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Salary of a Japanese --> German Translator / Interpreter
Thread poster: vieleFragen
vieleFragen
Local time: 16:34
English
Dec 10, 2004

Hello. I'm a business student and I've always loved foreign languages and have been fairly good at them. As I've always wanted to do somethign related to languages, but had always been told, that translating / interpreting wasn't paid too well (to put it mildly), I started studying business administration about 8 months ago. But unfortunately, I have to say, that I'm really not interested in studying the things we are supposed to...not at all, actually.
So I was thinking it might be a good idea to quit and start studying to become a translator for an "exotic language" like japanese for example
(I'm more interested in japanese than in chinese and as far as I know I'd have to study "only" 2000 characters for japanese, whereas I'd have to study a couple of thousands more to be able to read every chinese character...I read in japanese there were "only" 2000, but in chinese you have to know 3000 only to be able to read a newspaper...which I heared from other sources wasn't true at all, because you'd have to know even way more for that...not to mention how many I'd have to know to translate highly sophisticated documents...).

I know it takes a lot of effort to learn a language like japanese (I heard it took about 3 times as long as it took to learn spanish for example), but I really think I could pull that off. I know my english isn't perfect, but I think I speak it pretty good considering I've never been to an english-speaking country in my whole life. The same thing holds true for my french, so I think I'd have a pretty good chance to learn japanese if I also went to the country for at least half a year or so.
(I know I wouldn't be a perfect translator yet, after achieving a degree though...).

Anyways, I'd like to know how much a japanese - german translator/interpreter could expect to earn in one month.

I heared interpreters for J->G usually charged around 860$ per day (if they work from like 9AM to 11PM or so...including preparation and journey, I guess) and that translators for J->E could charge up to 80 dollars per translated page (probably only true for top-notch translators?)

Anyways, those figures sound pretty competitive to me (compared to other professions). Are they true?

How much money does a translator / interpreter for japanese --> GERMAN usually make and how many hours do they work, if they freelance and have a decade or two of experience under their belts?

How much money do they earn / hours do they work when they get started for a translation agency?

Could I expect to earn twice as much with a rather exotic language like japanese than with english or french? (I've read that...)

Is there usually enough work for a (good) japanese --> german translator?

I hope somebody can give me some answers...so please answer even if you don't know the answers to all of my questions

Greetings / Best regards..?!
(What do you write at the end of an english post on the internet?!lol)


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:34
Flemish to English
+ ...
Stick to business studies, study languages later Dec 11, 2004

In big corporations,people with a business background get preference when applying for professional and management jobs. M.B.A.-preferred is not a hollow slogan. With such a business degree you can apply at a big (Japanese) company and who knows, work in Japan.There you might learn Japanese and enhance your skills in that language faster than when you study the language abroad. When you are young,it is up to you to anwer the question: Where do you want to go today (in life)?
I wonder how you will go about simultaneous interpreting if you never had the proper training and never seen a booth?




[Edited at 2004-12-11 19:51]


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 17:34
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Pragmaric questions... Dec 11, 2004

And they refer to the distant time when you are really good at both the exotic language and translation as a profession.

Why not consider something easier for starters?

Indeed, Japanese translators earn probably more than others; on the other hand, successful translators in "ordinary" language pairs are good earners, too. $30 or $40 per page is not uncommon even in popular language combinations, which makes handsome income if you are busy.

But basically, everything depends on your skills rather than language.

Best luck,
Oleg


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 07:34
English to French
+ ...
Japanese Dec 11, 2004

Hi Manyquestions

Since Williamson and Oleg covered the business part, I'll take Japanese.

First of all, I wonder who told you there's "only 2,000 characters" in Japanese. I think you have to know 5,000 and understand reporters lingo to be able to read a newspaper. As a matter of fact, I had a to take a Japanese Press class in my junior year in college. Now, if you want to be able to translate from Japanese, you probably need to know more than 5,000 kanji to be really on top of what you're reading.

Basically, if you really want to pursue this, be prepared to spend several years learning the language before you even start a translation/interpretation course.

So yes, a good interpreter can make a nice living, whatever the language combination. What it takes to be a good interpreter is another story, Williamson told you the basics.

Best,
Sarah


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Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:34
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
Exotic vs Non-exotic Dec 11, 2004

First of all, hate it or love it, do the business degree - it will only help you with translation if you decide to get into that.

Secondly, learning an exotic language to translate from it _imho_ is not really the best idea. First of all, there is less work for most exotic languages (not necessarily the case for japanese), If you really want to translate stick to what you know and try to improve that (you already know 3 languages!) - there is so much work in germanenglish that virtually anyone can make a living in that field (trust me, i've had to edit some of those translations).

Thirdly, interpreting is really great money but you'll find that jobs are few and far between (unless you're the crem de la crem) and it's a really hard job for which you need training and experience (especially sim).

I say, stick to the degree, do that, and chances are you'll probably not be interested in translation with the opportunities that you'll have in front of you You have to consider that living in a relatively expensive country, it's hard for you to make a lot of money translating.

For example, even if you work for $0.10 per word and translate 1000-1500 words a day, you make $100-150 per day, multiply that by the standard working year (about 250 days) and you're only making about $30k, if you're doing well. However, thats not $30k disposable income, from that you deduct taxes, paying someone to fill in your tax forms (if you can't yourself), buying equipment and software, renting an office (if you do) and a bunch of other costs. On top of that, you don't get any benefits or perks from your job (health insurance discount, car etc), no paid holiday, little growth prospects (well, you can advance yourself to "The Managing Translator" but it won't change anything). With a good degree and some hard work you can make $100k a year with all kinds of benefits, potential for growth and anything else you like doing some business thing

Don't get me wrong, there are good things too but I'm sure you're aware of those already

Good luck and may you choose wisely!


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vieleFragen
Local time: 16:34
English
TOPIC STARTER
japanese or chinese? Dec 12, 2004

Im not an expert in that field, but Ive read quite a lot of things about japanese and chinese language and most of the time I read you had to know approximately 2000 japanese kanji (very similar to the chinese characters) plus some other characters (all in all definetly less than 100 or so though) to write things that cant be expressed by those kanji or somethign like this..sorry im havin a hard time sayin what i mean to say but all in all as far as I know japanese has definetly "only" around 2000 characters that are "adjusted" chinese characters, but in chinese you'd have to know like at least 5000 or so characters to read a newspaper without any problems (some say its just 1000 more than in japanese --> 3000 but then again ive read that in chinese its at least 5000 or more).

Im not quite sure as Ive never even had a go at one of those languages but I guess you might confuse chinese with japanese?
(Japanese is said to have more difficult grammar rules though..compared to chinese where there are no tenses at all and so on). Maybe somebody who speaks one of those languages can help us out here?

I know it would take quite some time to become fluent at that language though...I read studies saying that it took about 3 times as long to achieve a specific level of fluency in chinese or japanese as it does in english, french, spanish, etc. (for a german speaker for example)...Ive already learned english and french, so I dont think I underestimate how much effort it'd take to become good at japanese.


sarahl wrote:

Hi Manyquestions

Since Williamson and Oleg covered the business part, I'll take Japanese.

First of all, I wonder who told you there's "only 2,000 characters" in Japanese. I think you have to know 5,000 and understand reporters lingo to be able to read a newspaper. As a matter of fact, I had a to take a Japanese Press class in my junior year in college. Now, if you want to be able to translate from Japanese, you probably need to know more than 5,000 kanji to be really on top of what you're reading.

Basically, if you really want to pursue this, be prepared to spend several years learning the language before you even start a translation/interpretation course.

So yes, a good interpreter can make a nice living, whatever the language combination. What it takes to be a good interpreter is another story, Williamson told you the basics.

Best,
Sarah


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vieleFragen
Local time: 16:34
English
TOPIC STARTER
freelancing Dec 12, 2004

I'm thinking of becoming a freelance translator in the long run though...not really about going into business or management jobs (in case I do have a go at japanese). I mean, of course people with a business background have better chances of landing a job than somebody who just knows japanese...thats actually one of the reasons. I do love languages and took up business administration, because I thought it was a good way to get a job related to languages (international business...) but I've come to realize, that languages aren't really as much of an advantage in business as I thought. Besides what's the use if I'm not interested in business at all and think it's just plain boring :-/.

Williamson wrote:

In big corporations,people with a business background get preference when applying for professional and management jobs. M.B.A.-preferred is not a hollow slogan. With such a business degree you can apply at a big (Japanese) company and who knows, work in Japan.There you might learn Japanese and enhance your skills in that language faster than when you study the language abroad. When you are young,it is up to you to anwer the question: Where do you want to go today (in life)?
I wonder how you will go about simultaneous interpreting if you never had the proper training and never seen a booth?




[Edited at 2004-12-11 19:51]


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vieleFragen
Local time: 16:34
English
TOPIC STARTER
By the way... Dec 13, 2004

I think I haven't even said thank you yet.So...thank you for your help and answers

vieleFragen wrote:

I'm thinking of becoming a freelance translator in the long run though...not really about going into business or management jobs (in case I do have a go at japanese). I mean, of course people with a business background have better chances of landing a job than somebody who just knows japanese...thats actually one of the reasons. I do love languages and took up business administration, because I thought it was a good way to get a job related to languages (international business...) but I've come to realize, that languages aren't really as much of an advantage in business as I thought. Besides what's the use if I'm not interested in business at all and think it's just plain boring :-/.

Williamson wrote:

In big corporations,people with a business background get preference when applying for professional and management jobs. M.B.A.-preferred is not a hollow slogan. With such a business degree you can apply at a big (Japanese) company and who knows, work in Japan.There you might learn Japanese and enhance your skills in that language faster than when you study the language abroad. When you are young,it is up to you to anwer the question: Where do you want to go today (in life)?
I wonder how you will go about simultaneous interpreting if you never had the proper training and never seen a booth?




[Edited at 2004-12-11 19:51]


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xxxAnnerose MB  Identity Verified

Local time: 16:34
English to French
Japanese language Dec 15, 2004

If I were you, I would give a try and see how far (or not so far) you go. And see if the efforts needed are worth the result.



There are about 2000 "basic" kanji (ie elementary to jr high school). Then, you have kanji for specific/specialized fields (finance, technology, medicine, etc).

It is not just a matter of learning 2000 kanji, but also their different readings and the different words that are made of the same kanji.

Just to give you an example: to be born, fresh cream, raw fish would use one same kanji, but the readings would not be the same.

And of course, vocabulary. You will probably need 5000 to 10000 words vocabulary.

Hiragana and katakana (syllabics used around kanji) will be learned within a couple of weeks or so. It takes Japanese kids about 9 years to study 2000 kanji. And this would only be the beginning. Then, comes specializing.

Foreigners studying full time won't take so long, but several years are required.

And of course, staying in the country would be necessary to get the needed spoken and written fluency.

After about 7 years spent in the country (using Japanese on a daily basis for the past 3 years or so), my level is still far from what I would want it to be.

And it is not my first foreign language (native French speaker, fluent in English & German).


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 16:34
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Long hard slog Feb 15, 2005

vieleFragen wrote:

I know it would take quite some time to become fluent at that language though...I read studies saying that it took about 3 times as long to achieve a specific level of fluency in chinese or japanese as it does in english, french, spanish, etc. (for a german speaker for example)...Ive already learned english and french, so I dont think I underestimate how much effort it'd take to become good at japanese.



Languages were always my "big thing", and I started learing German at secondary school in Scotland. I went on to study German at university, and after about 10 years of learning German in Scotland I took the plunge and moved to Germany - thinking that my German was fluent. I've been here for 12 years now, and it took me about 5 years of living here to get my fluency in German to the level I wanted.

So let's say it took me 15 years to get fluent in German - three times that is 45 years to get fluent in Japanese.

If you want to - then go for it! But I imagine it will prove to be a long hard slog

Best,

Alison


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vieleFragen
Local time: 16:34
English
TOPIC STARTER
... Feb 16, 2005

Well, Im really interested in learning japanese and I'll do it no matter what type of career I choose to pursue. But then again, like s.o said already, I'm really worried about the size of the Japanese-German market and about the role the japanese language will play in a decade or two... how can I find out about the size of the Japanese-German market and whether most translations are translated into english and not into japanese? I guess I'll just have to find some J-->G translators and ask them, right?

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Raitei
Japan
Japanese to English
5,000 Characters? Nov 28, 2008

xxxsarahl wrote:

First of all, I wonder who told you there's "only 2,000 characters" in Japanese. I think you have to know 5,000 and understand reporters lingo to be able to read a newspaper. As a matter of fact, I had a to take a Japanese Press class in my junior year in college. Now, if you want to be able to translate from Japanese, you probably need to know more than 5,000 kanji to be really on top of what you're reading.

Best,
Sarah



Sorry for the lateness of this post.

The good news is that you took a Japanese class in college. Great.

The bad news is that you are clueless about the character figures. My kanji dictionary contains around 14,000 characters and my former employer has a high end "kanji encylopedia" with 100,000(?) characters for caligraphy purposes. In the end, it is all Chinese but used in a different way (although a few kanji have been created by the Japanese themselves called kokuji).

As a Japanese translator, I can honestly say that around 98% of the texts Japanese translators translate only contain kanji categorized as jyoyo kanji (1,945 general use kanji specified by the Japanese Ministery of Education) . Your advice of learning 5,000 would be valid when translating historical texts, old martial arts related scrolls, etc.

I bought the Kanken (famous kanji exam) Level 1 and Pre-level 1 prep books many years just to make heads turn while riding the trains (lol). Most Japanese natives have never even seen a majority of the kanji at these levels! If a foreigner masters them, I guarantee they will be VERY VERY lonely in Japan. For example, I like sushi, so I learned most of the Kanken Level 1 kanji fish names (many of them being single kanji). By knowing that information as a foreigner, I am totally messing up the Wa (harmony) and have the social, um, "responsibility" to hide that ability (which in many cases I make the point not to).

Japanese society prefers to keep us like mushrooms, in the dark and fed a lot of s...


As far as the salary issue, it really varies. I still continue to see cases where people agree to work for 1 yen per Japanese source character. They are basically selling out the business which is bad for everone. On the other hand, I heard my former employer give a customer a quote of 200,000 yen for a one day Japanese-English interpretation assignment. Let's just say the customer left the office pretty quickly.


Thomas

Tokyo, Japan


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