I am not writing as an advocate of ‘English as a global language’ (though it wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all!), but I can’t help trying to open your eyes to a contemporary problem which, more often than not, makes finding a good job in the field of translating/interpreting a terrible nightmare. In spite of the huge number of native speakers of English living on Earth and an equally large number of people who speak it as a second language, being proficient in English alone is never enough for an individual to find a great job in a translation company, far as it may be from any English-speaking country. It seems that two languages – your mother tongue and English – will hardly provide you with a pass to the professional life you have been dreaming of. In order to make sure you ‘qualify’ for the best job opportunities, you definitely need to have an ace up your sleeve, namely to know a third language.
Speakers of foreign languages fall into three main categories:
- Mixed ethnicity offspring who are lucky to know the two different native languages of their parents combined, in some cases, with the official language of the foreign country they live in. That would be minimum 2 – maximum 3 languages. This is a very good start for someone who dreams of becoming a qualified translator later in life.
- University graduates, who have studied 2 foreign languages for three to five years and, thankfully, are specialised in both.
- Passionate people who have studied one foreign language at a language school abroad or at home and hope to be able to find work as translators/interpreters in their home country later on. If their mother tongue is a less-spoken language and they truly master the foreign language they studied, they may stand a chance on the local job market.
The list may go on but the first two of the above-mentioned categories are the ones that really matter in the situation I am going to delve into. These are the people who are most likely to start looking for translation jobs and, consequently, should be kept in mind as ‘serious competition’ by anyone willing to join this professional category.
Before fishing for job opportunities at the translation firms advertising on the web, you had better weigh your chances and prepare for the worst.
- If you belong to the first category above, the world is your oyster. You will notice in most cases that translation companies are looking for speakers of at least two languages. If you have grown up speaking two languages on a daily basis and have taken the right steps towards receiving a language certificate, you are definitely the most-feared candidate for a translation job. The language tandem that your parents have taught you is not something that you may ever forget. You can beat everyone who has studied the same languages at the university as a second and third language. We all know that the language skills learned early in life will stay with us for ever. Just keep reading literature in the original and listening to native speakers like you on the radio or TV to update your knowledge and keep up with your already strong skills.
- If you are a representative of the second category, your lucky star may not always be there for you. It’s a fact that about half of those who studied two foreign languages at university only get to use one of them on a daily basis, either as school teachers or translators for a foreign company in their home country, which means that at some point in their life they will get the feeling that most of the third language they acquired in tertiary education has been lost without a chance of being re-learned after such a long break. Fortunately, this is only a feeling!
Once you have found that you badly need your long-lost third language skills, it will not take you long to remember each and every thing that you once learned and were able to use proficiently in conversation or writing. Our brain has the ability to reveal information or data that was once deeply stored if and when it is properly stimulated. If you turn to your old course books and language material that helped you graduate from university with the proper grades, you will be surprised to find that revision towards re-acquiring the skills that you once had is just a piece of cake.
Give your brain a second portion of the old familiar stimulus it once received to learn the ‘new stuff’ when you were young and it will instantly start performing as efficiently as before. You may need a few months to regain what you lost, but you will soon be able to reach the same proficiency level you were at when you stopped using that language. As for further improvements, constant weekly study will add more and more knowledge to what you already have and you will no longer have that feeling of loss towards the language you have so unwisely neglected. Regaining your long-forgotten skills will considerably improve you chance to find the translation/interpreting job of your dreams and also boost your self-esteem. Remember it is never too late to unveil your full potential.
And here is something to give you more confidence in what you know and can do: if, for a while, you do translation work instead of interpreting jobs in the language you don’t yet master as you should, you will have enough time to polish your sentences and manage to provide high-quality translations from day one.
About Alina Cincan
I am a former teacher, translator and interpreter with over 8 years’ experience, now Managing Director at Inbox Translation. I am a language geek who likes to keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry. When I am not writing on our blog, I am writing on other people’s. You can get in touch on Google+ and LinkedIn.