A translator need not speak several languages. There are many who only work in one or two language pairs – for example English and Spanish, or English and German. You might think that translators travel a lot, but while many of them like to; it’s not a requirement of becoming a translator.
Language services primarily involve translation and interpretation. And it should be noted that the two are vastly different. Translation deals with the written word while interpretation is for the spoken word. While both are difficult jobs, the balance tips on interpreting, as it can require simultaneous work, leaving the interpreter with no time to review or plan the translation from one language into another.
Translation goes beyond mere word replacement from one into another language. A professional translator must have a deep and comprehensive understanding of the source language and the specific subject matter, as well as the ability and skill to translate or convey the meaning, style and mood used by the original author into the target language naturally and accurately.
A bilingual person does not automatically qualify as a translator. A translator must have excellent writing and grammar skills to be able to provide translations that are as natural as the original or source language. Of course there are some exceptions, but it’s quite rare, and often one language will be dominant.
Translators’ working environments vary. In some countries, like the United States, there are several government agencies and companies that hire translators and provide them with secure, regular employment. Elsewhere there are many freelance translators. This gives them a bit more flexibility as they can be location-independent and accept translation work from anywhere in the world.
They charge per word and depend on work from various source, so speed and quality are very important to them. While many translators carry out general translations, it’s more rewarding if they specialize in one or two fields, as it is easier and more convenient to translate materials whose subjects are familiar to them.
Translation companies also prefer specialized translators for jobs that are subject-specific, as they are assured that the quality of the translation will be higher. Translators must be tech-savvy as well, as all translations today are done on a computer, and translators use online glossaries and dictionaries.
There are also translation terminology and memory software tools that they can use. This does not mean that the translation is computer generated. What the software does is archive the works of the translator, which can be used for a larger document, or as reference for future work with similar or the same documents.
This is used more for sharing and consistency – sharing translation memories between translator and translation agencies and to have consistency in the accepted terminologies that translators use for a period of time. The software helps the translator and allows for the translated work to be comprehensively reviewed and edited for correct grammar and technical accuracy.
While there will be times when a translation project could last for days, sometimes translation work needs to be delivered on a specific hour, or on the same day, meaning that a translator’s day could be peaceful or hectic. There will be days when translation orders are short and quick and others when big projects come in one after the other. Each day is different, which makes the job more interesting.
A few things should be pointed out. Only humans are capable of understanding and identifying a language’s fine nuances. Sure, there are online translator applications that can help, but their capacity and capability are limited. They are good for the translation of short words or phrases that are common and have been used across the web frequently, landing them in the databases of these online translation systems.
However, when it comes to full document translation, only human translators can do the job accurately, in a language that is accepted and used in the country where the document will be sent. Human language is complex and computerized translation, despite recent developments, lacks the specific sense of the world that humans possess.
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