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Thread: Interest in becoming interpreter/translator

  1. #1
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    Question Interest in becoming interpreter/translator

    Hi everyone! I'm a teenager, so I'll be on my own off at college in just a couple years. Because of this, I've been thinking a lot about different things to do for a career. I was wondering, can anyone tell me a lot about interpreting/translating? Maybe you know a lot about it or do it yourself? The basics I already know (i.e., interpreting--oral, translating--written, consecutive vs. simultaneous interpreting, etc.), but I know if it's something I'm seriously going to consider I need to know a lot more about it...

    Chinese and Arabic are important world languages, of course. Russian is too, but how high is the demand currently for Russian-English/English-Russian interpreters? Where are the best places to find work in America and the CIS? What should I start doing now for preparation, besides studying Russian and other languages?

    I feel a bit weird/egotistical (?) for posting this, but these were just some questions I've been having...if you can tell me anything, I'm most grateful for all replies!
    Пожалуйста, исправьте все ошибки, еще учусь русскому языку (но только если у вас время^^).

  2. #2
    Завсегдатай sperk's Avatar
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    Translating is very low paid work, at best. Interpreting, especially simultaneuous, requires extreme proficiency, near native level in understanding the spoken word, not an easy task.
    Кому - нары, кому - Канары.

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    I can tell you a little about the situation in Russia and CIS.
    First, there are quite a lot of Russian-English-Russian translators/interpreters here, since English is a very popular language. Most of them are rather low-paid, but often it's well deserved, because many of them are not very professional.

    Most profitable (as well as stressful) is simultaneous interpretation, but translators can earn a lot too if they are very knowledgable and choose their jobs wisely.

    Best paid translation jobs are in oil business, jurisprudence, and automobile industry (it can be technical documents, contracts, etc.). Responsibility is very high there, because one wrong word can lead to severe consiquences and loss of money or even lifes. Because of that good translators earn as much as 30$ per page, though it's rare. In this line of job is important to know your area and to actually understand things you need to translate. Ideally you have to be an engineer, a lawer, etc. in addition to your language skills. Otherwise you are bound to make mistakes or get confused by professional slang.

    Personally I think that translating books (fiction or non-fiction) is more fun than anything mentioned above, but it will not make you rich. It's a few dollars per page if you are lucky, if even that. )

    To sum it up, choose what you like most. If you want to work in any specific area be ready to put serious efforts into learning everything you can about it, in addition to learning foreign language itself.

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    So it's clear interpreter/translators generally are focused on one particular foreign language as well as specialized in certain area(s)...do many also work with other languages? I know (or at least think) with the UN interpreters have to know three of the six official languages with insane proficiency. Is that a common skill with workers in this area?

    Thanks for all the tips!
    Пожалуйста, исправьте все ошибки, еще учусь русскому языку (но только если у вас время^^).

  5. #5
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    I think most interpreters/translators know and use at least 2-3 languages, but one of them is usually considered a "main work language", because it's natural, that you'll know some language beter than others.

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    Завсегдатай Ramil's Avatar
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    To make it worth the effort you should know English at nearly native level (to get by) and some other language, preferrably rare. Chinese or Arabic are perfect choices. Since there are not many people around who know these languages the pay will be much higher than it will with English. Also, some kind of technical education might help enormously since the most of the stuff I translated was technical documentation and you must know how this stuff works in order to translate it correctly. The more sophisticated the original text is the higher they pay. Good (or at least basic) knowledge of Latin will also help - it is a common ground for nearly all European languages.
    Send me a PM if you need me.

  7. #7
    Hanna
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    I think Gromozeka's post summarises the situation perfectly.

    I did some translation work just after university (English --> Swedish (and Norwegian)). It was not well paid and it was quite boring.
    "Please insert the CD rom disc into the CD Rom tray. After that please navigate to the...."
    I did some game manuals though, and that was somewhat interesting because some of the games have an interesting plot. Technical manuals are incredibly boring and you frequently find that there IS no translation for some words, and you are forced to simply make up a new word. Everything was always super urgent and speed went before quality.

    During this time I met some people who were interpreters for the EU and UN. The EU jobs are very well paid and they do require at least 3 completely fluent languages. Same in the UN, I suspect. Most of the people in such jobs are bilingual from childhood, then they add 1-2 languages to that. They have extensive entrance exams. Interpreters are not needed in most of Europe because people in business can usually speak English.
    I think it's probably used in Russia though, and places like Japan, Korea and China.

    Interpretation can be quite an art according to what I was told, and the interpreter has to be very professional, smart and available at a short notice. It can be quite challenging.

    It might suit some people, but it's not well paid if you take into account the effort that a person has to put into becoming proficient for high-level translation work.

    Of course, anyone can call themselves a translator/interpreter. The trouble is finding customers who are willing to pay you good money for it.

  8. #8
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    I did some interpreter/translator related jobs, such as international tour guide, international sales. All the time I felt that I was not translate the language but the culture.

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    Почтенный гражданин delog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ramil
    you should know English at nearly native level
    Quote Originally Posted by russiafreak17
    Location: США
    Signature: Пожалуйста, исправьте все ошибки, еще учусь русскому языку (но только если у вас время^^).


    Btw, russiafreak17, it is better if your signature will be "Я изучаю русский язык. Пожалуйста, исправьте мои ошибки, если у вас есть время."

    On-topic, de facto English is the international language, so many people can speak or at least understand it. Therefore, the value of translators, who knows only two languages one of which English, is very low.
    English as a Second Language by Jeff McQuillan and Lucy Tse.

  10. #10
    Завсегдатай Ramil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by delog View Post
    On-topic, de facto English is the international language, so many people can speak or at least understand it. Therefore, the value of translators, who knows only two languages one of which English, is very low.
    That's why I specially pointed out that some technical education will help, because not many people would know the all the nuances of translating technical terms. Especially when you're translatin a text originally written by an Italian which was then translated into Chinese and then translated into English. ))) Translating is probably an incorrect term anyway -- decyphering fits better here.

    Or try translating some legal stuff from English where 1 sentence can span several pages. )))
    Send me a PM if you need me.

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