Love languages? Consider a career in the translation industry!

Do you speak a language other than English? Perhaps you have lived overseas and migrated to Australia. Maybe your parents are migrants and you learnt their mother tongue growing up as a child in Australia. Or perhaps you decided to study a second language at school because of an acute interest in languages.

No matter your situation, your language skills are are a unique and valuable skill. So why not consider putting this skill to good use and embark on a career in the translation industry.

To help you understand a little more about translators and languages in the Australian context, here is a bit of background information.

Commonly studied languages in Australia

French language studies

Did you know that in VCE, French language studies consistently have some of the highest levels of enrolment? And no wonder! The French language is terribly romantic. French is also relatively simple to learn as an English speaker and is categorised as a Category I language by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). This categorisation makes it one of the easiest languages to learn as an English speaker.

Monash University have a world-renowned Translation & Interpretation studies program which even offers Double Degrees in conjunction with Jean Moulin University Lyon 3 (France). So, what can you do once you have studied to become a translator at University? Of course, you can embark on a career as a French translator in Australia. Alternatively, many graduates are seduced by France’s mystique and pack their bags for Europe, never to return to Australia. If a career as a French translator interests you, then you would benefit from a French tutor for VCE.

Chinese language studies

Studying Chinese as a second language is also very popular in Victoria. Many schools are now realising the importance of a strong connection with China. Students with strong Chinese language skills set themselves up for a great career. Mandarin is spoken by nearly 900 million people worldwide and is the number 1 language in world based on number of native speakers.

Chinese migration to Australia is at all-time high, with thousands of Chinese nationals traveling to Australia each year. It’s no wonder that the demand for Chinese to English translation by native English speakers has hit critical levels. The level of commerce between Australia and China is also at all-time highs, with Australian businesses flocking to China to get their products in front of over one billion increasingly affluent Chinese. If you need a hand with your Chinese tutoring, LearnMate can help.

So, what do translators really do?

In a nutshell, translators convert the meaning of documents, official papers and any written text from a particular language to another. Philosophically, this should only be done into the translator’s native tongue. In practice, however, many translators translate in both directions.

Don’t confuse the role of translators and interpreters. In the Australian context, these two roles are quite different. An interpreter converts the spoken word, for example, at a medical appointment. On the other hand, translators work with written language.

In today’s fast-changing world, the translation industry is both very interesting and highly varied. Translators are expected to work with various file formats, across various domains including technical, scientific, medical and legal texts, all the while utilising technology in their workflow to improve efficiency, quality and speed.

Can anyone call themself a ‘translator’?

Becoming a professional translator is more than being bilingual, knowing the target and source languages, and having a reliable internet connection.

To achieve the level of proficiency to be considered a professional translator, you need a lot of practice and experience to be confident enough to translate in various fields.

Let’s take a look at some situations that help describe what a translator is not.

  • A professional translator is not someone who is a student of languages. A student of languages still has a long way to go in order to have the level of proficiency.
  • In the same way, a professional translator is not a teacher of languages. Why? Because teaching and translating are different. Of course, a translator can become a teacher, but that doesn’t mean that a teacher can necessarily translate to the expected standard. By the same token, not all translators can be a teacher of languages.
  • A professional translator is not someone who simply speaks two different languages even if it’s on a native level. To be a translator, an individual must always have the relevant research skills, cultural competence, ethical understanding and ability to transfer the intended meaning of a text from one language into another. Having very strong language proficiency certainly does help, but it’s not enough.
  • A professional translator is not a dictionary. A lot of people assume that a translator knows all words in two different languages; however, any experienced translator can tell you that different words can be used depending on the context. A translator’s role also involves significant research to ensure that they are choosing the most appropriate word for the context of their translation.

What makes a professional?

Let’s define a professional translator to give you a glimpse of the translation industry.

In Australia, there is a very rigorous credentialing system in place for professional translators, administered by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). In practice, almost all translators who operate in a professional capacity in Australia hold a current and valid translator credential.

Obtaining a NAATI translator credential is more than simply having proficiency in two languages. There is an ethical component that must be passed in order to be awarded with a NAATI credential.

Technically speaking, a person is considered to be a professional when he or she does something for a living. So whilst you could technically work as a professional translator without a NAATI translator credential, it would be quite difficult to gain employment in this field without the relevant industry-recognised credentials.

Reasons to consider a career in the translation industry

Now that you know a thing or two about becoming a professional translator let’s look at four reasons why you should pursue a career in the translation industry.

You love to learn

Translators work in different fields including medicine, law, science, and technology. To stay up to date, you need to keep improving what you already know and learning new things.

Translating into the target language isn’t enough. You also have to understand what’s happening in these fields and keep up with any changes or updates in your field of specialty.

In other words, you need to see that your job is a continuous learning process and enjoy it.

You love literature

Today’s best-selling books such as Harry Potter and the Bible wouldn’t be where they are now if it weren’t for their translations. These books have been translated into a lot of languages and have sold millions.

Translating such amazing books requires not only outstanding linguistic skills but also the ability to handle any cultural issues that arise between two languages. Not only that, a translator must have a wide imagination to deal with words that don’t exist in other languages.

You love law and all of its aspects

Do you still remember that time when your Aunt asked you what you wished for and you’d answer “world peace”? If you still feel the same way and want to contribute to the progress of law and peacekeeping around the globe, then why don’t you consider a translation career at an international body such as the UN.

Just think of all the international documents such as conventions and treaties that need dissemination to all parts of the globe. Doesn’t that make a career in translation sound kind of exciting?

Well, if international leg work doesn’t suit you, you can also help people by translating their legal documents such as birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, adoption papers, diplomas and a whole lot more!

You can earn an income

Translators are highly sought after across the globe and the translation industry is growing. Increasingly, there are great opportunities to make a decent living, particularly if you obtain a credential that is recognised, such as a NAATI translator certification.

Summing up

So, what are you waiting for? Put your language skills to good use. Embark on a career as a translator and reap the rewards of your unique set of language skills.


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Love languages? Consider a career in the translation industry!