Becoming a language professional may seem like a daunting task. And that’s because it is. However, we are not alone. As has been my experience, your colleagues are willing to mentor and guide you along the way. The 5Ws method is precisely that, from me to you: a guide to help you navigate the waters of the language industry as newbies in the field.
The first installment discussed ‘who’ we aim to become when we enter the language arena. Ultimately, we must embody the success we want to achieve.
In our second post, we focused on the ‘What’ of the 5Ws. There, we delved into some DOs and DON’Ts for new language professionals. For example, do keep a goal in mind, a destination you want to reach. But don’t lose sight of your goal; you’re in the driver’s seat toward your new destination.
Today, we zero in on the ‘Where.’ So, where do language pros work? Well, the answer is everywhere! ‘How so?,’ you may ask. The answer is in the language profession: language is how we exchange information globally.
As translators and interpreters, we are the bridges that bring people together. Wherever language communication is broken, language translators and interpreters mend, narrow, or eliminate the gap. So, welcome! Your task as a language professional is truly fundamental. And yes, we really are everywhere. The question for you is this: Where are your skills best suited to be invested? Where will your passion for the profession produce the most satisfaction and the greatest reward in the long run?
Let’s look at some specialized areas to see where you will be most likely to succeed without regrets:
- Do you enjoy working in the medical field? Then, you should consider training to be certified as a medical language professional.
- Are you someone who enjoys legal proceedings and facilitating communication in the court setting? Then, take the necessary steps to become a certified legal translator or interpreter.
- Perhaps you seek variety and prefer to work in various locations, such as educational settings, social services, or community advocacy. Community interpreter, then, is your path. (Medical and legal are sometimes intertwined in this area.)
- A fourth option is to interpret or translate in diplomatic settings.
- A fifth—for insatiable readers, lovers of puzzles, and truly creative types—is literary translation.
- Are you always eager to learn more and don’t want to commit to one field? You can do it all from home as a freelance technical translator.
- Does your background include advanced training in biology, engineering, philosophy, linguistics (the list goes on!)? Are you an academic through and through? Then scholarly translation may be your niche.
- There are also location-dependent touring opportunities with foreign clients...
Where can language professionals work? The opportunities are endless, as you can see, and so are the locations. Wherever a language gap is formed—from the local law enforcement agency to the highest court—the language professional becomes the beacon of hope for people on both sides of the bridge.
So take heart, colleagues. I will tell you a secret: I have heard from those who have been in the industry longer than we have that we are all on a learning journey because the profession is constantly evolving. Know you are not alone. I know I am not alone. We are in this together.
A few more words of advice:
- Find a mentor as soon as you feel sidetracked. It will help you. It helped me during my first year in the field.
- Be honest with yourself. Wherever you are in your professional journey, it is never too late to ask for help. Remember, wherever you find yourself—at a webinar, conference, or another social event hosted by your local ATA chapter or affiliate—we are ubiquitous.
- Once you have made a connection, let her or him know you are looking for a mentor. My experience has been that they are more than willing to help because they have been there—where you are—themselves. You will be glad you did. They, too, are everywhere, like all of us.
This is the third installment of a five-part advice column for new (and not-so-new) translators and interpreters. Read the first installment, “Who?”, here and the “What?” here. The final two installments will be released in the coming months. Subscribe to the NW Linguist Blog and to NOTIS News Quarterly, our—you guessed it—quarterly newsletter, here.
Have a question for Teodosia? You can get in touch by leaving a comment or, if you’d rather remain anonymous, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teodosia Rivera has been working as a professional translator and interpreter since 2018. She is a member of ATA’s Interpreters Division, Spanish Language Division, and Translation Company Division, in addition to two ATA chapters: the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF) and the Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society (NOTIS). Teodosia has established her own business since participating in professional development in the language profession. She brings with her the background of a classroom teacher, having taught for more than 20 years in Osceola County, Florida. “I am still growing and learning,” she says.