Exploring this Job

For any international field, it is important that you familiarize yourself with other cultures. You can even arrange to regularly correspond with a pen pal in a foreign country or talk to them via e-mail or at a social networking site. You may also want to join a school club that focuses on a particular language, such as the French Club or the Spanish Club. If no such clubs exist, consider forming one. Student clubs can allow you to hone your foreign language speaking and writing skills and learn about other cultures.

Read publications in the foreign language that you are studying in order to improve your skills. Read translations of literary works in their original language and in English to learn more about literary translation techniques. Visit the Web sites of the translation studies programs at colleges and universities to learn more about typical classes and degree requirements. Talk with translators about their careers.

The Job

While interpreters focus on the spoken word, translators work with written language. They read and translate novels, plays, essays, nonfiction and technical works, legal documents, records and reports, speeches, and other written material. Translators generally follow a certain set of procedures in their work. They begin by reading the text, taking careful notes on what they do not understand. To translate questionable passages, they look up words and terms in specialized dictionaries and glossaries. They may also do additional reading on the subject to arrive at a better understanding. Finally, they write translated drafts in the target language. 

Most translators use computer-assisted translation tools, in which a computer database of previously translated segments or sentences (called translation memories) is used to translate new text. These tools help them translate documents faster and receive and submit work electronically. They also use specialized dictionaries and glossaries that are found in print and online to conduct research. 

Literary translators translate artistic works such as fiction, journal articles, plays, poetry, and other creative works from one language to another. In addition to simply translating one language to another, it is just as important that literary translators create a translation that reproduces the style of the original text. If possible, they work closely with the original author to clarify meaning and tone in the text to be translated. 

Localization translation is a relatively new specialty. Localization translators adapt computer software, Web sites, and other business products for use in a different language or culture.

sight translator performs a combination of interpreting and translating by reading printed material in one language while reciting it aloud in another.