So languages come easy to you? What an awesome gift you have! Perhaps you were raised in a multi-lingual home or just picked them up easily and loved taking language in school. Whatever the reason, maybe you’re interested in becoming a translator, and here are some of the best languages to learn for this profession.
A little about translation
Before we get started with languages, let’s take a look at the profession of translation. With all the global communities growing and international businesses, it’s a great time to consider becoming a translator. So, what exactly is translation and what are some things a translator does? Great question – let’s take a look!
What is translation?
Translation is, at first, quite self-explanatory. It is taking one written piece in a language and translating it to another language. Easy enough, right? Well, as we see in this article from Verbatim, When translating, no problem is too small, no term too minor to be ignored.
Translation can be books, speeches, notes, procedures, love notes…anything written can be translated. It is an art in and of itself, and the translator may or may not know where the end result may end up. The author of the above article shares this experience:
…materials to be translated come in all sizes and shapes. Often you have to deal with hand-written material. Someone scrawled out some message to someone else and this twenty-five-word chit of paper is now Exhibit A in an international patent infringement lawsuit. You probably won’t know that, but it could happen. When I was working in-house as a translator for the City of Kawasaki in Japan, my supervisor plopped a short letter on my desk and I translated it. I later found out that Prime Minister Takeshita took this letter to President Reagan during the Summit meeting in 1988. You never know.
Translation is an important part of any business, legal work, scientific findings, literature…the list goes on. And the art of translation must be taken seriously regardless of the medium. That’s where a good translator comes in.
It really isn’t enough for a translator to know a couple of languages. A translator must be well versed in the intricacies of language, the small, subtle nuances, and be able to work from one language to another easily and naturally. It is much more important to know two languages very well than a few languages only a little. Also, it’s important to note that translation is working with the written word. The technical term for working with the spoken word is interpretation.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shares this description of translators:
Translators convert written materials from one language into another language. The goal of a translator is to have people read the translation as if it were the original written material. To do that, the translator must be able to write in a way that maintains or duplicates the structure and style of the original text while keeping the ideas and facts of the original material accurate. Translators must properly transmit any cultural references, including slang, and other expressions that do not translate literally.
It is important to be thorough with a strong attention to detail. The translated piece should read as organically as the original. One small mistake can completely change the meaning of something, and going from one language to another must be done quite carefully. That being said, good translators can be in high demand.
Can’t people just use a translation device for translation?
We are probably all familiar with Google Translate or some of the other apps and devices out there for translation. Don’t those take the place of human translators? Not at all! While they certainly do have their place, they don’t do what a human translator can do because not every translation is word for word.
In this article, we learn that languages are remarkably different in structure, wording, phraseology, colloquialisms, slang, etc.; sometimes these things change from dialect to dialect, so things are not quite as easy as they seem! And that is the main reason why a translation device just can’t do what a human can.
Think about poetry for a minute. We all know poetry is translated from language to language. But how do they do that? Robert Frost said, Poetry is what gets lost in translation. You can lose all those poetic devices, the alliteration, the metaphors, the lyricism. But a good translator can take a poem in one language and create its likeness in another. In this NPR article, poet and award-winning literary translator Aaron Coleman says, “Instead, translation can be transformation. I think we all want to have translation work as a process of reproduction, but it’s really a process of transformation.” And that is the job of the translator.
The Best Languages to Learn for Translation
Well, if that didn’t scare you off, let’s get to the languages of translation. Of course, a translator needs to know at least two languages, their native one and at least one more. But what are the best languages to learn if you’re thinking of translation?
Alexika.com tells us that Russian is a language of e-commerce and online business — meaning digital marketing opportunities are boundless. This article also shares that Russia is the 11th largest world economy and one of the topmost innovative economies in the world. Another great fact is that Russian is the second most common language on the Internet. So, if you are thinking about translating and want to learn a language, consider Russian as it’s one of the best languages to learn. You’ll have tons of opportunities to use your skill.
Ahh, the beautiful language of French. According to an article in our Bunny Library, in today’s modern-day, the official French language has earned its sixth place as one of the most spoken languages in the world. So, c’est vrai, French is an important language in the world of translation. Almost 20% of the European Union speaks French, and it is the official language in 29 countries.
However, because French is so widespread, you’ll see, or rather hear, a number of dialects out there. That is why it’s important to not only have a thorough knowledge of the language of French itself but also to focus on some specific dialects. Our Bunny article also shares that
There is a saying that goes “if you speak to the world, you speak to nobody.” Since native French speakers are splayed all around the globe, dialects build a bridge that speaks specifically to a regional audience. This builds a stronger rapport and brand authenticity.
When you excel at a particular dialect, you become that more desirable as a translator.
The Spanish Academy says that Japanese is one of the best languages to learn as a translator in 2021. Because the Japanese culture puts a large focus on relationships, a company that shares its material in Japanese to its Japanese clients and colleagues will do that much better. Because forming relationships is crucial, Japanese translation is a big part of the picture of success.
A translator who is skilled in Japanese will have tons of opportunity to work. Japanese is not one of the more common languages to study in the United States, so if you take it on, you’ll be quite marketable. This article points out that Perhaps the best part when you translate to Japanese is you have the power to help communities and companies overcome language barriers. At the end of the day, you know that your job made a difference.
With 1.13 worldwide speakers, Mandarin is clearly one of the best languages to learn as a translator. We are seeing so much global crossover that learning Mandarin is a valuable asset. Not only could you work translating business documents and literature, but also material for video games and social media. If you are already skilled in picking up languages, this is a great one for a translator to perfect.
Working as a Spanish translator will be not only fulfilling, but also busy. Spanish is actually a bit similar to other languages and often people pick it up easily. Whether you find work translating from English or French to Spanish or any other language to Spanish, you’ll have plenty of work. We understand that as globalization increases, content in Spanish needs to be translated into other languages and vice versa, making the scope of Spanish translation ever greater.
Like other languages, there is a vast amount of material we see translated into Spanish. From documents and technical manuals to literature to advertising, there is a constant flow with Spanish translation. We still have the need for accuracy and strong attention to detail. This is true in any language, as there are dialects, slang, and nuances that make the translation credible and believable.
Skills of a Translator
It is not enough to be fluent in one of these (or other) languages. Translators need to be able to work for a target audience while keeping the integrity of the work. That does mean taking on a casual tone when needed or keeping the formal one from the original piece. For instance, a translated piece for a medical journal will need to be objective and formal, while a piece on social media should be friendly and informal enough to appeal to the audience. No one wants to read choppy, awkward text. No matter the language or the purpose, it should be smooth, cohesive, and easy to read.
So a translator should have:
- great attention to detail
- an excellent grasp of all aspects of both languages
- an understanding of audience and purpose
- the ability to maintain the purpose, message, and integrity of the work
Check us out for translation work
So, you’ve mastered some of the best languages to learn to work as a translator? Bunny Studio is always open to hearing from potential pros, and we’d love to chat. Check us out if you are looking to make a difference in the world and bring together global communities. Translation work can be big or small to the translator, but to the customer, it’s going to always be big. Take your skills and make a difference. The world needs you.