Lingualearn employs a variety of language professionals, mainly on a freelance basis: tutors, translators, interpreters, language consultants, proof-readers, etc. As we are often asked by students about these activities as possible careers, we have outlined below some of the main qualities we look for, along with the type of qualifications and experience required. We have also indicated some of the pros and cons of such career choices.
We normally employ native speakers of the target language who have a recognised teaching qualification and a minimum of two years relevant full-time teaching experience. We look for tutors who enjoy teaching, preparing their own materials, and who are willing to spend adequate time preparing their lessons. Tutors need to be able to motivate their students with a variety of interesting and useful tasks; we look for tutors who are enthusiastic and dedicated professionals. Important qualities are the ability to listen, to control the lesson, to be sensitive to student needs, to give clear instructions and to learn from their own mistakes and experiences.
Useful qualifications would be a degree, postgraduate certificate, diploma or MA in modern languages, teaching modern languages, linguistics or applied linguistics and QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). For TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), students often start with a 1-month certificate from International House, Trinity College or RSA and progress to a 1-year diploma, and then on to an MA. Useful experience could be gained while teaching in schools, colleges, universities, companies or by giving private lessons on a one-to-one basis.
Traditionally teachers had long holidays and low pay; now they just have low pay! The main advantages seem to be job satisfaction, the opportunity to help other people, travel abroad through work, visits and exchanges (especially TEFL) and contact with many other people (e.g. through your own institution, visits, exhibitions, conferences and professional networks). The main disadvantages seem to be low pay, low status, stress and ever-increasing amounts of paperwork. The type of work will vary considerably according to the type of teaching institution and location. Lingualearn tutors are generally paid at higher rates than in other language schools, but we expect a high standard of tuition and only select well-qualified and experienced staff.
We look for translators who are members of the professional institutes, with degrees in translation, and a minimum of three years full-time relevant experience. The types of work we do often require specialised translators, e.g. technical, legal, medical, business, IT, banking, engineering, etc. It is also becoming increasingly important to find translators with good IT skills, who can manipulate complex packages and translation software. Many of our translators work from home and send in their work by email.
A good translator has an excellent command of both languages, but should be a native speaker of the target language. He/she should be acquainted with the domain in question and know many of the technical terms before tackling the translation. He/she should request clarification when necessary and be able to use specialised glossaries and dictionaries. Some difficult terms may require lengthy research in order to find a suitable translation. A thorough and conscientious approach is required, as well as the ability to work independently and on one's own initiative. Another essential quality is the ability to write and produce a high quality text in a variety of different styles and genres.
This type of work can suit those who like to work on their own and from their own home. Some jobs can be carried out on a part-time basis and during times to suit the individual. Given the improvements in modern communications, this type of work can be done in almost any location and at any time. Specialised translators who can turn out 10,000 - 15,000 words per week of high quality work can earn a reasonable salary and do so from the comfort of their own home.
For proof-readers, more important than courses is an eye for detail and relevant knowledge of the texts being read. Once again, the types of work we do often require specialised proof-readers, e.g. technical, legal, medical, business, IT, banking, engineering, etc. A degree relevant to the text in question is a useful asset, but recent and relevant experience is even more important.
Our proof-readers are asked to check a translation for spelling and grammar mistakes, typos, omissions and any other deviations from a good translation. They have to check the translation against the source text, note any errors or queries, and investigate accordingly. For very important documents we use up to three independent proof-readers in parallel. The Plain English website has some useful tips.
Proof-readers have similar advantages and disadvantages to translators, although they probably earn slightly less.
We expect language consultants to be very experienced professionals with expert knowledge and skills of a specialist area, e.g. testing, course design, needs analysis, etc. They may have a Masters degree in Applied Linguistics or a Doctorate and more than ten years relevant experience. In some cases we may even require an international reputation for excellence.
We look for integrity, intelligence, dedication, efficiency, good communication skills, and the ability to work as part of a team.
Our language consultants have similar terms and conditions to management consultants; as their expertise is a valuable commodity they can command a high fee. The disadvantages of such work is that it tends to be for specific projects and very stressful, working long hours to tight deadlines, sometimes in difficult locations.
These generalisations are becoming more and more blurred as time goes on, with staff working in new and complex ways. Each new job may require one or more members of a team working together to achieve a high quality product. It may require staff to take on new responsibilities and to be more flexible than in the past. We may also ask staff to be flexible in other ways: e.g. to make last-minute changes to their work, to work unsociable hours, to try new methods, to use new software, to find solutions to problems etc.
Creativity and Initiative
Our ability to produce high quality products and services depends partly on the ability of our staff to use their own initiative and find creative solutions to our clients' problems. We appreciate staff who are willing and able to make helpful suggestions at all stages of design, production and evaluation. To coin a couple of clichés, we aim to give our clients as much 'added value' as possible and to 'go the extra mile' whenever necessary. To do this we need to find staff who are creative, reliable, hard-working and flexible individuals.
For other advice and information:
Lingo24 would like more graduates to enter the translation and language services industry in general, so they created a career guide for languages graduates.