Every now and then, you come across a discussion on the Internet that you simply can’t ignore. Normally, I try to stay out of online exchanges with complete strangers. But yesterday, I ran into this gem on Yahoo:

Question: Is translator a good career?
“i’m 16 now, and im hoping to be a translator in my future. i’ve started with mastering english, did alot of english reading and speaking these past few years, and still doing. is it a wise choice to be a translator? and do they get paid well?…”

There I was, pondering whether to get involved and give this kid some advice, when my eyes fell on the only answer that had been submitted:

“nope,,, there are some excellent translation software programs out there,,, better than people if pay is important,,, choose something else.”

Ohhhhh no! Did this person really just go there? Did this “Caren” really say that translation software programs are better than people?!

Of course, at this point, I couldn’t help but get involved. No way could I let this young language enthusiast abandon his or her dreams of becoming a translator based on such terrible, uninformed advice. So I fired back:

“I’m afraid Caren couldn’t be more wrong. I am a translator (German/English), and I can tell you that this is a great career with excellent prospects for the future. With globalization comes greater demand for translation services, and machines simply aren’t up to the task. The translation industry is actually expected to grow over the coming years.

However, the key is specialization. You need to find a niche and become an expert in your field. Basic, general translations can be carried out by low-cost providers from around the world, and in some cases even by machines. But to think that translation software programs can replace human translators is absurd. Sure, they may get the gist of the message (although that’s not guaranteed either). But when it comes to marketing materials, advertising, or highly technical documents, machines just can’t provide good translations, and may never be able to do so. Any time context and cultural background need to be taken into account, machines will provide subpar or even nonsensical translations.

If you become highly specialized in a field that requires absolute perfect translations, you can not only find plenty of work but also charge premium fees for your translation services. I know several translators who make six figures a year. If languages are your passion, don’t let anyone dissuade you from pursuing your dream.

Here is an excellent interview that might give you some more information: http://foxdocs.biz/BetweenTranslations/changes-in-the-translation-industry-interview-with-paul-sulzberger/
Good luck!”

I really hope the person who asked the initial question will come back to read my reply. If you’d like to add yours, you can find this discussion at https://sg.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20140722052847AAjZS0b.

Let’s set the record straight, shall we?

About the author - Marion Rhodes


  • Chiquitita

    July 25, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    thanks for the insightful advice ^_^

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    August 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

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