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German and/or Polish into English (UK) - Advice
Thread poster: rer2904
rer2904
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
German to English
+ ...
Aug 30, 2016

Hello everyone,

I'm considering setting up as a freelance translator and I'm looking for some advice from experienced translators who work from German and/or Polish into (native) English, and who are based in the UK.

About me: I have a Bachelor in Modern Languages (German and Russian) and a double MA in Politics / European Studies. Since graduating I have worked in various fields including marketing, advertising, hospitality and teaching, but I have always done a bit of translation and proofreading on the side (mainly for acquaintances or companies I already worked for).

Last year I did a 5-month traineeship at the European Commission (Directorate General for Translation), where I worked in the terminology department and also translated texts from German and Polish into English. The texts were quite varied and related to different policy areas such as finance, agriculture and law, so they were quite technical. I was trained to use CAT-tools, attended lots of conferences and events and had the opportunity to work with experienced translators who were great mentors.

As a result of this experience I am now seriously considering 'properly' setting up as a freelancer rather than just taking on work now and again (at the moment I invoice through a relative's company) but I'm not sure whether to go full steam ahead and set up as a sole trader, create a website, invest in CAT software etc, or test the water first (i.e. continue billing through my relative rather than setting up my own company) until I have a better idea of whether I'm likely to be successful with my language pairs.

A few concerns:

- I've mainly worked with companies in Poland but I'm moving back to the UK and this will be the first time I'll be actively looking for clients, and I don't know what the demand is for German and Polish into English, and which subject areas are most useful for my language pairs.

- I don't have an MA in translation and I'm reluctant to do another Masters degree as I already have two (although politics has proven to be a bit useless!) so I'm concerned this might leave me at a disadvantage.

- I have experience in translation and the traineeship certainly improved my skills but I still have a lot to learn. I feel I would benefit from some in-house experience, but that's very difficult to find in Scotland.

Are there any experienced translators in Scotland (or the UK in general) here who work with Polish and German and would be willing to offer some general advice on the market for those languages, especially concerning the kinds of texts you usually translate, whether you're specialised and in what field etc?

Any help would be much appreciated!

Rachel

P.s. Here's my LinkedIn page: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/rachel-robertson-34254058


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Here are some snippets extracted from your posting Aug 31, 2016

rer2904 wrote:
I have a Bachelor in Modern Languages (German and Russian)
a double MA in Politics / European Studies
I have worked in various fields including marketing, advertising, hospitality and teaching
I have always done a bit of translation and proofreading on the side
Last year I did a 5-month traineeship at the European Commission (Directorate General for Translation)
I worked in the terminology department
translated texts from German and Polish into English
The texts were quite varied and related to different policy areas such as finance, agriculture and law, so they were quite technical
I was trained to use CAT-tools
attended lots of conferences and events
had the opportunity to work with experienced translators who were great mentors.

Wow! How positive is all that??

So why all theses doubts?:
I've mainly worked with companies in Poland
I'm moving back to the UK
this will be the first time I'll be actively looking for clients
I don't know what the demand is for German and Polish into English, and which subject areas are most useful for my language pairs.
I don't have an MA in translation
I'm reluctant to do another Masters degree
politics has proven to be a bit useless!
I'm concerned this might leave me at a disadvantage.

Some thoughts:
Your market doesn't have to change just because you physically move your base to a different part of the world. Moving can create new problems and/or solve old ones (time zones, local taxation, cost of living, etc), but these are all things you can either put up with or use to your advantage. Personally, I lost just ONE client - the only one I had ever met in person - when I moved from France to Spain.
If few UK-based agencies are interested, you'll probably have more luck with German or Swiss ones.
The most useful subject areas FOR YOU are the ones you know a lot about. You only need a very few thousand words per day - surely there's that much out there with your name on if you go looking?
Qualifications are great but when you have the sort of training experience you've had I don't think any sensible client is going to worry.
Politics may be the future for you - if that's what you want.


I still have a lot to learn
I feel I would benefit from some in-house experience, but that's very difficult to find in Scotland.

A little humility is good to have, and good to keep, however high you fly. But don't let it undermine your self-confidence. Without that, you can't hope to set up and grow a successful business.

I am now seriously considering 'properly' setting up as a freelancer rather than just taking on work now and again (at the moment I invoice through a relative's company) but I'm not sure whether to go full steam ahead and set up as a sole trader, create a website, invest in CAT software etc, or test the water first (i.e. continue billing through my relative rather than setting up my own company) until I have a better idea of whether I'm likely to be successful with my language pairs.

Well, only you can decide what to do next. But I don't believe it would be ethical to use another company's invoicing. I'm surprised they've let you do that. It's fine when all goes well but it's extremely dangerous for them, totally abusive of your clients (who are they supposed to sue if it all goes pear-shaped?) and probably illegal in that you aren't paying your taxes and social contributions on your earnings. But that's my belief and suppositions only - I don't know how it works over there. It has to be a bad start to your future profession though. (You don't have to "set up a company" in the UK; just pay self-employed taxes and contributions.)


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rer2904
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks very much for your reply Sheila Aug 31, 2016

Regarding the invoicing method, taxes were paid and it was all above board in that sense. A relative works as a consultant so the translation service was offered by and billed through the consultancy, and I was listed as an employee. Since my translation projects were few and far between (and only for one company I had previously worked for) I didn't want to set up as a sole trader for just a few jobs every now and again but I realise it would not be a good start to build my business through another one.

As for confidence, I'm certain that I have valuable experience and skills to offer but I feel I would benefit from having an experienced translator as a mentor just at the beginning, it's not so much a lack of confidence as me wanting to make sure I can offer a high-quality product. I just need to find one with my language combination!


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aedw88
Local time: 16:22
French to English
+ ...
Great combinations! Aug 31, 2016

Wow, DE and PO to EN! I am sure you will have no problem in getting work with these language pairs. Whilst they aren't as common as Spanish or French, there is sufficient demand and not much supply on the market, so you will no doubt be able to set up shop without too many problems.

That said, I highly recommend that you take at least one industry-recognized translation course. It doesn't necessarily have to be through a university as you mention, but you could go through the Chartered Institute of Linguists for example and get their Diploma in Translation which is equivalent to a postgrad but is much cheaper. The reason why is that many agencies have implemented quality standards for the industry (either EN 15038 or the newly-released ISO 17100) and they are required to outsource to linguists who have one of the following:

- a recognized graduate qualification in translation from an institution of higher learning;
- a recognized graduate qualification in any other field from an institution of higher learning plus two years’ full-time professional experience in translating;
- five years’ full-time professional experience in translating;
- a certificate of competence in translation awarded by an appropriate government body.

If you go for the CioL diploma that should tick off the first one on the list. If however you do comply with one of the other points through your existing work then you should be fine, though make sure you can evidence it if asked.

Without complying with at least one of the points above, you will have a hard time getting work from agencies who are certified against this industry standard.

Best of luck!


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:22
German to English
Move shouldn't matter much Aug 31, 2016

I agree completely with Sheila that your location doesn't matter much in the translation market. Some prefer you to have a bank account in their country so they don't have to mess with international transfers, but you're talking about moving within the EU (still, anyway), so that shouldn't really be an issue with SEPA.

I translate German to English and am located in Germany, but I have also translated from the US for periods of time. My clients don't care at all where I am, although I let them know since there's a significant time difference and I don't want them to wonder why I'm not responding to e-mails as fast as usual.

German to English is a pretty big market, so I'd say you should pick a couple of areas you enjoyed translating during your previous experiences and try to get more work in them to specialize. I know nothing about the Polish to English market so won't say anything about that.


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rer2904
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Encouraging responses! Sep 1, 2016

Thanks Kelly and aedw88 for replying, much appreciated! I certainly intend on gaining some kind of translation qualification in the long run and I'm leaning more towards the DipTrans as I don't really think it's necessary for me to do another Masters (and it would be considerably more expensive).

In any case your comments have been very helpful, thank you!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Mentoring Sep 1, 2016

rer2904 wrote:
As for confidence, I'm certain that I have valuable experience and skills to offer but I feel I would benefit from having an experienced translator as a mentor just at the beginning, it's not so much a lack of confidence as me wanting to make sure I can offer a high-quality product. I just need to find one with my language combination!

Mentoring is available right here through the site, for paying members. Check out the Education tab.


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rer2904
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good to know Sep 1, 2016

Mentoring is available right here through the site, for paying members. Check out the Education tab.


I'm new to the site so will check that out, thank you. I'm still working full-time and about to take a break for health reasons (hopefully only a couple of months at most but not clear at the moment) so once I'm back in action I'll pay for membership and get things rolling. From reading the forums it seems most people agree paying for membership is worth it to allow you quicker access to the job postings.

[Edited at 2016-09-01 14:59 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 16:22
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 4, 2016

rer2904 wrote:
- I've mainly worked with companies in Poland but I'm moving back to the UK and this will be the first time I'll be actively looking for clients, and I don't know what the demand is for German and Polish into English, and which subject areas are most useful for my language pairs.


Polish agencies are known to have paid higher rates to people with addresses in Western Europe, but Polish agencies won't really sustain a viable UK income, let alone London income. Polish also happens to be a victim of those ugly categorizations: you know, Germanics are the top, Romance populations are the second-best thing, and Slavs are… not considered particularly prestigious, shall we say. Breakthroughs are already being made, but this will still continue to affect the rates you can get for translation out of or into Slavic languages for many decades yet ahead.

- I don't have an MA in translation and I'm reluctant to do another Masters degree as I already have two (although politics has proven to be a bit useless!) so I'm concerned this might leave me at a disadvantage.


No degree is useless, especially not one that can inspire a nice piece of storytelling copy. In marketing terms, your degree is essentially worth as much as the story you can make of it, and PoliSci has a lot of potential in that regard.

- I have experience in translation and the traineeship certainly improved my skills but I still have a lot to learn. I feel I would benefit from some in-house experience, but that's very difficult to find in Scotland.


To be honest, you probably shouldn't stake too many hopes on Polish unless you intend to focus on it a lot. Yes, it's a cool language, perhaps one that is rewarding to learn, and you can be pretty sure there aren't many native speakers of English who know it and are fully qualified professional linguists. I can't think of more than five or six. So there is the unique factor.

On the other hand, as a native Pole, as much as it flatters me to see anyone even try, I can still tell you it's going to be awfully hard to learn our language to a level that allows one to avoid major mistranslations and make sure all nuance is covered and otherwise be fully reliable without a Pole to help. It happens, but it takes decades to get there.

In my experience, non-natives translating out of Polish sometimes don't even begin to know what could possibly have gone wrong or they just give up altogether and produce something that is grammatically correct in English but doesn't make sense or claim the original was bad or confusing. I've also seen what damage can be done by monolingual proofing/revision/editing by a target native who isn't fluent in Polish.

So not to discourage you, but Polish isn't really tenable as a semi-active L4 or something; it would have to be an active L3 at least, taken to a C2 level to even start. The good news is that if you can truly relate to the Polish language and avoid all of the foregoing, your services as an editor could be in high demand, and perhaps even as translator, eventually.

Are there any experienced translators in Scotland (or the UK in general) here who work with Polish and German and would be willing to offer some general advice on the market for those languages, especially concerning the kinds of texts you usually translate, whether you're specialised and in what field etc?


Not much of a market, to be honest. And already saturated to the brim with Poles with ITI/CIOL memberships and DIPSI diplomas and all else they need. Their English, while usually at least somewhat good, isn't normally on par with a decent native writer, so you'd still have a fighting chance, but it would be a tough fight if not an uphill battle.

On the other hand, if you know some Polish you could beat all those native editors/proofreaders/helpers of some other description that are almost always going to be required for post-processing and on-the-fly consultation if you have a bunch of Poles translating into English. The same goes for German, I suppose. But it wouldn't be an easy life economically unless you were to settle in Poland, let's say, which does tend to mean charging double the average rate even a reasonably successful Pole can get away with and still having a lot of work, while spending that money here, where living is usually less expensive than in the UK.

Any help would be much appreciated!


Start collecting certifications and diplomas for fun. German folks and Poles especially love something with a stamp and signature on. If it's British, it reinforces your status as a real professional linguist and not Joe Native who was a barber or 3rd league football player in a previous life and proofreads by birthright. If it's local (e.g. Polish or German sworn translator), it means you actually give a damn about Polish/German/whathaveyou, which goes well with the locals.

Good luck, Rachel!


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:22
German to English
I agree that the degree is what you make of it Sep 5, 2016

[quote]Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

rer2904 wrote:


- I don't have an MA in translation and I'm reluctant to do another Masters degree as I already have two (although politics has proven to be a bit useless!) so I'm concerned this might leave me at a disadvantage.


No degree is useless, especially not one that can inspire a nice piece of storytelling copy. In marketing terms, your degree is essentially worth as much as the story you can make of it, and PoliSci has a lot of potential in that regard.



I completely agree. I have a PhD in politics, and several of my most lucrative jobs have come from that specialization. Sell yourself as a political science expert who is also fluent in both languages and has translation experience.


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rer2904
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Polish Sep 5, 2016

Thanks very much for the advice Łukasz, I've been learning Polish since 2012 and my level is around C1 now. I've lived in Kraków for the past 2 years and my partner is Polish (we communicate mainly in Polish) so it's the language I use most these days. Polish is indeed the most difficult language I've ever learned but I suppose like any language if you have enough enthusiasm you can find the motivation to stick with it!

Polish agencies are known to have paid higher rates to people with addresses in Western Europe, but Polish agencies won't really sustain a viable UK income, let alone London income. Polish also happens to be a victim of those ugly categorizations: you know, Germanics are the top, Romance populations are the second-best thing, and Slavs are… not considered particularly prestigious, shall we say. Breakthroughs are already being made, but this will still continue to affect the rates you can get for translation out of or into Slavic languages for many decades yet ahead.


This is good to know as we're hoping to spend a few years in the UK so the economic aspect is important.

not Joe Native who was a barber or 3rd league football player in a previous life and proofreads by birthright.


This made me laugh. Dziękuję bardzo za cenne informacje!

[Edited at 2016-09-05 08:09 GMT]


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German and/or Polish into English (UK) - Advice

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