Although translator and interpreter may be used interchangeably, there is a distinction. Translation involves converting a written text from one language to another. An interpreter, in particular a conference interpreter, acts as an intermediary between speakers. People who work in these fields typically need a BA in translation, offered by a number of schools in Canada such as Glendon College's School of Translation, in Toronto. For interpreters, a Masters in conference interpreting is the minimum requirement.
Donald Barabe is vice president of the Translation Bureau, a division of Public Works and Government Services Canada. The Translation Bureau has a staff of about 1,200 translators, interpreters, and terminologists in all major departments of the government. He explains that the past decade has seen a staggering increase in demand for translation services. Demand is actually doubling up every three to seven years, he says. And we don't see any end in sight. Barabe names globalization as one of the factors that accounts for this increase.
Most of the 9-5 jobs in interpreting are in the various levels of the government. Staff interpreters are used in the senate, the House of Commons, and parliamentary committees. Interpreters also work for government agencies, such as the Canadian International Development Agency. Aside from those, there is also the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency based in Montreal. Outside of these circles, most interpreters work as freelancers.
For translators there are plenty of options as well. Like interpreting, many positions are with the government but there are a number in the private sector. CLS Lexi-tech is perhaps the largest translation company in Canada, but given growing population trends, the skills of translators can be applied to just about any industry. Major areas where there is work available [include] pharmaceuticals, law firms, accounting and consulting, public administration, insurance companies, big retail chains, anything, explains Barabe. Even exporters and supply chains need translators for their target countries.
According to Andrew Clifford, chair of the School of Translation at Toronto's Glendon College, most banks have translators, but lately have been offering more work to freelancers. The type of income you can receive in this industry varies. Freelancers in the private sector can make anywhere from $80,000 to around $120,000, provided they're putting in a serious amount of work. Translation for the government would usually start around $45,000-$65,000. Federal interpreters, on the other hand, can expect $65,000-$85,000.
Although we have a well-established infrastructure for French and English, Canada has been slow adapting to languages of immigration and acknowledging indigenous languages. In Canada, French is king, says Clifford. Ninety percent of the translating jobs out there are between English and French. Clifford explains that change is on the horizon, with Canada's diversity encouraging growth in other language markets.
Across the pond, Europe is already seeing the importance of translation and interpreting services for economic growth. You go outside of Canada and the story changes dramatically, says Clifford. The European Commission works with 24 different languages, so the situation is very different there. Sometimes I have students who say, "I'm really interested in working in Europe.' He also notes that in Europe, knowing an Eastern European language would really make you attractive to an employer. In Canada we have a lot of expertise in [translation and interpreting], he continues. To take advantage of that and acquire more market share, nationally and internationally, we need to get our act together and consolidate things, because the room for growth is absolutely huge.
Among the financial services taking this into account is TD Bank, which has an in-house translation group. Language skills are important when it comes to connecting with the customer, says Anna Zec, a human resource representative at TD. If you look at our customer base, it's very multicultural. We have multi-language online services and automated banking networks where various languages are being used. She explains how reflecting the face of a community is always a priority when serving the customer. When you think of our branch locations in various ethnic communities, we would speak their languages, and of course our advertising and marketing material would correspond with their languages.
In Canada, Barabe points out that more services in Spanish, Chinese, and Punjabi are needed. [Demand] varies from year to year, according to the relationships we have with specific countries at that point in time, he explains. Although translators and interpreters are in demand, the supply is low. The demand is for 1000 graduates per year, and the output is around 300 per year. Barabe attributes this deficiency to competition from more popular university and college programs. You don't hear about translation a lot, he says. You hear about business schools, med schools, law schools, things like that.
Clifford explains that schools and organizations are taking steps towards building more opportunities for translators and interpreters, allowing services to go beyond our two official languages and keep up with Canada's accelerating diversity. At the same time, there are a number of internships and programs to help young translators and interpreters get off the ground. The Translation Bureau itself works with 200 students per year. jp
Interested? Here are some helpful resources that might kick start your career as a translator of conference interpreter:
*International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC)
*Interpreting for Europe's Facebook group