Interpreters and Translators made a median salary of $51,830 in 2019. The best-paid 10 percent made $94,370 that year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $28,170.
Interpreters and translators convert written materials or spoken words into another language, whether it is oral or written language of a particular community or country, or even through sign language where a person uses visual gestures to convert information.
Interpreting and translating are two different processes but have a similar goal. Translating is the process of converting the written text to another written language while interpreting is the process of converting a language verbally.
What are the differences between interpreting and translating?
A sign language interpreter is someone who is trained to help individuals who are deaf or a hearing-impaired person by converting spoken language into sign language.
The role of interpreters and translators is important in the business world. They enhance the communication between two businesses or people who are using different languages by accurately converting the information from one language to another.
Medical interpreters focus on verbal communication. They serve as a liaison between the patients, hospital management, or doctors. They must know medical terms and have the ability to interpret the information to both parties (patient and hospital management or doctors).
Medical translators are trained to translate written documents to paperwork. They must also have strong knowledge of the technical and medical terms and ensure that all of the information is correctly written in the paperwork.
Conference interpreters are often the mediators that you find in multilingual meetings. These interpreters play an important role in global politics and international businesses. They translate the message of the speaker in another language so that their client or listener can fully understand the message. Also, they interpret the message of the speaker either simultaneously, through whispering, through phone, or consecutively.
Localization is not the same as translation, especially when it comes to marketing. For a product to be globally competitive, you must tailor your marketing strategy in each country or community for you to increase engagement and increase your chance to make sales.
In localization, you will provide different content in your market for people who are using a different language, taking into consideration their beliefs, culture, and laws. You are customizing your message to overcome the language barriers so that they will understand your original message.
These are specialized business interpreters and translators who have a great knowledge of a particular business such as marketing, engineering, finance, economics, etc. They understand the terminology used and are able to interpret those accurately to a target audience.
A sign language interpreter is responsible for an individual with hearing problems to accurately understand the message from the source who is using spoken languages. This type of service is needed in different settings, such as government offices, law offices, courtrooms, schools, hospitals, and other government agencies.
Sign language interpreters usually have distinct personalities. They are kind, caring, patient, friendly, empathetic, artistic, articulate, and expressive.
The role of interpreters and translators require some particular attributes as well. These are:
Although it sounds obvious, successful interpreters and translators have a strong grasp of the language they interpret for. They speak and write so well that they are sometimes better than a native speaker. They can interpret and translate words instantly without needing to refer to a dictionary or any translation resources.
Interpreting and translating are stressful activities. The speed of the speaker’s delivery or highfalutin or ambiguous words has a huge influence on the level of stress interpreters and translators are experiencing. If a person has high-stress tolerance, he/she can remain calm and more focused on converting languages to another, thus, having less or no mistakes.
The core of what interpreters and translators do is linguistic integrity. This means that as much as possible, nothing is added, altered, or omitted to the source language whether spoken or written. You are able to deliver the main thought of the source of information. Also, you are committed to impartiality, confidentiality, and comply with the federal or state laws and the required rules of your association or organization.
You are reliable in terms of being consistently good in the quality of your performance. Your clients trust that you are honest with your service and that your translations or interpretations are accurate.
Interpreters and translators usually need a bachelor’s degree, but the most important requirement is that one should be fluent in at least two (2) languages. However, if you want to pursue a career and succeed in either of these two fields, then you should consider taking the following steps.
A bachelor’s degree is necessary for an interpreter and translator to become certified and have a chance to work for the government. Although having a major in a foreign language or specific area such as business is not necessary, you have the option to earn a degree in the language or specific area of your choice. The most important thing is that you should be fluent in at least two (2) languages (one of those is English), and learn the culture, law, and other important matters of the language that you are studying.
Some schools offer their students who want to be interpreters or translators formal training. They also offer certificates to those successful students who are able to complete the formal training.
Some certifications are not mandatory, but still quite beneficial for aspiring interpreters and translators. The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and American Translators Association (ATA) provides certification or exams, and so as the association and organizations listed below:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, interpreters and translators are projected to grow 20 percent from 2019 to 2029. It only proves that the demand for these careers is high.
Be equipped and even earn certificates by enrolling in online classes. Some online courses are affordable, and some are also free. Skill Success offers a wide range of in-demand languages for interpreter and translator courses [Top Online Courses for Aspiring Interpreter and Translator].
This is a language expressed by hand movements, body language, and other expressions. It is a natural language that has the same components or properties of a spoken American language and is widely used by the deaf community in the U.S.
According to research from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorder (NIDCD), 30 million Americans age 12 and older have hearing loss in both ears, leading ASL study to myriad careers.
Some ASL interpreters learn sign language in an informal way, such as learning from a family member or friend that is deaf or with hearing loss.
Also, you can become an ASL interpreter by gaining formal education—which is in high demand. Typically, proficiency in English and a bachelor’s degree is required, but you can also opt for an associate degree or taking a certificate program as long as it is an accredited program.
This degree helps students develop the foundation skills in sign language and helps students to prepare for a professional career as an ASL interpreter.
This program helps students to explore the fundamentals aspect of ASL and deaf culture. It is more in-depth than the American Sign Language-English Interpretation; thus, it is a perfect program for someone who plans to work with a deaf individual or community.
Now that we have distinguished the difference between an interpreter and a translator, let’s list the different sets of skills for these two careers.
Interpreters should have the following skills and knowledge:
Interpreters should exercise their listening skills in the language that they will interpret. They must listen carefully so that they will pick up every word being said and its meaning, making sure that the important details are not missed. This is because they simultaneously construct and articulate the message that they will interpret to another language.
Interpreters are innate with a powerful memory. They have the ability to retain what they have heard and then analyze and process what they have heard and put the information into context
They should be aware of their target’s culture, values, traditions, customs, law or policies, and religion to have a perfect understanding of how they will deliver the message appropriately and effectively without disrespecting the target’s culture or character.
This includes clear and precise delivery of the message from the source to the target. It involves the correct usage of words and the correct pronunciation as well.
Translating is the process of converting a written text to another written language. Thus, a translator should have excellent writing skills. If you want to be a good interpreter, you should be excellent with grammar, the correct spelling of words, and have the ability to write using different styles.
You should be fluent in your own native language and your target language so that you fully understand the meaning of the source text. Because of this, you can avoid misinterpreting the source of the text, and you can deliver the message accurately.
A translator is able to proofread and edit his own work detecting typos effortlessly. Since translating is a comprehensive task, even small details such as punctuation and formatting are important in the role of a translator.
You can learn foreign languages on your own or enroll in colleges or universities that offer foreign language programs. Here is a list of translation and interpretation schools, foreign language schools, and American sign language (ASL) interpreting schools.
Interpreters and translators work in different kinds of settings such as schools, courtrooms, conference centers, hospitals, government organizations, private clients, and many more. Having that said, you won’t have difficulties in finding a job; you just need to do thorough research.
Although some machines and applications help translate a language to another because those can translate words instantly, professional translators and interpreters are still in demand, because the capabilities of those machines and apps are limited—those can only read words and translate based on algorithms or dictionaries, and sometimes human intervention is still needed as they sometimes need to edit the output to ensure that there is no error.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, interpreters and translators held about 77,400 jobs in 2019 and a projected employment of 92,900 in 2029.
Here are some ways to find jobs in interpreting and translating.
The easiest and fastest way of finding job openings is through online job postings. You can find job postings in job search websites and also in social media groups. Here are some:
Being fluent in another language opens a lot of doors and possibilities to work online. You can start working from home or become a digital nomad and travel the world. Interpreter and translator require different skill sets and language capabilities.
Becoming a home-based interpreter may require you to be physically present and use equipment that you will need for video conferencing or over-the-phone interpreting. On the other hand, translating is the preferred career for most because some clients won’t require you to work on a fixed schedule.
You just need to choose two languages you are most proficient with, which is your native language and your second language. It rarely happens that you are to translate a target language that is not your native language. Below are the highest-paid translating languages that you need to know to help you choose which language you want to focus more.
This is an excellent way for individuals who want to gain experience and for those who are seeking a career opportunity in interpreting and translating. Informal or volunteer opportunities are available through hospitals, schools, community organizations, churches, international competitions, and so on. As you gain experience through volunteering, it will be easier to you to find a job in industries such as being a courtroom interpreter or medical interpreter, and at the same time, you are building and establishing a network of contacts.
Geographic areas often have location pay differentials, making a significant impact on your potential earnings. There are some states that offer a higher salary and some with lower salaries to interpreters and translators.
Here’s a list of the average mean of annual earnings of interpreters and translators in every state according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics dated 2019:
|State||2019 Mean Annual Wage|
|State||2019 Mean Annual Wage|
Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Submitting resumes for candidates applying for jobs has been easy over the past few years because they can just submit it online. However, it also increased the number of applications a recruiter is receiving every day, making it a bit challenging for some to get noticed by the recruiter. Here are some tips on how your resume will get noticed.
You do not make your resume long so that you can impress the recruiter. Your resume should be one- or two-page long, anything longer than that could only lose your chance from getting noticed. Recruiters need to go through hundreds of resumes almost every single day. Be concise and know what your selling points are to the position you are applying for.
A tip here is to review the job qualifications and responsibilities of the potential employer and tailor your resume based on the qualification and responsibilities.
Place this at the top or near the introduction of your resume. This will help the recruiter save time in reading what the languages you know.
You can place your hard-earned certification close to your languages and specializations. This will help your resume stand out because it shows that you are suitable for the position, especially when your certification is relevant to a job’s responsibility.
You can send a short video introduction of yourself and show off the languages you know to let them have an idea of how you speak. If you are a translator, you can send two (or more) versions of your resume, one in English and the other version is in another language. This will make you a more outstanding applicant.
Read our article about the best practices for resume writing to learn how you can write a well-tailored resume.
“I believe luck is a preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky.”― Oprah Winfrey
If you come in an interview prepared, chances are, you will get hired. That is why you need to know how to answer the questions to your interview specifically about the interpreter or translator job. Here are the common questions.
Of course, companies want to hire someone who is passionate about their job. There is no trick in answering this question. You just need to think deeply and identify the main factor why you are the right fit for the position and the reason why you love to work for their company.
This is your chance to showcase your achievements, skills, experience, and your unique personality. You also need to be familiar with the job requirement and responsibilities as you need to link those to your skills and experiences.
There might be a time where you will encounter clients that might use offensive words or materials that you will translate with obnoxious words. What the recruiter wants to know is how you will overcome these challenges.
The best way to answer this question is how you would want to make the most of the skills and knowledge as an interpreter or translator. You can also mention that you are motivated by the challenges, and how you can successfully meet the challenges. Then give examples of your past experiences where you were faced with a challenge and how you achieved your goal.
We all have weaknesses, and the recruiter will definitely know if you are lying when you tell them that you don’t have one. Just think of your small flaw, and that’s what you need to tell your recruiter. What the recruiter wants to hear from you is that you are aware of your weakness and that you are taking a course of action to correct that problem.
Lastly, prepare a list of questions to ask the recruiter during the job interview. Remember that you are also looking for a company that you will work for in a long period of time and it is important to know if the company you are applying for is a good fit for you as well.
Sharpen your skills in interpreting and translating by taking these top online courses
Skills Success has carefully curated and organized thousands of online video courses. Start your journey to becoming an interpreter and translator with these top online courses.