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Career in translating - with a twist
Thread poster: TomKi
TomKi
United Kingdom
Aug 29, 2013

Hello Everyone!

I'm hoping for some advice from the forum here at Proz. I'm interested in becoming a translator, but there is a twist to this -- my favourite language is classed as a "dead language". I have started learning various languages, but the only one that I have any passion for is Latin.

Is it viable to think I could make a living (assuming competency and business skills) translating from Latin to English? Is there a decent market for this combination?

I'm very green, so I would love to hear from people that know a lot more than I do about the industry.

Thank you

Tom


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:53
English to Polish
+ ...
:) Aug 30, 2013

There are very few active freelance translators of Latin in this forty-million country, and I still get no more than a couple of enquiries a years other than motto or tattoo translations. I think there are some niches, like universities that issue diplomas in Latin, ecclesiastic courts that still use the language, publishing houses that commission modern translation of classics, or religious publishers, but it's not like any of the foregoing have ever dropped me a line. I suspect universities have their own guys, publishing houses work with select few literature translators who have high degrees in classical studies, ecclesiastic courts and religious publishers probably rely on priests or monks and might even be unable to pay the kind of wage a lay person with a family would need.

On the other hand, mastering Latin makes Romance languages easier to master. You'd probably need to learn one or two to make a living. Latin alone won't likely pay your bills unless you teach it also.

[Edited at 2013-08-30 01:09 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:53
German to English
No commercial utility Aug 30, 2013

TomKi wrote:

Is it viable to think I could make a living (assuming competency and business skills) translating from Latin to English? Is there a decent market for this combination?



Academic translation is generally funded by grants. If you're able to find a foundation willing to pay for a translation of an obscure text written in the Middle Ages, you might be given enough to pay your light bill while you toil away at a forgotten tome that will likely be remaindered after a year after publication.

Most well-paying translation work is commercially-based. That is, the end customer has a financial need for a translated document, whether it be a user's manual, a specification, marketing material or a financial statement. Apart from some diplomas (my daughter's diploma from McGill University is in Latin) and similar documents, very little is being produced in Latin these days. I don't want to discourage you, but translating from Latin into English won't cover the cost of running your computer for a year. You'll make make more money returning empty bottles for the deposit.

I've found that my Latin was only useful for translating inscriptions in cathedrals and on gravestones for the entertainment of my family.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:53
Russian to English
+ ...
I think you absolutely could, but you have to be very good at it Aug 30, 2013

and you may really need a postgraduate degree in classical languages because most of the work is most likely in the academic field. If you love it, I think you should go for it.

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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:53
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Yes go for it, but... Aug 30, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

and you may really need a postgraduate degree in classical languages because most of the work is most likely in the academic field. If you love it, I think you should go for it.


My advice is to add another more viable language, how about French? It is very very viable if coupled with English, so you will be able to make a living:)


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Angie Garbarino  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:53
Member (2003)
French to Italian
+ ...
Yes exactly Aug 30, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
On the other hand, mastering Latin makes Romance languages easier to master. You'd probably need to learn one or two to make a living.


I agree


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:53
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, I agree. Aug 30, 2013

Spanish might be easier than French, at least for me, but he should choose whatever he likes.


[Edited at 2013-08-30 09:09 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:53
Russian to English
+ ...
Aug 30, 2013

extra post -- sorry.



[Edited at 2013-08-30 09:11 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:53
Russian to English
+ ...
Aug 30, 2013



[Edited at 2013-08-30 09:12 GMT]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:53
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Who knows? Aug 30, 2013

Still, to date the biggest known consumers of Latin are the academe and the Vatican. I've only just known one translator for a pope (to Portuguese; she didn't exactly get the encyclicals, either, and she sidelined in other fields and combinations). For the rest, i.e., book translations, the classics are mostly published and the reason for revisions and additional publications is usually a thesis that makes a significant difference (as in, [re-]establishment of the manuscript, rereadings in different contexts, targeted readerships, etc.).

Still, I find your passion admirable, being in the reverse situation: having learned a number of Romance languages, Latin holds an immense attraction for me.


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Eileen Cartoon  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:53
Italian to English
Rumanian Aug 30, 2013

might be even easier. I understand (but have no first hand knowledge) that this is the language closest to Latin of all. Then of course there is Italian.

Eileen


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:53
Member
Italian to English
Why only Latin? Aug 30, 2013

TomKi wrote:

I have started learning various languages, but the only one that I have any passion for is Latin.



I'm a little concerned you have so little interest in other languages; perhaps it would be worthwhile exploring exactly why this is. I think a fundamental part of being a good translator is an interest in languages in general; their structure, their roots, how different languages influence each other, the cultural and historical roots. Please forgive me if I have jumped to any erroneous conclusions; my point is simply that I think translators need to be as curious and open-minded as possible in terms of language learning.

Like others, I find your passion admirable, but would advise against making Latin your only working language. Maybe you could consider spending a few days in a country where a language that interests you is spoken? That might give you some drive and enthusiasm to consider another language.

Best of luck with your choice!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:53
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Language is not enough Aug 30, 2013

Except maybe in case of rare languages spoken in rich industrialised countries (Swedish, Finnish, Danish etc.) you cannot make a living in translation if you have no special knowledge in other fields like technical, law, medicine etc. Or you have to have good connections to translation service providers.
Why not start your own business rather than translating yourself? Should be easier than learning new languages.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:53
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
??? Aug 30, 2013

Heinrich Pesch wrote:

Except maybe in case of rare languages spoken in rich industrialised countries (Swedish, Finnish, Danish etc.) you cannot make a living in translation if you have no special knowledge in other fields like technical, law, medicine etc. Or you have to have good connections to translation service providers.
Why not start your own business rather than translating yourself? Should be easier than learning new languages.

I don't follow. As freelancers, we are running our own businesses. If you're talking about starting an agency, I can't see that that would be likely to be any more profitable. There certainly seem to be a fair few agencies having trouble making a go of it, and they tend to take our money down with them when they go.


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xxxS P Willcock  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:53
German to English
+ ...
Two problems with that... Aug 30, 2013

Eileen Cartoon wrote:

might be even easier. I understand (but have no first hand knowledge) that this is the language closest to Latin of all. Then of course there is Italian.

Eileen
the Romanians like to bang on about their Roman roots, but I found once I started learning that the two Slavonic languages I have were absolutely indispensable. plus there is the odd bit of Turkish, Farsi, Hungarian in there as well... almost any other Romance language is *easier* to learn on the basis of Latin alone than modern Romanian.

the other problem is that Ro>En translation is very poorly paid, by clients who don't really care if they get quality as long as it's cheap, but that's a rant for another time.


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