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2018.12.20

Five Reasons to Become a Translator

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Foreign languages have always played a very important role in my life. When I was in my late 20s, I decided to move to Japan, which made it necessary for me to speak and think in a foreign language on a daily basis. At first, the whole situation was a little stressful and quite surreal, but I got used to it eventually and even began to like it. Japanese can be a tricky language to learn, but I never got tired of it, and I did not do it merely out of necessity. It was also the excitement of trying to master a whole new language that pushed me forward.
I eventually decided to enroll in a graduate course in Japanese linguistics to analyze the language and get a better understanding of its structure and history. After graduation, working as a language expert felt like the most natural way to build my career, which is how I ended up becoming a translator. It has now been four years since I started, and I have decided to sum up my experience by analyzing five good reasons to consider starting a career path in translation.

Reason No. 1: To Capitalize on Your Language Skills

Learning a foreign language for its own sake is always fun, but why not put that knowledge to good use while you are at it? Although it is true that the AI used in machine translation is developing at an astonishing pace, it will take a while before human translators and (maybe even more so) interpreters become obsolete.
Needless to say, it all depends on your level, but you can always work on that. Also, there are other careers that require language skills (international sales, journalism, and diplomacy, to name just a few), but if working with the language itself is what fascinates you the most, becoming a translator is probably the way to go.

Reason No. 2: To Maintain Your Language Skills

Learning a language is a never-ending process. As a translator, you always need to keep track of the way your source language changes. You are constantly forced to look up new words and learn how to use them. You need to be able to tell the difference between reliable and unreliable linguistic resources in order to make sure the knowledge you possess is accurate enough.
In other words, the best side effect of becoming a translator is non-stop language training. Foreign languages are easy to forget (at least to some extent) if one does not actively use them, which is very unlikely to happen to a professional translator.

Reason No. 3: To Get a Better Understanding of Your Own Mother Tongue

This is partly related to the second reason I discussed above. Being a native speaker gives you a natural feel for the way your language works, but it does not automatically make you a language expert. It is very important for you as a translator to stay current on the trends that continue to shape your mother tongue. You always have to look for new and more innovative ways to express your thoughts. You also need to learn from more experienced language professionals to maintain the quality of your translations.
That is why working as a translator is a good way to learn more about your native language and take your writing skills to a whole new level.

Reason No. 4: To Learn More about the World

Unfortunately, translators are not omniscient. Thus, if you decide to work in this field, you will probably spend a good chunk of your time doing research. On machinery. Chemistry. Mathematics. Cars. Art. Geography. Music. Cultures. Law. You name it. Unless you specialize in one particular field, you will need to tackle a large spectrum of different texts, which will require you to look for information quickly and efficiently.
And while this may seem like a daunting task, it can in fact be quite rewarding. Every new text represents a challenge and demands a new approach. And (almost) every time you finish a translation, you feel like you have gotten to know the world around you just a little bit better.

Reason No. 5: To Get a Closer Look at a Different Culture

Describing the role of a translator as a bridge between different cultures may sound like an old cliché, but there is more than a hint of truth in it. Cultural sensitivity is of paramount importance if one wishes to evolve into a translator that the world will trust. Mastering the language you are translating from is a pre-condition that allows you to even start your career, but you cannot disregard the cultural context in which that language developed.
You will bump into expressions, figures of speech, and even text formats that only make sense in the environment where the language in question is used. This will encourage you to think outside the box and convey the notions hidden behind the words as seamlessly as possible.