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Translators convert the written word from one language to another. They usually have a good knowledge of at least two foreign languages. They translate materials such as text books, instruction manuals and research papers.
Most translating is done from the foreign language into the translator's own language. So, translators should be able to write well in their own language.
Most opportunities in translation are in technical, scientific and commercial translation such as textbooks, instruction manuals, research papers and advertising brochures. This work generally requires knowledge of a specialised field such as law, finance, engineering or technology.
Translators also need to know technical terminology and jargon. Technical translation is not about creating literature, but trying to convey a meaning in terms that the reader can understand. For example, a commercial letter needs to be translated to put across ideas for a reader who thinks in commercial terms.
In the literary translation of a foreign book, poem or play, the translator needs to convey the spirit of the work. They need flair for the appropriate turn of phrase and an understanding of the author's style and period. Much of this work is carried out on a part-time basis by university lecturers or by people who are creative writers in English. Sometimes, literary translators work from a rough translation prepared by another person, which they refine into a more acceptable form.
Translators can also specialise in a particular area or subject. These specialist translators may work for law firms, technical industries or medical researchers. Their specialist knowledge helps them to translate the documents in this area.
Translators research a wide range of terminology and language specific phrases. They read through original documents and produce a summary. Translators may check words using dictionaries, thesauruses and proofread documents.
Few people make a living from literary translation as it can take many years to build a reputation. So it is usual to combine literary translation with other work.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a translator, you must be prepared to work mainly on your own. Therefore you need to be self-disciplined and self motivated.
You must also have patience and persistence because the work is detailed. A good standard of written English is essential as well as an ability to handle complex information.
The workload can be intense and you may be under pressure and have to work long hours when deadlines are approaching.
Pay and Opportunities
Government departments employ translators for website content etc. Most translators work on a freelance basis.
The UN, EU, NATO and other large multinational bodies are potential employers. Promotional opportunities are limited and it is a highly competitive profession.
Earnings depend on the employment status of the translator. An employed translator can earn EUR 25k per year rising to EUR 40k per year or more with experience.
Entry Routes and Training
The usual route to a career in translation is to first complete a degree course in Modern Languages. Some courses place emphasis on language rather than literature and may include the practice of translation within the course. Other suitable degree courses may combine a technical subject with language study and technical translation.
Relevant courses are available at a number of I.T.s and universities throughout the country.
Most translators can work from at least two languages and usually specialise in a subject such as business, medicine or law. Many translators have work experience in a professional area.
A good University degree in Modern Languages is desirable. Relevant work experience is also an advantage.
Entry requirements to degree courses vary. Candidates are recommended to check the prospectuses from the individual institutions for course details.
Application for admission to undergraduate courses must be made in accordance with the regulations and procedures and timetable described in the CAO Handbook.
The Handbook is confined to giving information on how to apply for admission to the relevant institutions. Applicants should not attempt to complete the application form without first referring to the information literature on courses, which is available from the institutions to which application is to be made.
Please see http://www.cao.ie/courses.php for information on course qualifications.
There is no upper age limit for entry to this occupation. Experience is a clear advantage and a high level of linguistic competence is essential.
Entry to relevant training may be possible through universities or colleges that relax normal academic entrance requirements for suitable mature applicants. Most academic institutions define people aged 23 years or over as mature candidates.
Contact your local Intreo Centre or Employment Services office for Career Guidance, planning and support that will help you make informed decisions about the best career direction for you.
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A qualification awarded by a university or college of higher education, following a course of study. A degree usually takes three years full-time to complete.
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