Translating

What is it about?

Translators convert written material from one or more languages (‘source languages’) into the ‘target language’ which is most commonly the translator’s mother tongue, ensuring that the translated version conveys the meaning of the original as clearly as possible. Translators usually need an excellent command of two or more languages. The languages most in demand are the official languages of the EU and the UN. Translators work on the following types of documents: scientific; technical; commercial; literary; legal and educational. Most translators work freelance from home, working for translation agencies or directly for clients, but some organisations do employ in-house translators.

What would I do?

Initially translators provide quotations for the services that they offer. Much of the work is online, so translators need to read through the original material and rewrite it in the target language, ensuring that the meaning of the source text is retained. They use specialist dictionaries, thesauruses and reference books to help them with their work. They also have to research legal, technical and scientific phraseology to find the correct translation. Occasionally they liaise with clients to discuss any unclear points and then finally they proofread and edit final translated versions before submission. Another specialism within translation is to supply subtitles for foreign films and television programmes.

Is it for me?

The nature of the work can be interesting and rewarding when you are giving people access to important information which they couldn’t otherwise comprehend. You need to be a quick reader with excellent spelling and grammar in more than one language and able to work quickly and accurately. A postgraduate qualification enhances the skill set and would enable you to be highly competent, alternatively launching your career as a trainee translator would be possible providing that you undertake part time professional training. A technical vocabulary is also necessary and it is essential to be able to prioritise work to meet deadlines. The ability to network and make contacts would be vital to your career as a translator for accessing new customers and new markets. Your translation ability would be assessed by recruiters.

Where can I find out more?

What can I do now to improve my chances?

  • Check the Careers website for details of placement opportunities, nationally prospects and target.
  • The Europa-Languages and Europe page details links to traineeships for those wishing to gain work experience in the Commission and other EU bodies.
  • The European Union offers short-term attachments, lasting 3-5 months, to young university graduates. These provide first-hand experience of the workings of the European Commission in particular, and of the EU institutions in general. Attachments are available in linguist posts.
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