While interpreters and translators are both converters of language, they do so in distinct ways. Sign language interpreters rely upon a set of quick hands and a concentrative mind to relay the words of speaker to a hearing-impaired audience. Acquiring those necessary skills is an involved process. “In order to be fluent, that takes years,” says Janet Bailey, government affairs representative for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Interpreters also work in spoken language. Some work settings require not only fluency in a second language, but the ability to interpret that language in relation to a field rich in its own terminology. For example, those assisting non-English speaking individuals in a court room must have a concrete understanding of legal lingo.
Translators rely on the power of a precise pen to convert written materials from one language to another. The aim is to make the cross-language version a carbon copy of its original. While interpreters work in schools, hospitals, courtrooms, and conference centers, translators often labor from the confines of their home. Having a knack for marketing is beneficial for freelance interpreters and translators seeking to broaden their clientele.
As diversity in the United States increases, so too does the demand for spoken-language interpreters. Those fluent in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish should consider their job prospects bright. Sign language interpreters should also expect an employment boom. This comes courtesy of video relay, a Skype-like service that enables the deaf to communicate with an interpreter online. Meanwhile, persistent interaction with the rest of the globe and the needs of the military mean increased employment of translators in the years to come. By 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 42 percent growth in employment in the occupation, with a little less than 25,000 new positions.