ERIC Identifier: ED345540
Publication Date: 1992-04-00
Author: Hammond, Deanna Lindberg
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
The Translation Profession. ERIC Digest.
This ERIC Digest is based on an article published in the September 1990 issue of "The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science," Volume 511, titled, "The Translation Profession in the United States Today." For more information, write to "The Annals, 3937 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
The translation profession has been in existence for a long time. Translators have enabled the works of great writers to be read by many people of different cultures and linguistic backgrounds. In school, students learn about scientific discoveries, great voyages, and different philosophies, thanks in part to the work of translators. Translation has long played a role in the dissemination of scientific information. With increased contact between nations in the past few decades and with increased communications through satellites and other products of modern technology, it has become easier and faster to learn about what is happening in the rest of the world. The exchange of ideas and printed matter between different linguistic communities has necessitated an unprecedented amount of translation. In the last decade, the need for translation has continued to rise, reflecting the needs of businesses, the scientific community, and other areas. Today, the majority of individuals working in the translation field deal more with technical and semi-technical works than with literary ones.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TRANSLATOR AND AN INTERPRETER?
WHERE CAN TRANSLATORS FIND EMPLOYMENT?
Salaried translators are part of the in-house staff of an agency, firm, or institution. For the vast majority of this type of translator, expertise in a specific subject matter, such as chemistry or economics, is necessary. In-house translators may be called on to do foreign language research and other language-related duties because they are readily available. They may need to be able to translate from several languages. Translator positions in the United States Government, for example, require the ability to translate from at least two languages, and World Bank translators must be able to translate from three. The number of full-time positions is limited.
The leading employers of translators in the United States are the U.S. Government; U.S. and multinational corporations and their subsidiaries; importers and exporters; commercial and non-profit research institutions; manufacturers; engineering and construction firms with foreign connections; the publishing industry; patent attorneys; the news media; the United Nations and other international organizations; and foreign, diplomatic, commercial, and scientific representatives in the United States (American Translators Association, 1987).
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A COMPETENT TRANSLATOR?
WHAT KIND OF TRAINING IS BENEFICIAL TO PROSPECTIVE TRANSLATORS?
College graduates with degrees in foreign languages who are interested in entering the translation field often do not possess translation skills because the emphasis on language instruction in the classroom tends to be on oral proficiency. The ability to speak a language is not necessarily an indication of written language ability. In translation, reading and writing become the primary language skills, and a comparatively high level of proficiency in them is required (Larson, 1987).
To assist would-be translators in preparing for a career in translation, the American Translators Association (1987) has outlined some suggestions in its "Profile of a Competent Translator and of an Effective Translator-Training Program." Recommendations include the following curriculum:
* courses that provide an extensive knowledge of, and ability to
reason in, the subject matter of the translation: mathematics, pure
sciences, social sciences, history, business administration, and
* courses that provide a sound reading knowledge and grasp
of the language or languages from which one will be translating;
* four years of a major language, two years of a minor language, and
as many basic language courses as possible, including at least two
years of Latin;
* courses that provide the ability to express oneself
in lucid and straightforward English: writing courses, including one
in newspaper writing and one in technical writing; and
* periodic participation in advanced postgraduate workshops,
notably in specialized subject-matter areas.
WHERE DOES THE NEED FOR TRANSLATION EXIST?
Many scientific journals are now written in languages that have not received much attention in the United States, such as Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese. Currently, one-fourth to one-half of all scientific scholarly production is in languages not handled by U.S. scientists, and only about 20 percent of the 10,000 technical journals published in Japan are translated into English (Fedunok, 1987). Translators are needed to keep up with the discoveries taking place in research throughout the world.
Scholarly papers to be presented at conferences in foreign countries may need translating, and individuals seeking U.S. citizenship may need to have their birth certificate or other relevant documents translated into English.
Fedunok, S. (1987). Translations in science and technology libraries. In Kummer, K. (Ed.), Across the language gap: Proceedings of the 28th annual conference of the American Translators Association. Medford, NJ: Learned Information.
Hammond, D.L. (1990). The translation profession in the United States today. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 511, p132-144.
Larson, J.W. (1987). Using the ACTFL proficiency guidelines to assess reading and writing in the translation programs. In Rose, M.R. (Ed.), Translation excellence: Assessment, achievement, maintenance. American Translators Association. Scholarly Monograph Series, No. 1, p48. Binghamton, NY: University Center.
Weber, W.K. (1990). Interpretation in the United States. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 511, p145-158.