Translation as a Profession
Translation as a profession provides an in-depth analysis of the translating profession and the translation industry. Large-scale reports on the translation industry estimate that there are around 250,000 people working in the global translation industry, including 110,000 in Europe. Some sources also suggest that there may be over 300,000 human translators (& interpreters) worldwide (EUATC, 2005), but the actual number may be even greater.
One of the factors that makes it difficult to have a clear picture of the translation industry is the relative flexibility of the professional status of the translator. Unlike lawyers and doctors, translators and interpreters do not legally require formal qualifications to practice.
This means that, at least theoretically, anyone could call themselves a translator or interpreter. However, the majority of countries have strong professional associations for translators and interpreters, which help to guarantee quality, professional standards of competence and conduct and reliability of service.
Professional translators are expected to be able to translate from one or two foreign languages into their native language. Translators also have different areas of specialization (e.g. literature, science and technology, law, medicine). The more a translator knows about a subject, the easier it will be to render texts accurately and quickly and spot errors. Being an expert in law doesn’t make one an expert in medicine!
Alongside translators, the language profession employs a number of other figures who help systematize the process of translation (or translation workflow) for large organisations. Among these, we find: localizers, who specialize in the translation of software/video games/websites; specialists who research texts and systematize terminology (terminologists, phrenologists); those who look after texts after they have been translated and perform quality controls (post-editors, proofreaders, revisers, Quality Assurance Specialists); and those who provide technical support (linguistic engineers, technical writers).
The need for translation has been apparent since the earliest days of human interaction, whether it be for emotional, trade or survival purposes. The demand for translation services has continued to develop and is now more vital than ever, with businesses acknowledging the inability to expand internationally or succeed in penetrating foreign markets without translating marketing material and business documents.
A translator converts written material, such as newspaper and magazine articles, books, manuals, documents, etc. from one language into another. This is not to be confused with an interpreter, who converts spoken material, such as speeches, presentations, depositions, and the like, from one language to another.
A translator should not be confused with an interpreter. Although there is some vague connection between the two abilities, translators cannot necessarily interpret, nor can interpreters necessarily translate. Moreover, the best translators are not good interpreters and likewise, truly great interpreters are not much for translation. And while many professional training programs require interpreters to develop some skill in translation, professionally trained translators often have no exposure to the skills of interpretation.