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What is a translator?

A translator is a person who transfers written texts from one language to another. A professional translator has a keen sense of the source language and the target language, which he or she uses, for example, to translate novels, non-fiction books, press releases, presentations and certificates.

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The translator profession

A translator facilitates written communication between business partners, contracting parties and stakeholders. It is not enough to simply translate the texts word for word into another language. Rather, linguistic images, idioms and ambiguities must also be transmitted with their meaning. In addition to a broad vocabulary and relevant foreign language knowledge, this translator’s job description therefore also requires extensive knowledge of the cultures behind both languages.

Typical fields of activity of translators

Translators have a versatile profession that is in demand in a wide range of industries, such as politics, business and publishing. A distinction is made between two categories: literary translations and technical translations. Both require extensive foreign language skills and can each be broken down into further subcategories.

Literary translator

Literary translators translate works that are accessible to a wide audience, including scientific texts, fiction, non-fiction, comics, radio plays or films. The aim of literary translation is to provide an aesthetic form of entertainment, which is why this form requires a high degree of fluency.

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FAQ: More questions about translators

What is the difference between an interpreter and a translator?

While an interpreter translates the spoken word orally into another language in real time, a translator works in writing and can take more time to deal with the source text.

Where can you work as a translator?

Most translators are freelance and work either for translation agencies or directly for the end client. In some large companies, you can also find employed translators but this is the exception rather than the rule. Some translators also choose to work as project managers in the course of their career, to act as a link between translator and client.

What does one do as a translator?

A translator transfers texts from one source language into another. To do this, they first analyse the individual passages in order to then transcribe the text passages correctly.

How does one become a translator?

There are different ways to become a translator. In various parts of Germany, you can take a state examination to become a translator, and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) also offers corresponding examinations. Graduates with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in linguistics are particularly sought-after on the labour market because they have the extensive skills needed for this profession.

How much does a translator earn?

The starting salary of a translator is on average £1,700 gross per month. Depending on the qualification and employer, earnings may vary upwards or downwards. Salaries are above average in the public sector, amounting to £4,200 gross.

What does the future hold for the translator profession?

During the course of globalisation, many new opportunities have arisen for translators in particular, which is why this professional field is in a fortunate position. If you have the necessary qualifications, you can choose from a wide range of industries. Machine translations such as Google Translate and DeepL are not yet sophisticated enough to replace humans.

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