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Greenwolf103
11-23-2005, 11:12 PM
Hi,

I need info on what entails a job working as a foreign-language translator, preferably the Dutch language. What does it take to land a job with the Department of Labor? What does the work include? Outside of DOL, what kind of business would hire someone as a translator? What would they do there? I hear there's lots of travel involved; how often and for how long? What's an average salary?

This is for a novel. My character has a bachelor's degree in social services but works as a translator. It is her desired occupation. She spent 7 years in Holland (has American parents).

I also need info about a job as an accountant. What's the educational requirements? Typical salary? What kind of work environment is there? Hours? Benefits?

This is also for my novel. Any info would be GREATLY appreciated and of course I will offer credit. Please contact Dawn at DMCWriter@mail2desert.com with info. Thank you!! :)

SusanR
11-24-2005, 04:55 AM
Reply comin' at ya by email. (My husband's a CPA.)

SusanR

orlien
11-24-2005, 07:47 PM
Mail me for any question about the country and the language.

ideagirl
11-29-2005, 05:56 AM
IWhat does it take to land a job with the Department of Labor? What does the work include? Outside of DOL, what kind of business would hire someone as a translator? What would they do there? I hear there's lots of travel involved; how often and for how long? What's an average salary?

I've worked as a translator (French) both here and in France. So here's my 2 cents. Also, here's a super-simple overview (http://www.iseek.org/sv/13000.jsp?id=100110).

Travel isn't normally a part of being a translator, though it can be common if you are an interpreter. (Translators translate written documents, so they can work anywhere, including at home; interpreters translate live conversations in real time, so they need to be wherever the conversation is happening--this may involve travel, or it may just involve living in a place where interpreting is in high demand, like New York City, London, Geneva etc.). Many government organizations hire translators--FBI, CIA, etc. at the federal level, and of course there are tons of opportunities at the international level (Unesco, the UN, the European Commission, yada yada). She could work for the UN in New York, if you want her in America. I have trouble imagining why any US government agency would need a full-time Dutch translator--do we do enough business with Holland, or have any security concerns or diplomatic issues with them?--but I suppose it's possible. The court system (federal, state and local) sometimes needs interpreters when a witness or defendant is not a native English speaker, but to my knowledge Spanish is pretty much the only language they need on anything like a full-time basis. The court system generally doesn't need translators--any documents needing translation are handled by whichever side (prosecutors/plaintiffs or defendants) needs them translated.

By the way, for excellent insight into the way translators'/interpreters' minds work and what the job of an interpreter is like, I highly recommend the novel Bel Canto (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060838728/ref=pd_lpo_k2a_1_img_T2/002-7192014-5661613?%5Fencoding=UTF8) by Ann Patchett. One of the main characters is an interpreter (also a translator, but mainly an interpreter).

Any large business that has a high volume of work with Dutch companies or the Dutch government could have a Dutch translator. Smaller companies are way more likely to just hire the translator as needed when work comes up, i.e. as a temporary contractor. I'm sure there is much more need for translators in Holland or elsewhere in Europe than in the US, so you would find more opportunities: companies that produce interactive video games need their scripts translated from/into Dutch, movie subtitles need to be translated, etc.

Salary depends a lot on where you work and what type of employer you have. The government pays less than the private sector but in return offers better benefits and job security; you should be able to go online and find out what the federal pay scales are for translators (it will be a number, like GS-13 or something, because the feds use a military-style ranking system to classify jobs; so you would need to find some federal translation jobs online and see what scale they're at, then find the most recent federal pay-scale table to see what amount of money people at that scale are paid). Add ten grand for the private sector, but keep in mind that New York salaries are higher than, say, Cleveland salaries. Note that the feds use different pay scales for different cities, with higher pay for expensive places like NYC, San Francisco etc. If you don't care about exact numbers, then suffice to say that translators make $40-50,000, but more in New York etc., and perhaps a little more for rarer languages like Dutch. This is a total average--people make more later in their careers, and people who combine translation with knowledge in some specialty field (technical/medical/legal etc.) make more.

They may also make more working for themselves. The most I ever made working as a freelancer was just over $4100 in a single week, but that was pulling 16-hour days--obviously, you need a client with a huge project to make that much (I was translating a Request for Proposals inviting bids to build a power plant in the Ivory Coast). If she works as a freelance contractor, she most likely will charge per word of the source language (i.e. if she's translating from Dutch to English, she charges per each Dutch word). The per-word price can be anywhere from 5 cents to 20 cents, though with less commonly spoken languages like Dutch, it's on the higher side because it's harder to find translators for that language. Also, the per-word price tends to scale according to the length of the document: say 20 cents/word for the first 1000 words, 18 cents/word for the next 2000 words, etc. etc., all the way down to 5 cents or even less for enormously long documents (say, 60,000+ words). The per-word method of charging takes time to explain to clients, but they love it once they realize that they know at the outset exactly what the cost will be, and they can control the cost by choosing which documents to translate (say they have 50,000 words but can only afford to translate 35,000, they might have the translator summarize what the documents contain so that they can decide which parts are the most important and just translate those parts).


My character has a bachelor's degree in social services but works as a translator. It is her desired occupation. She spent 7 years in Holland (has American parents).
Beware of underestimating the credentials needed to be a translator. Because your character is not a native speaker (not Dutch mother tongue, i.e., Dutch was not the language spoken in her family home and during her entire primary/secondary educational experience), she will also need an academic background in the language to get any kind of good job in the field. Native speakers can get away with college degrees in other areas (e.g., a Dutch person with an engineering degree could do technical translation or a Dutch person with a modern literature degree could do literary translation), but non-native speakers can't. So this means a Master's in Dutch, or at a bare minimum an undergraduate minor (ideally it would be her major, with social sciences as the minor), plus her seven years in Holland, and those seven years would have to have been spent in total immersion: attending a Dutch school or working in a Dutch company. Saying "I have no academic background in the field but I spent 7 years in the country" just does not cut the mustard. Only a totally inexperienced client (read: definitely NOT a federal agency like the Dept of Labor!) would hire someone whose only experience was having lived in the country; the only exception I can think of is if the language is very rare (like, say, Tibetan) and the client is in a pinch (like, a looming deadline that can't be postponed).

So, I would recommend either a Master's in Dutch or a combination of undergrad minor plus a Dutch high school diploma (i.e., have the seven years she spent in Holland be her middle school and high school years). [NOTE, European high school is very different from ours; to help you get the description of her school days right, here is a guide to the Dutch education system from Expatica.com (http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=72&story_id=579&name=Guide+to+the+Dutch+education+system) (just click that link to go directly to the Dutch page). And here (http://www.zefhemel.com/archives/2005/01/26/competitive-education-systems-good-or-bad) is a first-person account in more accessible language about how Dutch education works.]

If your character doesn't have a Master's in Dutch Language and Literature or a very closely related field (e.g., MA in linguistics with a focus on Dutch), then to get hired by a big client she should have ATA (American Translators Association) certification. This is the only US-based organization that certifies translators. That means that apart from university degrees with a major in translation (not a regular language major, but a translation and/or interpretation major in the specific language), ATA certification is the only recognized US credential, though certification by European or Canadian translation organizations would work too (link to Canadian (http://www.cttic.org/) org; link to Dutch (http://www.ngtv.nl/) org). If you want to give her a degree in translation instead, that works as well as certification but it severely limits which universities she might have gone to because there aren't many that offer this major, especially in a less-common language like Dutch. I have a BA and MA in French (not translation) and no ATA certification (haven't tried taking the test), and I've worked as a translator a lot--but always on a temporary contract basis, not as an employee, and in any case I have the added advantage of having started learning French when I was 6 or 7, having lived there for several years, and having the equivalent of over 100 undergraduate credits in French courses, so I have what they call "near-native fluency."

Anyway, ATA certification involves taking a multi-day open-book test, which is given a few times a year at various locations across the US (you have to travel to the exam site, which could be hundreds of miles away). There are two separate exams: Dutch to English and English to Dutch. She does not need to take both; her most likely area of expertise is from Dutch to English, since she's a native English speaker, but if she's really good she could go for the other certification too. These exams are difficult: 80% of the people who take them fail. Here is some info about ATA exams (http://www.atanet.org/bin/view.pl/285.html) and eligibility requirements (http://www.atanet.org/acc/form_eligibility_requirements.htm) (what criteria she needs to satisfy to even be allowed to take the exam: notice that if all she has is a bachelor's degree, she will need two years of full-time translation work experience to even be allowed to take the exam).

ideagirl
11-29-2005, 07:21 AM
PS, because the average salary I saw online (the $40-50k I mentioned, which I found on Monster.com) seemed low to me, I looked around for more info. Here's something that indicates pay rates are higher: the feds hire contract translators, and for Dutch, they pay $27/hour or 10 cents/word (15 cents/word for complex or highly technical documents, and an additional 5 cents/word for rush jobs). Remember the feds pay less than the private sector.

Link: NVTC translation pay rate (http://www.nvtc.gov/paychart/index.html)

If $27/hour is the freelancer rate, you can bet on around $48,000-50,000/yr for a full-time employee (27 x 2000 hours, minus a few grand since the employer pays for your benefits instead of you). And that's the feds, so the private sector is higher. I would bet on $65,000 in the New York area... assuming a full-time Dutch translator job could be found.

Zisel
11-30-2005, 11:40 PM
Also, maybe itís just me, but deadlines for translating seem like theyíre usually shorter than for monolingual writing projects/assignments. A lot of people want things overnight.


assuming a full-time Dutch translator job could be found.

That's the problem. With rare languages the rates might be higher, but there are fewer clients; with common languages, the rates are lower and although the fact that more people need that language should mean you have more work, you also have more competition, so it can be just as hard.


The court system (federal, state and local) sometimes needs interpreters when a witness or defendant is not a native English speakerÖ

This kind of interpreting can get emotionally taxing, too, as you have clients crying (well, usually the women) and panicking about the court proceedings and asking you to work for free because theyíre running out of money due to all the legal fees. In this field, you may find some of these folks call you at all hours with their problems. Some people, perhaps especially people in legal trouble in a foreign country, can get rather attached to their translator/interpreter. However, after enough of this kind of work, youíll have plenty of material for fiction writing. :popcorn: Interpreting in general is tiring work mentally and often physically if you're accompanying your client somewhere (okay, it's not ditch-digging, but it's tiring).

Translating isnít just taking a word in one language and finding the equivalent in another language, because sometimes there isnít an equivalent or the phrasing/imagery/metaphor usage of the original writer isnít understandable in the culture of the language youíre translating into. Nabokov said translating is Ēthe art of casting the same shadow with a different tree.Ē

And not every one whoís bi-lingual is a good translator or interpreter. Some people just always use each language separately and donít learn to think between languages. (Um, does that make any sense?)

Anyway, itís fascinating work because you sometimes end up learning very personal things about your clients and yet, in a way, you're invisible.

Good luck with your research.

ideagirl
12-01-2005, 02:50 AM
Nabokov said translating is Ēthe art of casting the same shadow with a different tree.Ē

Oh, Nabokov is so brilliant. Thanks for that quote. He understood translation more than most writers because he wrote in English, which wasn't his native language. Milan Kundera (the Czech writer of The Unbearable Lightness of Being) writes in French, so he would know too, but I've never heard any comments he's made about the process of, as you put it, "thinking between languages."


Translating isnít just taking a word in one language and finding the equivalent in another language, because sometimes there isnít an equivalent or the phrasing/imagery/metaphor usage of the original writer isnít understandable in the culture of the language youíre translating into...
And not every one whoís bi-lingual is a good translator or interpreter. Some people just always use each language separately and donít learn to think between languages. (Um, does that make any sense?)

Yes, and that whole paragraph of yours reminds me of a blog entry I read a while back about translation issues in that huge California lawsuit where the state was suing a French insurance company for a few billion (billion!! That's not a typo!) dollars. It was here: http://dalethcareyhall.blogspot.com/2005_02_01_dalethcareyhall_archive.html
Apparently the judge didn't "get" what translation is all about, unfortunately for the insurance company...

SusanR
12-01-2005, 04:10 PM
Did you get my email?

SusanR

Greenwolf103
12-09-2005, 04:22 AM
Sorry I've been away from this thread/board for so long.

Susan, I'm sorry but I didn't get that email. Could he please re-send?

Ideagirl, THANKS SO MUCH for your very helpful post!! I did happen to find a company in the city my character lives in that hires translators so I'm looking into that, too, if she can't work for the DOL. I could make her minor degree in Dutch. The ATA info is especially helpful, as I needed an instance in which my character travelled somewhere recently. And, yes, she was completely immersed in Dutch language and culture during those 7 years.

Orlien, I will keep you in mind if I need that info. Thank you. :)

Zisel, I would think that the job would involve short deadlines but I'm still researching it so I'm not sure on that. Thanks for your feedback, too.

This was all really helpful information. :)

baxter
12-16-2005, 06:34 AM
ProZ.com is a great place to talk with professional translators and interpreters. The members are based around the world, include all language sets and are as generous and amiable as the Absolute Write crowd. Just a thought.