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Profession of Translator: pros and cons

Admission to the faculty of foreign languages of MSU is believed to be the most difficult challenge, because entrants have to pass a listening-and-comprehension exam besides oral examination and written test, which is possible only for a student who either had been living for a long time abroad or had communicated a lot with native speakers. But both variants are expensive. There is an easier way: to file an application for admission on a paid basis. Price varies: it depends on faculty and university itself and can be from 1500 to 5000$ a year. If a student lacks just a few marks and doesn't get free admission he or she will still to pay the full price for the education.

The easiest way is to enter a private university. Thus you can save not only your nerves, but also money (an academic year costs about 1000$). But the diplomas of private universities are not as valued by the employers as the diplomas of state universities.

A discouraging situation has established in translation agencies. Serious companies in this sphere of business can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and translation services are generally offered by small private companies which fully depend on their customers. An average translator from English and German to Russian is paid no more than 6$ per a page (of course it depends on complexity of text), work of translators from Italian, Scandinavian languages and Eastern Slavic languages costs a bit more expensive, and translators from Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Japanese and Hungarian have even higher job prices – about 9$ a page. Special translations (legal, technical, medical) are the most expensive and the urgent translations are payed double. In most cases, these companies have non-regular customers, so translators receive their pay only when a customer pays for work: money can be remitted in a week, in a month, or even in a half-year.

One more unpleasant moment is that in such translation agencies highly qualified translators have to rival with translators who only have attended some courses of foreign languages. Only an expert can test level of their knowledge, but not every agency has such expert. These so-called "translators" are ready to receive scanty salary for their work and there is an innumerable multitude of such semi-translators on the labor market. They lowered the price of this complicated intellectual work of translator which requires extensive knowledge, experience and patience. Office work is much more profitable: here translator receives monthly wages, but sometimes has to translate in a strict non-stop mode. Furthermore, some employers don't understand what a translator's work is. They often believe that translators must fulfill extra duties of a secretary, manager and assistant administrator. "I have tried to get an office job as a translator twice, - Mariya Lesnina says. - And both times I was disappointed. Along with translations my first boss overloaded me either with some secretarial duties like receiving telephone calls, or with managerial – like working with customers. Director of the second company had even asked me to teach him German. It was difficult to explain him that words "translator" and "teacher" are not equal. In my third attempt I acted wisely: I found a vacancy of a manager with knowledge of two languages in a foreign company. The salary is higher, the work is easier."

Along with translators there are also interpreters. They can be divided into consecutive and simultaneous interpreters. The difference between them consists only in the amount of time which is given for interpreting: simultaneous interpreters nearly don't have it. In most people's eyes their work looks very attractive: numerous foreign business trips, hourly wages, which can be hundreds dollars per hour, meeting interesting people. Many stories recounting how interpreters had radically changed the result of the most significant military or diplomatic negotiations went down in history. To become an interpreter is a good way of fulfilling one's ambitions. But only few people know how difficult this work is. Simultaneous interpreter can work no more than 3-4 hours a day, and usually a seminar or a conference is served by not a single person, but by a whole team. Simultaneous interpreting requires so strong nervous tension that sooner or later practically every third interpreter experiences nervous breakdown, and by the age of 50 every second simultaneous interpreter gets nervous diseases (mostly, vegeto-vascular dystonia). But in spite of all difficulties and health hazard few people regret their career choice.
So, if you have decided to become a translator, you shouldn't give up your aim. This profession will always "give you this day your daily bread" under any conditions. But if you want to earn a lot and be wealthy, it would be better to apply your knowledge of foreign languages in some other profession (lawyer, economist, politician, or journalist).

Translated from article written by Ekaterina Rusakova

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