By Silvia Mingarelli, Madrid/Perugia
Translating is a profession that changes due to the globalization of markets, however undervalued. This is a portrait of the industry out of a survey commissioned by the Italian Association of Translators and Interpreters. These are hard times for translators and interpreters. Specializations and markets demand changes, skills evolve, but above all a point doesn’t change: it is a profession which is highly qualified and yet poorly paid. A survey commissioned by the Aiti (www.aiti.org), the national industry association, for which work 800 professionals of the Italian language in Italy and abroad, corroborates this.
The results have been published in the journal Il Traduttore and sent to industry experts, companies, universities, schools and libraries. “We have made our area study”, explains Sandra Bertolini, president of the Aiti, “and discovered interesting things, while others still lacking”.
“The answers typed in our survey have been 670, 85% of respondents were women, which also reflects the percentage of gender division of the profession in Italy. In addition, the fields of translation in which there is now greater demand are technical and scientific: in the order, industry and technology, then jurisprudence, marketing and advertising, economics and finance, information technology and pharmaceutical. For students of Translation and Interpretation Studies, then, it is worth specializing and acquiring specific language skills in one of these five sectors. In fact, we suggest this to universities, which today have implemented the Bologna Process, 3 + 2, and are engaged in defining more decisively specialized contents of postgraduate studies. The idea is to arrive at a single postgraduate specialization in Translation and Interpretation Studies”.
“They are in the salary. In the field of publishing, literary translations and essays, translators work for lower money than domestic workers. The average rate ranges from 8 to 16 euros each page translated, most often the salaries are around 10 euros. Also, keep in mind that more than one hour is needed in order to translate a page of text. The situation slightly improved if we talk about technical translations: in the Italian market, the least paid in Europe, the average is 20 euros each page, while abroad you reach 40-45 euros”.
Why is it a poorly paid work for degrees that can reach between 8-10 years of studies?
“For several reasons. First, the lack of legal recognition of the profession and its related qualifications, and then the lack of a regulated tariff. For all this, who needs a translation service has benchmarks: customers do not know the difficulty of evaluating work and the required degree of professionalism. In practice, the risk is to give the same value to someone who has only six months experience with someone who has a degree and years of experience. Indeed, internationalization has increased the demand for labor by companies, but has seen a drastic reduction in the charges”.
As a translator, can you only work freelance?
“Only the European Union and other international bodies such as the Court of Justice of the EU offer employment contracts as “translators”. In the private sector, in general, this specific profile is not applied. A translator can be hired as a “linguistic mediator ” in a company strongly export-oriented, in order to manage trade relations with foreign countries, accompany clients during fairs, etc.. For this profile it is only needed to have a degree in linguistics mediation, a course offered by virtually all Italian universities, yet these graduates are not sufficiently prepared to enter the market as selfemployed. In the editorial field, however, rarely translators are “internal”.
Will the economic boom in China open new and better job prospects?
“Actually, for now, in the relations between Italy and China, English is always used as the common language. Much of the work of translation in Italy takes place from and into English (80%), followed by German, French and Spanish. It should also be noted that, to really learn Chinese well, times are very long. Even those who have studied Chinese in college, when they get out of it, would probably only be able to translate into Chinese an instruction manual for using a television or a washing machine. In the long term, however, the study of a “minor” or “emerging” language such as Arabic or Chinese can be a strenght when applying for a job”.
A tip for those who have started working as a translator?
“Be professional and not be swayed by the rush to finish an assignment in exchange for a few euros. It takes patience because to offer low rates just to earn some money is a strategy that ultimately does not pay. It is better to make an internship in a translation agency, meanwhile gaining experience and specializing in one area”.