Which source languages into Swedish have high rates and high demand?
Thread poster: Fredrik Pettersson

Fredrik Pettersson  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Member (2009)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Jan 16, 2014

Which top language should I begin to translate from in order to double my current rate compared to English and still receive more jobs each week that I am capable to accept?

I don't want to mention my current rate here, but for you to be able to answer, let's make the following assumptions:

English is one of the less paid languages, compared to, for example, translation from Japanese or Korean. So to "double my current rate" I think I would need to translate from such a language such as Japanese or Korean. Or are there other less complicated languages with Western script that still can generate a rate that is double compared to English and where also demand (in source and/or target language land) is more than I can accept?

There are two dimensions when talking about rates; translation agencies and direct customers. And translation agencies can be divided into source language land and target language land (which, in my case, is Sweden, where translators compared to other European countries have a fairly high rate when working for Swedish translation agencies). And direct customers can be divided into many different industries, some more relevant for certain source languages than other.

So let's say I find out which industries are particularly demanded for a language with high rates (Japanese for example). I then could target these industries both by specializing myself on these, and by directing my marketing to direct customers from these industries.

Considering above, is it possible to make a prioritized list for languages into Swedish, from the most "profitable" to the least?

Another consideration is, for example, that for some languages such as Chinese (and I think also Korean), the companies generally first translate everything to English, and thereafter from English to Swedish and these less common languages. Only the major European languages might be translated to directly from Chinese etc. So are there any languages where this general thumb of rule is not valid for the combination "profitable source language"-Swedish (that is: they translate directly into Swedish more often than not)?


Domenico Trimboli  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:44
Member (2013)
English to Italian
It has to be worth the time Jan 16, 2014

While your question makes sense, I think there's more than meets the eye.

The assumption of your argument is that a rare language pair would provide you with a huge source of extra income - as far as I understood, you are looking for more than a few bucks. While it is certainly true that an additional language pair can provide some extra money, you have to factor different things into the bargain.

1 - First and foremost, the languages you mention are not 'easy' at all. I don't want to discuss what's difficult and what's not, but still, they are totally different from any European language. I've been studying Arabic for 4 years, so I know what I'm talking about.

In order to reach a level of proficiency high enough to allow you to translate professionally from one of these language, how many years should you devote to the task? I'd say no less than 5-6, probabily more. Plus, you'd be expected to live in one of the countries where the language is spoken for at least 1 year (and to go back and forth later on, to refresh your language skills). Now, this is a HUGE amount of time you won't spend working, thus losing money. Are you ready to afford it?

2 - Second, but equally important, are you sure the market is worth it? The countries where these languages are spoken have a really low cost of living. What if translation from Korean to Swedish, for example, is mainly done by native Korean people and then revised by native Swedish speakers (it would cost half your rate)? That's what's happening for Arabic->Italian, for example. Also, the competition is certainly low, but the demand may be even lower.

Personally, I found studying an 'exotic' language rewarding in terms of life experience and many other things, but for sure I would not suggest it if you are going to take a money-oriented decision.



Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:44
Member (2007)
+ ...
Is it really going to be worth considering learning a new language from scratch? Jan 16, 2014

Have you considered Norwegian and Danish, as you say you have already spent time in these countries?

Without knowing your current rate, it's a little difficult to say which language pairs might bring in double, but I think you might have given the answer yourself:
for some languages such as Chinese (and I think also Korean), the companies generally first translate everything to English, and thereafter from English to Swedish

If that's established practice, maybe it's done not only because of the lack of experienced translators but also because it's cost-effective. Maybe clients wouldn't be prepared to pay all that much.

Would it not be simpler to find a way of earning more in your current language pairs? By specialising in some way (not necessarily in a particular sector but in a particular type of client, text type, product...), by raising your rates for every new client, by adding DTP services...


Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 12:44
Chinese to English
+ ...
Translate your own languages Jan 16, 2014

You translate the language that you know; you don't learn a language to translate it. It is extremely unlikely that you will achieve enough proficiency to translate professionally from any of the Asian languages in 5 or even 10 years.


LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:44
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, unfortunately. Jan 16, 2014

Lincoln Hui wrote:

You translate the language that you know; you don't learn a language to translate it. It is extremely unlikely that you will achieve enough proficiency to translate professionally from any of the Asian languages in 5 or even 10 years.

Yes, I think unfortunately Lincoln is right. It may take someone more like 15-20 years to learn such languages as Chinese to translate from them. You may try Latvian, but it is also quite a hard language, but at least the writing sytem is almost the same. Estonian perhaps. I am not sure if the rates are high, but there might be quite a lot of work in those languages combined with Swedish.


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:44
Hebrew to English
You already list.... Jan 16, 2014

Chinese as a source language. Also German and English, with Swedish being your sole target. These are good languages to have. Instead of going for yet more source languages why haven't you considered mixing your existing languages up a bit (i.e. making one or more of your source languages a target language). From your original post in English, it definitely seems far beyond the level of others who translate into English.


Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:44
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
One-word answer Jan 17, 2014



Paolo Mutri  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:44
English to Italian
+ ...
... Jan 17, 2014

I agree with those who said that you must carefully consider many other factors.

If it will take you 5 years to master the language, how can you make deductions starting from today's rates? Chances are that the translation market is leading to even lower rates, higher work volumes and 5 years from today the established truth may be that your investment will be resulting in a severe loss.

I'd say go for it if you feel like it, but don't think too much about rates. There are way too many factors preventing any accurate calculation.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:44
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
English is probably one of the easiest languages Jan 17, 2014

I occasionally work the other way, and my main working pair is English to Danish, which is comparable.

Even when you get to a pair like French to Danish, which I actually did some training in, there are not as many resources.

Where I am going with this is that you can translate relatively fast between English and Scandinavian languages, because there are lots of resources at your fingertips. If dictionaries, glossaries etc. exist, then there is probably one in English too. With other languages, once you get outside the core areas, searching for terminology may be far more time consuming. Your rate per word may be good, but it is really hard-earned!

When you get out into the really unusual pairs, you may have to look up everything twice, first from the source to English or some other intermediate language, and then English-Swedish. You may spend far more time working with parallel texts and checking contexts etc. etc. etc. than you do when translating to and from English, where you find a term in the dictionary and then check it, rather than having to guess or invent it and then search to see whether you were right.

What you are able to earn in an hour or a day may not be appreciably more than you can earn by translating from English at an apparently far lower word rate.

Demand is a completely different question.

I regularly translate from Swedish knowing that my translation will be relayed to others around the EU who cannot read Swedish. The chances are that the same applies in the opposite direction - or will in future as more and more products are sold with declarations, instruction manuals and all the rest right across the continent. Anyone who could translate direct would save a step in the process and presumably ask for a good rate.

Just my take on it!


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Which source languages into Swedish have high rates and high demand?

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