Translators convert the written word from one language (known as the source language) into another language (known as the target language).
Translators may work on:
The most common languages used include European languages, Arabic, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Russian
Translators use computers extensively in their work, typing translations into a word processor and using the Internet and email for research. Some large companies use computer programmes to create a rough 'machine' translation, which is then revised and edited by a translator.
Staff translators work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Freelance translators work hours to suit their workload and may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines.
The work is normally desk-based, using a word processor, with reference books and specialist dictionaries to hand. This means that translating can be a very solitary occupation. It may be necessary to visit clients, experts or specialist organisations, but most contact is by email, phone or mail.
To be a translator you should:
There is strong competition for full-time posts. There are employment opportunities with international organisations such as the United Nations; government departments; multinational companies; some large translation agencies; and some industrial and commercial companies with regular overseas trade.
Recruitment to the United Nations, EU institutions and government departments is by competitive examination and interview. Some vacancies are for trainee positions, but others require two years‘ experience. UN and EU jobs are based overseas.
Promotion is to senior translator and to head of department for those employed in large translation departments or agencies. This may occasionally offer a route into management.
Translators may decide to work on a freelance basis. Those who are successful in this way sometimes start their own translation agency. It is possible to make a full-time living from freelance translating, but it may be necessary to do teaching or interpreting work as well.
Literary translation is a largely freelance activity and few people rely on it solely for a living.
If you would like to know anything about Translator that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI)
South Fifth Street
Tel: 01908 325250
CILT, the National Centre for Languages
Tel: 020 7379 5101
European Commission Traineeship Office