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choosing between arabic and russian
Thread poster: carolalt
carolalt
Italy
Sep 12

I?m starting interpreting school in one month; English is compulsory, and i have to choose a second langague.
At first i thought about choosing Arabic since it was the language I was more drawn to.
Quite a lot of people have suggested me to switch to Russian (my second option) claiming that in Arabic countries I, as a woman, would be subjected to discriminations, and it would be harder for me to find jobs.
I'm "attracted" to both Russian and Arabic languages and cultures, but I would like to hear from someone who actually has some experience as a translator/interpreter about the matter.
I've since spoken about it with two interpreters, who didn't work with Arabic and didn't really have any experience in Arab countries.
I thank you for your help!!


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 12:56
English to Russian
+ ...
Are these the only choices? Sep 12

I have been translating between Russian and English for 30+ years, and in all fairness cannot currently recommend going into it professionally, as the market has shrunk tremendously in the last 3-4 years and, given the current political developments, is not likely to recover anytime soon. You will also be facing a strong competition from the native speakers of Russian from ex-USSR countries, who will be seriously underselling you.

As to Arabic, there may be some truth to what you are being told, but I doubt it is so critical.

[Edited at 2017-09-12 21:31 GMT]


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carolalt
Italy
TOPIC STARTER
no, Sep 12

there are also French, Spanish, German and Chinese. I wouldn't choose any of these languages..
I've been told by the only interpreters I've ad the chance to talk to that there are more job offers for Russian but also many more iterpreters, the opposite goes for Arabic, les job offers and a very small number of interpreters.

I agree with you; I don't think the situation is so critical as I've been told, but I'm still unsure about it, even the Arabic professor said women could have very good opportunities working in fields such as infant products,ecc..
I just don't want to have less opportunities and possibilities..

Thank you very much for your answer!


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The Misha
Local time: 06:56
Russian to English
+ ...
Russian? I don't think so Sep 12

Just like Anton, I have been in this business for some 30 years, and in all this time (most of it spent outside the former USSR) I have only come across a single brave soul who was not a native born Russian speaker yet actually took a stab at interpreting from/into Russian. As an attenuating circumstance, he had a Russian wife and spent some time living in Moscow. In my experience, most nonnative translators that work, with a different degree of success, out of Russian, do not know the language well enough to speak it fluently, let alone interpret into it. To be fair, Russian, especially spoken Russian, is a fairly hard language to master, so I am sure there should be easier ways to make a living.

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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:56
French to English
@Carol Sep 12

Setting aside the various market issues, which of the two languages do you most enjoy already?
Or perhaps I have misunderstood. Are you actually chosing a totally new language to learn from scractch?


[Edited at 2017-09-12 21:58 GMT]


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carolalt
Italy
TOPIC STARTER
ok, Sep 12

so pretty much only native speakers work with Russian.. that's not comforting at all.
I thought there were lots of opportunities, even me being italian, at least in Italy.
So you're talking also about the difficulty of Russian, but is it more difficult to master then Arabic (if you could ever make a comparison)?

I've never studied neither Russian neither Arabic, I've just downloaded an app and started having a look at basic alphabet etc for Russian, and have bought a book for Arabic. So I can't say I've had a direct approach at neither languages.

thank you!


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Phyllis Elago  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:56
French to English
+ ...
Being a woman in the Arab world is OK, it is more a matter of education and social class Sep 12

I personally know many women in the Arab world who are in very respected positions, whether in government, business, law, etc. If you are a white-skinned European, you would also have that kudos, be that as it may. So I don't think you have to worry about being a woman.

Russian is one of my languages, and there was a time when I had a lot of work regularly in Russian but not any more. I specialise in law and finance though, so in that field at least, the only work I have had in recent years is when a Russian business or individual has had to take their litigation to London. I don't regret studying Russian because of certain things that it led to in my life, but in terms of just the amount of translation work it brings, I could also see it as a waste of time. I could have done my joint degree in French and marketing instead, etc.


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Phyllis Elago  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:56
French to English
+ ...
Arabic is more difficult Sep 12

Just saw your new post - I would say Arabic is much more difficult. It is difficult to learn Russian at the beginning, but once you have the framework and structures in your brain, it becomes much easier after that. For example, I also work from German into English, and I would say that German is a more difficult language than Russian.

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Anita M. A. Mazzoli  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:56
English to Italian
+ ...
It depends Sep 12

Are you starting one of these languages from scratch? Are you familiar with one of them already? How long will your course last? Where will you be based after?
Plus
Think of a language as a world that involves more than words: you will have to translate and interpret more than that. I mean you will have to absorb a culture and understand it.
Personally, apart from practical reasons - that are likely to evolve (or maybe not) in the next future - I would choose a language that would resonate with me, or the other way round.


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Otha Nash
United States
Local time: 06:56
Member (Jul 2017)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Don't trust generalizations Sep 13

carolalt wrote:

I?m starting interpreting school in one month; English is compulsory, and i have to choose a second langague.
At first i thought about choosing Arabic since it was the language I was more drawn to.
Quite a lot of people have suggested me to switch to Russian (my second option) claiming that in Arabic countries I, as a woman, would be subjected to discriminations, and it would be harder for me to find jobs.
I'm "attracted" to both Russian and Arabic languages and cultures, but I would like to hear from someone who actually has some experience as a translator/interpreter about the matter.
I've since spoken about it with two interpreters, who didn't work with Arabic and didn't really have any experience in Arab countries.
I thank you for your help!!


Your gender won't be a hindrance in your professional life if you choose Arabic. I've been an Arabic translator for 13 years, and I've collaborated with native Arab translators, interpreters and language instructors from all parts of the world. Women are well-respected and well-accepted in the T&I industry throughout the Arab world.

Yes, learning Arabic is more of a challenge in some respects, but not as much as many people make it out to be. It's really a question of whether you're willing to embrace the language and culture. Not everyone is.

The bottom line is, all of the things that apply to becoming a T&I professional in any language apply to Arabic. If you put in the effort, you won't lack for professional opportunities.

[Edited at 2017-09-13 00:11 GMT]


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carolalt
Italy
TOPIC STARTER
no, Sep 13

I'm starting from scratch!
The course will last for 3 years (in Italy), plus two years of master degree (I don't know whether I'll have the opportunity to study for the master degree abroad).

If it was for me, I would have chosen Arabic, but I've heard so many people talking about discriminations and the greater amount of jobs in the Russian language market... I would especially like to know whether there is some truth in all that.
thank


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Leo Max
Thailand
English to Russian
+ ...
What is more difficult Sep 13

While studying Russian, you do learn an Indo-European language which has many words borrowed from Greek and Latin; also, the way ideas are expressed may be similar to the other European languages; it is definitely easier to study. I studied at Oriental studies Department, and, whatever Asian language my peers would study, it took a lot of time and effort. Maybe, you should visit Russia and an Arabic country (btw, you never mentioned which dialect you want to learn. of course, there is the Classical Arabic but you won't be understood if you speak Classical Arabic on the streets - or, so I heard). But what makes you choose either Russian or Arabic?

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Otha Nash
United States
Local time: 06:56
Member (Jul 2017)
Arabic to English
+ ...
I wouldn't follow the crowd Sep 13

carolalt wrote:

I'm starting from scratch!
The course will last for 3 years (in Italy), plus two years of master degree (I don't know whether I'll have the opportunity to study for the master degree abroad).

If it was for me, I would have chosen Arabic, but I've heard so many people talking about discriminations and the greater amount of jobs in the Russian language market... I would especially like to know whether there is some truth in all that.
thank


You're going to be most successful at the language you're most interested in. If Arabic > Italian is going to be your language pair, I would think you're going to be a very rare commodity, and you should never lack for work as long as you're skilled. I'm not saying that the number of Arabic > Italian interpreters in the ProZ directory is necessarily representative of anything, but I think it gives you some idea of how small the pool is. In terms of absolute size, the Russian market may be larger, depending on your location, but you'll also be likely to face much more competition in the Russian market. I think you should follow your own mind, and ignore people who likely have little to no direct experience with the Arabic language services market.

[Edited at 2017-09-13 03:22 GMT]


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Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Jordan
Arabic to English
+ ...
Unique Advantages for Women Sep 13

Speaking as an American who has lived in an Arabic-speaking country, I have not experienced the type of discrimination you are speaking of. Women may actually have a slight advantage in many respects since we are able to work in female-only environments that are more difficult for men to gain access to.

Female refugees, for example, would almost certainly be more comfortable working with female interpreters, which may also be an opportunity that exists where you are in Italy (or elsewhere in Europe).

As it happens, I am not an interpreter and don't know how the job-market is for Arabic-speaking interpreters. This varies from country to country and also depends on the specific sector you wish to work in.

If your main concern is discrimination, however, I would not worry about that at all so long as you are willing to respect cultural norms.

Please keep in mind that the Arab world is a big place, and we cannot make generalizations. In my opinion, however, Arab culture is warm and welcoming towards foreigners - and you may also find local opportunities you have not considered before (think of the many Arabs who must navigate the Italian healthcare and legal systems, for example).


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Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 12:56
English to Italian
+ ...
Go Arabic! Sep 13

I've studied Arabic and Russian at university and, although they are both incredibly beautiful languages, I agree with what Anton said about Russian market.
As a Western woman speaking Arabic, I found that Arabs are always amazed whenever they meet somebody who's from "outside their world" who can speak their language (you will be learning Modern Standard Arabic or MSA, actually there are 24 variants of the language and Arabic has a huge diglossia issue) and I've only received very positive feedback, also when I visited Egypt and Dubai.
I would totally recommend it, you will fall in love with Arabic!


[Edited at 2017-09-13 08:24 GMT]


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