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Hola! Como esta? Quiere bailar conmigo esta noche? Si? Que bueno! Estoy muy feliz!

Hmm...I think someone's asking me to dance. Do you know? Can you read and understand that? Could you write it out in English? If you can, maybe you'd like to work as a translator!

Translators are experts in at least two languages. They work for government agencies, court systems, individuals and businesses, as full-time employees, freelancers, or as representatives of a interpretation agency. They translate written words from one language into another, trying to get the translation as accurate and realistic as possible.

The US is a unique country in that there are daily arrivals of immigrants who speak many, many different languages. From African dialects to ancient Eastern European tongues, somehow these people need to figure out how to negotiate the mountains of paperwork that goes along with moving to a new place. As well, due to international relations, diplomats and tourists are always arriving, looking to see and learn all about this country. Translators take written material in English and rewrite it in one of the world's many languages, or they take material written by others and convert it into English texts. They may work translating government documents, letters, criminal confessions and witness statements, immigration papers, and any other form of written communication.

Some translators may work for publishing houses, or as assistants to writers, interpreting not official and government documents, but poetry, fiction, and art. As well as having excellent language skills, translators must have a good understanding of other cultures' traditions, expectations, and signals. They often travel and live in the places where their second language originates, in order to have a good understanding of the people and their behaviors. This helps with their interactions during their work, as they can translate not only their words, but their ideas, their expectations, and their fears. By understanding their background and the cultural environment in which they were nurtured, it becomes easier to understand what it is they are trying to say.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in working as a translator? Translators are intelligent, and interested in linguistics, the formation of languages, and the cultural use of languages. They need to be fluent in at least two languages, able to speak, read, and write them. Translators need to be flexible, adaptable, and able to think well under pressure. They are able to work well independently and they have the good concentration abilities. It is essential that translators are open to and respectful of other cultures and beliefs, and they should have a patient, empathetic nature. Translators should also have a good head for business, as they may have to work as a freelance translator.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Research text history and author's background
  • Translate written words into English
  • Revise, edit, proof-read and check translated material
  • Study and practice languages constantly
  • Analyze and resolve conflicts related to the meaning of words and concepts
  • A translator will spend the day with texts, reading someone else's words and rewriting them into their mother tongue. They may spend some time with the author of the texts. The translator also must spend some of the day in self-promotion if they are freelance workers, or they may meet with supervisors if they work for a business or agency. They may travel if they work for a tourism board, a traveling dignitary, or an international aid organization.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Translators can freelance or work by contract, either independently or as part of an agency. They offer their services to publishing houses, conference organizers, court systems, tourism boards, and tour groups. Some work as personal escorts or guides, for government departments, international businesses, and international agencies and non-profit organizations. Those translators with less common languages, like Farsi, might have slower work schedules than interpreters who speak fluent Spanish or Mandarin. Those translators with popular language skills may even find themselves in salaried, full-time work.
  • Translators generally work on texts in offices at home or at their employer's home or office. They work may work alone, unless they are translating a large document, in which case they will work alongside a small team, each translator concentrating on one section of the text. If there is a looming deadline ahead, they sometimes find themselves at work in the evenings and on weekends. They may also work as interpreters.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Translators can work as interpreters, or open their own interpreting/translating agency. They can become English as a second language teachers, they can become high school, university, and college language instructors. They can become immigration advocates, lawyers, diplomats, tour guides, linguists, or journalists. They can find work in any field that involves working closely with language.

  Educational Paths  
To work as a translator, a person must have a mastery of both English and another language. Fluency isn't enough, either, they need to understand things like root words, slang, dialects, intonation, and grammar rules for both languages. Therefore, they will need to get a Bachelor of Arts in the language they choose to interpret, rounded off by a few courses in current affairs, linguistics, politics, business, law, psychology, and social science. Then, they may choose to take a specialized translation course. Prospective translators may also consider completing a graduate program in translation and interpretation. Interpreters who want to work for the United Nations must be skilled in three of the six official United Nations languages, so get started soon!

It is a good idea to get in as much practice as possible. Travel, or live abroad for a while, to gain a good understanding of the language. Volunteer to interpret or translate for non-profit organizations in the community.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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