Yes, crowns, unicorns, hearts, middle fingers and happy faces (or feces) can actually pay your rent and put food on the table. How? Well, you must be fluent in the language of emoji.
This past December, Today Translations, a London-based translation company, released a “help wanted” ad for an “emjoi translator.” The listing made headlines mostly because it’s the first position of its type and many people spend too much time every day texting and tweeting emojis so why not get paid to do so?
The company received over 500 applications and the process of interviewing qualified candidates took approximately five months. The interviewees were given a short emoji test, in which they were given some emoji combinations and asked to decipher the meaning of the tiny pictures, as well as write a few sentences in emoji. Irishman Keith Broni emerged as the winner and is now the world’s first professional emoji translator.
There aren’t any universities offering emoji translation as a major just yet, but Broni’s education made him the most qualified applicant for the role. He graduated from University College London with a Master’s degree in business psychology. Broni’s thesis was titled only using emojis and focused on the way that consumer behavior can influence how they perceive emoji in combination with various brand names. He even organized London’s first “Emoji Spelling Bee” in which contestants were given a set amount of time to convert a phrase into emoji.
The job is to create a guide on the proper etiquette of using emojis and breaking down the meanings of individual emojis along with strings of emojis put together. If translated incorrectly, there is the possibility of a social outrage. With new emojis being introduced every single year, the guidebook must constantly be updated.
Broni explained in a phone interview with Refinery 29, that the job is a bit more complicated than it may seem. He said, “The hardest things I’ve had to translate are ones where the intention is for it to be highly universal.” Just like words and gestures can have various meanings in different countries, emojis can too.
Broni stated how the thumbs-up icon is very popular in the West, but in the Middle East, it’s considered very offensive, “like giving someone the middle finger.” He also commented on how the A-Ok icon is offensive in Latin America and the smiley face icon is used in China to end a conversation.
Broni additionally addressed how varying devices affect emoji translation, such as an Apple user sending one to a Samsung user. Since the characters can appear different on different phones, misinterpretation is common.
There hasn’t been a second ad for another emoji translator just yet, but with the rise of communicating with tiny icons, there is definitely the potential of a call for more soon. Broni says that emojis are becoming more acceptable, but they still aren’t appropriate for formal communication, so leave them off your resume for now.
If you’re interested in learning more about emoji translation or the history of emojis, you can get in touch with Today Translations and have all your questions answered via email.