Living in another country
Thread poster: ASmith
ASmith
United Kingdom
Sep 22, 2014

I'd love to hear from seasoned translators about a question I have, maybe someone has been in a similar situation to me.

I'm tied to the UK as a carer, which means I can't move abroad. How important is it to live in the country of the language you are learning (for me the country would be Germany)? Is it possible to learn enough to become a translator from afar?

Thank you.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:53
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Living Sep 22, 2014

ASmith wrote:

I'd love to hear from seasoned translators about a question I have, maybe someone has been in a similar situation to me.

I'm tied to the UK as a carer, which means I can't move abroad. How important is it to live in the country of the language you are learning (for me the country would be Germany)? Is it possible to learn enough to become a translator from afar?

Thank you.


I think it's more important to live in the country of the language into which you are translating. That's because your translations will be more lively and up-to-date because you're completely immersed in the language of your translations.

I lived in Italy for a very long time without ever speaking English and the first time I returned to the UK I discovered that the English language had moved on significantly and I had not moved on with it. So you'll be fine living in the UK.

However it's still very important to keep up with the other language and to go to that country as often as you can. When you're unable to do that, it's always very good to have long telephone conversations with your friends who live there, and who are native in that language. Watching television online is also a big help.

If you're in London, there are various groups in London who meet up because they want to have the opportunity to speak another language to one another. Here's a link to the German one

http://www.meetup.com/german-9/

However: if you are actually learning German and are not yet fluent in it, I think it would be essential to go and live there at least for a couple of years and get really immersed in German language and culture.

[Edited at 2014-09-22 14:46 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:53
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You need more than academic education Sep 22, 2014

A spell 'living the language' is really, really valuable. But I do believe it's possible to do without that experience, providing you make a real effort to learn the 'real' language, not just the one in the text books. So you'd need to mix with German speakers, watch their TV programmes, read their newspapers and books... And also learn about the culture in the various German-speaking countries (not just Germany).

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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:53
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Other sources than living in there Sep 22, 2014

If you have satellite TV, you can watch programmes in German, and you will find plenty of resources on the internet. I have never lived in an English speaking country, and I fancy I am not bad at it. And I was partially educated in French, but have never lived there either - except for actual argot, I am still on a native level. It is true that I had an option that you maybe don't - working for companies using these languages as working languages in my own country. But I don't think that a German company having a British affiliate willl use German as their working language there.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Probably not Sep 22, 2014

Is it possible to learn enough to become a translator from afar? Probably not, I would not trust anyone who has not thoroughly "lived" the language in its natural environment, a country where it is spoken, and even then they would have to show much more than that.

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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:53
Dutch to English
+ ...
Gosh, let's say it depends how clever you are Sep 22, 2014

on a linguistic level.

Might sound controversial, but living in the country will hardly teach you the intricate details of a language, unless you are a genius and you pick it up by hearing it. At best it will make you orally more fluent and acquaint you with your source language's culture (it depends on the area you live in), at worst it won't teach you anything you need for your translation. I'm not sure how culture would come into technical translation, for example.

I've lived here for 6.5 years and the only things I learnt that are actually useful to me are to do with translating verbatims (often colloquial) and questionnaires. The rest has come from what I learnt in uni and in school, and from familiarity with my own language, not to forget practice, practice, more practice and experience. If you get a contract or other similar text on your desk, you won't be helped by what your neighbours or your colleagues tell you once in a while. At best your mobile contract or any other thing you've had to sign like hte contract of sale for your house, but we don't come across those that often.

The best thing you can do when learning a language, is buying yourself a monolingual dictionary, not a translation dictionary. Unless you are still at the beginning and you can't understand the explanations in the dictionary, it is best to learn the meaning of a word in a language without reference to your own. That way you translate the feelings/ideas of words or combinations of words and not the words themselves.
For the rest you can watch TV and read books, magazines and newspapers and maybe find a group somewhere to talk (online).
It really depends on your own ability a bit, whether you can assimilate well or not.

I do concede that coming into contact with a language, maybe every day, will increase your ability to read and understand straight away, but then you can definitely learn that on your own (I've done it in three although there still seems to be a small difference in terms of the mental image I get). The main thing is that it's not enough to learn lots of vocab and grammar and then hope to be done with it, you need to see the language used, but whether that's in writing or orally, I don't know what's best.


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:53
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Sounds true but not true. Sep 22, 2014

Tom in London wrote:
I think it's more important to live in the country of the language into which you are translating. That's because your translations will be more lively and up-to-date because you're completely immersed in the language of your translations.


I think this statement does no longer hold true in an era of internet. Anything new (including new words) in the country of the language into which you are translating spread to the country of the language you are translating from just instantly.

I know a lot of the most trendy words in China, which is my native country. I even grasp a lot more new information than my acquaintances and my relatives living in that country.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:53
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Replies Sep 22, 2014

jyuan_us wrote:
Tom in London wrote:
I think it's more important to live in the country of the language into which you are translating. That's because your translations will be more lively and up-to-date because you're completely immersed in the language of your translations.

I think this statement does no longer hold true in an era of internet. Anything new (including new words) in the country of the language into which you are translating spread to the country of the language you are translating from just instantly.


It's risky to generalise about this. I think it depends on the languages and on the media culture of the countries. In my own country of origin, we don't write the way we speak (even informally), so I would not be able to pick up new expressions or notice changes in word preferences by just reading the language on the internet (listening to online radio would help me, though).

Tom in London wrote:
I think it's more important to live in the country of the language into which you are translating. That's because your translations will be more lively and up-to-date because you're completely immersed in the language of your translations.


Again, it's risky to generalise. It depends on so many things, e.g. on whether there are good thesauri available for your language (for more variation in your writing) and e.g. on whether you were a good free writer to begin with (I was never good at it, so living inside or outside my country of origin does not affect how well I can compose text from scratch).

I lived in Italy for a very long time without ever speaking English and the first time I returned to the UK I discovered that the English language had moved on significantly and I had not moved on with it.


Yes, and that would be noticeable in your speech, but would that have been noticeable in your translations? After all, when we translate we weigh the words carefully and come up with something that is generally suitable for a general readership, don't we?

However it's still very important to keep up with the other language and to go to that country as often as you can. When you're unable to do that, it's always very good to have long telephone conversations with your friends who live there, and who are native in that language. Watching television online is also a big help.


Absolutely. I think the key is immersion. You can't immerse yourself in German totally, but you can try to get close to it. Listen to German online radio a lot, watch German television, watch German films (with or without subtitles, English or German), etc. Get a friend in Germany to keep freebie newspapers and post them to you once a week, so you have real German text to read on the bus, or while your clients are asleep (and you're done with the chores and have time left), etc (even if the "news" is a week or two old).


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:53
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Don't forget to study the kinds of texts you are translating Sep 23, 2014

Some specialist texts are very different from the spoken, 'immersion' language anyway.

Think patents, law, medical literature, lots of academic stuff. You need to read a lot in both languages, but you can do that online or on paper - wherever you get hold of the material.

You have to work at the language, no matter where you live - the immersion principle only works if you deliberately 'swim about' beyond the daily round of shopping, commuting and saying hello to neighbours and colleagues! Though it certainly helps if you do work at it.

As a seasoned ex-pat I find I can't escape English as I could when I first went abroad (when phone calls abroad were prohibitively expensive on a young couple's budget, and our one-channel TV was black and white...) And I did feel a little like Tom in London, though we carefully kept up our English and visited the UK when we could, for a month each year.

Living in the source-language country is definitely an advantage, but with a language like German you can still do quite well if that is not possible.

I would find it more exhausting being a carer - I tried it for a fortnight recently, and it was NOT easy to fit much personal life, let alone work, around it. But that was a crisis situation, which has now blown over, and I hope you find it easier with things on an even keel (and hope the crises are few and far between!).

Best of luck!


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:53
Member (2013)
Italian to English
+ ...
You'll be fine in the UK Sep 23, 2014

When I came back to England last year after 15 years away, my translations instantly became 15-20% shorter. There is just so much waffle that English people just DO NOT include in documents, they condense. They don't give endless lists of synonyms. When you are hooked in to your source language culture you somehow believe you have to justify and explain every word and your translation suffers as a result. In my personal experience.

I agree with Tom: the "finished product" is what counts and that will be in English, so it needs to sound up to date and convincing. None of the English natives I know in Italy speak in the same way they used to, their syntax deteriorates year on year. Vocabulary does shrink, inevitably, you are not getting the input on a daily basis. A ventilator is not an acceptable word for fan, for example. They might struggle to tell you what a dongle is. Many non-native speakers of English "adopt" English words and use them in a slightly strange way and you have a hard time proving them wrong unless you are fully up to date with linguistic trends in the UK.

The Internet is great for learning a language without leaving your country, but I don't think the same can be said for your target language. You need to be actively speaking and using it. If you can't leave the UK just make some German friends here and speak to them regularly either online or in person.


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