Career in Translators and Interpreters

Language professionals in India are busy like never before. The onslaught of IT, entry of MNCs, increased foreign tourists and a host of other factors have increased the demand for translators and interpreters in foreign languages. A parallel development has been the growing interest in Indian languages as well. As more and more students head toward language schools, the trend is obvious: language professionals are here to stay.

Languages were once considered added qualifications to candidates looking for jobs. Today they have become the key to full-fledged careers. The varieties of jobs available to language professionals are many. Among the most lucrative options are translation and interpretation.

< Areas of specialisation

Even under these two areas of work, language professionals can choose to specialise both by language and subject.
Some translators work exclusively with two languages (say, English and Japanese). Other may offer their services in a range of languages (say, English, Tamil, French and Hindi). The same holds true with interpreters.
Again, some translators work in the field of general translation, which could mean translating anything from letters and official documents to educational material and travel brochures. Others specialise in technical (say, medical or IT related work) or literary translation.

Nature of Work:


The job of the translator is to translate material from one language to another while retaining the flavour and accuracy of the original. Translation can often get difficult, as two languages may not share similar syntactical structures or cultural references. Translation requires high level of concentration and long hours at the work desk.


The interpreter’s command over the two languages used must be perfect. This is so because the interpreter – unlike the translator – does not enjoy the advantages of referring to a dictionary or editing the work done. The task of the interpreter is to listen to a sentence (or small paragraph) being spoken in a particular language and then orally translate the same into another language.

The Workplace

Translators are in demand in a variety of corporate, educational and media setups. These include:
Embassies & Diplomatic missions
Cultural Organisations
Educational Organisations
Corporate houses (especially MNC?s)
Export houses
Travel & Tourism Industry
Publishing houses
Dot com companies
Print & Online Media
Government Departments

Interpreters largely work with the following organizations:
Embassies & Diplomatic Missions
Travel & Tourism Industry (as tour guides)
Corporate setups (meeting, conferences, seminars etc)
Cultural Organisations
Multinational Corporations
Job Prospects
Career growth
Globalization in general and the liberalization of the Indian economy in particular has created tremendous opportunities for language professionals. The need for language professionals (primarily in the case of foreign languages) has grown dramatically over the last decade. This rapid growth is a clear sign of things to come. The explosion of the Internet has further bridged the gap between countries and languages. A number of translators now work online never having met their employers! Translation and interpretation are potential areas for part time job seekers also. A number of college students in Chennai, for instance, train Koreans (employees of Hyundai and their families) in English language.

Freelance vs. Full-time

Translators & interpreters have the option of working on a freelance basis. A large number juggle both translation & interpretation. They take up assignments on a contract basis. Translators are paid by the page for the work done while interpreters work on an hourly basis.
The option to work full time also exists. Full time jobs are available with educational institutions, corporate houses and embassies.


Translators are usually paid by per page of translated material. For translations to and from common Indian and foreign languages, the rates vary from Rs. 200-400 per page. In the case of complex languages (such as Arabic and Japanese) translators charge up to Rs. 750 per page. Technical translators charge more.
Interpreters are paid by the hour. They charge between Rs. 250 and Rs. 750 per hour depending on the language concerned and the nature of the work (tour guides charge less than corporate translators).


Translators and interpreters can diversify into the following areas of work:
Print and online journalism
Web content development
Language teaching


Essential Attributes

To be an excellent translator, one must possess the following attributes:
Proficiency in two or more Indian or foreign languages
Excellent communication skills
Concentration over long periods of time
Meticulous and organized
Ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines

Interpreters must possess the following personal attributes:
Excellent listening and communication skills
Clear, articulate voice with good diction
Excellent command over two or more Indian /foreign languages (especially strong in vocabulary)
Comfortable with people of different countries & cultures
Erratic work hours
Willingness to travel
High levels of concentration Must haves for translators & interpreters

Both translators & interpreters need to invest heavily in dictionaries. Depending on the nature of their work, translators and interpreters may require specialized dictionaries (in medical or IT jargon, for instance). Interpreters may choose to invest in handy pocket-sized advanced dictionaries for reference at work. Both translators & interpreters must keep themselves updated with the latest jargon & changes in vocabulary. Translators must necessarily be computer literate. Knowledge of MS Word is essential. They must also be well versed with software for Devanagiri and other Indian scripts if they are working with Indian languages.

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