Monday, September 19, 2011

Translation Profession in Israel

In the on-going attempt to highlight professions that are most suitable for immigrants in Israel, I am delighted to introduce an article describing the translation sector written by Micaela Ziv, former chairperson of the Israel Translators Association.  

Several good things about the field of translation in Israel

• The need for translation in a variety of language pairs is ever-growing in the global marketplace and is thriving in Israel
• Translation is easier than ever before – it can be done anytime, anywhere, and now with a wealth of information and linguistic resources at your fingertips
• The Israel Translators Association welcomes newcomers and veterans in the field alike, offering professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities throughout the year

Who should consider the field of translation in Israel?

• Anyone with prior experience in translation from abroad
• Anyone who:

o writes well
o has fluent knowledge of two languages (Hebrew does not have to be one of them) and a very good grasp of their respective cultures
o is ready to keep on learning
o enjoys the idea of translating!

Remember – all your education and work experience can contribute greatly to your value in the field. A useful rule of thumb: focus on the areas you really know about – being a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ is not an advantage here.

• Fields in demand include marketing, finance, legal, academic, technical, scientific, localization and literature

Employment opportunities

There are virtually no in-house salaried positions for translations (other than a few positions with governmental bodies, such as the Bank of Israel or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and at newspaper desks). Most of us are independently self-employed, working either directly with our own clients or through translation agencies, or both. Obviously, pay rates from agencies are lower, but then they are the ones who find the clients and deal with the problems of following up on payments, advertising, and so on! Many newer translators start off working for agencies while developing their own clientele through personal contacts, networking, advertising and so forth.

Payment is usually calculated on a per page basis, with a page defined as 250 words.

It is a free market with quite a wide price range (and prices differ for different language pairs), but the ITA does have information on rates that can provide a guide.

Does knowing two languages automatically make you a potential translator?

In a word – NO!

Translation lies somewhere between a profession and an art, so a good translator should have a certain natural aptitude that can then be greatly enhanced by attending training courses. Israel offers many opportunities – academic and other – to do this. These include courses at Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, Beit Berl College, Oranim College, and programs offered by companies like WritePoint. It should be said that the commercial courses are probably less detailed (and less theory-oriented) than the academic courses.

What’s the difference between a translator and an interpreter?

A translator works with the written word and provides a written product. Interpreters work with the spoken word. Interpreting may be either simultaneous (while the person is speaking) or consecutive (speaker says a few sentences, you interpret, speaker talks some more, you interpret, and so on). This is a skill that requires prior training, which can be obtained at some of the institutions mentioned above. Payment is usually on an hourly or per-diem basis.

What other skills and equipment do you need to get started?

It’s an online profession. So you should start off with a good computer, printer, fax and scanner. You should be familiar with Word, Excel and PowerPoint (or similar programs), know how to use search engines well, use general and field specific online and printed dictionaries, and be easily reachable by email.

As for any freelance work, you should find a good accountant who can handle your questions and show you the required bookkeeping procedures. For those of you who read Hebrew there is also a software program called Avodat Milim designed specifically to make the translator’s bookkeeping easier. You will also need to be registered with the tax authorities (VAT, Income Tax and National Insurance).

If you are planning to work in areas with a lot of repetitive text (for example, legal, financial, technical) you might consider investing in a Translation Memory program. “What’s that?” you say. Don’t worry – your colleagues at the ITA will be happy to explain all this and a good many other concepts, which is another way of saying that the smart move is to become a member as soon as you have decided that translation and interpreting is going to be your field! Membership in the ITA indicates a seriousness of intention that enhances your CV and is a marketing booster, especially for beginners.

The Israel Translators Association

The ITA is the home base for the translation profession, and welcomes both self-employed and salaried translators (as well as editors, localizers, and other language-related professionals). With an informative website in both Hebrew and English, monthly lecture evenings, and an international three-day conference in February, the ITA’s mission is to help its members develop professionally as well as to upgrade the status of the profession in Israel.

To help new members of the profession hone both their translation and business skills (avoiding pitfalls, handling clients), the ITA has set up a flexible mentoring program, which also helps people gain the experience they need to be eligible for the Certificate of Recognition – the first phase of its accreditation program. The ITA is often able to offer its members discounts on certain field-related publications and software. Membership forms are available on the website. If you have questions, write to and a member of the committee will get back to you within a reasonable time (remember – they are all volunteers!).

In addition, the ITA is itself a member in LAHAV, an umbrella organization that lobbies for the rights of the self-employed and small businesses.

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