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Translator Job Description

Indrajit Deshmukh
Changing written documents from one language to another, summarizes the job description of a translator, but it is not as easy as it sounds. A translator needs sufficient knowledge, at minimum, of two languages, and should have good grammatical skills.
The world has become an open market, and many organizations have businesses that are not restricted by geographical boundaries. Art transcends borders, and many literary works of the past and present are translated into numerous languages, to help them reach a greater audience.
There is no specific degree which qualifies an individual as a translator, but many have at least a Bachelor's degree, and in-depth knowledge of at least two languages.

Job Description

The key to being a translator is understanding the meaning and the context of the original writing, and then translating it into another language, without losing the integrity of the original work. It is not about replacing words from one language with words from another.
Word to word translation never works, because a word in one language could mean one thing, and its substitute in another language, if used, could change the meaning of the whole sentence. Colloquialism and slang words also need to be taken into consideration while undertaking any translation work.
Language is a thought process which is influenced by culture and surroundings, many words are region specific, and their inferred meaning is totally different from the dictionary meaning. We also live in an age which is influenced by slang words, and their usage in business communication is also gaining popularity.
For example, a sentence in English reads 'It is a really cool gadget', now, the word 'cool' is slang for 'nice' or 'awesome', but the literal translation of the word 'cool' is 'cold' or 'not warm'.
Today, there is a good demand for translators, and they can be classified into different categories, like literary translators, medical translators, legal translators, and technical translators. Each area of translation needs specific background knowledge and an expertise in the subject.
  • Medical translators must have knowledge about medical terminology, different drugs, their brand names, and substitutes. He will be required to perform a number of duties, for example, translating the 'how to use' directions, or to maintain medical records for insurance companies and physicians. 
They may also be required to translate medical brochures or after care information. A proficiency in medical abbreviations and terminology is expected.
  • Literary translators work closely with authors to convey their feelings in another language correctly, so that the message doesn't get diluted in the translation process. 
These individuals must have a firm grasp on the culture and emotions of the language, along with excellent grammar and composition skills. It is one of the most difficult forms of translation, as creative writing is not easy to replicate, because of the lack of phrases or words which convey the exact meaning as intended in the original work.
  • Technical writing is about having the requisite educational background or knowledge in a specific field, like mechanical engineering. The work is mostly about translating 'how to use' or 'assemble' machine parts. In technical writing, duties and responsibilities are extended to giving correct instructions, so as to avoid accidents and ensure proper use.


The remuneration largely depends on the kind of organization they are working for, and the number of years of experience that they possess. Average salary is around $49,000 per year, while some with experience make around $69,000 per year.
Most translators do freelance writing, and do not work with a specific organization; they are generally contracted for a specific task. As the nature of work is freelance, and the use of electronic media is prevalent, most translators work from home.
The salary depends on their skills and the languages they know. Mainstream languages will earn you comparatively less money than other less-known languages. Salary can go as high as $85,000 per year, if you are a master in more than two languages, and if you can translate a less-known language.
For example, an individual who can translate Spanish might be paid less than an individual who can translate Chinese.
The job of a translator is such that, there are very few avenues of continuous work. The United Nations (UN) office, Federal Services, and the European Union are some of the employers who have steady work for good quality translators.