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How do I pick the language(s) to focus on?
Thread poster: poly
poly
Italian to English
+ ...
Nov 3, 2005

I beg your tolerace for a rather weird question.

I'd like to further my 'hobby' as a linguist/translator and begin to market myself more aggressively. In order to do this, as many of your posts and articles dictate, I must select from among the languages I know and market those as my main 'language pairs'.

This is quite a challenge for me. I'm a native English speaker, but I've also spoken Italian and Spanish since childhood. I also speak Portuguese, French and Japanese.

An honest assessment of my skills leads me to the following language pairs:

IT to EN

ES to EN

EN to IT

EN to ES

FR to EN

JP to EN

PT to EN

From what I've learned, potential clients would shy away from someone who claims such a wide range of specialties. Even removing the EN to ES and EN to IT capabilities leaves 5 language pairs!

Language Learning has been a lifelong passion of mine, and to 'abandon' any of my languages would feel like abandoning a part of me....I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. I hope that my wiser colleagues can assist in making me face reality.

Thanks for your patience in reading my post. I'll use the feedback I receive here to determine how to market myself and then of course create a profile to reflect my services!

NOTE: The above plea is for translation only....I'd like to eventually work as an interpreter but I'm quite sure I should only ever work between Eng/ITA and ENG/ES.


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Esteban Flamini  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 04:12
English to Spanish
+ ...
A few suggestions Nov 3, 2005

Hi, your question is very interesting. I hope I might shed a little light on it.

First of all, there is an almost unanimous agreement in the translation industry that you can only make good translations *to* the language in which you are native. (Though there are some people arguing cogently on the contrary, e.g., Mr. Danilo Nogueira, whose articles you will find in the Knowledge Base at ProZ.)

Given that your question seems to put more weight on your being a native in English than any other language, I would remove pairs not having English as the target language. (In my profile, e.g., I do not state Spanish to English as a working pair, even though I have certainly made some translations in that combination--and would do it again if asked, just that I'd prefer not being asked by the time being.) Of course, I do not know to what extent you are truly bilingual in Spanish and Italian, in which case you might as well be a good translator to those languages.

Now, your post suggests you are more confident with Spanish and Italian than with any other language. So I guess a good start would be offering ES > EN and IT > EN.

On the other hand, I am not very aware of market data, but I believe fewer people can speak Japanese than, say, Portuguese, Spanish, French or Italian. So if you can *really* prove your proficiency to a potential employeer, offering also JP > EN seems a good choice. Try to conduct a little survey in the ProZ directory and find in which pair(s) you are likely to have less competition.

Summing up: I think you should ask yourself honestly two questions: a) in which language pair(s) I would feel more confident and be more productive? and b) in which language pair(s) I would be able to show the best credentials (academic or not) to a potential employer?

I hope this helps; do not take it as the final truth, though; I hope more people answers your question and you can constrast opinions. Best wishes!


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Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:12
German to English
'Abandoning' your languages... Nov 3, 2005

Don't worry - you'll find that as a translator you'll have a life outside work, in which to pursue the things that make life worth living. I don't think many of us give up our passions in favour of the honour and status of our profession.
Good luck!
DB


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poly
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Wonderful feedback! Nov 3, 2005

Thanks to Esteban and Daniel for your insight.

Esteban:

I've thought about it from the competition aspect as well, and from my research, it seemed that I would have an easier entry into the field with Portuguese and Japanese....as Spanish, Italian, and French are quite 'crowded'. I hate prioritizing my languages based on the financial benefits, but I guess that is what going into business is all about.


Daniel:
Another good point....I guess I felt that if I choose to focus on one or two of my languages, and continue in their development, that my other languages would wilt away. However, as I mentioned, all of my languages are a part of me, and I have friends and other business that requires me to use them all quite often. So not using them in my translation/interpretation business would not be the end of the world, I suppose.

I'm looking forward to more views! Thanks again!


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 08:12
Not all about languages Nov 4, 2005

It would _really_ help you as well if you offer a specialisation in say, science, business, legal, etc. Don't say you can translate all sorts of texts, because you'll find that you cannot.

For example, I enjoy translating technical texts, as I'm a bit of a science nerd anyway, but I don't like doing really heavy, specialist texts like accounting reports or court cases, so I don't accept that kind of work.

I agree with the others who say you should really only translate into your native tongue. You should be busy enough with ES,IT>EN anyway. You can say you offer PT/FR/JP as your "B" languages. You don't have to give up the other 3 entirely, but realistically, it would be very hard to offer all languages at the same level.

[Edited at 2005-11-04 10:37]


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poly
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
true Nov 4, 2005

VERY sound advice! I'm a techie nerd, and I have lots of IT certifications, so thats a strong area for me. I also have lots of experience with business law/contracts, etc. I'd like to do medical interpretation, but I'll need more training for that.

I guess I thought I'd never get any work with just ES and IT into ENG......I figured I'd HAVE to at least do Portuguese or Japanese to distinguish myself from others and get a foot in the door.

Thanks Orla!

Orla Ryan wrote:

It would _really_ help you as well if you offer a specialisation in say, science, business legal, etc. Don't say you can translate all sorts of texts, because you'll find that you cannot.

For example, I enjoy translating technical texts, as I'm a bit of a science nerd anyway, but I don't like doing really heavy, specialist texts like accounting reports, or court cases, so I don't accept that kind of work.

I agree with the others who say you should really only translate into your native tongue. You should be busy enough with ES,IT>EN anyway.


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:12
Member (2003)
German to English
A bit of a flaw in your logic Nov 4, 2005

Hi,

I've seen you post this topic elsewhere in the world, you're certainly persistant. That's a good thing in this business.

I just wanted to make you aware of a flaw in your logic. FRE>ENG is certainly a 'crowded' field, as is SPA>ENG, but that doesn't mean that your chances are negligible. To the contrary, they're so crowded partially because there is a tremendous well of work out there. If those are the languages you want to pursue, then instead consider which fields within those are of interest and might be less crowded (software localization? specialized commercial invoicing or shipping documents? etc, etc).

And that is the key to doing this full time: specialize, specialize, specialize.

Good luck!


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Angela Arnone  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:12
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
Nothing wrong with being persistent Nov 4, 2005

Steven, many of us would not be translators now, if we weren't. Or many of us would be far poorer translators if we lacked persistence.
So lepetitpoly is quite right in pursuing any legitimate path to seeking advice!

My own position is no secret: translate only into your *dominant* language - and I use that expression advisedly to avoid the "bilingual/multilingual" issue.
Many language combinations are crowded ... because there are a great many incompetent translators out there. That is what you really need to assess. Do you want to be just another cipher or do you want to be a successful, respected service provider turning in spotless jobs?
I know what I aim for and although I've spoken two languages all my speaking life (and I am a skilled interpreter), I only offer into English as a translator, where I feel more confident.

There are far too many people offering multiple language combinations, even here on proz, and if you look at their profiles and posts, they are full of grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes and typos in the language they purport to offer perfect translation in .... how does that look to a potential client or even to we colleagues?
I won't go on ....
Angela



Steven Sidore wrote:

Hi,

I've seen you post this topic elsewhere in the world, you're certainly persistant. That's a good thing in this business.

I just wanted to make you aware of a flaw in your logic. FRE>ENG is certainly a 'crowded' field, as is SPA>ENG, but that doesn't mean that your chances are negligible. To the contrary, they're so crowded partially because there is a tremendous well of work out there. If those are the languages you want to pursue, then instead consider which fields within those are of interest and might be less crowded (software localization? specialized commercial invoicing or shipping documents? etc, etc).

And that is the key to doing this full time: specialize, specialize, specialize.

Good luck!




[Edited at 2005-11-04 13:52]


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poly
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
lightbulb Nov 4, 2005

I thought about the fact that several people would see both posts on both sites, but I figured I'd have the best chance of getting the most points of view by posting both places.

I have to say, though, that you've explained the matter in a way that I had not thought about....There may be 3000 registered ES-EN translators, but there may not be 3000 that have the same specializations... so my assumptions were indeed a bit flawed.

Thanks!


Steven Sidore wrote:

Hi,

I've seen you post this topic elsewhere in the world, you're certainly persistant. That's a good thing in this business.

I just wanted to make you aware of a flaw in your logic. FRE>ENG is certainly a 'crowded' field, as is SPA>ENG, but that doesn't mean that your chances are negligible. To the contrary, they're so crowded partially because there is a tremendous well of work out there. If those are the languages you want to pursue, then instead consider which fields within those are of interest and might be less crowded (software localization? specialized commercial invoicing or shipping documents? etc, etc)

.

And that is the key to doing this full time: specialize, specialize, specialize.

Good luck!


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xxxPRen  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:12
French to English
+ ...
And not only that... Nov 4, 2005

[quote]lepetitpoly wrote:


I thought about the fact that several people would see both posts on both sites, but I figured I'd have the best chance of getting the most points of view by posting both places.

I have to say, though, that you've explained the matter in a way that I had not thought about....There may be 3000 registered ES-EN translators, but there may not be 3000 that have the same specializations... so my assumptions were indeed a bit flawed.

Thanks!

And only 30 of them may be working full-time or at all!!

Paula


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poly
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Grazie! Nov 4, 2005


My own position is no secret: translate only into your *dominant* language - and I use that expression advisedly to avoid the "bilingual/mulitlingual" issue.



And that is an excellent way to avoid it, indeed!



Many language combinations are crowded ... because there are a great many incompetent translators out there. That is what you really need to assess. Do you want to be just another cipher or do you want to be a successful, respected service provider turning in spotless jobs?
I know what I aim for and although I've spoken two languages all my speaking life (and I am a skilled interpreter), I only offer into English as a translator, where I feel more confident.



Makes sense. I can still use my strong bilingual skills to work as an interpreter, without necessarily specializing in EN to IT or ES as a translator.

I appreciate you sharing your background information and opinion.


There are far too many people offering multiple language combinations, even here on proz, and if you look at their profiles and posts, they are full of grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes and typos in the language they purport to offer perfect translation in .... how does that look to a potential client or even to we colleagues?
I won't go on ....
Angela



Indeed! I've noticed that as well....

All great points, and this has helped me with my decisions considerably.


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poly
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
aha! Nov 4, 2005

Paula Rennie wrote:

Hi Paula!



And only 30 of them may be working full-time or at all!!

Paula


That is another interesting viewpoint. I guess my assumptions stemmed from the amount of posted jobs I saw vs the amount of registered translators...but indeed, not all of them are even active...and I've also learned from reading other posts that most of our registered colleagues find the majority of their work 'offline' or through direct contact, as opposed to job boards. So I cannot fairly assess the market or demand for my skills based on the limited sample I'm exposed to here.

The work I've done has all been casual 'word of mouth', but I looked to the online market as a gaugue of the 'real' translation world.....I'm learning more and more by the second!


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poly
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Still working on things, but in the meantime... Nov 7, 2005

I'm still kinda finalizing what _my_ services will end up being, but for anyone else in the same situation, here's an interesting article:

http://www.translationdirectory.com/article73.htm


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Deschant
Local time: 08:12
Same questions... Jun 2, 2006

May I re-open lepetitpoly's thread given that my situation is kind of similar.

My native languages are Spanish and Galician (although I guess this one has only a very limited, local market) and the languages I've studied are (by level of proficiency): Italian (I've spent 1 year in Italy), English, French, German (I've been living in Germany for 16 months now), Modern Greek (only at an intermediate level). I'd like to pick up no more than 2 (3?) languages and work very hard on them as I don't think it's possible to maintain a high-quality level in 5 languages (at least I can't).

-From a practical point of view, I guess Italian and English would be the most sensible choices as I wouldn't have to work so hard as in, say, German and Greek to attain an (almost) perfect command of them.

-If I had to follow my heart, I would choice Italian and French. No need to explain it, it's a matter of subjectiveness.

-From an economical point of view, I guess English would work fine but -as ENG > ES it's soooo competitive- only combined with a strong specialization (my primary field until now has been music and musicology, I'm currently working in the IT field and I suppose that would be a pretty good choice to specialize). I believe GER > ES would also be a sensible choice, what do you think? Maybe Modern Greek as well - not many jobs, but also very little concurrence (but in this case I would have to study for years before I'm proficient in this language)...

Thank you for your advice. I intend to translate into my mother tongue(s) only.


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poly
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
my half cent... Jun 3, 2006

no one has replied yet, but i didnt want your post to be ignored...so here i am, a fellow rookie!

from what you've written, it seems like IT>ES is a strong candidate for your 'final 2' or 3.

you definitely should follow your heart, and not just potential business or anything....none of those 5 languages are terribly obscure.

plus if your heart isnt really into one of the languages you pick, it will be even harder to reach higher levels of proficiency. and of course, you'll then need to be prepared to 'live' with that language, through hours and days of translation assignments, term research, etc.

i ended up ceasing my 'serious' studies of one language because while it was lucrative and came easily to me, i really didn't enjoy it at all.

it's kinda like marrying a man for money or pedigree instead of for true love...forgive me for the silly analogy.

do you plan to remain in germany? if so, then i imagine you'll still have to put in a considerable amount of work to master german anyway, so don't count it out for the future.

as for specializations, its ok, as far as i know, to have more than one. IT is a good one because of the amount of user manuals, websites, etc, that need to be processed.

good luck

lpp


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