Once you start learning a new language and get more and more fluent, you may want to become a translator. However, it is not that easy.
It is an attractive job to be a translator or interpreter for many bilinguals or multilinguals. It has many benefits compared with other kinds of work. Firstly, you will have great freedom to decide how you want to work. There are plenty of choices of working place, for example, at home, in the pub, or in the office. It can be a full-time job, which you need to be registered with a translation company, or you can work for yourself and be a freelance. It can also be a part-time job – you can do translation during your spare time.
Secondly, being a translator or interpreter brings you good income. In Shanghai, China, an interpreter can be paid up to 7,000 RMB (£700) per hour for providing Chinese-English simultaneous interpretation. Translation, however, is much cheaper. It ranges from £8 to £20 per thousand words, which depends on the translator’s skills.
Thirdly, it will never be catastrophically affected by things like economic crisis which always causes a high level of unemployment. Whether we are in great recession or prosperity, there’s always need for communication among countries and their people. Translators build a bridge for that communication. Indeed, translators are so important, as a joke says that a mistake in translation might start a war.
However, not everyone can be a translator. Being an interpreter is much more difficult. It needs years of intensive training. A translator or interpreter must be fluent in both source and target languages. You have to be excellent in all of the four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. You must know the differences between two languages to avoid the awkward situation in which, for example, a Chinese sentence is translated into English but still keeps Chinese syntactical structure. Such translations always cause confusion among readers. What are they going say?
Apart from the knowledge of languages, translators and interpreters need to have knowledge of other disciplines. In other words, you are expected to know everything! I used to translate reports about biology. Those terminologies almost killed me. However, the lack of knowledge can be compensated by a great ability of learning. If you can grasp the main concept of some subjects, all you need is a few hours preparation before the work.
If you are interested in interpreting, you need to get started with practising taking notes. Approximately, you need to keep practising until you use 200 sheets of A4 paper before you can follow the speaker without missing any important information.
Personalities are another essential factor. You need to be concentrated during your interpretation. You need to keep calm and react quickly when there is an emergency, for example, the speaker forgets about the interpreter and keeps talking all the time, there is something you don’t understand, or occasionally you drop your pen.
Every year there is a large number of ambitious students trying to out do each other in the pursuit of a career as a translator or interpreter, but not all can succeed.
All in all, interpretation or translation is definitely a difficult task. But if you have native-like fluency in more than two languages, a great deal of knowledge, and practical translating or interpreting skills, and if you are a quick learner, then you are the right person for the job.