- Hi, everybody
I've just thought the following article from NYT might be of interest to
general translating audience. BTW, for those who do not mind the hassle of
registering etc., here is the addrees:
New York Times, May 30, 2001
Workplace: Translators Thrive as the World Speaks
By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH
Roy Inman for The New York Times
Hans Fisher, a translator, consults a map of Hungary.
Elizabeth Elting loves languages, and she loves business. When it came to a
career, she hated to choose.
So in 1992 Ms. Elting co-founded Trans Perfect Translations in New York,
which offers translations into 100 languages. The company expects revenue of
$24 million this year, and Translations.com, which Ms. Elting co-founded in
1999 to make manuals, on- screen commands and graphics user friendly in a
variety of languages - is on track for $10 million.
"If you love languages and don't want to teach, this is a great way to make
a living," Ms. Elting said.
Apparently, a lot of budding linguists agree. Both the Monterey Institute in
California and New York University report a steady rise in applicants to
their translation schools and in job offers to their graduates. Membership
in the American Translators Association has doubled since 1993, to 8,000.
Walter W. Bacak Jr., the group's executive director, said his online
referral system averaged 100,000 hits a month from people seeking
Much is spurring the quest for United States-based linguists. Courts need
interpreters at trials. The breakup of the Soviet Union and the creation of
the European Union is forcing diplomats and executives to negotiate in more
"I used to fit two years of data about assignments in one index card box,"
said Stephanie van Reigersberg, chief of the State Department's Office of
Language Services, which procures interpretation services for all White
House agencies. "Now I fill more than two boxes a year."
The growing use of English, it seems, has not lessened demand. "People who
were educated at Harvard want to be speaking their native language when the
sound bites are broadcast at home," said Idette Swetye, chairman of the
United States region of the International Association of Conference
Work is growing even faster for translators of written words. Global
consumers now demand package inserts and manuals in their language. And the
Internet has generated the need to translate software and Web pages.
"Consultants tell us that by 2007 Chinese will be the Net's most common
language, so the translation business must grow," said Muriel Jerome
O'Keeffe, founder of JTG Inc., a translation concern in Alexandria, Va.
Proficient translators and interpreters - most of whom are freelancers - can
make a pretty good living. Salaries for the State Department's 20 staff
interpreters range from $70,000 to $100,000 a year; freelancers get about
$430 a day for conferences and up to $300 for classes. Most translation
companies pay 5 cents a word for widely spoken languages like Spanish, up to
20 cents a word for character-based languages like Japanese. A 1998 survey
by the translators association showed that freelance translators made about
$51,848 a year, while salaried translators averaged $44,939. But most
experts say that efficient freelancers can make six figures, and that
project managers - the salaried people who coordinate translation
assignments - can hit $90,000.
But for freelancers, it is an unpredictable life. "There are periods of
intense work, but months when I sit on my hands," said Anna Saxon-Forti, an
English-to-Italian interpreter. And competition can be fierce. As anyone who
has invested in tech stocks knows, what technology giveth, it can taketh
away. An American company can e-mail a Spanish translation job to a
lower-wage translator in Mexico. And translators of less-common languages
are suddenly in ample supply.
"You need something translated into Hebrew, you can find a translator in the
online Israeli yellow pages," said Doron Horowitz, president of the American
Association of Language Specialists. Added Hans Fisher, a Hungarian and
German translator in Kansas City, Kan., "The Internet made this a growing
field, but kept rates stagnant."
Moreover, there are machine translation programs that would make a mess of
Shakespeare, but that can easily translate technical texts.
The Trane Company unit of American Standard, which makes air-conditioners,
uses a translation service provided by Xerox to translate tens of thousands
of pages of technical information into 28 languages each year. Because the
service uses software for much of the translation, it can store oft-used
phrases and repeat them in later documents. Thus, Trane's translation costs
have dropped to about 6 cents a word, from about 15 cents a word in late
American Standard may soon use software to translate its intranet into the
16 languages spoken by its 61,000 employees. "Human translation is too
expensive," said Jonathan Reavis, a Trane international marketing executive
in La Crosse, Wis.
For now, translation software is just a minor threat, because few programs
can translate language-rich text. But human competition is rife. Although
the trade groups offer certification, the field is unregulated.
"In Europe you can't get hired without certification, but here anyone can
persuade clients that he is a translator," said Milena Savova, director of
the N.Y.U. translation school, which will soon offer an online course in
Also, translation companies compete fiercely for clients. That has kept
their rates low and thus made it harder for translators to push through
their own rate increases. Their union - the Translators and Interpreters
Guild, formed in 1991 - offers certification and referral service, but has
only attracted about 350 members.
Meanwhile, mom-and-pop agencies are getting squeezed out or gobbled up.
Lionbridge Technologies, one of the largest translation companies in
Waltham, Mass., has bought seven companies in four years.
More giants keep forming. Bowne & Company, financial printers in New York,
has long offered translations to printing clients. Now it sells translation
services separately as well. "Our niche is time-sensitive legal and
financial documents, and that is still a seller's market," said Judith J.
D'Amico, executive director of Bowne Translation Services.
Indeed, most experts say that companies that specialize in areas like
software, financial or legal and that offer 24-hour turnarounds, are most
likely to thrive.
"We're facing lots of changes," said Debbie Folaron, a project manager at
Eriksen Translations Inc., which does legal and financial work, "but that
need for speed is the most major change of all."