The global coronavirus pandemic has, more than any other crisis in recent memory, brought people together from around the world. But Chiang Rai, more than most other cities in the world, and even in Thailand, has experience with a similar emergency campaign.
Bringing together concerned world citizens in a life-saving emergency: the 18-day drama to rescue the junior football team and staff trapped inside Tham Luang cave in the summer of 2018. Experts around the world brainstormed and discussed for days how to bring “the boys” out.
While many Thais involved in the rescue effort spoke English, and some foreigners spoke Thai, translators, and interpreters were instrumental in coordinating efforts to bring all out to safety.
The current crisis imposes limitations making communication and coordination across language barriers even more difficult. Government lockdowns and social distancing are keeping people apart and temporarily suspending most face-to-face work and group interactions.
Furthermore, the closures have deeply affected businesses, causing tremendous job losses globally. But fortunately, the translation and interpretation skills that contributed to the Tham Luang rescue can now be applied via the internet to employ Thais. Finding a translation or interpretation job is relatively quick, even for new job seekers, and one doesn’t need to leave home to look for a job. We’ll consider how you can get one for yourself.
Coming to Terms: What is the difference between Translation and Interpretation?
Interpretation and translation often are used interchangeably, but the differences between them are clear. Translation refers to written words, while interpretation concerns spoken words. Translators convert documents from one language to another, while interpreters do their work at events and meetings. The skills required for each are distinct. Interpreters must work in real-time, thinking “on their feet”: hearing and then speaking immediately the translation. Translators can stay calm and do the work in their own time. These days, of course, there is often great urgency to complete each task.
Three other variations on these profession merit mention. “Transcription” involves rendering spoken words to text, sometimes with and sometimes without translation. Transcreation affords more freedom than translation to convey the intent of the original text creatively, not literally, that is, “word for word”. Localization involves adapting content, usually in digital format, from one local target audience to fit the preferences and language of another. It involves not just translation but also a conversion of date and measurement units as well as currencies. It also considers the cultural sensitivities and linguistic norms of the target locale. Transcription and transcreation are in high demand in this crisis, and localization, as a mostly digital task applied to the software, are all needed and potential services that Thais can learn to do from home. So how can they do it?
What Does It Take to be a Translator or Interpreter Today?
Becoming a translator or interpreter is not easy, and certainly, not every Thai can do it. True fluency in two or more languages is a rare talent. Thais master the complexities of an extended alphabet with 44 basic consonants and 5 distinct tonalities naturally. But going beyond one’s native or “mother” tongue with proficiency is not easy. Even the best interpreters and translators cannot work with equal skill in both directions: stick with the direction –Thai to English or English to Thai –in which you feel most confident.
Interpretation and translation demand certain character traits. The ability to concentrate is key. A love for linguistic learning, curiosity about the origins of words and expressions –these passions are essential, or you will grow bored. Then there is the trait of perfectionism: on the one hand, you want to find the right word in translation but, on the other hand, you must accept that there can multiple ways to express similar ideas. A translator has time to search for the perfect phrase, but interpreters must express instantly the essentials of what a speaker is saying, without lagging. Which suits you?
Where to Get Your First Translation and Interpretation Gigs?
Due to reductions in travel, physical meetings and conferences have moved online. Translation and interpretation are in high demand. Search for terms like “video remote interpretation” and “over the phone interpretation”. While machine translation tools such as Google Translate and Microsoft Translator are improving in quality, human linguists are far from going extinct.
Make friends with Google and search for phrases like “translation jobs” “interpretation jobs” adding keywords for the language pair and direction at which you are most proficient: “Thai to Spanish” or “French to Thai.” Today the physical location is irrelevant to getting a gig. Most of the work is done exclusively online, from home.
Try freelance marketplaces like Freelancer.com and Upwork. Create a profile that mentions your language skills and relevant experience. Clients can search for freelancers or post jobs for you to bid on. Use these bids to show off your language skills. Be especially polite and friendly, but always professional.
Tips to Set Rates and Get More Translation and Interpretation Jobs
You will be competing with other Thais so you will need to set your rates competitively. The going word rate for experienced translators starts at 1 baht with a typical page rate of 400 baht. But newcomers may want to start lower to build up experience and their client base.
Online marketplaces let you set up as a freelancer, providing services, or a client, seeking services. A slightly devious tip is to “be a client” yourself to get a sense of the prices that other freelance translators are charging, and how they present themselves.
After you get experience in freelance markets, translation companies may recruit you. Be careful. Marketplaces can ban you if you try to go around them. But a long-term relationship with an agency can keep you busy with steady work and reliable income. The choice is yours.
Use Translation and Interpretation Services to Get Out of Your Cave
Those who live in Chiang Rai, and love our region, can take heart in the current crisis and see a silver lining even in the dark clouds of the corona. The dread of the days following the trapping of the Wild Boars gave way to joy and sparked a tourist boom. But just because the tourists went away, don’t wait in lockdown at home. Don’t retreat into a cave, expecting someone to come and rescue you. Be ingenious and try something new. You can get translation and interpretation work from home. Just do it!