Does a BA in English/German/Bulgarian or English/German/Japanese Translation exist?
Thread poster: Gergana Petkova

Gergana Petkova
Local time: 14:15
May 9, 2016

Hello everybody! First of all, thank you for reading my post and please accept my apologies in case it's out of place in this section.icon_biggrin.gif (I'm quite new here and I couldn't figure out which one is best.)

Here's who I am: a passionate in languages and linguistics native Bulgarian girl, who lives in Austria (ergo speaks German) and is also a so called "digital native" in English. I'm currently still a highschooler.

Here's what I want: (or the relevant part of it) to be a translator (and possibly an interpreter as well) in all three languages I speak - Bulgarian, German and English AND somewhen in the future also in Japanese. (I already have a plan how to become super-duper-ultra fluent in the language.)

Here's the thing: Here in Austria there are many awesome opportunities for university education in translation and interpretation, but they all require three languages - a mother tongue (A) and two foreign languages (B and C). Bulgarian, however, is not offered. Not anywhere I researched least! I'm confident enough to tick both German or English as my native or "language of education", but then I'm left with only one other foreign language that I speak. I need one more language. Japanese is also not an option, it is only available in a MA. (It was available in Vienna in a BA, but only up until 2010 - not anymore). So the idea of learning Japanese first and going for the BA second, which would be my most desired option, isn't an option at all.

So... is there ANY BA in Translation and/or Interpretation with the combination English/German/Bulgarian or English/German/Japanese anywhere in the world?

Why not Bulgaria: There is a Bulgarian/English/German/ combination in Bulgaria, but I don't want to get my degree in Bulgaria, I feel like you never know if the uni education is actually good. I know about many good universities, but also about a couple of really bad ones and I've got no clue when it comes to language studies and translation, sooooo... I'd rather not risk it.

About two language combos: I'd love to do either English and German or German and Japanese. I've looked into what U.S. and UK have to offer (and Canada a little bit) when it comes to a two language combination with English and German, but all studies I found start out with the basics of German and the basics about the German speaking countries, so I'll have to "go through" things that don't benefit me at all AND pay a ton of money for it. Same goes for the English and Japanese combination. I also haven't found anything I like in Switzerland or Germany. (A German and Japanese combo seems to be non-existent.)

A little off-topic: Another option for me would be to pick Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian as my C-language. (In Vienna) All of those three are really close to Bulgarian, so although I will have to learn - it is the easiest to learn and the closest to my native tongue (as a feeling too, which I think is also very important.) I realize I will have to be good at translating from those languages into either German or English by the end of my study, buuuuut aren't C-languages not THAT big of a deal? I feel like there's a lot more focus on the B-language. Plus, I mean, there's three of those languages. It doesn't feel like there's big focus on them or the C-language as a whole.

Another option would be to pick Russian as a C-language. (In Innsbruck or in Vienna) I'd have to learn it first, which I'm guessing would take me about a year. It is also close to Bulgarian, but not as much as Serbian. Again - just how much of a focus is there on the C-language?

I'm so so sorry for the long explanation and so so thankful to anyone who give me any insight or opinion! icon_smile.gif I wish you all a great day and week. (And year, and life, hehe ^^)


Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:15
German to English
How close are Bulgarian and Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian? May 10, 2016

If they are very close and you could add Macedonian and possibly Slovenian, you would have a fairly easy path to a very sensible set of languages. Practically speaking, Japanese seems like a very difficult path to a language that has absolutely no connection to Bulgarian.

It seems to be very difficult to earn an Austrian level of income while working with Eastern European languages. The prices for translations through agencies are extremely low, but being based in Austria, with an Austrian degree, and having German as your native language with an extremely high level of Bulgarian, I would think that you could find a way to make things work through a salaried position, through concentrating on interpreting, or through focusing on direct clients.

I would try to get in touch with the Zenturm für Translationswissenschaft at the Universität Wien and see what they can tell you in terms of Bulgarian vs. Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian: You're surely not the first person to be in your situation.

I would never consider studying in the US. It's insanely expensive and, for the humanities in general and languages in particular, you're very unlikely to get as good an education there as in Austria. In any English-speaking country, you would have the added problem of being an Austrian in a program designed to teach people how to speak German.


Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:15
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Tackle the hardest bit first May 10, 2016

Gergana Petkova wrote:
So the idea of learning Japanese first and going for the BA second, which would be my most desired option, isn't an option at all.

If you're so interested in Japanese, you should do it properly and learn the language at university. Bear in that that the written forms of Japanese, and to a lesser extent Chinese, represent significant tests of the learner's stamina as well as intellect.

I have not myself found translation any more or less difficult than other skills I have acquired over the years. On the other hand, I found mastering the Japanese writing system a huge test of memory and just plain hard. "This isn't a European language" may sound like a platitude, but at the most basic level things are different.

Setting aside the problem of the script itself there are no word delimiters, for example. You'll be unpleasantly surprised how much that one little issue complicates things for a beginner reading real texts.

So my vote would be to do Japanese first with some kind of additional major (e.g. art, history, economics, whatever) and then tack on translation as an MA if you're still enthusiastic at the end of it all.

No Japanese undergrad courses near you? If you're serious about it then move to a place with a university that does offer courses. You'll be an adult when you get to college age I think; a good time to stand on your own two feet.


Note: There are about 125 million native speakers of Japanese and most of them read and write fairly well, so you might think it can't be that difficult. The difference is that the native speakers learned the written language in a carefully designed and finely graded system over the course of a decade as children, in a supportive environment that is replete with examples of the writing system they are memorising. Trying to learn a good chunk of the joyo kanji in your first year from your shared student room in a northern European city is a very different kettle of fish.


Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 14:15
German to Serbian
+ ...
What is your native language - German or Bulgarian? May 10, 2016

Are you planning to work in translation or language teaching?

Bear in mind that once you are in the job market, everyone will require you to translate toward your native language and to teach your native language (even when you have a degree in foreign language). Reality check from the job market: a native speaker with high school diploma only will be given priority as a teacher over non-native speaker with BA degree.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:15
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Specialist subject areas are at least as important as languages May 10, 2016

You do not actually need a degree in all your languages, although a solid qualification in one is getting more and more obligatory. It is very hard to keep multiple languages up to the necessary level, though it may be easier if you concentrate on a limited subject area.

In any case, you will need to specialise subject-wise to some extent as well.

With 'smaller' - i.e. less widespread language combinations, you do have to be something of a generalist to find enough work, or combine translating with interpreting, teaching or work in your specialist subject area. That can be a very successful way of doing things, however.

My advice is not to try too many unrelated languages. If you are serious about Japanese, go for it all in, as Dan says. But it is really not a language you can 'dabble' in - a couple of my relatives have tried! Concentrate on maximum two target languages and two or three source languages, and you will have as much as you can cope with. Don't spread yourself too thinly!

If you are 'digitally native' in English, but no more, then be aware that much of the English-speaking world is very picky (not to say verging on fanatical at times) about translating into your native language. They want real natives... Then again, as soon as they go beyond a few major languages, English speakers have to live with Danes, Poles and a great many others who translate out of their native languages into English, simply because there are not enough English natives who can do it.

Many translators can get by in a lot of languages, but for professional purposes specialise in just two or three. You will find lots of variations on that theme.

For instance, I read six languages more or less comfortably, including my native English. However, I only work seriously in one source and one target language, both of which I regard as native languages or 'languages of the heart'. In fact I acquired my Danish as an adult, and from a professional point of view it is my language of habitual usage but not my native language.

I have qualifications in two of my other languages, French and German, but NEVER work with them, from lack of practice and living in France and Germany. I am entirely self-taught in Norwegian and Swedish. Although I do take on some work from Norwegian and Swedish, they are NOT the same as Danish and I go carefully.

All these languages use the European alphabet and are more or less related.

The way to succeed in translation is to specialise. It need not stop you from keeping your language ear alive, learning new languages and exploring new subject areas, but keeping a language up to professional level is hard work. You can never stop - there will always be new technology, new legislation, new fashions or buzzwords ... or all of those and more in your languages and subject area(s).

That is what makes it fun as long as you can keep up...

Best of luck!


Gergana Petkova
Local time: 14:15
Thank you! Jun 1, 2016

I'm sorry to reply so late to you all. Thank you so much for your replies!

Christine Andersen, I thought about it long and hard and I'll take your advice. For now, my choice is to keep German, English and Bulgarian at a professional level, well, even for Bulgarian I have yet to reach that level. But those are the languages I would like to practice translation in seriously. As for Japanese - I will still go for it all in, but I won't aim to do translation work in it. Who knows, maybe in 20, 30 years? But not now. I will definitely pay close attention to subject areas and figure out what I want that to be for me. Thank you so much for your advice!

Dan Lucas, thank you for your advice. I have to admit, I've researched about Japanese grammar and I find all those differences in the grammar rather fascinating and motivating, as you said - "at the most basic level things are different". But the writing system does scare me! It will definitely be the hardest bit to tackle and the most time consuming of them all. I will definitely think a lot about your advice to learn Japanese with some sort of additional major. (Maybe then I could major Translation and specialize in something that has to do with that said additional major.)

Lingua 5B, ah, everybody wants a native speaker!icon_biggrin.gif I would too though, I don't blame them. My native tongue is Bulgarian, German is my habitual language and the language in which I'm finishing highschool, haha. Thank you.icon_smile.gifMichael Wetzel, they're pretty close. Macedonian would take me a day to learn and I'm not exaggerating even one bit. Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian would take up significantly more time, but if I learn them at a highschool pace still under a year to get to a native level, at least in Serbian. I was thinking - there seems to be more focus on your A and B languages, so if I pick them as a C language it should be fine. I wouldn't even learn them before starting the BA, I'll just do it as I go, simply because they really are close to my native. I will contact the Zenturm für Translationswissenschaft at the Universität Wien and see if I would actually be allowed to do that or what kind of solutions they may have.icon_smile.gif Thank you very much for your advice!


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