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 translators can find their profession very challenging, it can also be quit tedious churning through word after word of, for example, technical texts. Translators, on the other hand, 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 interpreters must have very versatile backgrounds. A strong business background may be extremely useful to the simultaneous translator. Many companies offer 60 hours worth of training for these translators once hired. 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 ready applicants 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.
The route into translation is very structured and predictable, particularly for employment in the United Nations or other government agency. Those seeking the greatest opportunities for employment should be fluent in English and in one of the official languages of the United Nations; French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, or Chinese. There are, however, numerous job opportunities for those possessing fluency in other languages. Applicants should have a language degree, preferably a B.S., B.A., or Masters. Employers 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. However there is no substitute for living in the particular target language country.
During the first year of employment an average of only five percent of translators leaves the field. This incredibly low drop-out rate is due largely to the fact that translators often sign two-year contracts with their employers. Otherwise, the effort exerted in obtaining the job is often enough incentive to remain. Finally, there are few surprises in a career in translation, as the applicant is well prepared for this position from his experience in school, the tests and interviews, and the training programs for new interpreters.