Re-learning a language for professional purposes (German)
Thread poster: Christopher Fitzsimons

Christopher Fitzsimons
Switzerland
Local time: 19:05
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Oct 27, 2009

Hello all. I have a question regarding re-learning a language which I previously studied. I am interested in studying German to a high enough level to use it for professional purposes. I currently work into English(native language) from Spanish, Portuguese, French and Galician. I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Portuguese with French as a third language and have lived and studied in Argentina, Quebec, France and Brazil. I currently live in Portugal. I have never used German as a source language however I would like to also work, at some point in the future, from German into English. Therefore I see re-learning the language and improving on the knowledge I previously gained as a matter of professional development and as an investment. Has anybody ever re-learned/learned a language with this aim(i.e. specifically to use it as a source language)?

I studied German for six years and have a British GCSE(A*) and A-Level(A) in the language. I also spent a few short periods of time studying in Germany. Unfortunately I was kept busy with romance languages during my time at University and haven't studied, spoken or really had any contact with the language for over five years. So, I have decided to do something about this. It seems to me that the German-English translation market is of course competitive but from the research I have done, in general this language pair seems to command higher rates. Would I be correct in assuming that this language pair is one of the more lucrative among the Western European languages? Currently I work mostly with French and Portuguese as my source languages. In fact, I very rarely receive any work from Spanish into English as this market is, in my opinion, saturated. Moreover the work I do receive I tend to turn down as many agencies in Spanish speaking countries(especially Spain) tend to offer laughable rates which I am simply not willing to accept.

Therefore I have decided to study a six month semi-intensive German course at the Goethe Institute in Porto and then perhaps progress to studying one of the intensive German language courses at the University of Porto in order to firstly update, refresh and improve my German and to secondly acquire some recent educational experience to enable me to, perhaps in a year or so, begin to work from German as a source language.

I would like to ask for a professional opinion from colleagues on whether or not a year of intensive study of a language which I have previously studied to GCE A-Level would be sufficient in order to start using this language for professional purposes? Secondly would a language credential from the Goethe Institute and/or University be likely to be deemed as suitable qualifications by German translation agencies? I mostly work with legal texts and also translate a lot of documents relating to the European Union and would therefore be attempting to contact agencies/clients who work mainly in these areas. I have worked never with German agencies before so any advice/help/tips would be greatly appreciated.
Vielen dank!


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:05
English to German
+ ...
First piece of advice Oct 28, 2009

It's "vielen Dank", not "vielen dank".



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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:05
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
;-) Oct 28, 2009

Nicole Schnell wrote:

It's "vielen Dank", not "vielen dank".



On a hair-splitting note: Actually, neither did Christopher write "vielen dank", nor would your "vielen Dank" be correct here ...


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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:05
English to German
+ ...
Not sure it works like that Oct 28, 2009

How familiar are you with German culture? Have you visited Germany or other German speaking countries? Are you interested in German language and culture at all? I'm not sure possible job prospects provide enough motivation to study a language, it might turn into a chore.
I'm currently "re-learning" Spanish after having studied it for a couple of years a long time ago. I'm interested in the culture and think it might come in handy on holidays. It would be great to able to use it professionally at some point but that alone would never motivate me enough to study yet another language.


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Christopher Fitzsimons
Switzerland
Local time: 19:05
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Oct 28, 2009

Firstly: thank-you so much for your kind responses to my post.

OlafK; As I explained I have visited Germany various times; I spent a month studying German intensively in Berlin and living with a German family six years ago. I have also visited Heidelberg twice; once for study, once for holidays. I studied German for six years with various native teachers and perhaps, OlafK, you aren't aware that A-Level German involves the study of the literature, film and culture of German speaking countries in addition to the German language. So in short, yes I am interested in German culture and I have visited Germany. I assumed that this would be apparent from my post.

I have studied Spanish for seven years and have achieved a DELE diploma, a diploma from the University of Buenos Aires and a BA (not to mention a GCSE and A-Level) in this language however in reality I have only studied it for a year longer than the period of time I studied German for. Does this mean I should not be working from Spanish? It seems to me that you are inferring, OlafK, that as I do not have a University level education in German I could not possibly hope to one day use a language I previously spent 6 years studying, for professional purposes. Or have I misinterpreted your post? Perhaps I'm missing something but as I explained I am hoping that in maybe one to two years time after intensively studying German (language and culture) courses at the Goethe Institut and perhaps also at a Portuguese University I could start to use German as a source language. I also appreciate that it would be useful to spend a few months studying in a German speaking country and am considering doing so before beginning to use German for work purposes.

As we are all aware, there is no industry standard qualification for translators, at least not in the UK. There are many translators on Proz.com and in the industry in general working without any language credentials and even working into languages other than their native tongue. I am proposing neither of these things. Rather I would like to pick up a language I previously had a good grasp of and enjoyed studying. And yes, my main motivation in doing so is to use the language for work. I am a linguist, I enjoy learning foreign languages and using them for my work. And I would like to use German as a source language. Is that sufficient motivation to relearn the German language? I should also make it clear(again, I thought I already had) that It has been five years since I last studied German. It isn't that long ago; I still understand the language relatively well and therefore see nothing wrong with wanting to update and improve my knowledge of German. I am twenty-four. I wasn't aware that, past a certain age, we can't study, whether from scratch or not, another language in order to use it for professional reasons. But it seems like that is your argument.

Vielen Dank und viele Grüße.



[Edited at 2009-10-28 20:16 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-10-28 20:18 GMT]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:05
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Hi Christopher Oct 28, 2009

I'm not so sure it works that way, either. And not even sure what point you're at, so a little advice could be a bad pointer -- at least that's why I'm a bit reluctant to say my two cents' worth.

To begin with, it's all well and good to get the paper. But we all know that in practice, it's not the paper that does the work -- it's more a combination of the brain, the interest you put into the subject, and the lived experience. Olaf was right in at least one sense -- not even the money is sufficient motivation. Think of it this way: on the job, you won't always be getting perfect texts or listening to perfect speech. This means you have to hone your skills to a point where you also have a sense of what is correct, implied and unintelligible (oh yes!) in the source language. Just as you do not hear everything said in your native language but understand implication, you have to be able to fill in the gaps in source. That's what you have to work on to begin to be effective, whatever the combination you end up with, and very few language courses focus on this.

If indeed, as you say, you've been a good learner, perhaps this is the next step... whichever way you can acquire such skill.

Hope it helps.


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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:05
English to German
+ ...
Go for it then Oct 29, 2009

I didn't want to discourage you. If you enjoyed studying German in the past you'll probably enjoy it again but it might take a few years before you can use it professionally. There definitely is a market for good German-English translators.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 18:05
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Take the fast track if you can Oct 29, 2009

Go live in the country for a few years. Immerse yourself. Look for a local SO, or better yet several.

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Christopher Fitzsimons
Switzerland
Local time: 19:05
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank-you Oct 30, 2009

OlafK wrote:

I didn't want to discourage you. If you enjoyed studying German in the past you'll probably enjoy it again but it might take a few years before you can use it professionally. There definitely is a market for good German-English translators.


Thank-you for this. I would really like to study German and perhaps take a professional qualification in the language in the future (such as the DipTrans) in order to get constructive feedback on my skills and whether or not I would be ready to use German professionally.

Thanks also to Kevin for the fast-track suggestion. I will definitely consider spending time in Germany- even if its just a few months a year for the next year or two, it's much better than nothing. Of course if possible it would be great to live in Germany for a few years but we'll have to see how things go.

@Parrot. I understand that money isn't sufficient motivation. It is certainly one of my main reasons for taking up the study of the language again in terms of my objective being to eventually reach a level which would allow me to use German professionally however I also feel that it is a great pity to have studied a language for so long, reached a relatively high level(I would say at least "upper intermediate") and enjoyed the experience of doing so and then to no longer have any contact with the language.

Parrot wrote:
This means you have to hone your skills to a point where you also have a sense of what is correct, implied and unintelligible (oh yes!) in the source language. Just as you do not hear everything said in your native language but understand implication, you have to be able to fill in the gaps in source. That's what you have to work on to begin to be effective, whatever the combination you end up with, and very few language courses focus on this.


This I also understand only too well! I have formally studied the three source languages I translate from however the experience of living in hispanophone, lusophone and francophone countries has of course aided my comprehension much more than classes and textbooks.

I'll do my best to study for a year or so and then see how my level is. At that point I'll probably spend some time in Germany and then perhaps take a professional qualification in the language. Thank-you all for your help.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:05
English to Hungarian
+ ...
You have said it Oct 31, 2009

Christopher Fitzsimons BA(Hons) ACIL wrote:
I also feel that it is a great pity to have studied a language for so long, reached a relatively high level(I would say at least "upper intermediate") and enjoyed the experience of doing so and then to no longer have any contact with the language.

You are far too young NOt to do it!


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