Career Profile: Translator/Interpreter

Career Profile: Translator/Interpreter

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

If you attend a typical Canadian school, you have probably spent some time studying another language. Learning another language is a good way to expand your knowledge and to practice skills like memorization, which you might need in other parts of your life. It can even lead to a career as a translator or interpreter.

Have you ever tried to talk to someone who was unable to understand your language? Maybe your grandparents came from a different country and never learned to speak English well. Maybe some classmates or neighbours have just moved to Canada and speak a different language. Sometimes, you can manage to communicate by pointing at things and maybe drawing pictures of what you want. However, this method can be very limited, and people can easily misunderstand what the others are saying. This is why translators and interpreters do work that is very important. They help people who know one language to understand what people from another language are saying.

Translation and interpretation are basically two parts of the same field of work, but translators generally deal with written language and interpreters deal with spoken language. Translators might work in government offices, schools, or other places where documents need to be translated from one language to another. Interpreters work directly with people, translating speeches as they are being given or helping deaf people to speak with hearing people. Translators can consult dictionaries or stop and think about the best words to use, but interpreters need to be able to think quickly and to translate words as soon as the speaker says them.

Becoming a translator or interpreter takes a lot of skill but not much education. A high school diploma is often enough, although a bachelor’s degree might be necessary in some cases. Some employers might also prefer to hire people who have taken special courses in translation skills through language institutes and community colleges. In Canada, certification as a translator or interpreter is also available through the Canadian Translators, Terminologist and Interpreters Council.

The main requirement for most translators and interpreters is language fluency. People who want to work in this field must know at least two of the world’s 6500 languages – their own and one other. If they know more languages, however, their chances of finding work are far higher than if they know only two. The level of fluency is also important. Someone who knows medical terminology in several languages, for example, might be able to get work as an interpreter in a hospital. Someone whose knowledge of the language is more basic, however, might want to work in a school, helping parents and teachers communicate with each other. Since it can take a lifetime to get to know a language thoroughly, some translators and interpreters specialize in certain topics, like sports or history. Depending on where they work, translators and interpreters might make between $26,000 and $58,000 per year.

Do you love languages? If you want to become a translator or interpreter, it’s never too early to start practicing your language skills.

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