11 Facts You Need To Know About Translators

Lea la traducción al Español de este artículo – 11 Cosas que Debes Saber Sobre el Trabajo de Traductor

Many Internet users ask questions about translation, translators, and various aspects of their job.

We will answer some of these inquiries from a candid and strictly anecdotal point of view. We hope you find some guidance or clarification about the matter.

You are welcome to post your questions at the end of this article in the comment area.

How Do Translators Learn Languages?

Well, translators learn languages the same way as anybody else. They might have learned their target language or languages when they lived in a foreign country, or maybe they attended a bilingual school.

Future translators might have had a personal interest in their second language and studied it by themselves or in a language school. They probably grew up in a family of immigrants and picked up the second language they speak at home.

Other translators did not have any knowledge of another language, and they studied it at the university when they entered the translation school.

The most important thing to know here is that it doesn’t really matter how the translator learned the language or languages he works with. The crucial part is that he or she gets the proper training to be a successful translator.

Where Can Translators Work?

Some translators work at translation agencies. We also find translators working on news stations such as CNN, BBC, Sky News, Al-Jazeera, and many others.

We can’t forget about interpreters. They are essential for TV stations. There are organizations like The United Nations and the Organization of American States that also have translators and interpreters in their ranks.

Can Translators Work From Home?

That’s a big Yes! Translating is one of the jobs that allow people to work as a freelancer and do it for home if it suits them.

Many people like to wake up every morning, get ready, leave home, get to their offices, and spend the day interacting with their colleagues.

Other types of workers do not like the hassle of leaving home, deal with a boss eight hours a day, so they choose to do their work in their home office.

Since the Internet has made telecommuting so popular nowadays, many linguists have made the choice to work in their houses.

Of course, working at home requires a particular type of character. You have to be disciplined, to start with. You also need to be self-motivated and a bit of a loner to a certain extent. If you fit that profile, you might have the possibility of developing a career as a freelance translator.

If you are an interpreter, you can work as a home-based freelancer, but interpreters might need to go to the location of the event they will work for.

Nevertheless, we can see that interpreters are doing their job more and more at a distance through phone or on a video-conference platform nowadays.

What Is the Main Difference Between a Linguist/Translator and an Interpreter?

Linguists and interpreters do the same job, basically. They take the ideas that are coded in one language by someone else and re-code the same ideas in another language, keeping the message intact for the target audience. Still, these professionals work in different environments and dynamics.

Translators usually work with written words. They may translate a book, a document, a manual. They may translate a website, an activity that is also known as localization. As said before, they work with written language. So they sit comfortably in front of their computers and may check their work as many times as needed.

Interpreters do the same job but with the spoken word. They have to listen to someone saying something in the source language and re-express it verbally in the target language. There are methods to do so, depending on the kind of interpretation they are working with, mainly consecutive or simultaneous interpreting.

Interpreters have to be very accurate and react rapidly since they have to listen to the spoken ideas by the source speaker at the very moment they are expressed. Then, they have to decode, re-code in the target language, and speak it, minutes if not seconds after the original speaker, well, spoke. So the result is more immediate.

What Is “Translators Without Borders”?

According to its website, Translators without Borders is a non-profit organization that cast about for a world without language boundaries. This group offers translation services for humanitarian organizations, development agencies, and other non-profit organizations. They started working in 1993, mostly on health, nutrition, and education.

They focus on providing translation and language support to organizations that help people affected by any humanitarian issues. TWB, as it is also known, believes the best way to support any impacted community is by offering them information in their native language.

To know more about their vision and mission, visit their webpage at TranslatorsWithoutBorders.com.

Which Language Translators are in Demand?

That’s a big question. In principle, translators that work with any language pairs are in need all the time.

In principle, the languages that are the most in-demand all the time are those who are the most spoken in the world.

The top five would be, then:

  • Mandarin Chinese with 918 million speakers
  • Spanish with 460 million speakers
  • English with 379 million speakers
  • Hindi with 341 million speakers
  • French with 280 million speakers.

But other criteria may apply. The market of a client, for example.

If the market share of some company is sizable for a product consumed in Spanish-speaking countries, they will need more Spanish translators than Chinese ones. So, the market priorities of a company will define the translators it will favor when searching for professionals in the area.

Video game companies are always in the look for translators specialized in localization for many languages. As we mentioned before, localization is the process of adapting digital properties such as a website or a video game to use a specific subset of a target language.

For instance, a video game company in Japan will need Spanish translators to localize a new game for Spain and Latin America. Localization implies the translation of text and the recording of any dialogue in the target language paying attention to regional variations.

Gamers from Spain will prefer a game with text and dialogues spoken by actors using Spaniard accent and idiomatic expressions.

Accent, as well as idioms in Spain, vary from the Spanish spoken in Argentina, for instance, which is known as Rioplatense Spanish. As a matter of fact, for Latin Americans, it is bothersome to listen to dubbed dialogue made for Spain.

There are many variations of Spanish

This aspect of localization is not that new if we think of TV shows and movies. These products have been dubbed for years, and the localization was always relevant.

Localization is also necessary within the realm of Spanish spoken in Latin America since idioms and accents also vary from country to country. Dubbing companies always tried to neutralize as much as possible accents and expressions so that they fit all countries.

Mexicans and Venezuelans excel in dubbing Spanish dialogue that would not sound foreign to most speakers.

For localization purposes, practically any language is relevant since video games, TV, and film are universal forms of entertainment.

So, as we can see, the demand for translators is linked to many variables. They will dictate what language pair is necessary, depending on the client’s needs.

Why Is Translating Important?

It is because, with the language, we also speak the culture.

As Translators Without Borders states, any message will reach its target audience efficiently in the native language of the audience. When we use any language, we also express the culture tied to that language.

When translating, we have to consider the cultural aspect of the message. If this is done correctly, the target audience will get the ideas without interferences of any kind. That’s why human translators are always needed.

How Much are Translators Paid?

That’s something everybody wants to know!

If I am going to work as a translator, how much will I be paid?

If I work as a freelancer, how much should I charge?
Will it be too little?
Will it be too much?
Will I get any clients?
What defines what translators earn?

The best way to know how much linguists and interpreters charge is to check fees on dedicated websites such as Proz.com and Translatorsbase.com. There is always a discussion going on in their forums about how much to collect.

Most linguists also publish their fees for all to see. A word of advice: don’t ask your linguist friend about fees. All you will get is a cold stare and a look of his back when he turns it against you.

You better don’t ask your translator friend about his fees

Bear in mind that those fees might be referential in most cases. Tariffs vary depending on the language pair, the type of project, the text volume, the specialty, and other considerations.

For instance, a translator that works with the pair Dutch<>Italian will certainly charge more than a linguist who works in English<>Spanish.

If you work for Phillips in Holland and you can translate their technical manuals to Italian, you might be entitled to charge more than people who work with other languages. That is not a very common language pair.

The level of specialization in one area of knowledge will also define how much a linguist can charge. If someone translates quantum physics content, that translator will be more expensive in any language.

So, to conclude, you set your price based on the language pair that you work with, the area of knowledge, level of specialization, the industry you work for, and other factors.

In other cases, translation agencies look for collaborators for specific projects that have a budget. In those cases, agencies search for professionals willing to work within the boundaries that such budget determines.

Fees wise, the advice here is to try to specialize in a field that gives you more advantage and allow you to ask for more money. Just remember that, in any case, there will always be competition, so it is a little bit of survival of the fittest.

When To Use a Translator?

Basically, when you have to print, publish, or submit any sensitive content. In this instance, you must find a translator that treat your text fairly and convey the message in the target language appropriately.

The holy grail of translators is to render a target text that sounds so natural that any native speaker cannot detect it is a translation.

In case you need to translate a text for personal consumption, you can always use any of the automated translators on the Internet, such as Google Translate.

Use Google Translate only for personal consumption

Will Translators Be Replaced by Computers?

That’s a big No. At least for the moment. Translators will never be obsolete.

True, CAT tools like Smartcat, memoQ, and SDL Trados are excellent, and they can render translated content efficiently and quickly. But there will always be a twist of the language, an expression, or an idea that will need a human translator to process it.

CAT tools, as we said in a dedicated article in our blog, are a blessing for the translator, especially when working with long texts and different file formats. But after they do their job, a second layer of revision and adjustment is necessary, and that is where the linguist intervenes.

Again, if what you need is a translation to get the gist of a text, a CAT tool is ideal. You will need a human translator in case you have to submit a natural sounding, accurate document, book, essay, or any kind of paper.

And the last question we came across when we were putting together this article:

Can Translators Have Tattoos?

Yes, they can. As a matter of fact, I have four.

Now, seriously, the question here is not if translators can have tattoos, but if they should.

To answer this, I will relate what happened to me years ago. I got my tattoos when their use was not that generalized. I really got obsessed with them. I got them on my chest and my upper arms.

When I decided to get my first tattoo on one of my forearms, my tattoo artist told me to think twice. She knew I worked in an office at the time.

She told me:

“You can always use long-sleeve shirts in the office, but imagine that you want to go to an informal party with your coworkers and your boss. They might frown upon it.”

True, this conversation happened in the 1990s. Still, I believe it applies to any workplace where you are going to be seen by people who don’t care too much about you beyond the professional relationship. And this advice came from a woman that was tattooed from head to toe. I have always appreciated her honesty.

Maybe your boss has more tattoos than you, but it’s better to be on the safe side

So, I’d say, if you work as a freelancer doing any kind of job, you might have all the tattoos you want. It’s up to you to see how you handle it in front of others.

If you are in that stage in your career where you go to work in an office, refrain from getting that awesome tattoo of a snake around your neck. Try to get acquainted with your coworkers first. Maybe you end up finding out that your stern-looking boss has more tattoos than a biker under that suit and tie, after all.

Workwise, it is always better to be on the safe side.

Lea la traducción al Español de este artículo – 11 Cosas que Debes Saber Sobre el Trabajo de Traductor

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