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Languages Work

The national information resource on careers with languages


Translation is the process of transferring written text from one language into another, and anything and everything needs translating. Working as a professional translator is challenging and requires a special combination of skills and experience but in return it offers opportunities for uniquely interesting experiences and can be hugely rewarding.

This career path opens up global job opportunities and continues to be in demand. Both public and private sectors increasingly require translated material to communicate with diverse audiences at home and abroad.

To work as a translator it is not mandatory to have a qualification but it is preferred by the majority of employers and may help you get work in the field.  Specialisation in a subject matter is very valuable. A qualification in Translation (or an equivalent level of professional experience) is normally required in order to become a member of one or both of the professional associations for individuals, the Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

Translators usually work from one or more languages into their mother tongue and they can translate any written material ranging from a washing machine manual to a work of literature. They may find themselves translating legal documents, business reports, insurance claims, information for websites and subtitles for DVDs.

Translators working for almost any commercial organisation are likely to use the more common, usually European, languages. There are few organisations outside the Civil Service and the security services that employ full-time translators of non-European languages. Most large organisations with in-house translators employ small teams who review and edit texts, which have been drafted by freelancers.

Working on a freelance basis, the value of modern technology cannot be underestimated. Email is crucial for transferring documents and the internet is a vital research tool. Generally, translators will spend much of their time at their desk, perhaps working from a home office. Attention to detail and proof-reading skills are very important, as is the ability to write well in your own language.

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