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Interpreting 101: The U.S. Job Market

Updated on November 13, 2012
A Kansas County Courtroom
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Outlook of the U.S. Interpreter Job Market

The United States is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of its population. The Hispanic or Spanish-speaking population in particular has exploded in the United States; the US Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey revealed that Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by almost 27 million people aged 5 or above. Indeed, many large companies are even creating original Spanish advertising campaigns directed at Spanish-speaking US consumers. This same survey revealed that, in general, the primary use of a language other than English at home increased by 140 percent between 1980 and 2007. In 2010 there were 55.4 million people in the United States that spoke a language other than English at home; while most of these people were Spanish-speakers (34.5 million speakers), many were speakers of Chinese (at least 2 million speakers). About half of these speakers of a language other than English in the home also reported that they did not speak English “very well.”

Medical Interpreter at work
Medical Interpreter at work

“Much Faster Than Average” Growth Expected

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, this diversity is what makes the future very rosy indeed for US-based interpreters and translators; the US government predicts 42 percent growth in employment for interpreters and translators between 2010 and 2020, “much faster than the average for all occupations.”

The prediction is that there will still be a strong demand for certain frequently-translated Romance languages such as, French, Spanish, and Portuguese (the numbers reported above for the Spanish-speaking population in the US definitely bears this out for that language). The BLS also predicts that demand will remain strong for German, although the American Community Survey shows a decreased population for speakers aged 5 or above of that language in the home. The Job Outlook predicts that “Demand also should be strong for translators of Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages and for the principal East Asian languages: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.”

The drivers for growth in the interpreting and translation fields are not only the dramatic increase in the number of speakers who report not speaking English “very well,” but also the increase in global trade and the broad scope of US civilian and military interests abroad.

© 2012 Everymom/Language Development Company

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