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Language Translation: Building Bridges between Languages

A Profile of a Professional Translator:  Sarah Symons Glegorio

Creative Careers in Languages, Part 5

By Christine S. Maxwell

Most people think of language teachers and translators as popular career choices for people with skills in foreign languages.   While many people have interacted with language teachers in high school or in college, most do not understand the role of translators and the importance of the work that they perform to build bridges between two languages.

Sarah Symons Glegorio, a Portland, Oregon -based translator of texts from Spanish and Portuguese to English, provides these vital services through Shark Translations, her own company.   Glegorio describes the role of a translator:

What educational backgrounds do translators need?

The requirements for translators vary greatly depending on the type of work they wish to do.  However, successful translators should have the following qualifications:  an educational level of at least a Bachelor’s degree, excellent writing skills, and strong subject knowledge.   Translators should be lifelong learners and should desire to hone their skills continually.

Which certifications do you need, and is it difficult to obtain them?

While certifications are not required for some translations, they demonstrate mastery of translations skills.  I hold the American Translators Association (ATA) certificate, pairing my Spanish to English translation skills.   This test is very difficult, with only a 15 percent pass rate.  Most people don’t pass it the first time.  I also have a certificate from New York University in translating from Spanish to English.

Each country has different requirements for translators.   For example, Spain and Brazil have sworn translators, who are approved by the governments of those countries.

 What do you do in a typical day as a translator?

As a translator and as a business owner, there is no typical day!  On most days, my priorities are handling current translation projects and meeting their deadlines.     I also check emails, voice messages, and other communications to ensure a prompt response.  After completing translation work and communication demands, I read and research to keep abreast of current trends in translations and in my areas of expertise in business, finance and real estate.

In addition to daily work requirements, I must manage my business.  I have marketing, accounting, and continuing education requirements to fulfill.

I choose the name of Shark Translations for my business because it describes the nature of the work that I do and how I run my business.  Like sharks, who are master navigators of the ocean, I attempt to guide people through language barriers, so that all messages are received clearly and flawlessly through the translation process.

In your opinion, will the need for translators increase in the future?

Yes and no.  The demand for translators who are tech savvy, excellent writers, and experts in a niche will be there and is likely to increase.

However, artificial intelligence, e.g., machine translations, may satisfy the need for general translations.

Are human translations more effective than machine translations?

It is important to discuss the role that these two methods play.

Human translations are polished and perfected.  In addition, a human translator can apply the nuances and subtleties of the languages, something that machines cannot do.  Therefore, human translations are more suitable for public and professional texts.

Machine translations, however, are improving.  Big companies are investing in machine translations to replace the bottom end of the market, or the more general, impersonal communications that I mentioned above.

Expert translations prepared by humans are still very much needed.

Where do translators work?

Translators work in a variety of settings.  Most translators are independent contractors like me.  For those who enjoy the freelance lifestyle, the occupation of a translator is ideal.  Others who enjoy going to a workplace, the camaraderie of others, and a regular salary may prefer to work for businesses.  Typically, these jobs are found in cities where multi-language expertise is required, such as New York City, home to the United Nations or Brussels, the center of the European Union.   Other locations, such as Silicon Valley, may have needs for specialized language skills.

Which languages have the greatest need for translators?

The Western European languages, Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese are in demand.  However, the greatest need is for translators for regional dialects and lesser-spoken languages.  Translators are needed for Finnish and Swedish, as well as Hindi and the languages of India.  The United States State Department also maintains a list of languages that are in critical need of speakers and translators of those languages.

What is the salary range for translators?

There is a huge range in salaries for translators, from volunteer to six-digit salaries. Depending on whether a translator is part-time or full-time, the most recent ATA survey of salaries indicates a range of $17,000 to $55,000 annually.

The Indeed career search website denotes the hourly wages of translators from $7.00 per hour to $52.00 per hour.

Geographical demand and language expertise also important factors in the translators’ earning capacities.

What other important information should the public and aspiring translators know?

There are two general clarifications about the work that translators do.  The first is the difference between translators and interpreters.  Translators employ reading and writing skills and work with written documents.   Interpreters use listening and speaking skills to complete their work.   Interpreters work with audiences.    Both jobs require very different skill sets.

The second is that normally translators should translate documents into their native languages.  The exception to this rule would be those who were raised bilingually or for those who have lived many years in a specific country and have acquired complete mastery of that language.

For more information on Shark Translations, visit

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