The global market for language services is wide open, and the positions are available.
By Jane M. Von Bergen
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Posted: Sunday, May. 29, 2011
Dale Eggett, who will finish a master’s degree in less than three weeks, will go to work the week after, having had no problem landing a job.
“I did have multiple, multiple job offers,” said Eggett, whose Spanish and computer skills put him in the forefront of a burgeoning field.
The global marketplace for interpreting, translating and other language services was estimated at $26.3 billion in 2010 and is projected to reach $38.1 billion by 2013.
Most people are familiar with translators, who deal with the written word. Interpreters handle oral communication in government agencies, courtrooms, doctors’ offices and businesses.
But Eggett, 28, of California, who will graduate from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, will be paid $50,000 a year to work in a relatively new discipline: localization management, which provides one of the best chances for steady employment in language services.
Localization combines language expertise with computer savvy. “I’m kind of behind the scenes making the job easier for translators,” Eggett said.
When a website needs to be translated, it’s Eggett’s job to strip out the coding and send the translator only what needs to be translated.
The work is painstaking. Imagine a complex website with multiple drop-down boxes, leading to more drop-down boxes. Each element on each box needs to be translated.
“Some people may find it boring,” Eggett said. “I find it interesting.”
Like many other sectors, language services face unique challenges, said Jiri Stejskal, president of Cetra Language Solutions, an Elkins Park, Pa., company that supplies translators, interpreters and localization experts to a range of clients. That’s how most interpreters and translators get work.
But an ongoing struggle is to educate employers about the difference between being simply bilingual and truly qualified.
Top interpreters need to hear what is said and speak it in another language simultaneously. That’s the gold standard used at the United Nations and international conferences, and high proficiency can merit a six-figure income.
That level of ability isn’t the same as language skills gained by growing up in a bilingual household. “Knowing how to cook doesn’t make you a chef,” Stejskal said.
Geopolitics brings its own demand for language services, and often the supply is not up to the task.
So intense was the need for Pashto, Dari and other languages in Afghanistan that some of those hired were “barely literate,” Stejskal said, “and they were still making six figures.”