Thanks to globalization, the world has become a smaller place! And it keeps shrinking! In a global village we are living in, the need for translation, translators and interpreters is ever-increasing. That’s good news for those looking to break into the field. However, how much of what we know about this profession is really true?
One common myth is that simply being bilingual automatically qualifies one for work as a professional language service provider. Not so! Think about it: there are many languages in the world – some of them with thousands of bilingual speakers. Bilingualism is necessary, but it’s not enough!
To work as a professional translator or interpreter, one need not be a native speaker – although, of course, one must possess a nearly native-level knowledge of the language. Besides being equally proficient in both the source and target language, he must also have a cultural understanding, and apprehend all those issues that are inherent to language translation. Professionals working in this field are typically highly educated, trained in translation, linguistics, or some other specialty field, in addition to being certified as translators and interpreters.
Another common myth is that translators and interpreters do basically the same job: they “translate”. The truth is that the job of a translator and the one of an interpreter require an entirely different skill set. The term “translating” refers to written language, while the term “interpreting” refers to spoken language. Translators must possess good writing skills, and be skilled in using CAT (computer assisted translation) tools and terminology databases. Interpreters must have good note-taking skills, and develop efficient short-term memory.
Translators and interpreters are not necessary polyglots! Most of them will only translate from one language into another. They will however have the most in-depth knowledge of their chosen language pair. Working in more than one language combination is less common.
Finally, it is a myth that machine translation is going to put human translators and interpreters out of work! Paradoxically, it will only increase the need for professional language service providers. True, machine translation is getting better and better, but it is highly unlikely that it will make human translators and interpreters obsolete. For now, the demand for translation – translation performed by a professional translator – is outpacing supply! As long as there is global business, international organizations, tourism, or diplomacy, and people continue to speak different languages, there will be a strong need for professional translators!