Help: Thai > English translation-related questions
Thread poster: David Jessop

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 12, 2010

Hello Fellow Translators!

As I have heard wonderful things about the culture and food, I am thinking of spending some time in the beautiful country of Thailand and was wondering about the following questions:

-Is there a decent market for Thai > English translations should I choose to learn the language? Is it easy to get regular work (if you're a decent translator I mean)?

-Not a very scientific question, but: are the rates comparable to the Spanish > English market, higher/lower? Is it possible to earn decent Thai > English rates?

-How hard is it to learn Thai up to a level where one could successfully translate? Would you imagine it to be much harder for a native English speaker to learn than a romance language such as Spanish? If I learned Spanish well enough to translate from it in a year of living in Spanish-speaking countries (and formally studying the language through much of it), could I do the same with Thai?

Thanks for any help with these questions or any thoughts on Thai or Thai > English translation.

Best wishes,
David

[Edited at 2010-02-12 15:35 GMT]


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:27
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
who are you competing with? Feb 12, 2010

Perhaps you can learn the language easily enough, but now you are competing with Thai translators, who probably work for a lot less....
So if you are planning to go to Thailand anyway, don't let it stop you, but I see no business opportunities there...

Ed


 

May_L  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:27
English to Thai
You are talking about two different things here Feb 13, 2010

Hi David,

You are talking about two different things here: To go and live down there, and to do the translation. Which one do you prefer? Come on! This is a cyber world. The translation work is portable and I see no relation with going to the country where people speak the language-unless you want to learn more about their culture and make a good asset for your translation work.

As a translator, you may know it is not easy to learn a language and interpret it into another, even if you are native to the target language.

You ask:
[-Is there a decent market for Thai > English translations should I choose to learn the language?]
Definitely, there is. Bad news is -as I experience, most (although not all) are either legal documents or some specifications for business requirement.

[-Is it easy to get regular work (if you're a decent translator I mean)?]
Maybe.

[Not a very scientific question, but: are the rates comparable to the Spanish > English market, higher/lower? Is it possible to earn decent Thai > English rates?]
I guess this depends on who your customers are, and your field of expertise, years of experience…

[-How hard is it to learn Thai up to a level where one could successfully translate? Would you imagine it to be much harder for a native English speaker to learn than a romance language such as Spanish? If I learned Spanish well enough to translate from it in a year of living in Spanish-speaking countries (and formally studying the language through much of it), could I do the same with Thai?]
Are you kidding? Translation is not only a matter of language. It also includes knowledge in culture which is dynamic and takes years to learn, and the materials you will be working on and et cetera.

Well, you may want visit the country first and decide later on if you really want to do the Th-En translation.

May


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You come on. Feb 13, 2010

May_L wrote:

You are talking about two different things here: To go and live down there, and to do the translation. Which one do you prefer? Come on! This is a cyber world. The translation work is portable and I see no relation with going to the country where people speak the language-unless you want to learn more about their culture and make a good asset for your translation work.



Yes of course I am talking about two different, but related things. As I inferred in my previous post, the idea would be to learn about the culture and the language at the same time. My experience is that if I feel comfortable and happy in a culture, I am more inspired to learn the language. This could eventually transfer into translation work should I develop mastery in Thai. This is not to say that most of my clients would be Thai. For example, with Span > Eng translation, I have clients in China, Israel, Germany, and other countries where neither of the two languages are native to the country. What's with the "Come on!"? There's no need to be abrasive...


[-How hard is it to learn Thai up to a level where one could successfully translate? Would you imagine it to be much harder for a native English speaker to learn than a romance language such as Spanish? If I learned Spanish well enough to translate from it in a year of living in Spanish-speaking countries (and formally studying the language through much of it), could I do the same with Thai?]
Are you kidding? Translation is not only a matter of language. It also includes knowledge in culture which is dynamic and takes years to learn, and the materials you will be working on and et cetera.



No, I am not kidding you. Why would you state your response in such an oppositional manner? Indeed translation is not merely a matter of language, but culture as well. For example, after immersing myself in Ecuadorian culture for a year, I felt comfortable enough to translate texts from that region of the world. However, it was not before I spent time in Argentina that I could grasp that culture well enough to translate colloquial texts from the region. Now after living in Spain for 1.5 years, I understand that truly, "Spain is different". You seem to be contradicting yourself in your response, "Translation is not only a matter of language, it also includes knowledge in culture" and "The translation work is portable and I see no relation with going to the country where people speak the language-unless you want to learn more about their culture and make a good asset for your translation work."


 

Michael Sloggett  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 03:27
Thai to English
One year not enough Feb 13, 2010

If you are a dedicated student, can you learn to speak and read everyday Thai in a year? Yes. If you are talented you might do it in six months. However, what you are unlikely to achieve in one year includes:

1) reading Thai handwriting (a common requirement in translating official documents)
2) understanding Thai "official speak" and "reporter speak"
3) an understanding of the structure of Thai bureaucracy and bureaucratic processes (from which many common documents for translation emanate)
4) a proper appreciation of register, tone and nuance of language (obviously crucial for translating any language)
5) sufficient depth of experience to correctly interpret sentences for which a dictionary provides little assistance (and you will come across many)
6) sufficient cultural awareness (remember that this is a culture built on quite different bases to any of those you have encountered)
7) any specialist knowledge (which might help you earn more)

That said, I certainly encourage you to learn the language and, if you like, prove me wrong.

On your particular questions:

* I find that there is money to be made in Thai->English translation/interpreting. Where and how is something you will have to establish for yourself. Everyone's approach is different. It's not true that Thai local rates set the standard for the field in general.
* Yes, I think that the learning curve for a native English speaker learning Thai is steeper than for the same person learning a romance language. There is very little in common between Thai and English, and between (traditional) Thai and Western cultures.

Good luck.


[Edited at 2010-02-13 23:57 GMT]


 

Melanie Meyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:27
Member (2010)
English to German
+ ...
Learning the Thai language Feb 14, 2010

Hi David,

I lived in Bangkok for 3 years and learned to speak conversational Thai within 2 - 4 months. There's an excellent Thai language school in Thanon Suriwong downtown Bangkok. Many missionaries attend it to get a working knowledge of the Thai language within a short amount of time. School hours are from 8 am to noon, but you have to back it up with about 1 to 3 hours of homework and studying daily to keep up with the pace. The first 2 months, they only teach you the spoken language and use an English transcription system for writing. Starting in month 3 you learn the Thai alphabet (which has roughly 76 characters). By month 5 you can read and write basic essays in Thai. I only attended until month 5, but I know that they offered more advanced classes as well.

Good luck!

Melanie


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Michael Feb 14, 2010

Very helpful, thanks very much for your thoughtful response. In any regard, I am excited to get to know Thai cultureicon_smile.gif.

Best,
David

Michael Sloggett wrote:

If you are a dedicated student, can you learn to speak and read everyday Thai in a year? Yes. If you are talented you might do it in six months. However, what you are unlikely to achieve in one year includes:

1) reading Thai handwriting (a common requirement in translating official documents)
2) understanding Thai "official speak" and "reporter speak"
3) an understanding of the structure of Thai bureaucracy and bureaucratic processes (from which many common documents for translation emanate)
4) a proper appreciation of register, tone and nuance of language (obviously crucial for translating any language)
5) sufficient depth of experience to correctly interpret sentences for which a dictionary provides little assistance (and you will come across many)
6) sufficient cultural awareness (remember that this is a culture built on quite different bases to any of those you have encountered)
7) any specialist knowledge (which might help you earn more)

That said, I certainly encourage you to learn the language and, if you like, prove me wrong.

On your particular questions:

* I find that there is money to be made in Thai->English translation/interpreting. Where and how is something you will have to establish for yourself. Everyone's approach is different. It's not true that Thai local rates set the standard for the field in general.
* Yes, I think that the learning curve for a native English speaker learning Thai is steeper than for the same person learning a romance language. There is very little in common between Thai and English, and between (traditional) Thai and Western cultures.

Good luck.


[Edited at 2010-02-13 23:57 GMT]


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Melanie Feb 15, 2010

Thanks, Melanie. Regardless of whether I end up learning it to a conversational level as you have, it certainly sounds beautiful enough to make me want to study it to some extent while there.

Best,
David

Melanie Meyer wrote:

Hi David,

I lived in Bangkok for 3 years and learned to speak conversational Thai within 2 - 4 months. There's an excellent Thai language school in Thanon Suriwong downtown Bangkok. Many missionaries attend it to get a working knowledge of the Thai language within a short amount of time. School hours are from 8 am to noon, but you have to back it up with about 1 to 3 hours of homework and studying daily to keep up with the pace. The first 2 months, they only teach you the spoken language and use an English transcription system for writing. Starting in month 3 you learn the Thai alphabet (which has roughly 76 characters). By month 5 you can read and write basic essays in Thai. I only attended until month 5, but I know that they offered more advanced classes as well.

Good luck!

Melanie


 

Melanie Meyer  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:27
Member (2010)
English to German
+ ...
Books about Thai language and culture Feb 15, 2010

Hi David,

If you have time, check out the website of Paiboon publishing. They have excellent and in-depth books and materials about the Thai language and culture.

Melanie


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:27
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Relative learning difficulty of Spanish vs Thai Feb 16, 2010

Based on its experience in teaching languages, the US Foreign Service Institute has developed a scale of language learning difficulty for native English speakers. Spanish is in group I and Thai is in group II. A group II language takes about twice as long to learn to level 3 (Professional Working proficiency) as a group I language.

There is also a British Foreign Office Diplomatic Service Language Centre list. This list has five classes from the most difficult (Class 1) to the easiest (Class V), with Spanish in class V and Thai in class II.


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
FSI classification Feb 16, 2010

Hi Michele,

Thanks very much for the FSI classification, I wasn't aware of it before. I found this link online for the FSI listing of several languages:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

Best,
David

Michele Fauble wrote:

Based on its experience in teaching languages, the US Foreign Service Institute has developed a scale of language learning difficulty for native English speakers. Spanish is in group I and Thai is in group II. A group II language takes about twice as long to learn to level 3 (Professional Working proficiency) as a group I language.

There is also a British Foreign Office Diplomatic Service Language Centre list. This list has five classes from the most difficult (Class 1) to the easiest (Class V), with Spanish in class V and Thai in class II.




 

May_L  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:27
English to Thai
Just another point of view Feb 18, 2010

Hi David,

Sorry if you feel uncomfortable with my comment. I just give you another point of view. Maybe I emphasized too much on translating aspect.

May


 


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