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“The silent professionals,” that is what many professional translators and interpreters found plausible as a descriptive nickname for them. To the people who are well aware of the translation profession, whether it is because they worked in the field, or because they have worked with a translator or an interpreter, those are the jobs which require many excellent qualities from a person. As for the rest, the existence of translation jobs does not come very strongly in their mind.

The position of translation industry

To be fair, the nature of translation means that it is somewhat a “secondary profession,” which exists in order to support other professions and industries. Without the activities of other professions and industries, translation would have no purpose to serve for. Of course, many industries also profit from the existence of others: cars industry provides cars for people need to travel for their businesses; computer industry serves almost every single companies in the world; food industry provides food for all professions… However, translation, different from all of these above, is strictly a “supportive” industry.

Translation in itself is not really an academic subject. Unlike math, or physics, or engineering or biology, there is almost no depth of understanding academically about the subject of translation. The only actual academic concern in this profession is second language proficiency, but it contributes only a small part to the ability of a translator or an interpreter. For example, an English – Vietnamese interpreter who performed well in a conference about modern medical treatment does not only have English language proficiency. In order to do his job, he needs adequate knowledge about medical studies, medical terms and he needs presentation skills, as well as consistency and so on. The job of the interpreter here is very much like doing a “supporting role,” providing the bridge for the language gap of communication between specialists, specifically in the medical subject.

A translator or an interpreter, therefore, needs to be quite intelligent, possesses significant knowledge about a broad range of subjects, or in-depth knowledge about a field of profession/industry. To become a professional translator or interpreter is not something anyone might just do; it takes time and cultivated knowledge plus experience. Especially in becoming an interpreter, one should have certain soft skills and necessarily professional interpreter’s training time.

So does “supporting role” means the translation industry is less important than the others? The answer is “No.” Translation has been contributing a big part in the globalization era.  Throughout history, there have been many well respected names in the translation industry. Every single country in world needs a pool of translators and interpreters to sustain necessary and accurate communications with others. From small to large firms to government agencies, translation services are called upon every day to provide services. There will always be translation, as long as there is international co-operation among entities of different countries.

The reality in Vietnam

Among 460 universities and colleges across Vietnam, there is none, including even the foreign language studies institution, that offers a degree in Translation or Interpretation. This is not aligned with the increasing speed of globalization in Vietnam. From 2014 – 2021, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam almost doubled, increasing from $12B to $21B. The demand for translation services in Vietnam has been steadily increasing every single year since 2008, with many new translation service agencies established. However, the translation manpower in Vietnam has a slight problem. Most of them graduated in Vietnam with a Foreign Language Studies degree, many others studied abroad in different majors, and very few of them were granted actual professional Translator or Interpreter university degrees, attained from institutions in the U.S. or in Europe. It almost seems like the industry in Vietnam is working way “too silently” in providing one of the most important tools for international co-operation.

In the many years to come, the demand for translation services in Vietnam will probably still be increasing. It is very difficult to find a professional institution in Vietnam that produces translators and interpreters. Educational institutions in Vietnam should try to implement a system of courses that could produce capable forces for the translation industry. Not mentioning the crisis of excessive college graduates not being able to find sustainable jobs, the rates of Vietnamese youth exposed to English as a second language is very high nowadays. Translation is the opportunity to guide many young Vietnamese into a sustainable career, and provide the human resources much needed in the industry right now.


I sure do hope this piece of thought is compelling to you. See you next time!

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