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Language Interpretation and Translation

Skills in language interpretation and translation have applications in a number of career fields. Continue reading for more information about topics covered in undergraduate and graduate degree programs in addition to career opportunities.

Is Language Interpretation and Translation for Me?

Career Overview

Language interpretation pertains to oral communication with two or more different languages, while language translation deals with written language. You can work as a translator or interpreter within many industries. For example, if you're interested in the legal system, you might want to become a judiciary translator or court interpreter. As a sign-language interpreter, you'd help deaf or hearing-impaired people communicate. Other career titles may include literary translator, medical interpreter or translator, conference interpreters and guide interpreters.

Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 20% of interpreters and translators were self-employed in 2012 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022, the demand for interpreters and translators would increase by 46%, partially because of an increasingly global environment. The average salary for interpreters and translators was $47,920 as of May 2013.

How Can I Work in Translation and Interpretation?

Education and Training

The BLS states that a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for most translators and interpreters in addition to proficiency in at least two languages. Individuals who grow up in a bilingual home may have an edge, but many employers still require that applicants have formal training. Although many schools offer undergraduate degree programs in translation and interpretation, the majority of programs are available at the graduate level.

Typically, acceptance into a master's or doctoral degree program in interpretation and translation includes proficiency in a language other than English, a bachelor's degree and previous linguistic experience. Graduate students may be able to select from specializations such as research in interpretation or translation pedagogy.

Topics of Study

Some degree programs incorporate studies in a language, such as Spanish or sign language, with studies in translation and interpretation. Learners can also pursue undergraduate and graduate degree programs in translation and interpretation combined or separately. Common courses include linguistics, grammar, interpretation theories, text interpretation, business translation and writing.

Certification

Interpreters and translators can also earn certification from the National Association for Interpretation or the American Translators Association. Voluntary certification is available for individuals who can meet and pass the eligibility requirements established by the individual organizations. Completing this process will demonstrate that they're proficient in the languages and meet professional standards. According to the BLS, certification is also available for court translators.

Skill Development

Once you acquire experience in translation and interpretation, you may qualify for advanced positions in the field. You can gain experience through internships, apprenticeships or volunteer work, such as for the Red Cross and other community or international organizations. This type of background will help you develop your mentoring and listening skills and build up your confidence, all of which are necessary to work in these fields. If you work freelance or are self-employed as a translator or interpreter, you'll also need to be comfortable managing your own businesses and finances.