As the Earth feels ever smaller, demand for translators and interpreters skyrockets

  • The number of people employed in the translation and interpretation industry has doubled in the past seven years.
  • Rather than replacing them, technology has helped translators and interpreters improve their performance.
  • Working at the United Nations is one of the most coveted roles for a translator or interpreter.Where the Jobs Are: Demand for Translators and Interpreters Skyrocket

The United States is becoming more globalized and interconnected each day. As a result, skilled translators and interpreters are finding their services in higher demand.

For Jutta Diel-Dominique, the boom in business is welcome. She decided in high school that she wanted to pursue a career in translation, developing a fascination with the English language in her home country of Germany.

“I like finding the rhythm of language,” she said. “I am a complete word nerd — I realized back then I wanted to learn the English language, the nuts and bolts of it, almost to perfection.”
She’s been translating for some 24 years now, working as a freelancer for companies in electronics, biotechnology, medical devices and more. Skilled translators like Diel-Dominique, who is certified for translating English into German with the American Translators Association, will enjoy job opportunities for years to come.Growth in the industry

The number of people employed in the translation and interpretation industry has doubled in the past seven years, and the number of companies in the industry has jumped 24 percent in that same time period, according to the ATA, citing data from the Department of Labor. Through 2024, the employment outlook for those in the business is projected to grow by 29 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“As the economy becomes more globalized and businesses realize the need for translation and interpreting to market their products and services, the opportunities for people with advanced language skills will continue to grow sharply,” said David Rumsey, president of the ATA, adding that the association predicts the largest growth is within contracted positions, giving workers and companies more flexibility.

While salaries within the industry vary, those who specialize in a difficult language can easily bring in six figures annually. The ATA helps connect freelance translators and interpreters with companies including Microsoft, Netflix and Honda, as well as government agencies such as the State Department and FBI, Rumsey said.

Philadelphia-based CETRA Language Solutions and companies like it work with about 1,000 independent contractors in translation services in any given year and recruit on a daily basis. And while there was once a fear that technology would replace humans in the process as demand for services increased, the opposite has happened — it’s enhanced their work.

“The overall industry is growing because of the amount of content out there — it’s increasing exponentially,” said Jiri Stejskal, president and CEO of CETRA. “Technology is helping to translate more content, but for highly specialized content, you need an actual human involved.”

But finding successful employment is about much more than just speaking multiple languages fluently. Translators who want to distinguish themselves as professionals have to continue to work and hone their skill sets, the ATA’s Rumsey said.

“It’s a lifelong practice, and it requires keeping up not only your language skills but your subject matter skills so that you really understand the industries and fields you are working in,” Rumsey said.

Translating at the United Nations

Industry growth also extends beyond just companies seeking services. Organizations such as the United Nations are also hiring skilled translators, looking to add some 50 employees to its ranks of 450 translators, editors and verbatim reporters in New York City as its workload increases. Positions at the U.N. are highly coveted, and translators work on tight deadlines.

“We cannot afford second quality,” said Zhongliang Chen, chief of the Chinese translation service documentation division at the United Nations department for general assembly and conference management. “The United Nations is a political organization, dealing with a lot of sensitive issues, and the member states demand the best from the translators.”

Each year, thousands of people apply to take the organization’s language competitive exam so they can work as translators with the organization, but only a few hundred, like Ghia El Bardan, are successful.

The 31-year-old previously worked as a translator in a peacekeeping mission in her home country of Lebanon. Now she’s putting her language skills to work at the U.N., translating documents from English and French into her native Arabic.

“Ever since I was in high school, I was fascinated with foreign languages and cultures,” El Bardan said.

Early stage translators at the U.N. can make around $60,000 a year to start but can move into the six-figure range depending on the role. Opportunities for advancement are far-reaching, and the payoff at the organization comes with the chance to be part of something greater than just a career.

“The best part of the job is the multicultural environment,” she said. “We come from different cultures, backgrounds, genders and age groups. I think this is enriching on the professional and interpersonal level.”

Originally published on CNBC.COM

Launching An Agile Software Localization Strategy

To launch a successful, agile software localisation strategy, planning is essential. It may not be the most compelling part of your strategy, but, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”. It’s as true today as it was in the 1700s.

By not planning ahead, you run the risk of spending much more than you would like (or can even afford), in terms of money and time; both valuable assets for any company.

To implement a software localisation strategy, first look within your organization for existing resources and to learn from existing expertise. If that’s not available, outsourcing is the best option.

Why localise?

Localisation often carries the stigma of adding more work and more expense. In the short-term this is true, but the added hours and costs in the beginning of the process will be insignificant compared to the long-term gains.

Whether you are launching your software globally because your competitor has already done so, or you’ve identified that a global app would increase sales, market share, customer loyalty, revenue and customer experience, it’s clear that your customers want that software in their native language.

And only when it’s in their own language will they want your software. “If you build it, they will come”, or so the saying goes.

When you start your software strategy, it’s key to design for localisation from the start. Doing so will reduce cost, functional and capacity issues. If your company isn’t already integrating localisation into its culture, it is imperative to begin the initiative.

Becoming part of an agile, global team is key to aligning localisation with your business objectives and leveraging team members’ existing experience.

Let’s talk money

When it comes to expanding your business, cost should be a major consideration.  .   Leveraging in-house expertise will alleviate costs, and for anything that’s being outsourced a formal budget should be created.

Elements to be considered and budgeted for:

  • Translation
  •  Testing
  • Engineering
  • Project management
  • Language service provider (LSP)

LSPs offer multiple benefits and are essential to localise successfully. They have the market experience and output quality is high, but it is important to remember that, as with any service, more expensive doesn’t always mean better quality. Inexpensive services, however, can lead to low quality and rework so it is vital that you spend time finding the right LSP.

Internationalisation at code level

Develop your software in such a way that translation is a simple and integrated process. If your software isn’t coded with internationalisation in mind you risk introducing bugs, which take time and money to fix.

Test readiness review

In order to be ready for formal testing, you must determine your test readiness.  A strategy for determining test type and function must be mapped out for your test coverage map. It’s better to plan for more, as you’ll save time and money on the back end, especially where language testing is involved. Planning resources and test beds are essential at this point.

Executing an agile software localisation strategy

At this point in the strategy, it’s important to have a glossary and style guides for translators, translation memories (TMs) and an idea of where automation comes into the software localisation process.

In terms of what your process flow should look like, Lionbridge suggests:

Export Function > Translation Process > Review (optional) > Implement Changes (optional) > Import > Testing > Release > Repeat

Other important elements to consider are technology, tools and flexibility. While there are many localisation vendors offering to help globalise your software, take the time to select the right one. When selecting a provider it’s important to weight expertise vs cost.  While selecting a new company that offers while less expensive options, they might not have the experience or technology that keeps a software localisation strategy ahead of the curve.

Formal testing

A solution architect or localisation testing expert would be beneficial at this point. They’ll be able to help you with figuring out what to test (browsers, languages, third party apps) and help to avoid over-testing.

Yes, over-testing can be a bad thing. It’s great if you’ve got limitless resources, but for the majority of businesses you need to find a happy medium. Make sure your code, localisation, and app support is working as it should, but don’t spend all your hours (and money) looking at your project through a microscope.

Find the right balance of testing coverage, quality, and costs. If you’ve got the in-house expertise, that’s all the better. Otherwise, a hybrid approach if in-house and outsourcing is best.

Originally published on