Which Language? Can someone please give me advice
Thread poster: RunrigLovinJamb

+ ...
Apr 18, 2006

I'm 17 and wanting to go into translation when I finish school in a couple of months. I have already got into a University to do German and Gaelic. However, I'm really interested in doing a third language such as Czech, Polish, Dutch or Lituanian however I am not sure which would be the best. Could someone please advise me which of these languages to learn and which is more in demand?
I am interested more in learning the languages I mentioned above,
thanks in advance for your help,


Trevor Butcher
Local time: 07:38
How long is your translation string... Apr 19, 2006

The question is not what is in demand now, but what is likely to be in demand in the future.

Actually, I wouold say it depends on where you plan on living and what kind of work you would like to do. If you plan on moving to Poland, for example, then Polish would be a good move. If you plan on doing general translations then the popular language for this may be different than if you were going to specialise in some field.

To be honest, I think you would be better choosing the language that is going to give you the most satisfaction long term. There is no sure fire answer to what will make your career sucessful, but doing what you are good at and which you feel some dedication for will only help. You would feel terrible if we recommended one field and later you came to despise it.

I have shifted fields several times in my career, what I have studied has only helped define the opportunities and not what I have made of the opportunities. Everything I have ever studied has proved useful at sometime or other.



Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Easy to encode/decode = easy to learn Apr 19, 2006

RunrigLovinJamb wrote:
Could someone please advise me which of these languages to learn and which is more in demand?

Any language which is spoken in a First World country will be in demand in future, I think.

As for "easy", well I think that any language which is easy to encode and decode as far as writing is concerned, will be easy to learn, because you'll be able to learn while you read and learn while you write.


Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:38
the crystal ball Apr 19, 2006

For all you know, by the time you finish your translation degree, you might not even want to be a translator and you might want to go into something completely different. That's what happened to most of my class, myself included.

I work with German & Irish Gaelic myself and I am completely flat out with work, it is usually very busy. However, yes, there is a growing demand in Ireland for Eastern European languages...I don't know where you live, but I'll assume Ireland because you say you're studying Gaeilge.

As Trevor said, DO NOT learn a language just because it seems like the "right" one.... do it because you feel a real pull or attraction to the language's culture and you could see yourself living there for a while. If you don't feel that attraction, then you will never become as fluent as someone who has wholeheartedly thrown themselves into the life & culture of the place, it won't matter how many degrees you have.

For example, there is no point in telling you to study Lithuanian & Biotechnology at college because someone in a forum said the EU is looking for translators with that skillset, if you later find you're weak at those subjects.

Being a successful translator does NOT mean learning lots and lots of languages. What will bring in the dough is a subject specialisation, like law, chemistry, IT, marketing, the -ologies etc. Don't think a pure language/translation degree is THE only way to become a translator - that's not true at all.

[Edited at 2006-04-19 08:54]


Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:38
Turkish to English
+ ...
Do you fancy Turkish? Apr 19, 2006

Until very recently I would have said steer clear of Turkish because there is very little demand in the Turkish-English pair, especially at rates that are consistent with an acceptable standard of living in developed countries. I don't know how far you can generalise from my personal experience, but I have experienced an explosion in demand over the past 2-3 months such that for the first time in my life I am declining offers of work because I am fully booked.
This can only point to one thing, to my mind. Turkey's EU membership is going to happen. Or at least, some kind of decision has been taken behind closed doors to this effect. Clearly, if Turkey becomes an EU member in the near future, there will be an increase in demand for translators in this pair. Even if we disregard Turkey, there is also the question of Cyprus. It appears that if or when the acquis communitaire can be applied in the northern part of the island, Turkish will probably become an official EU language whether Turkey later joins or not.
Unfortunately, Turkish has a very different syntax from Western European languages, for one thing it is a SOV (Subject-Object-Verb) language, and this makes it much harder to translate into English than, say, French or German. This is a plus as well as a minus because it may act as a deterrent for people to move into this pair, leaving less competition for translators working out of Turkish.
I would be curious to know if other people working in the Turkish-English pair are experiencing a similar boom.


Sonja Allen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:38
Member (2005)
English to German
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I agree with Orla and Trevor Apr 19, 2006

I also think that the love for a language and for the country where it is spoken should be more important, especially because you will surely have to spend some time in that country at some point to improve your language skills. It will also help you to stay at it and make your studies more fun.


Csaba Ban  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:38
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
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Czech or Polish Apr 19, 2006

I cannot stay objective in this discussion, as I am a Slavophile. I lived and studied a year in Prague and I managed to learn some Czech. In my opinion that's the purest of any of the Slavic languages, thanks to a massive language reformation movement some 200 years ago. Of all Slavic languages, Czech has probably the lowest ratio of foreign loan words.
If you want to study any of the four languages you listed, you should also consider spending some time in the respective countries. Prague and the smaller Czech towns are charming, so they are good bet to spend a year or two studying the language. That said, recently Prague has become a tourist trap, with hordes of stagnighters flying in for the weekends.
With a strong economy and 10 million inhabitants, you can rest assured to have a constant stream of jobs once you are a well established translator.

Poland, on the other hand, is becoming a Central European "superpower", with nearly 40 million inhabitants. I would imagine that a knowledge of Polish would guarantee you a wider range of subjects than Czech. When considering spending some studying time in the country, bear in mind the harsh winters. My favourite towns are Kraków and Poznan, both with large universities.
In my view, Polish is a bit more difficult to master than Czech, most words are tongue twisters.

Lithuanian: as you know, this is a small nation, so the market potential of knowing Lithuanian is also smaller.

If you choose either Czech or Polish, you will have the benefit of knowing one Slavic language very thoroughly - and with that background you can learn other Slavic languages much easier. Lithuanian is a dead end in this respect (although it is related to Latvian).

Dutch: If you speak German, learning Ducth will be relatively easy. I am not familiar with the NL-EN market, but I would imagine there is a fierce competition.

All in all, choose one of the Slavic languages - but beware: it can easily become a lifetime addiction.

[Edited at 2006-04-19 13:53]


Adam Podstawczynski  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:38
Polish to English
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Let's see how venal you are Apr 19, 2006

If you choose Polish, I promise to help you. I will try to answer any grammar/vocab question you can't find answer to in your study materials. With reasonable frequency, that is.

Oh, please, where does it say bribery is not allowed at proz.com?icon_wink.gif

But seriously, Polish is fun. As far as I know, it is one of the most difficult in the world to master for a non-native. Go for it. Congratulations to all you non-Poles who actually speak the language!

All right, enough of this sheer objectivism.


Stephanie Wloch  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:38
Member (2003)
Dutch to German
Dutch and German: be aware Apr 19, 2006

Csaba Ban wrote:
Dutch: If you speak German, learning Ducth will be relatively easy.

Well.... For me as a German, it was much more difficult learning Dutch than learning Italian. BECAUSE the languages are so similar. There a lot of false friends. I advise to NOT learn German and Dutch at the same time.
Fields of interest are also important: if you are interested in winery for instance you shouldn't choose Dutch.icon_wink.gif


+ ...
Thanks Apr 20, 2006

Thanks to everyone who replied and the advice given was very helpful.

Firstly, I don't think I would learn a language just because I feel I have to. I understand the need to feel an interest in the culture etc which is why I chose German (which I can already speak quite a bit of) and Gaelic (Scottish...to learn more about the culture in my own country).

I have, for a while now, wanted to learn a third language and it was Czech and Lithuanian that I couldn't decide between, as I am interested in learning about both cultures, so I thought I might look toward the business area to maybe get an idea of which one would be more useful and help me make my decision.


Bryan Smith
Local time: 23:38
German to English
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Yes, pick widely varying languages Apr 21, 2006

First off, I agree with all thatv was said above about picking your languages. Just because a language is bringing in a lot of money right now is no good reason to choose it. You should choose a language and culture that interests you. That said, I think there might be worse choices than others. I don't know what the market will ever look like for, say, Greek or Bulgarian. I learned some small amount of Greek for fun a while back just because I was interested in the language and culture. It was a good time learning it, but I don't think it would do me much good to continue studying it in depth with the aim of adding it to languages I can translate... so, I think you do have to be slightly selective based on what can be marketable. Just out of curiosity, I did a quick search on Greek to English jobs here and there were only about 11 jobs in the last month... icon_smile.gif Not to say that you could not find a way to make good money translating Greek or some such very localised language, it would just be harder.
Also, I completely agree with the language similarity thing. If I were you, I might go for a romance language like Spanish or Italian to offset the other two, either that or maybe a slavic language like Russian if I were to be learning that many languages simultaneously.
Just a point of interest, I was reading an article recently that placed 7 languages as being the most important languages in the world today. The languages were English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Chinese, and Hindi. I'm sure some others would disagree and add or remove from this list, but the article had several good points about why these would be THE languages to know.


English to Russian
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Go for Slavic May 8, 2006

I would advise you to go either for Polish or Czech.

All Slavic languages are very much alike, and as you know one of them, it's pretty easy to learn the related one. For instance, being a Russian I can understand (at least 70% of what they say) most of the Slavic languages. Obviously, for me it's easier to communicate with Belarussian and Ukrainian (eastern Slavic) people, but Bulgarian or Polish won't be a big problem.
So the field to explore is large enough to keep you motivated all your life! There are 12(!!!) languages in Slavic group.
Western: Czech, Polish, Slovak, Sorbian.
Eastern: Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian
Southern: Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian and Slovenian.

Baltic languages are Latvian and Lithuanian.

If I were in your shoes, I would look at the history of the languages, of the countries and traditions. See what seems more interesting FOR YOU and then make a decision!

In the end, it will be your choice; you are the one to decide which path you're taking!

Good luck!


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