Simply cannot get work in my "other" languages.
Thread poster: S P Willcock (X)

S P Willcock (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:16
German to English
+ ...
Sep 6, 2010

I work mostly from German to English, even though I have three other Central/Eastern European languages that I could work from and am looking to learn a fourth. The sad truth is, though, that I simply can't find work in the other languages that would pay. Even the lowest-paying GER>EN job pays better than anything from the other languages, and only rarely am I offered a text that's sufficiently interesting in itself that I think, "Yes, I'll work on that even at a loss."

The last time that happened, in fact, I ended by heartily regretting my impulse - an agency wanting a short story translated beat my quote down from £ to EUR, and then took months to pay even that amount. If even short stories don't leave me feeling rewarded, why on earth should I bother with the shoes catalogues or human resources guidelines?

Seen otherwise, I have no cause for complaint; I make a reasonable living with agency work from German, which comes in at a steady rate. It simply seems a great shame that I have a good knowledge of the other languages, which is slowly wasting away for lack of use.

Any advice here? I believe that most Central/Eastern European languages are dominated by native speakers from those countries who translate into English as a second language, with varying levels of competence, but cheaply enough for the client not to care. Who and where are the clients who need a native English speaker translating from these "other" languages, and how do I find them?

Or do I simply accept the loss of earnings if I feel I really want to "use" these languages?
(Answer: no. I'd rather read a novel or a newspaper to keep my eye in.)


John Fossey  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:16
Member (2008)
French to English
Enough marketing efforts? Sep 6, 2010

Do you have a sufficiently large database of potential clients that you are actively contacting? For instance, all the members of , just for a start?

[Edited at 2010-09-06 20:38 GMT]


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:16
German to English
+ ...
I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head Sep 6, 2010

That's the way I see the situation, too. I am a heritage speaker of Latvian (so would only translate a limited number of subjects from Latvian to English anyway), and I also do German > English. The DE>EN rates are so much better than what I've been offered for LV>EN that it's not really worth it to me to pursue much LV>EN work, especially due to the limitation I mentioned anyway. I do keep that language pair on my profile, though, in case something interesting comes along that I just can't pass up. I keep my language skills up by participating actively in our community here in the Chicago area as the PR director for our local association (so I write and edit our newsletter, etc.)

I would imagine that the sector that would really need a native English speaker for translations out of E./C. European languages would be marketing/advertising. I know some English natives who do that in Latvia. That is really one area where "I can English" doesn't fly. Maybe you can pursue some advertising agencies as clients, and it would be interesting work as well.


Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:16
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Every cloud has a silver lining Sep 7, 2010

What you regard as a cloud ("Simply cannot get work in my "other" languages.") I would regard as a silver lining ("Even the lowest-paying GER>EN job pays better than anything from the other languages.")

I can see that there is some merit in keeping your other languages alive, but the market is telling you that it values your translations from German.

Many translators feel the need to offer several languages, a sort of macho multi-lingualism, as if to prove their intellectual credentials. But I cannot see the point. Much better, in my view, to concentrate on your strongest or most rewarding language. Then you can afford to buy a wide range of dictionaries and reference books, you can afford the time to preparing your own comprehensive glossaries, you can devote time to visiting the country and gaining some language immersion. Make German your real specialisation.

In short, it is better to be a Master of one language than a Jack of several. Turns clouds to silver.


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