Poll: How strongly would you recommend a career in translation/interpreting to new graduates or students?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 01:25
Oct 12, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How strongly would you recommend a career in translation/interpreting to new graduates or students?".

This poll was originally submitted by antonellina79. View the poll results »


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Oct 12, 2014

I tend to think there are already too many people who perceive translation as an easy option, so my take on this is basically "the fewer the better". I think the profession needs fewer, but more discerning translators.


Teresa Borges
Local time: 09:25
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other: It depends! Oct 12, 2014

As I said before (another repeated poll question), maybe I would recommend it with a few concerns, but honestly I'm not the recommending type…



Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Only Oct 12, 2014

To those who have particular linguistic skills and a certain disposition.

Like Neilmac I would not relish the prospect of any Tom, Dick and Harry or fly by night indiscriminately coming into the profession, setting up shop as a 'translator' and, in the process, undermining the achievements of those who have preceded them.

And, like Teresa, I would also be very cautious, too, because I have seen only a small handful out of an increasingly larger pool of aspiring translators who have actually made the grade.



LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:25
Russian to English
+ ...
I would definitely recommend it to those people who have the right language skills and interest-- Oct 12, 2014

a very deep interest in the professions. I would not recommend it to anyone else. It is just not the type of profession like accounting, law and cooking.

The same way as I would recommend journalism, or becoming a pianist, sort of.
There are many multilingual, linguistically talented people out there, so I would definitely recommend it to them.


M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
English to Polish
I'd recommend it Oct 12, 2014

I'd recommend it with some comments, not concerns, and to people who seem to be sufficiently qualified or talented, not just any random speaker of a foreign language.

[Edited at 2014-10-12 12:46 GMT]


564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
Danish to English
+ ...
I wouldn't recommend it Oct 12, 2014

Considering that as the years pass, I am becoming more and more convinced that I should have opted for landscape gardening rather than business college / language studies as a basis for a career, I would be a hypocrite to recommend it to anyone else.

It is hard work to have to aim for perfection at all times in a highly imperfect world, I think... Of course, once you have several years' experience, it becomes easier, but there is a stress factor in translation that I would not wish on anybody...


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
With serious reservations Oct 12, 2014

I taught translation at Georgetown University for 14 years. Though the school's departments were flooded with language majors, to be accepted in the translation program they had to be highly fluent in their source language(s). Of the ones I taught, only a few had the talent and other characteristics that make for a good translator, and in fact only a small handful went on to succeed in the profession.

I realize that translation school graduates represent a small proportion of practicing translators, but my point is that for 14 years I observed the work of a representative population of candidates--and for the most part it wasn't a pretty picture. Of course, I definitely encouraged the ones who were good.

In the past, when the demand for translation was low, natural selection weeded out the misfits, but now unfortunately there is enough demand to keep the bottom feeders employed at least part time, which strings them along and ends up being a disservice both to them and to the rest of us.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:25
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I wouldn't recommend it right away from school Oct 12, 2014

I'd suggest they develop professional knowledge in some specific area, e.g. law, engineering, healthcare, IT, news media, whatever for a while, and then start translating in that area, where they'll know what they are talking about. Later, they should expand their coverage gradually.

Translation is not a self-contained mechanical process involving L1-in/L2-out. If it were so, machine translation would have taken it over already. It involves context, writing, and knowing something about what one is writing, the content, the context.

One cannot translate properly something they cannot really understand. So a first step would be to develop understanding in some area of human knowledge. Otherwise they'll be limited to translating 99¢ gizmo user instructions forever.

Edited to specify the type of gizmos I am referring to.

A memorable phrase found in the instruction leaflet of one such unit, verbatim:
"If diplay go blind, you may meet dead battery. Replace immediately."

[Edited at 2014-10-12 14:47 GMT]


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:25
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Not quite forever, but... Oct 12, 2014

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Otherwise they'll be limited to translating gizmo user instructions forever.

Please remember that there are some very, very complicated contraptions out there that require in-depth knowledge and a very inquiring mind. And they all come with instruction manuals which require the services and skills of yours truly.
In fact, a lot of the stuff that I translate cannot even be understood by 99% of the population.

Admittedly, though, there are some very cute 'gizmos' that purr when you stroke them. icon_smile.gif


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 02:25
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Would not recommend Oct 12, 2014

I would not recommend that students go straight from school into translating or interpreting. I would recommend that they get more education in one or more fields they are interested in and get some job experience, preferably in other countries. They need to find out whether they have the right skills and personality, and whether they are interested in, and suited for, the life style of a translator or interpreter. I believe it is really helpful to have a solid background in one or more specialties.


Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
No Oct 12, 2014

not straight from school. Like a said before, I don't think translating is for the very young.
You need to have lived in both source and target language countries for a substantial amount of time. Besides, it is very helpful to have aquired other skills.

When all that said: I love my profession as a translator.

[Edited at 2014-10-12 16:59 GMT]


Leticia Klemetz, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
Swedish to Spanish
+ ...
Not really Oct 13, 2014

I do not think you can gain proficiency in a language just by studying it 3-4 years in university: you should ideally have grown up with both of them (or the three of them) and have studied the language(s) many years, aside from living in that/those country/-ies.

Besides, many University programs still don´t teach CAT tools which I find unthinkable! The vast majority of translation companies require a CAT tool to be used, and it also highly improves consistency in the translation process.

That said, a program can give extra skills.
I did study linguistics myself but started translating/interpreting informally as a child and professionally before I actually went to college.


vixen  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:25
Member (2002)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Other Oct 13, 2014

What works for me does not necessarily work for anyone else.
People should choose a career based on their own skills and interests. I love working alone, from the comfort of my own home, but that is not for everyone.

I also agree with neilmac that we need more competent translators rather than more people who think they can translate and make some easy money. When revising translations, I wonder too often why so many translators appear to be translating on automatic pilot rather than trying to actually understand the source text before they type in their translation...

Which reminds me of the instruction we received during our translation classes at university to always read the entire text before starting to translae. Of course, this was easy to do if you only had to translate 300 words or so.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Jared Tabor[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Poll: How strongly would you recommend a career in translation/interpreting to new graduates or students?

Advanced search

Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »

  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search