The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gained in translation

ITEM 1: A firm imports hi-tech machinery from Germany but they need help installing it.

ITEM 2: The mainly uneducated patients participating in a clinical trial at a government hospital need help to understand the questionnaire.

ITEM 3: A foreign television channel wants to carry special stories on India and needs someone to explain the cultural context of certain events.

Only one professional can be of help in all three situations, a translator. He or she can translate the German manual sent with the machinery, helping technicians to instal it properly. He can translate the questionnaire into the patient’s mother tongue and he can explain cultural events to the television channel in the language they understand.

These are just some of the things that a translator has to handle on a day-to-day basis. He may also be required to translate legal documents, technical writings, government correspondence or even a novel.

“With the world coming together, there is a growing need for qualified language professionals,” says Pinaki Talukdar, a Calcutta-based freelance translator.

Rajiv Kapadia, who heads the translation bureau Transinfo Solutions, agrees. “We get a lot of translation work in the software sector. We also work with foreign banks and exporters. As interaction between countries increase, work for translators will also increase proportionately,” he says.

So what do you need to be a good translator' Apart from knowledge of a foreign language, you need the knack to analyse what is written, what it means and how best to express it in another language. A flair for writing is an added advantage.

“I loved writing,” says Arati Kumari who is studying for her PhD in German from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Arati found that she had to mostly do technical translations to put rice on the table, so she decided to do her thesis to indulge her love for writing.

It is best if you learn the language from an international institute like the Max Mueller Bhavan and the Alliance Francaise or from the consulate,” says Durbamanjaree Niyogi who has herself studied Chinese from JNU, one of the few Indian universities that offers a bouquet of foreign languages for graduation studies. “Normally, if anyone wants something translated, they approach these institutes who pass on the assignment to their ex-students,” she says. Niyogi works as an editor with the Bangalore office of a Chinese firm.

“You must know your mother language exceptionally well,” advises Kapadia. “A good translator must be equally fluent in both the languages,” he says.

“Taking an internationally accredited exam, like the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, gives you credibility,” says Talukdar.

“I prefer getting my work done by translators who have passed the JLPT. That way I can be sure that he has the necessary skills,” says Kaushal Kumar whose company ships things to foreign countries, including Japan.

How much can a translator hope to make' Somewhere between Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per month as a fresher, says Kapadia. “With experience, a good translator can make about Rs 60,000 a month,” he says.

A fresher can earn around Rs 8,000 if he or she joins a translation bureau, says Malobika Chaudhuri of the Mono Translation Bureau in Calcutta. “If you want to be a full-time translator, you have to know more than one language,” she adds.

Talukdar says if you want to freelance, you must know at least three foreign languages. “But if you know a language like Arabic or Pushtu, which very few people know, you will be paid so well that you won’t need to do more than two assignments a year,” he says.

If you choose to become a translator, the going might be tough initially. But if you are dedicated, deliver your work on time and maintain confidentiality, you will have more assignments than you can handle.

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