Wie ist die aktuelle Arbeitslage für Übersetzer vom Deutschen ins Englischen.
Thread poster: Thomas Pike

Thomas Pike  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:05
German to English
+ ...
Feb 10

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, 

ich interessiere mich sehr für den Übersetzungs-Beruf und wäre sehr dankbar wenn Sie mir einige Fragen beantworten könnten. 

Kurz zu mir. Ich bin Englischmuttersprachler mit absolviertem Joint Honours Bachelor in Geschichte und Deutsch, sowie einem abgeschlossenen PGCE (Post Graduate staatliches Lehrerstudium in Großbritanien) im Fach DAF. Seit über sechs Jahren wohne ich in Deutschland, wo ich vereinzelte Übersetzungen für Bekannten durchgeführt und prüfgelesen habe. 

Ich würde gerne von den Erfahrungen anderenr hören, die vom Deutschen ins Englischen übersetzen. Wie sieht momentan die Arbeitslage für diese Sprach-Kombination aus? Mir wurde gesagt, dass es sehr schwierig sein wird ohne zuerst ein Masterstudium in Translation abzuschließen. Ist dies wirklich der Fall? Ich bin für die Betreuung meiner vierjährigen Tochter verantwortlich und arbeite deshalb in Teilzeit. Wäre es für mich möglich ein ordentliches Teilzeit Gehalt als Freelance Übersetzer ohne eine spezifische Ausbildung zum Übersetzter zu verdienen? Wie stehen die Chancen, dass ich, wenn die Kinderbetreuung nicht mehr so viel Zeit in Anspruch nimmt und ich die staatliche Prüfung ablegen würde, als Übersetzer ohne Mastersstudium ein ausreichendes Kundenbasis aufgebaut hätten um den Job Vollzeit zu machen? Zwecks der Fachprogrammen wie Trados, MemoQ u.s.w, ist es sehr schwierig die Benutzung zu erlernen ohne eine Ausbildung als Übersetzer zu absolvieren? 

Bitte entschuldigen Sie, dass ich so viele Fragen stelle. Ich würde mich wirklich sehr darauf freuen, wenn jemand mir weiterhelfen könnte.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Thomas Pike


Mike Roebuck  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:05
German to English
+ ...
Work situation for German - English Feb 11

Hi, Thomas. As your mother tongue is English, I'm replying in English.

I've been translating German into English professionally for over 10 years now.

I exchanged e-mails a few months ago with a chap in the EU's translation department who told me that German - English is the most-requested language pair they have and that there are not enough native English speakers working in this combination to meet current demand.

Whilst I don't do any work for them (for a number of reasons), I haven't been short of work for a number of years now. If you can get direct clients, they'll usually pay reasonably well, but you're more likely to be getting work from agencies, some of whom will insist that you use a CAT tool and will try to get you to accept really low rates. Good agencies will pay you enough to live on, though.

I use Trados and try to make sure that I always have the most up-to-date version (Studio 2017). CAT tools like this are great time-savers once you've used them for a while and built up one or more translation memories (TMs). I'm told MemoQ is good too, but I haven't tried it myself.

Translation is a huge industry with people working in all sorts of language pairs. If you decide to join it, you'll have to do some marketing at first. If you intend to remain in Germany, you'll almost certainly have to register for VAT too. The threshold is much lower there than it is here and you will probably be unable to avoid it.

I hope that's useful for starters.


Thomas Pike  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:05
German to English
+ ...
Many thanks Mike. Feb 11

Hi Mike

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. You have been very helpful.

Kind regards



Joe France  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:05
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
Reasonably fresh DE>EN Feb 12

Hi Thomas,

I set out as a freelancer in the DE>EN pair around 18 months ago having worked in-house for around 4/5 months and completed a postrgraduate translation MSc - so while I'm perhaps not best-placed to answer the question of whether you can get by without a Master's, I can perhaps give you insight into starting out as a freelancer today.

It's not completely straightforward by any means: many - but by no means all - agencies have blanket requirements for their translators (often dictated by ISO requirements, I think), such as a relevant degree plus 2 years' experience. However, it's entirely possible to find respectable agencies who pay decent rates, but it will require a good amount of searching and applications. I used the Proz company directory to find agencies that were a) hiring b) specialised or at least operating in fields relevant to me and c) not collossal, market-dominating multi-nationals as they tend to drive down prices. There are agencies and plenty of work out there, you just have to find the people willing to pay a decent rate for it.

What I would advise in general is that if you're good enough, you should charge a standard rate (see Proz rate pages for a guide) - don't discount wildly just because you're a beginner. Perhaps accept a lower rate here and there for one-offs, but don't allow yourself to be exploited. Even if this means charging the full rate and paying for a proofreader/reviser yourself at first to gain a bit of experience of the process, it's well worth it. After a couple of client testimonials and perhaps even referrals, things might pick up quickly.

What I would say is that a translation graduate isn't necessarily ready to be a professional translator - even taking a course might not make you ready for translation as a profession. My time in-house was short and, at times, rather brutal, but it made it clear that there was a very steep learning curve on starting work. This included CAT tools (like Mike, I also use Trados as most DE>EN clients of mine at least prefer if not require it, though MemoQ is quite handy and lots of agencies will provide you with temporary licences to avoid you buying both CATs) and learning how to engage with clients, but for me the biggest challenge was developing the stamina to focus and translate accurately but non-robotically for eight hours, five days a week. I had worked full time before - I'm hardly lazy - but the mental load of concentrating for that long was a major challenge for me. By contrast, of course, some people without any translation qualification can be wonderful translators!

I don't mean to scare you off at all - if you've been in Germany for six years, your German skills should hardly be a problem! There is definitely work out there and one project often leads to another - it's just a question of getting your foot in the right door, which can often be as much about luck as it is judgement. So - good luck to you!


Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:05
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Good Feb 12

There is no shortage of work from German to English, and there is a healthy demand for quality, i.e. clients tend to be prepared to pay adequately if you can deliver results, and they tend to understand what quality is and why it matters. That probably makes it one of the best language combinations to work in.

In Germany, there is a rather large market for certified translations, because Germans are obsessed with wanting to make everything official. You obviously need qualifications to tab into that market if it interests you. However, you can get qualified without a Master's degree.
For other areas, it will help, but is rarely required.
Most agencies simply ask for a short sample or test translation, and decide after a few small jobs whether or not they want to keep you on their books. There is a healthy market for direct clients if you can cater to SMEs.

I would say specialist knowledge in any field is more important than an actual translation degree.
Now, I'm not sure how the market is for history translations. There may well be opportunities in the academic field (theses for publication, books, etc.).

[Edited at 2018-02-12 09:52 GMT]


Darrel Knutson  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:05
Member (2010)
German to English
Plenty of work out there Feb 12

I got into translating over 20 years ago after teaching English for 8 years in a lot of German companies from different business sectors including hard coating, oil refining, publishing, IT and software, computer sales and marketing, import/export, shipbuilding, music production, aerospace, surgical instruments, advertising, firefighting technology, lasers, hotels, banking, law, CNC technology, etc. I'll give you one guess as to which subjects I typically translate and where I acquired my customers from.

Some words of advice I have for anyone wanting to enter the translation business:

1. Why not start today?

What exactly is keeping you from getting a short, paid project today? Set priorities and work around the obstacles to get your first translation job. Go for it. Rinse, repeat.

2. Spend no money.

Most everyone has a computer and internet connection today. Along with some version of MS Word. Start with that.

Only consider buying software when you've earned the money for it already or it's required for a well-paying project, one that will easily cover the cost of the new software. There should never be any need to go into debt to purchase software, which you can get in special deals here at proz.com when you are ready to buy. Also try out test versions to first get a feel for how to use them. (It's almost never the software used that counts, but the quality of the work you do, no matter how you get it done.)

And work from home. Don't get an office until you've earned enough to pay for one for a year, and only when the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Be a work-at-home dad.

3. Love the work and acquire the skills.

Get interested in all kinds of things and remember, your main job is to help Germans communicate with other speakers of your language. Learn as much as you can about your customers and their products and services. Compare to their equivalents in English-speaking countries. Learn as much as you can from each project to apply to future projects and pick up the software skills, editing skills, computer expertise, etc. as you need them.

Quality is the main thing in Germany and if you can provide it, there's really nothing preventing you from joining in. Start small (while your daughter is napping), do good and reliable work, learn as you go, stay interested and you should eventually have plenty of decent paying work.

And also remember to respect the profession by not drastically undercharging for work. If you want to live off of translation work, you have to charge your customers accordingly.

I'm still an English teacher at heart, because I love being with other people, but in my role as a translator I've been earning much more for over 20 years now. I didn't know everything on day one and no one will expect you to either, and it's no excuse for not giving it a go.


Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:05
German to English
Definitely possible Feb 14

Hi Thomas,

I've been working as a DE>EN translator for about 11 years and don't have a degree in translation (yet - it's currently in progressicon_wink.gif ). I have never felt that the lack of a degree stopped me from getting jobs I wanted. The only reason I am getting a degree now is because I find translation theory interesting and want to learn more.
However, what I do have are other qualifications:
- I've been an in-house translator for a German university for several years, and many of my freelance clients are other German universities because they know I translate these kinds of documents on a daily basis.
- I have a doctorate in political science, and most of my other freelance clients are professors and highly specialized boutique agencies that cater to academics. I have published my own work in international peer-reviewed journals and with publishers, so my clients know that I know how to write for that audience.

I regularly turn down jobs because I am almost always working at if not over capacity, and my clients now often "reserve" my time several months in advance. In other words - from my perspective, the market is fabulous and a degree in translation is not necessary.

If I were you, I would exploit the teaching degree you have because in my experience there are a lot of jobs coming out of the "Bildungswissenschaften". I often get those that are related to civics courses, but there's no reason you can't work on a broader basis because of your degree in education.

To your other questions:
"Ich bin für die Betreuung meiner vierjährigen Tochter verantwortlich und arbeite deshalb in Teilzeit. Wäre es für mich möglich ein ordentliches Teilzeit Gehalt als Freelance Übersetzer ohne eine spezifische Ausbildung zum Übersetzter zu verdienen?"
Sure, it's possible, although it depends on what you mean by "Teilzeit" (10 hours / week? 20? 30?) and whether you are working for huge agencies that pay peanuts or whether you are successful in specializing and getting direct clients.

"Wie stehen die Chancen, dass ich, wenn die Kinderbetreuung nicht mehr so viel Zeit in Anspruch nimmt und ich die staatliche Prüfung ablegen würde, als Übersetzer ohne Mastersstudium ein ausreichendes Kundenbasis aufgebaut hätten um den Job Vollzeit zu machen?"
I don't see any reason you would even need to take the staatliche Prüfung if you don't want to. I know plenty of DE>EN translators who are not certified and do not have a translation degree who earn a decent living.

"Zwecks der Fachprogrammen wie Trados, MemoQ u.s.w, ist es sehr schwierig die Benutzung zu erlernen ohne eine Ausbildung als Übersetzer zu absolvieren?"
There's a steep learning curve for CAT-tools at the beginning, I think, but if you are reasonably proficient with computers you won't have a problem learning how to use them. I am a big fan of memoQ and find it very intuitive (plus it's completely Trados compatible, so a client can send you a Trados package, you can work on it in memoQ, and then send them a Trados package back at the end). There are online tutorials to help you get started.

As someone else mentioned, do not forget to register with the Finanzamt (if you haven't already) if you're doing business as a translator. Good luck!


Mair A-W (PhD)
Local time: 05:05
Member (2016)
German to English
+ ...
Qualification Feb 14

I, likewise, starting translating "full time" about a year and half ago, having spent some time dipping a toe in the water, and am now turning work down, so it's clearly out there, and I don't yet have my Master's either, although it's in progress. What I would say is that many potential clients like to see *some* kind of qualification, but not necessarily in translation -- the fact that I have good qualifications in my specialist subjects is generally convincing enough.

It's been my experience though that translation jobs are rather like buses - nothing for a while and I start to worry, and then three at once. I suppose over time as you train your clients, they book you in advance, as reported by the other posters in this thread!


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