Interpreters convert speech in one language to another. Interpretation may be consecutive (after the speaker has finished) or simultaneous (while they are still talking).
Translators convert written material from one or more 'source languages' into the 'target language' (normally the translator’s mother tongue). Most work freelance for translation agencies or directly for clients, although some organisations employ in-house translators.
Typical employers include translation and interpretation agencies, multi-national businesses, news services, The European Commission, The Civil Service, international bodies such as the UN.
A postgraduate diploma or Masters is usually expected and can increase your chances of employment, especially with international organisations. For details of universities offering postgraduate or equivalent qualifications in translation and/or interpreting, visit the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) courses page. You can also take an MA in English-Chinese Interpreting and Translation or an MA in Translation Studies at the University of Birmingham. The latter is available as a campus programme, either full- or part-time, and a distance-learning programme, with a standard 30-month route and an accelerated 18-month route.
If you don’t have professional qualifications, you may still find informal work. Rates of pay will be lower than those who are professionally qualified.
Think about which sectors/employers would value languages. Finance, food and drink, sales and marketing, transport and logistics are a few. Find out where internships are advertised in those sectors or approach organisations working in those areas for work experience (see list below for some useful links).
Research local charities and other third sector organisations that work with non-English speakers and see if there is a way they can use your language skills. Visit the Do-it website and social media to find these. Translators without Borders is a non-profit organisation offering language and translation support for humanitarian and development agencies; they promote a range of volunteering and other opportunities.
Join Birmingham student groups which focus on nationals from a particular country or language. You can see if you can use your skills to support events or projects.
If you’re interested in testing your interpreting skills, listen to a short piece of source language from TV or radio delivered at a reasonable pace and then try to give the gist of it in your target language. Record your attempt and listen back – were you clear? Did you give the main points?
Look out for opportunities to gain work experience here at the University both during and after your degree. You can also find work experience opportunities on Careers Connect.
The University of Birmingham offers work experience bursaries for any student in their first, second or penultimate year of study. For more details visit the internship funding pages.
Organisations such as the ITI offers networking opportunities to students through their regional, subject and language networks. You can contact the ITI West Midlands Group for further details.
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