translating into and out of certain languages. Others emphasize knowing many languages and translating into your native tongue. Most translation courses also give supplementary language classes. There are many approaches, each suitable for a different kind of translation. Literary translator, will probably specialize in learning the nuances of just one language. To translate commercial texts, multilingual skills may be important. Courses aren't a necessity, however. You can learn through actually doing translations, if you are patient and motivated. Just like any kind of writing, you need to build your resume, and the best way to do this is to start small. If you don't feel comfortable translating into your second language, start with translating into your native tongue, since passive language knowledge is always stronger than active.
Types of Jobs
There are as many subdivisions in translation as in any type of writing. Experience in a field can be invaluable for finding jobs; you can find many international corporate clients! Once you've specialized, you can start to charge more.
Literary translation, although challenging and glamorous, is usually not a good place to start your career. Begin with more ordinary subjects; find import-export companies and offer your services. A surprisingly large number of text-memos, business plans and minutes, just to name a few -- are shunted from one language to the next and the corporate sector pays well.
As a translator, you can work freelance, through an agency, or for one client exclusively. Many agencies are not willing to consider translators without qualifications, but this definitely depends on which languages you deal with. Freelance work demands constant attention, but it can be rewarding for those who like to work at home, or who want to work on particular hard-to-find subjects. Freelancers sometimes have agreements with several agencies to do a certain amount of work per week or month. Working for one client usually means translating in-office. This could be at a newspaper interested in foreign news or a multinational company, and can mean full-time or part-time hours.
Financial Gains from Translation
What you'll charge depends on where you are. A good way to find out rates in your area is to call agencies and ask about their fees. Also check the Internet for markets. There are various job-finding sites.
Before you start even your first translation, make sure you have style guides and dictionaries on hand. There are excellent dictionaries on CD-ROM, both bilingual and English/English and Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Having your dictionaries on the computer can be a time-saver, although it's not essential.
Translation software is a controversial topic right now. It should be said, however, that no translation software, however sophisticated, does the job for you. It can only be an aid. Be professional. Always, always keep your deadlines. You are sometimes the last step before publication, and being late can cost you your job. Keep records, make your own glossary that can save your time and headaches later on. Some computer-based dictionaries have an "add your own words" option, but at the very least a simple list is invaluable. Check and re-check so that translation done is perfect, because if there is crucial sentence in the text is unclear or even (gasp) incorrect, might cause a lot of trouble. Finally, read the newspapers or books in both (or all) of your languages will help you get a feel for translating. Taking the first step in a new direction is always hard. Starting to translate is difficult, but it can lead you into a rewarding area. It's something you can combine with writing to make a full, well-rounded freelance career. Or you may just love it so much you will dedicate your life to it!
There are two main types of translators: translators who work with anything written or published, and interpreters, who listen and translate a voice as it is being spoken. Translators may work on software, internet related materials or a variety of documents, including legal, business-related, technical, or “literary” texts, and is generally paid by the word. Interpreters are normally paid by the hour at business conferences, courts or government proceedings. Simultaneous interpreting is probably the most difficult discipline of translation as the interpreters need to be highly trained and fluent to interpret the voice of the speaker in real time. While interpreters can find their profession very challenging, it can also be quite tedious churning through word after word of, for example, technical texts. Translators, on the other hand, have significant advantages in that they have time to polish their final product revising their translations with dictionaries, glossaries and other reference tools. A variety of working environments exist for translators such as various translation environments for software translation and website translation that include translation memories and glossaries. It can often take significant training for the translator to get fully up to speed with these tools.
Simultaneous translators must have very versatile backgrounds. A strong business background may be extremely useful to the simultaneous translator. To become a technical translator, applicants must pass an exam and receive special certification. These translators must also posses excellent technical writing skills. Thankfully, many companies offer test preparation classes to make applicants ready for the exams. Court translators generally need to be certified by the governments of their countries and need to pass exams for this certification. Other translators work in academic fields either studying or interpreting foreign texts. This is where there is often the most room for creative expression. However, it is also the area most likely to be widely scrutinized.
Translation Service companies prefer candidates who have exceptional fluency in at least two languages, though; many language combinations can often be off-putting for an employer due to the lack of specialization in a combination they are looking for. This may often also be the case for the field a translator may specialize in. A translator specialized in a particular field and language combination for ten years is often more likely to be chosen over a translator who has several working combinations and fields for the last ten years.
Candidates should be fluent in at least two cultures. Cultural study is an area that potential translators cannot overlook as it is invaluable to understanding the nuances of any work to be translated.
Some Important Tips for Translation
Practise your written skills in the language as much as possible. While it is important to be able to speak a language well, writing skills are equally imperative in pursuing a career in translation.
Pay special attention to the field you intend to specialize in. For example, if you wish to enter the IT field and work as a technical translator, make a special effort to learn the IT terminology of that language.
Read extensively. This is essential in order to improve your command of the language. The Internet is an excellent resource for books and other material.
Use every opportunity to speak the language with a native speaker.
Cultivate good writing skills in the target language. A translator is first and foremost a good writer. Ensure that you are able to express yourself well in the target language.
What is the Next Step?
Once you complete your language courses, begin identifying translation and interpreting jobs. Translators and interpreters are hired by MNC's with operations in several countries, hotels, holiday resorts, travel agencies, etc. Depending on your aptitude, identify the areas that you could potentially specialize in. For example, if you are a technology freak, you may want to work for a software company as a technical translator. If you are interested in automobiles, you may contemplate a career as a translator in the automobile industry. There are lots of vacancies in Government Sectors also. All the Government Ministries like Agriculture, Science & Technology, Textile and Education and so on requires Junior Translators, Senior Translators, Subject Experts and Assistant Director (for official languages). The opportunities are endless. However, it is essential to have a fairly good idea of what interests you, so that you can prepare yourselves appropriately.
The importance of computer skills cannot be overemphasized. Although learning languages has very little to do with working on the computer, in order to be able to succeed in this profession, mastery of good computer skills is extremely essential.
Like most jobs, translation jobs are primarily advertised in newspapers and on job sites on the Internet. Identify the kind of job that interests you most and begin the search.
About the Authors –
Meenakshi Gaur (Translator)
& Mamta Singh (Research Intern)
at NISCAIR, Popular Science Division
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