The future for those translating from English
Thread poster: kenny2006woo (X)

kenny2006woo (X)

Local time: 13:44
English to Chinese
Sep 13, 2010

What do you think the future would be for us who translate from English? Undoubtedly, English has become a predominant language in international exchanges. This, of course, is supposed to create great demands for from-English translation, but the other truth is that many countries where English is not the native tongue devote enormous resources in English training. I don’t know the exact situation in other countries, but here in China, the craze people and the government show is gaining on an absurd level. Toddlers are taught by their parents or private tutors. Through kindergarten down to university / college, English is a compulsory course, given equal or even more importance than the Chinese literature course and mathematics (in fact, the course of Chinese literature receives far less attention than it deserves). I don’t know what your English skills mean in your country, but Chinese university / college students will be denied their academic degree if they fail to pass the national English aptitude tests before graduation. So the truth is, almost all Chinese students are learning English and statistically they have better English skills than the last generation. My concern is in the next ten or twenty years, the number of people with good English skills will increase to an extent that the demand for translators translating from English will be reduced to a level at which we can’t survive.

Have you ever been confronted with this thought?

Thanks for your feedback in advance.

Regards,

Kenny



[Edited at 2010-09-13 12:11 GMT]


 

Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:44
Member (2002)
English to German
Temporary development Sep 13, 2010

Hi Kenny,

I doubt that much will change in China just because it is currently en vogue to speak English there.

It would be very sad if a country started to neglect its own language for any reasons, especially such a culturally rich country as China.

Such trends are often like waves. Today it might be hip to speak English but tomorrow people might be proud again to speak Chinese.
A few hundred years ago it was very fashionable to speak French all over Europe. Today there's not much left of that former trend.

Also, you are talking about highly educated people. These are a minority and most people likely won't be bilingual at all.

But even if the majority in China would become bilingual, it is still a fact that people are more comfortable in their native language. So they would always prefer Chinese user manuals and brochures and movies etc. Any company accommodating this choice would win over a company not offering their products in Chinese.

Best regards

Andy

www.interlations.com


 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:44
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
I often think about it Sep 14, 2010

Hi Kenny,

Not all people who speak English on one level or the other understand the language sufficiently to fully understand it. It's true that English has become a predominant language in international exchanges but that doesn't mean that all 'users' of English have the same English skills.

I take it for a fact that almost all Chinese students are learning English and that they have better English skills than the former generation in China but we in the Netherlands have been doing the same thing since World War II and there's still a demand for my translation services.

Let me guess what will happen. Roughly speaking, the Chinese population will understand English better in the decades to come. China will skip the Golden Era for translators that Europe has had in the last century. Demand for English to Chinese translations will first focus on subjects where a Chinese translation is mandatory: manuals, medical information leaflets, legal documents etc. I'm afraid that's a period you'll have to face. Later on the Chinese will become so affluent that they'll demand thorough translations of all English texts; because they can, to use a popular Dutch phrase. This is the situation we have in Europe now. A large majority of the Dutch consumers more or less understands common English and all Dutch businessmen 'speak it fluently', up to the point where the actual contract has to be translated into Dutch by a specialist.

The future for translation from English into Chinese is bright in China. You'll have a huge market for mandatory translations, a huge market for business translations and a huge market for marketing translation, it's only just begun. Of course you'll have innumerable Chinese competitors who'll claim to understand 'English too' but your clients will also speak 'English too' and will be looking for the best translators available.

Be sure to have specialised by then.

Cheers,
Gerard


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Exactly Sep 14, 2010

Gerard de Noord wrote:
The future for translation from English into Chinese is bright in China. You'll have a huge market for mandatory translations, a huge market for business translations and a huge market for marketing translation, it's only just begun. Of course you'll have innumerable Chinese competitors who'll claim to understand 'English too' but your clients will also speak 'English too' and will be looking for the best translators available.

Be sure to have specialised by then.

I completely agree with the analysis and the advice. Same situation in Spain: an increasing part of the population speaks English with some fluency, but exactly that part of the people are the ones working and operating in a multilingual business and are the ones who understand the need for specialised translation!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:44
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Stand out from the rest to get the best Sep 14, 2010

I agree with what the others have said - the market will no doubt change (what doesn't nowadays?) but won't disappear.

Although, ...
I think if I specialised in translating books and poetry from English into Chinese, I might be a little worried. I know so many Dutch people who prefer to read English literature in the original version that I imagine there must be a shrinking demand for translations. Perhaps that market will suffer quite a lot.

The most important thing for a translator in this situation is to stand head-and-shoulders above others who "can English" - deliver polished products, market yourself as a professional, back this up with outstanding credentials. As you say, there will be less work for more people so you'll need to make sure you grab a bigger piece of the pie.


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
More English skills will mean more demand for quality translations Sep 14, 2010

Almost all of my direct clients have excellent levels of written and spoken English. However, they recognise that their English is not perfect and that they are probably better employed doing something other than translating. For these reasons, they contract professional translators.

I suspect the same will occur in China. As the level of English rises - the demand created by knowledgeable clients for excellent translations will also rise.


 

Ali M. Alsaqqa  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:44
English to Arabic
A personal opinion Sep 14, 2010

For me, my English is excellent. However, if two companies are advertising
their commercial product on TV, and we are talking about the same product
(a Laptop, for instance), and one ad is in English and the other is in Arabic,
then if both products have the same quality, I'll chose the one with the Arabic
ad.

It's a matter of respect, not just understanding.


 

kenny2006woo (X)

Local time: 13:44
English to Chinese
TOPIC STARTER
insightful views Sep 14, 2010

Thank you all for your insightful replies.

The thought has been worrying me for a long time as it’s very hard for me to switch to another trade. It might be a relief to see, as Andy suggested, that the really bilingual people are a minority. Despite the fact that the majority with reasonable English fluency will offset part of the demand for translation, they will learn to appreciate the value of quality translation, which is good news. In order to grab the bigger piece of the pie, I think I will try to go specialized, offer quality technical translations and at the same time, hone my Chinese and English skills on a continuous basis.

There are many, many translators, but the best ones can always get what they deserve. I hope this is not mere consolation.


Thanks again for all of you.

Best regards,

Kenny


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 12:44
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Niche markets Sep 15, 2010

In my opinion, more English education in non-English speaking nations will stimulate demands of our jobs. Let's see online free translation websites. They act to give hints of simple translation of documents BUT human translation demands are still rising. My EN>TH jobs now concern with more medical documents which I never studied decades before. In China, automotive document translation demands are continuously rising due to more motorization life of the people. I expect more segmentations of the EN translation in the coming years.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


 

Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 03:44
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Also Sep 16, 2010

Not everybody with great language skills wants to be a translator. It's hard work and you have to really love it, it doesn't really pay that much and it demands a lot of concentration and long hours. I know many people who speak two or three languages fluently, but they'd rather have another career - simple as that! Of course their language skills help, but there are so many other things you need to be a translator. Most people I know wouldn't ever want to spend 8 hours of their days writing, researching and reading.

 


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