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Starting a Career in Translation





To get started as a translator, you have to master a second language, so that is your first priority. For the intelligence community, a common interest for many would-be translators, the best language choices are Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, and Korean (in that order of importance). Overall, Chinese is the best long-term choice, though arguably also the hardest.

Mastering any language will require considerable classroom time, plus time spent living in a country where it's spoken. You should also take all the classes available on the history, culture, etc. of the country/ies where the language is used (you need to know all this stuff). And (not to make this sound too time-consuming), you should also get yourself up to speed on science and technology in general (this is what most translation work ends up being about).

For training in translation itself (this is usually done at the graduate level), you only have a couple choices in the U.S. right now: the Monterey Institute of International Studies and Kent State University. So for undergraduate/college, any school with a strong program in the language you want to study will suffice. You'll also want a school that has, if possible, an organized exchange program for you to spend a semester, ideally a year, abroad studying (the so-called JYA: junior year abroad).

Graduate-level training is not required, though often preferred by employers. This is something to investigate once you have finished your B.A. and are deciding how to enter the profession. The costs of such training are high, and not all languages are available. In other words, practical considerations may decide this for you.

You also need some time, ideally years, living and working in a country where your language is used. This is a vital step, often overlooked, and of the utmost importance. For most people it's the only way to master all the details of a language.

With all this done, you should be able to find a position as a translator, though as always in any field, you start at the bottom and work your way up.


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