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A translator is a language mediator who - in contrast to an interpreter - translates fixed, usually written text from a source language into a target language .



Translator is not a protected job title in Germany . In order to be able to certify the correctness of translations , translators must have an official license as sworn, publicly appointed or authorized translator (the terms vary depending on the federal states). In some cases, an examination to become a state-certified translator must be taken to prove professional suitability .

University degrees

Translation can be studied at various universities and technical colleges in Germany . Before the Bologna Process , there were, among other things, the degree courses in translators and specialist translators . The degree of an academically certified translator could for example be obtained in Germersheim in the Department of Applied Linguistics and Cultural Studies (FASK) of the University of Mainz (since 2009 “Department of Translation, Linguistics and Cultural Studies”, FTSK) and at the University of Heidelberg .

Today there are bachelor's and master's degrees with different names (“translatology”, “translation studies”, “translation studies”) for example in Germersheim (FTSK), at the Institute for Translation and Interpreting (IÜD) in Heidelberg or at the University of Leipzig . The Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf has had a European-wide unique course in literary translation since 1987 , which was converted from a diploma to an admission-free master’s course in the 2008/2009 winter semester. As an interdisciplinary postgraduate course for humanities and linguists, the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich also offers a year-long master’s degree in literary translation in English, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish.

Education and training qualifications

The training to become a translator concludes with a nationwide standardized state translator examination since 2004. The title of the degree reads State-certified translator . Lateral entrants can acquire this qualification with evidence of advanced technical and foreign language skills and translation methodological skills regardless of a specific training course. Admission requirements are several years of foreign language training or relevant professional activity as a translator.

In addition, commercial specialists can complete professional training in accordance with the Vocational Training Act to become a certified translator , the examination of which is also uniformly regulated nationwide. As a rule, the prerequisite for this further training examination is a successfully passed final examination in a recognized commercial apprenticeship and then a relevant professional activity. In addition, evidence of advanced business-related and advanced foreign language skills and translation methodological skills is required.

In Bavaria , the courses with the aim of being certified translators and interpreters take place at special technical academies , of which there are eight as of 2016.


In Austria , translation and interpreting training takes place at the Center for Translation Studies at the University of Vienna and at the corresponding institutes of the Universities of Graz and Innsbruck .


In Switzerland , training to become a qualified translator HF is possible at higher technical schools .

Academic training ( BA or MA ) to become a translator is offered at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Geneva and at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences .


Technical translators specialize in one or more types of text in certain subject areas in certain languages, e.g. B. in trade or finance, in medicine or pharmacology, in a technical field or in law. Specialized translations make up by far the largest share of the translation market. It should be noted here that the more subject areas and languages ​​a translator offers, the better, because it is very time-consuming to keep up-to-date with the latest terminology and subject matter in each subject.

The specialist translators also include the document translators . They create translations of court judgments, certificates, official documents, notarial contracts and other documents . In Germany, document translators are often publicly appointed and sworn or authorized by a regional court . In the event of such authorization, you can confirm the correctness and completeness of the translation into the target language. These certified translations are required as evidence before authorities and courts, for example when a foreigner is married.

Software localizers are another sub-group of specialist translators . You adapt software, sometimes also online help and manuals, to a regional market. Not only is the text part of the software translated, but other adjustments are also made. For example, dates, writing direction or understanding of colors and symbols can vary from cultural region to cultural region. If the software manufacturer wants to optimally open up a new market, his product must be localized.

Literary translators transmit literature , e.g. B. novels , poems or comics , but also non-fiction or magazine articles. Although literary translations are particularly well noticed by the public, they play a subordinate role economically. Literary translations are subject to copyright in the same way as the original text and are therefore protected by copyright.

Terminologists create and maintain monolingual or multilingual terminology databases , especially for large companies, authorities and specialist organizations. A terminology database contains all the specific technical terms required for the work of a company or an authority with definitions and further information, e.g. B. Foreign language equivalents. These databases are an important building block for computer-aided translation .

Job profile and professional practice

The translation profession is one of the liberal professions , in Germany one of the catalog professions expressly mentioned in Section 18 of the Income Tax Act . Traditionally, the profession, i.e. the group of translators actually working in the profession, presents a very mixed picture with regard to the training they have enjoyed. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that a large number of lateral entrants from other professions switch to this job. Estimates ( Lebende Sprachen 2/2006) assume that more than half of working translators originally learned another profession. On the other hand, many translators are foreigners who do not live in their home country, which is why there are many foreign educational qualifications of all kinds. It also plays a role that the professional title of translator is not protected in many countries and can easily be accepted by anyone.

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the professional title of translator is not protected by law - in contrast to professional titles such as doctor or notary - so that it is possible to practice the profession even without a corresponding exam . However, designations that are dependent on certain approvals, such as publicly appointed and sworn translator , authorized translator or general sworn translator , which differ depending on the (federal) state, as well as designations such as certified by state or public law examinations or university degrees, are protected against misuse translator , certified translator , Academic certified translator , certified translators , translator (BA) , Master translation studies , etc. There is an ISO standard which regulates the quality assurance in translation services ( ISO EN 15038 ). However, compliance with this standard is voluntary for both translation agencies and freelance translators.

At the end of 2010, there were around 6,700 interpreters and translators in Germany who were subject to social security contributions, almost 80% of them full-time. Two thirds of the translators and interpreters employed had a relevant professional or university education.

The majority of translators and interpreters, on the other hand, are not permanently employed, but work independently . They receive their orders either directly from clients in the administration , publishing or private sector or from private customers or work as freelancers for agencies (translation agencies ) that arrange translation jobs and withhold part of the fee for the mediation and coordination between client and translator.

Translation services are usually paid for on the basis of the amount of text translated, which can be measured in standard pages , standard lines , words or characters (either of the target or source text). In addition, it is also possible to bill according to expenditure (working time), which is usually used in particular for proofreading / revising translations, formatting and DTP work and the like. Various factors play a role in pricing, such as the working language (Western European, Eastern European, Asian ...), text type and level of difficulty (general text, specialist text, advertising text, patent), size and frequency of orders, text formatting, text repetition, etc.

Required skills

Translators and interpreters not only have to have a very good command of the respective foreign languages, they also have to know and understand the culture and history of the respective countries and have a keen sense of the typical communication patterns and techniques. An above-average command of one's own mother tongue is also of crucial importance, as translation is usually done into one's mother tongue. In addition, depending on the subject, additional relevant, country or language-specific specialist knowledge as well as knowledge of the respective text types is essential.

Professional translators sometimes offer advice on creating source texts in order to eliminate later transmission problems so to speak “at the source” ( translation-friendly writing ). For example, authors of useful texts that are intended for translation from the outset are recommended to formulate them as clearly and generally understandable as possible, to use only clearly defined technical terms and abbreviations and not to choose any formulations that are ambiguous, ambiguous or only understandable for the initiated. The communication between the client or author and translator is also generally important for the quality of the translation: A competent contact person should always be available for queries.

Software products for computer-aided translation , which contain a terminology database and offer advantages in terms of quality as well as costs and delivery time, are increasingly being used, especially for utility texts .

The work of literary translators is very demanding and sometimes receives little attention, even though it is fundamentally important for the literary business : foreign-language literature remains inaccessible to the majority of international readers without a translator. One of the nicest appreciations of this profession comes from Maurice Blanchot :

“Should one, rightly or wrongly, continue to say: here are the poets, there are the novelists, not to mention the critics, who are all responsible for the meaning of literature, then one must at the same time the translators as writers of the rarest and truly incomparable Add type. "

The same author writes about a journal project:

“[More important than the] choice of authors and their affinity with one another is [...] the translator, who in a certain way will be the 'real writer of the magazine'. As a ferryman between the shores, his awareness is heightened that one language can never be completely translated into another. He lives in a kind of 'between', a space of transition, which is at the same time one of the distance, which makes it impossible to speak a uniform Pentecostal language. Because every language has its own temporality: How can this difference in historical levels be retained in a translation? Then there is the problem of dialects: the German literary language and especially poetry often falls back on the dialect language; now, it seems to me, the problem of how to translate dialects has never been completely resolved (I also believe that the Italian language is not as uniform as the French). "

Web links

Wiktionary: Translator  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Information on studying translation at the FTSK ; accessed on June 21, 2015.
  2. Information on the translation studies at the Institute for Translation and Interpreting at the University of Heidelberg ; accessed on June 21, 2015.
  3. Bachelor's degree in Translation (translation / interpreting) at; accessed on March 24, 2015
  4. ^ Information from the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf ; Information from the student council for literary translation ; accessed on June 21, 2015
  5. Literary Translation (Master) , website of the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich (accessed August 2017).
  6. Guideline for the implementation and recognition of examinations for translators, interpreters and sign language interpreters , resolution of the Conference of Ministers of Education , March 12, 2004. The details, in particular the very differently named, state-commissioned examination bodies, as well as the testable languages, are regulated by regulation of each individual German State regulated. BDÜ provides an overview , as of: according to the legal notice 2019
  7. Ordinance on the examinations for the recognized qualifications for Certified Translator and Certified Interpreter ( Memento of October 14, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  8. Information from the BDÜ on the translator examination before a chamber of industry and commerce ; accessed on June 21, 2015
  9. Information from the Bavarian Ministry of Culture on the "State Translator and Interpreter Examination" in Bavaria; accessed on January 27, 2016
  10. ↑ The job description of a translator
  11. ZHAW
  12. with 4 specializations
  13. Statistics of the Federal Employment Agency ( MS Excel ; 621 kB) accessed on August 10, 2013.
  14. Zs. Lignes 1990, 187. Outside the inner quotation marks as a report