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Which languages are the most promising ones?
Thread poster: Roman Lutz

Roman Lutz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:39
English to German
+ ...
May 10, 2010

Hey there,

so I have been working as a freelancer for 2,5 years, translating texts from the English, French and Spanish language into the German language.

However, it has been nothing but a struggle trying to make ends meet due to a lack of translation jobs.

I am considering learning a new language, an exotic one where the rates are better and the job situation is more promising.

Besides the obvious and most difficult, the Chinese language, which other languages would you say are the most recommendable? Mind you, we're talking about GERMAN as our target language here.

I would appreciate any opinions.

Thank you in advanceicon_smile.gif


 

Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:39
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Ways to get more jobs May 10, 2010

Hi RomanLutz,

Are you sure you want to learn another language for the purpose of earning money? It would be a massive (disproportionate) investment of time in order to get to the level where you can professionally translate the language that you may choose.

Consider instead the following:

1) Fill in your profile completely. I guess a client, such as a translation agency, would not take empty profiles into consideration when looking for the most suitable candidate to whom a job could be assigned.

2) Consider paid membership, to make yourself visible in the directory of translators.

Even doing these two things is highly likely to increase the amount of jobs that you are offered - and the membership fee costs the tiniest, most negligible fraction of the amount of time and money which would be required to learn a new language to the appropriate standard.

Best of luck!

Astrid


 

Constanze Deus-Konrad
Germany
Local time: 04:39
French to German
+ ...
difficult May 10, 2010

Generally, I believe that it must be rather difficult to start learning a new language from zero at adult age and to achieve a professional level required to meet translation standards. I am working as translator for the most common languages, i.e. English, French and Spanish as well, I learnt these languages at school (since the age of 8, 12 and 15 respectively) and studied them at University, I have lived in French and Spanish speaking countries. So long, I manage my translation work quite well I would say. I also have tried to learn some Arabic at the age of 22, but it was a struggle and I gave up, because I understood soon that I would never reach the same level as in those languages I had been studying for more than 10 years already. But if you think you can do it, give it a try and you will see. Give it a try with Russian, Arabic, Hindi or Japanese. But it is even not necessary to mention that those "most promising languages" (promising because of their number of speakers and economic importance in the world) all are very difficult to learn because of completely different grammatical structures and script. In my opinion, at adult age it probably is more realistic to specialize in some areas of expertise in your working languages and to continue striving for perfection and specialization rather than learning new languages that other translators (often native and bilingual ones) will always handle better than you will ever be able to. Good luck!

 

Dan Bradley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:39
Japanese to English
Asian languages are worth the investment (and they are not that hard) May 10, 2010

If you are interested and excited about learning Chinese, I would say go for that. Learning a language is a huge commitment of time and resources so if you aren't loving what you are learning I'd say it might be a hard challenge.

It is a common misconception that Asian languages are impossibly hard to learn. They really aren't. However, unlike learning languages that use this alphabet, you do need to learn Kanji before you start.

You can use memory techniques such as set out by James Heisig to memorise the meanings of the 4280 Kanji in a relatively short time. Follow the link below to a guy who mastered Japanese in 18months of complete immersion (and is now functionally fluent in cantonese and mandarin). I used these techniques and was reading Japanese novels after a year. The site is aimed at Japanese learners, but the resources, techniques and language learning info can be applied to whatever language you decide upon.

http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/faqs-frequently-asked-questions

"How Did You Learn Kanji? Did you use RTK/Heisig?

Because I had the intention of learning Chinese as well, I did not learn kanji from “Remembering the Kanji” (RTK) with James Heisig. Instead, I took Heisig’s method and applied it to the 4280 odd characters in Rick Harbaugh’s “Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary”. It breaks characters up into components. For learning kanji for Japanese, I highly recommend Heisig’s book." (from the FAQ page)

Good luck,

Dan

(Your original post was about money so while I don't know about Chinese, Japanese seems to bring in about 2/3 times the rate of common European languages like French and Spanish.)


 

William [Bill] Gray  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 04:39
Member (2006)
English
+ ...
I agree with Astrid... May 10, 2010

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:

Hi RomanLutz,

...
1) Fill in your profile completely. I guess a client, such as a translation agency, would not take empty profiles into consideration when looking for the most suitable candidate to whom a job could be assigned.

2) Consider paid membership, to make yourself visible in the directory of translators.

...

Astrid


I signed up in 2006 as a paid member, with a full profile. It transformed the amount of work for me within just a couple of weeks, after having worked sporadically as a freelancer for several years before.

Best of luck,
Bill


[Edited at 2010-05-10 13:16 GMT]


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 04:39
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Too much May 10, 2010

Some would say you already have too many languages...

Learning a new language because it's fun and could even possibly bring you more (and more varied) work at some point in the distant future sounds like a good idea. Learning a new language in order to make more money in the foreseeable future sounds like a really bad idea.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:39
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Learning a new language is not the way to go May 10, 2010

RomanLutz wrote:
I am considering learning a new language, an exotic one where the rates are better and the job situation is more promising.


It takes very long to learn a language well enough to be able to translate out of it. So unless your existing languages (or their markets) are on the brink of extinction, I'd suggest you stick to them and find other ways of improving your income from those languages.


 

Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:39
English to German
I can only agree May 10, 2010

I strongly believe that it is almost impossible to learn any exotoc language at adult age from scratch up to the level that it can be used as a working language - unless you are a whiz!

It takes time to reach the stage when you can live from translating, it's a process. Beside the languages you have to develop some marketing skills, try things out until you find your place. ProZ.com is a very good place to start from - as paying member. Register, build up your profile, concentrate on several subject fields you are good at or very interested in, deepen the knowledge you have and you will see, it will work. Perhaps you may also try to build your own website. But don't forget that everything will take some time!

Good luck to you!

Annett


 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 05:39
Turkish to English
+ ...
Icelandic? May 10, 2010

If you want to take a gamble, perhaps you could consider Icelandic. I do not believe that many people have any knowledge of Icelandic as a foreign language. If Iceland accedes to the EU, then there will certainly be an explosion in demand for translation out of Icelandic into all EU languages, and very few translators available to meet that demand. On the other hand, if Iceland does not get into the EU, you will probably have wasted your time.

The funny thing is that one of the reasons I accepted a low paying job in Turkey back in 1987 was the expectation that in the divided Europe of the Cold War, Greece having joined, Turkey's accession to the EU would follow in a few years' time so that the time was ripe to jump in and learn Turkish. There was a widespread belief at the time that this would happen; indeed, had the Cold War continued it probably would. Things do not always work out as expected.


 

Stuart Dowell  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 04:39
Member (2007)
Polish to English
+ ...
Business skills not language skills May 10, 2010

I think you should work on your business skills rather your language skills.

However, if you are thinking about learning a new language, I would leverage your existing ones. For example, as you already know two romance languages, why don't you study Romanian. Or use your German skills to study Dutch.

On the other hand, why not go and do a post grad degree in accounting or environmental science or some other specialization and then work that area of the translation market with your current languages.


 

Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:39
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Scandinavian May 10, 2010

Roman Lutz wrote:
...it has been nothing but a struggle trying to make ends meet due to a lack of translation jobs.
I am considering learning a new language, an exotic one where the rates are better and the job situation is more promising.

I am surprised that you do not mention the Scandinavian languages which are similar to German, offer much better rates than the FIGS languages, and provide plenty of work. But perhaps not exotic enough.

However, I agree with the other people who argue against learning a new language, and who are saying that your problem is not a lack of languages or translation skills, but poor marketing. Your ProZ profile seems designed to deter customers. A better profile would pay dividends far quicker than learning a new language.


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:39
Flemish to English
+ ...
Niederländisch May 10, 2010

Dutch into German is one of those niches where there are not too many translators around. Dutch is a language, which by its nature does not command low rates either.
Düsseldorf is about 45 kilometers from Venlo, but not so many professional people in Düdorf know Dutch.
In the past, I had a working relationship with a company in Mulheim a/d Ruhr, which offered a voluminous translation German into Dutch and a lot of German into English (both are not my native languages).

Most translators of Dutch live in countries with a high cost of living and can't afford Indian/Chinese rates, notwithstanding the efforts of Indian/Chinese agencies to recruit translators into Dutch.



[Edited at 2010-05-11 06:28 GMT]


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Japanese May 10, 2010

[quote]Daniel Bradley wrote:

It is a common misconception that Asian languages are impossibly hard to learn. They really aren't... I used these techniques and was reading Japanese novels after a year. [quote]

You're a smarter man than me, Daniel! I do five European languages and thought I'd try to learn Japanese for fun. I did a year of evening classes, and it was a waste of time - it just went in one ear and out of the other. I decided Japanese must use a different part of the brain to European languages.


 

Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
Have a look at economic trends May 10, 2010

I am considering learning a new language, an exotic one where the rates are better and the job situation is more promising.

Besides the obvious and most difficult, the Chinese language, which other languages would you say are the most recommendable? Mind you, we're talking about GERMAN as our target language here.


A starting point might be the economic trends.

Germany imports mainly from these countries (taken from Wikipedia):

Netherlands 8.5%, China 8.2%, France 8.2%, U.S. 5.9%, Italy 5.9%, U.K. 4.9%, Belgium 4.3%.

That means that companies from these countries are likely to have texts to translate into German.

Chinese sounds like a good option from this perspective. What I don't know is to what extent companies from these countries will use any way English as a pivot language rather than translating directly into German.

Future official European Union languages like Icelandic or Croatian have indeed a potential but more for translation into English than into German.

On the other hand, the languages you cover are quite big and I would think that there has to be a large customer base willing to pay adeaquate rates for your language combination. As other colleagues have said, your current language combinations might be more fruitful than a new language.

Daniel


 

Roman Lutz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:39
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks so far May 10, 2010

Thanks to everybody for their insightful answers.
I will take all your answers into account and draw my conclusions (most likely, I will go for the advice that most of you have given me, which is trying to expand business with my current languages)

As for my Proz.com Profile:

You are right, it is really poorly designed and I need to change that. Yet so far, I have not been using proz.com as a source for translations jobs... which is something I will definitely look into more in the future.

Thanks everyone so far, this seems like an amazing communityicon_smile.gif


 
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