Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Qualifications Does a Translator Need?

Some believe that translators' qualifications are demonstrated by a degree in translation, "preferably at the master's level". However, depending on the language combination in question, such a degree may not be readily obtainable in the U.S., especially for immigrants who arrive here as adults. For example, none of the many universities in New York City offer an M.A. in German-English translation. New York University offers a certificate in translation for this language combination, which, however, is not even equivalent to a B.A., let alone a more advanced degree. And German is one of the more common languages in American academia.

Translation is a practical skill, not just an academic discipline. While the academic study of translation can be useful, it is not a prerequisite for successfully practicing the profession. As a matter of fact, a number of professionals in the field, including trainer Jon Ritzdorf, state that in the U.S. proven subject matter expertise is more important than a translation degree. A bi-lingual computer programmer, for example, will be more familiar with computer terminology and concepts in both languages than someone with a translation degree in these languages, but a background in sociology.

To ensure an effective translation of your source documents,choose translators with experience in your field (e.g., computer software), no matter whether they have an M.A. in translation or not.