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Translators and interpreters: Got a second or third language? There may not be a lot of call for translation from Mandarin or Farsi in your immediate neighbourhood, but there could be a lot of work internationally if you’re available online. People with financial, legal or medical translating experience can command higher rates. Pay is generally by the word so speed is important. (istockphoto.com)
Translators and interpreters: Got a second or third language? There may not be a lot of call for translation from Mandarin or Farsi in your immediate neighbourhood, but there could be a lot of work internationally if you’re available online. People with financial, legal or medical translating experience can command higher rates. Pay is generally by the word so speed is important. (istockphoto.com)

Ask an Expert

I’m skilled with languages. What’s a good career option? Add to ...

The Question

I’m 22 and I’m from Uzbekistan. I recently graduated from a languages school with a major in English. I like learning languages. In addition to knowing English fairly well, I know Russian, Japanese and Turkish. My Japanese and Turkish are on intermediate level. My problem is that I don’t know what career is best for me and I’m not sure if I should study a new field. Knowing several languages isn’t enough to find a good job here in my country. I think I have to study something else such as business, economics, or computer science, to be successful. Can you help guide me? I know languages and work well with computers. What skills do I require to get a good job?

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The Answer

Your skills as you have described them are the ability to speak five languages (including your native language). Although speaking more than one language is always an asset, it is more valuable when you combine those skills with others as you described – business, economics, computer science, and so on. There are two ways to approach this.

Find employment that allows you to use your languages as your primary skill set. For example, perhaps you would consider teaching one of those languages in an education environment, or work as an interpretor or translater. The languages you speak are quite unique (meaning they are not the more well known languages of French or Spanish), so perhaps there would be opportunities.

You can also use your languages as a secondary skill set to complement a primary skill set, such as computers or accounting or any other occupation. It can be a tremendous advantage if you are required to perform your work in more than one language. You can often demand a premium salary as a result, especially if the language is in high demand and in short supply.

If you decide to capitalize on your language abilities, there are certifications that can be obtained that tell employers how skilled you are in your languages. For example, to work as a translator there are specific programs to take that will certify you as a translator, and at a specific level. Investigate if there are any credentials you can earn to further validate your services to a potential employer.

The next step for you is to decide if you want to use your languages as a primary or secondary skill set. After that you can better chart out your career plan, with a defined job goal in mind.

Eileen Dooley (@EileenDooley) is a certified coach and lead consultant for McRae Inc.

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmailcom. Your name and address will be kept confidential.

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