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What is an \"economically viable\" language combination?
Thread poster: xxxeurotransl
xxxeurotransl
German to English
+ ...
Jun 14, 2001

This is a question that often pops up among young translators-to-be or students who are about to enrol in a translation programme, but don\'t know what languages to choose for their diploma.



My question is: are there actually language combinations that are not \"economically viable\" - meaning: you will definitely need to have another language combination or some other job to fall back on?



What is your experience? Do you work with an \"exotic\" language? And if you do, do you find it difficult to locate all the right resources (dictionaries, glossaries, secondary literature, etc.)?



I am especially interested in the latter: I find that even Spanish causes some problems sometimes - it is difficult to find the kinds of reliable resources that are available in a combination like English/French (www.granddictionnaire.com, Termium, printed dictionaries, etc.). For example, it was only recently that I stumbled across a very handy Spanish-English legal dictionary, but for the most part, even a standard combination such as Spanish-English is quite poorly covered by those publishers and compilers of dictionaries - French and German are in my experience the two languages that are covered the best - when translating into English or from English into F or G.


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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:55
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Jun 15, 2001

It\'s been my experience (wielding 5 language pairs) that German is the most economically viable language, especially for those who work from De to English. This may perhaps be explained by the German juggernaut economy, where German Firmen, like ravaging octopi, feel the need to go global (hate that cliche).



So, for years I\'ve been asked by agencies to translate engineering and software manuals for companies, whose managers have to fly tomorrow to Hong Kong to meet potential buyers or to a tradeshow in Brisbane.



My De>En colleagues would confirm this suspicion.



French could come second but, as everyone knows, you couldn\'t earn as much doing Fr>En even if you\'re getting the top industry rate of US$/EUR 0.12 per source word. If you know of any (non-agency) client paying more than EUR/US$ 0.15 per word, please tell them that there\'s this super-duper translator who can wield words wonderfully



With Es/It/Po/Du, it seems that, short of having regular clients that like/want/love you, you ain\'t gonna earn oodles of cash. I\'m speaking only of experience (and please object if you know of the contrary): the agency rates in the countries where these languages are spoken are way below rates offered in Germ/Austr/Switz (example: Belgium - where everyone and his grandmother\'s poodle seems to be at least bilingual, hence everyone thinks they can translate, hence everyone thinks that translators are run o\' the mill, hence less respect, which equals to 7 Euro cents per word paid 3 months after invoicing - remind me not to work for Belgian agencies again pliz!).



If you insist on working with these languages, I suggest you ply your trade in North America, where you can get 12-15 cents for Du/Po/It. If you\'re resourceful of course and if you find the right agencies.



I\'ve been paid 13 cents for Spanish in the US (5-8 cents in Europe) but I ain\'t gonna tell you where even if you ask nicely.



Of course, if you know an exotic language like, say, Hungarian or Czech, you can corner the market and thus get regular work. This equals to big bucks if, for example, DaimlerChrysler and Beyer Pharmaceuticals want their product brochures, Web site and what have you translated/updated regularly. The other side of the coin is that the target audience is so small and the in-country translators...hmmm...should we say...less costly (read: cheap bastards!) that work may come sporadically if not at all.



Nota bene: the Czech celebrity, Mr. Radovan Pletka, seems to be very busy running up and down the US of A. (but I suspect all of us grateful subscribers to his service finance his wining and dining)



I studied Russian, among other esoteric subjects, at university for almost 8 years and lived in Russia for 13. Once I crawled out of that hole (with a few wrinkles here and there, caused by battling it out with babushkas everyday for that last cabbage roll), I discovered that this \'exotic\' language doesn\'t have much of a market when it comes to the Ru>En direction. It\'s a major language with truckloads of qualified individuals but after 3 years of trying in North America (and Europe), I can\'t seem to find any ready market. There are some agencies in Houston that do NASA work but, short of being a son of Yuri Gagarin or living in Houston, getting a foot in the door is tantamount to walking in space without a tether (space metaphor, geddit?).

And who wants to live in Houston anyway? All that big hair will probably ruin your fashion sense.



People who work into Russian seem to have it better but they have to compete with Russians who live in Russia and who offer (price-dumping) rates of less than 5 cents per word! (I used to get US$15 per PAGE when I was freelancing in Moscow so 5 cents per WORD are a pot o\' gold)



Don\'t forget Japanese and Chinese of course. Major bucks judging from the rates being asked by freelancers and charged by agencies.



I know I should\'ve gone to Nagoya instead of Moscow! I would be sick of sushi today instead of being sick of borsch.



My conclusion to beginners: learn Japanese and German and learn them well. Soon enough you\'ll be a high roller in Vegas, staying at the Bellagio and drinking Bolly.


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xxxeurotransl
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Jun 15, 2001

Thank you for that, Marcus.



You are right: it has been my experience too that the DE>EN market has been the strongest for close to 3 years - even surpassing a \"global\" language like French.



However, I do know many translators, both in Europe and North America, that work exclusively from French to English (even charging as much as Can$0.30 per word), and when you call them, they will tell you that they are not accepting any new clients for the next year (no lie - I have been given this line by many FRA>EN).



As for Japanese: yes, you are right - the situation in that segment is phenomenal right now - I have seen one even charge US$0.40 per English word for Jap>En translations.



I myself took Japanese for several semesters at university, but dropped it later in favour of Spanish - at that time, there simply was no viable Japanese translation market. Besides, I wanted to break into conference interpreting - and Japanese, even today, is not considered a \"conference language\".



Here is my personal ranking in terms of \"viability\" (I have tried to find an average that would apply to both Europe and North America):



1. DE>EN

2. EN>FR

3. FR>EN

4. DE>FR + FR>DE

5. EN>ESP

6. ESP>EN



followed by the various combinations and languages (Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian, Dutch, ....)



Concerning research resources: which of the above combinations, do you think, are best \"covered\" by available (and professionally compiled) dictionaries, glossaries, secondary literature, etc.?


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:55
French to English
Jun 15, 2001

All makes for interesting reading. Never the less, I though we were supposed to keep rates out of it... however tempting it might be! I\'m not a watchdog, but I\'m worried that it might lead to trouble if we start comapring rates!

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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:55
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Jun 16, 2001

Nik, I wasn\'t aware about the no-rate rule so my apologies for divulging (what I thought to be) public information. I\'ve read countless posts in forums like this from neophytes asking about going rates and subsequent replies, so I assumed this was information that could easily be obtained. I\'ve even seen several Web sites/agency sites where rates are compared across countries/industries.



I also don\'t see what trouble this could cause. On the contrary, I imagine this kind of information could be very useful for people who don\'t know how much the service they provide is worth. I still remember my initial steps many years ago. I either charged too much or too low, and only after a year of stumbling did I find the right balance.



Anyway, if there are objections then I\'ll shut up (made easy right now by homemade cinnabons).



Eurotransl (nombre por favor?), I buy my reference material mainly from 5 sources:



1) www.buecher.de

2) Kater Verlag, http://www.kater-verlag.de/

3) La Maison du Dictionnaire, Paris (http://www.lmdd.com/fr/home.htm)

4) Grant and Cutler, London (http://www.grant-c.demon.co.uk/)

5) I.B.D Ltd. (http://www.ibdltd.com/)

6) Routledge (http://www.routledge-ny.com/)



I could write reams about the merits of each but would restrict myself to saying that the cheapest rates are in 1 and 2 for De/En books (and Fr as well sometimes). 2 has the slight lead over 1 for range of books since it\'s a publishing house after all. With 1, you have to know beforehand what you\'re looking for so don\'t have to spend too much time doing searches. Very reasonable rates for shipping (which are waived if you order more than DM 400 I think...or could be 500).



3 is still the best source for Fr. The owner is very helpful (by e-mail and phone) and he will even personally mail books ordered on line at a very reasonable price. You could browse at their Paris location for hours!



If you live in the US/Canada, 5 and 6 are the best sources (although I\'ve discovered that buying De>En books from buecher.de still comes out cheaper than buying the same books from 5). I suggest doing comparison shopping beforehand.



A book lover\'s paradise, 4 has ample De/Fr/Es/Ru sections (practically all major languages of the world actually) but the sterling being the currency it is, North Americans (especially Canucks like us) have to dig deep to afford their prices. Example, during a recent trip to London I paid close to 150 quid for 3 De>En dictionaries! I simply had to return the enxt day of course to pay 200 quid for 4 dictionaries. Ouch!



It\'s good books are deductible for translators.



In gauging availability of reference matetials by language (apart from English), De and Fr win out over the lot. I\'m still waiting for Ernst to release the 2000 version of their technical dictionary (although the En>De is already out). De might have the slight lead (I\'m speaking subjectively) over Fr based on my visits to the bookstores above.



De and Fr seem to benefit from the panoply of on-line sites (e.g., La Grande Dictionnaire and the list of on-line dictionaries compiled by Frank Dietz).



Russian is not far behind (Lingvo and Polyglossum). Es books are mediocre. Dunno about other languages.



Enough?


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xxxeurotransl
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Jun 16, 2001

I think the no-fee rule does not apply here. I believe that rule that nikscot refers to is intended to keep one\'s own advertising out of this forum (and there is no need to put one\'s own rates here; we can all provide this information on our profile pages).



My question was merely general in nature so as to gauge the \"viability\" of certain language combination and get other people\'s views on the availability of research material.



Thank you, Marcus, for presenting your view and for confirming my \"take\" on these topics.



I suppose, I will have to do \"CPR\" on my Japanese at some point


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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 06:55
SITE FOUNDER
Jun 21, 2001

Quote:


On 2001-06-20 23:34, eurotransl wrote:

By way of a follow-up to my original question and, maybe, as a close to this forum section, could anyone of the ProZ team provide us with statistics on the different volumes of job postings received on this site in terms of language combinations? For example: 12,387 jobs for English>French, 500 for English>..., etc.



I think these numbers would be highly representative of the actual market situation and of the current \"status\" of certain language combinations and could serve as \"pointers\" for any budding translators who have not made up their minds yet as to the combinations they plan to offer.





Good question. Here are the language combinations with more than 100 jobs posted on ProZ.com to date:



Jobs: 1139 en_fr

Jobs: 1028 en_ge

Jobs: 929 en_sp

Jobs: 783 en_jp

Jobs: 698 ge_en

Jobs: 558 fr_en

Jobs: 478 en_it

Jobs: 418 en_pg

Jobs: 406 jp_en

Jobs: 376 en_ch

Jobs: 336 sp_en

Jobs: 324 en_du

Jobs: 277 it_en

Jobs: 238 ge_fr

Jobs: 235 en_se

Jobs: 223 en_kr

Jobs: 196 fr_ge

Jobs: 195 du_en

Jobs: 193 en_ru

Jobs: 185 en_ar

Jobs: 178 en_da

Jobs: 177 en_no

Jobs: 175 en_fi

Jobs: 147 ge_sp

Jobs: 135 it_ge

Jobs: 132 en_po

Jobs: 132 ge_it

Jobs: 131 pg_en

Jobs: 130 en_vt

Jobs: 125 af_zu

Jobs: 125 fr_sp

Jobs: 125 sp_ge

Jobs: 112 sp_fr

Jobs: 103 ch_en

Jobs: 103 en_gr

Jobs: 102 en_th



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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:55
French to English
Jun 21, 2001

No worries about the rates thing, I just had this in mind from the \"money matters\" forum : \"The following topics are appropriate for this section: accounting software, tax issues, etc. Detailed discussion regarding word rates, etc., should be avoided.\" I had taken this to be an indication that this applied to the whole site (except profile pages and bidding of course!). If anyone ever gets going on rates, then we could run a whole separate forum on the subject. The best thing I have ever heard on the matter of rates was :



\"It\'s easier to justify a high rate than a low one\".



All the best,



Nikki


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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:55
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Jun 22, 2001

An interesting observation is that there are no East European languages in that long list! I knew I had it bad trying to sell my Russky skills...



Languages like Viet., Thai, Greek and Korean were included but not Russian with its 170 million speakers! I could venture to say that the economic viability of a language from a translator\'s point of view is directly proportional to the native country\'s own economic viability.



Another observation is that if you translate into a language spoken by major ethnic communities in Western countries, say, Tagalog, Hmong, Cantonese, Vietnamese in the US (or Indian languages in the UK), then there\'s a good chance you\'ll get regular work, especially from government agencies.



Anyway, that\'s a jib in the rib to any aspiring Slavophile: it\'s cool reading Pushin and Gogol in the original (and you\'ll feel glorious after plowing through the 4 volumes of Voina i Mir) but, dude, cash ain\'t gonna come in wheelbarrows.



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Troy Fowler
English to Japanese
+ ...
Jun 22, 2001

Personally I\'m surprised Arabic didn\'t make a better showing.



I\'m toying with the idea of going after a 3rd language seriously (currently at JPN and ENG). If its money that matters, it looks like German would be the way to go!



I\'m still curious though...there must be a handful of people who work in unconventional language pairs (between countries with relatively healthy economies) that are raking in the cash. For example, FinnishJapanese, DutchChinese comes to mind...



...seems like these types of translators would be in high demand...any thoughts?



Troy


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xxxeurotransl
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Jun 22, 2001

Re Marcus\'s comments:



English to Polish also made the list.



As for Eastern European languages, the situation is indeed precarious. I remember, back in 1989, at university, they would constantly tell you to study an Eastern European language - \"this is the market of the future\". Au contraire!



What happened? Well, German and English have a firm foothold in Eastern Europe as the two main lingua francas (with German being no.1, followed by English). This also helps explain the position of German these days: many of the EnglishGerman translations are actually intended for the East-European market.



I agree with Troy: it would be interesting to see more comments from translators in really exotic combinations (e.g., Dutch to Chinese). Are you out there somewhere???


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Blanca Rodr�guez
Local time: 12:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 3, 2001

It has been really enlighting to read EVERYTHING you\'ve written here. I must say that I work only with \"Iberian\" languages (that is, Spanish, Portuguese, Galician and Catalan) appart from English, of course and from my experience, the market is working pretty well. The thing, of course, is actually getting the jobs. Well, we all have seen the list Henry posted, and EN>ES went third, after all.



Plus, I know a few translators that are making a living (and quite a good one, by the way) with only this combination. If course, they are very good professionals and have specialized in the right fields, but still..



I\'m still struggling with my German, but I think I feel much more encouraged after what I have read here. German industry, get ready!


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xxxeurotransl
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Jul 3, 2001

Blanca - bienvenida al mundo de la lengua alemana.



Suerte,

Werner


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:55
French to English
Jul 3, 2001

An eye-opener. It would never have crossed my mind to opt to study a particular language because of its \'job-getting\' potential. I had always worked on the basis of choose the langage(s) you like, be good at what you do and specialise. For my part, I am certainly not alone in this, word-of-mouth gets the clients calling and excellent work gets them calling back again and again.



I understand the point of the issue here though, that in terms of volume of work certain pairs come off better than others. Whether this makes them more viable is another matter. The rarity factor must come into play somewhere along the line.



I do French to English, anything to do with boats and adventure sports - almost exclusively - and apart from the odd day or two when things may go quiet, I have a very heavy workload indeed. To my knowledge, two other translators do the same type of work in Brittany with the same or similar clients - there must be others too. The work is out there, there\'s tons of it. Each works independently but when there\'s a bit of a rush on, it\'s shared out. Everyone is happy. The client is happy because he gets his work done when he needs to and when you take a break for a couple of days, you can refer your clients who can\'t wait to someone in whom you trust. Rather than losing clients, I find that this approach keeps them. Quite apart from the fact that for terms, vocab, and sources, it\'s is extremely useful to have a bouncing board, you can also keep your rates in line and whinge about who is or is not paying on time. A common plan of (gentle persuasive) attack to get the client to cough up comes in handy.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-07-04 01:27 ]


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Blanca Rodr�guez
Local time: 12:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 14, 2001

Quote:


On 2001-07-03 13:15, eurotransl wrote:

Blanca - bienvenida al mundo de la lengua alemana.



Suerte,

Werner





Muchas gracias, Werner
[addsig]

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