A knowledge of one or more foreign languages can be useful in a wide range of careers. For some jobs, such as translating, interpreting and language teaching, language skills are one of the main requirements. For other jobs a combination of languages and other qualifications, knowledge or skills may be needed.
Specialist language occupations include working as a translator, interpreter, language teacher or linguist. For the former three you’ll need an in-depth knowledge of one or more foreign languages. Linguists don’t necessarily need to speak foreign languages, but such knowledge can be useful for them.
Translators translate written material from one language to another. The kind of material involved may include product manuals, business reports, business correspondence, legal documents, websites, subtitles for films, song lyrics, and literature.
To be a translator you need the ability to write and express yourself very well in the target language, usually your native tongue, and a good knowledge of the source language(s), usually foreign languages. Fluency in the source language(s) is not essential, but you definitely need an excellent understanding of the written version of the source language and the culture of the people who speak it. Specialist knowledge of other subjects, qualifications in translation, and membership of a professional association are also very useful.
Translators make great use of dictionaries, the internet, and other reference materials. Some also use translation memory software.
Many translators are self-employed and find clients themselves, and/or work for translation agencies, who find clients and arrange payment. There are also positions for in-house translators in some large organisations. Translators are usually paid per word in the source language.