What languages is there a demand for in Australia?
Thread poster: XXXphxxx

XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:45
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jun 16, 2011

I am curious to know what, if any, non-Asian languages there is a demand for in Australia? Are the main trading partners Asian countries and, if so, is there much demand for the languages that I offer: French, Portuguese and Spanish? What, out of interest, are the foreign languages normally studied at school?

[Edited at 2011-06-16 11:52 GMT]


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 03:45
English to Hungarian
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None as far as I can tell Jun 16, 2011

Here's an Australian's view:

There is absolutely no reason what so ever to learn a foreign language in Australia if you never plan to live elsewhere. People just don't care about languages here. Australia is a linguistically dead wasteland. People will try to tell you otherwise since we have a large Greek community and many Chinese people. But that is irrelevant. They make up a small percentage. Only people born into those communities speak those languages. Those languages are usually dead in 2 generations unless there is a strong cultural pull like with the Greeks. Normal everyday Australians are amazed by anyone who speaks one foreign language.

http://www.proz.com/forum/interpreting/57242-salary_for_eu_conference_interpreter.html#1118998

It seems that Australia doesn't really have strong cultural or trade links with countries/people that don't speak English, so the demand for translators/interpreters isn't very high at all.


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:45
Portuguese to English
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TOPIC STARTER
What a depressing indictment! Jun 17, 2011

Any other input from our colleagues in Australia?

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Patricia Will  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 10:45
Member (2004)
German to English
Languages in demand in Australia Jun 17, 2011

Hi Lisa, I can only talk about the situation here in Western Australia but I would agree that there is little demand (either in the workplace or wider community) for languages other than Asian languages here. My children have studied French at primary school and then French and Japanese at high school (perhaps one or two periods a week), but a language is only compulsory up to year 8 and is optional from year 9 onwards, with very few students opting to study languages. Not all universities offer language studies, in fact in WA there is not one university offering translation and interpreting degrees. We are of course geographically isolated and it is easy to understand why people wouldn't see the need or benefit in learning a foreign language. Many schools here do teach Japanese, Chinese or Indonesian, but even here there wouldn't be large numbers of students carrying these subjects through to school-leaving level. Despite immigration to Australia it is in my view very much a monolingual society so opportunities for linguists are few and far between.

If you specialise in European languages you would find that there is very little work here into those languages or even from those languages into English. Think about it - why would there be? Our major trading partners are in Asia. There is some demand for translation of various documents for private individuals for immigration purposes (certificates, qualifications, drivers licences, birth certificates etc.), but there are already many translators competing in that market (and some charging ridiculously low prices for such work). If you are thinking of a career as a translator of European languages in Australia I would suggest that you need to focus on the European market, because there isn't really enough of a demand here to make a reasonable income. This is my personal view and my personal experience. As a German-English translator at least 80% of my income derives from European customers and this is how I actively pursue my business. I know of other colleagues who have moved to Australia from Europe and simply bring their customer base with them.

Feel free to contact me privately (transl8@tpg.com.au) if you need any further advice or information about the options here.

I too would like to hear what other colleagues think.

Best regards
Trish Will
German-English translator


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:45
Portuguese to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Mainly curiosity Jun 17, 2011

Thanks very much for your input Trish. We've half considered a move but the main reason for my question is sheer curiosity. Considering the 'boom' in Asia I was wondering if Australia was capitalising on that as I had understood that it was not uncommon for Chinese, for example, to be taught as a foreign language in schools.

If your customer base is still largely in Europe, do you not have problems with time differences? Most of my clients want fairly instant responses on my availability, how do you manage on that front?


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Anna Herbst  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 13:45
Member (2008)
English to Swedish
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Moderator of this forum
Land of many languages Jun 19, 2011

Hi Lisa,

Australia is in my view a very inspiring place for linguists as it is a truly multi-cultural society where almost 400 languages were spoken in the community in 2010 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/1301.0Feature%20Article32009–10

I am not saying that all is perfect, nor that it is easy to make a living out of the T/I industry, but there are certainly lots of opportunities to learn and to practice languages in Australia for all sorts of purposes if the love of language is not enough reason. There are for example post graduate courses in T/I offered at several of the major universitites as Judith del Rio points out in her Summary of Research Report from Monash University (November 2005) http://arts.monash.edu.au/translation-interpreting/pgrad/research-reports-del-rio.pdf
An article published on-line by AUSIT lists a further number of institutions that train translators and interpreters to different levels. http://www.ausit.org/pics/TrainingUldis.pdf

The national Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) contracts more than 1300 interpreters around Australia, covering more than 150 languages and dialects. http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/help-with-english/help_with_translating/
and there are many more who work as freelancers in these areas.

Australia has the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) whose radio channels broadcast in 68 languages, and which has two national TV channels broadcasting news as well as other types of programs including movies in a plethora of languages in need of subtitling. http://www.sbs.com.au/

For an English speaking country, Australia is in many respects doing quite well when it comes to encouraging the study of foreign languages in school. A lot of effort has been put into making Asian languages more popular choices in both primary and secondary school as well as universities - the obvious reason being Australia's geographical position - but the more "traditional" European languages - e.g. French, German, Italian, Russian - are still often the first choice among school children and their parents. There is a very interesting study from 2009 by Joseph Lo Bianco published by ACER on the teaching of languages in Australia, http://www.acer.edu.au/documents/AER_54-SecondLanguagesAndAustralianSchooling.pdf. Among other things it mentions "the teaching of Japanese which in 1990 replaced French as the most prominent language in secondary schools. By the early 2000s this prominence of Japanese was under challenge from the buoyant interest in Chinese" (p.16) Well worth at least a browse through for those interested in language teaching in Australia.

You can get an overview of what is planned for languages in the new national curriculum in this article from 1 Feb 2011 in the Age (major Melbourne broadsheet) http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/languages-boost-for-primary-schools-20110131-1ab6v.html

Hadn't quite meant to write this much, but it seemed necessary to add some positive facts to the discussion.

Cheers,
Anna
(who has just celebrated 25 years of language related work in Australia)


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Patricia Will  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 10:45
Member (2004)
German to English
Time difference Jun 20, 2011

Hi Lisa, regarding the time difference, it can actually be beneficial for your European customers. Many of my regular clients will contact me mid-afternoon European time (so late evening here) with a job they need the next day. Obviously depends how long the document is but it is often possible for me to deliver it to the client by the morning (European time) after I have had the whole of the next day to do it. It does mean I have to check emails before I go to bed at night and make sure that clients are aware that if they send me any emails after mid afternoon European time I won't see them until the next morning. I discourage them from making phone calls - especially after a few midnight calls from one client who thought I was in the UK! Some regular clients do email jobs knowing I won't see it until the next day but tell me just to go ahead if I am able. If I am unavailable they will know this first thing the next morning so would still have time to find a local translator if necessary (this only works for short rush jobs of course).

I think many agencies are used to working with translators in different time zones and use this to their advantage.

Nice to hear Anna's more positive spin on the study of languages and opportunities for linguists in general. It may be that the situation here in WA is simply different as the population is predominantly white and from English-speaking backgrounds - we don't have the same large ethnic communities as in other parts of Australia.

Regards
Trish


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:45
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting insight Jun 20, 2011

Thanks everyone. It strikes me that Australia isn't doing too badly at all (for an English-speaking country). It'll be interesting to see if it manages to benefit from the 'rise of the East' and what role language learning will play in that. In any case, it sounds as if, so far, you're doing better than the UK on that front.

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Obejoel
Australia
Australia as a wasteland for foreign languages Apr 14, 2016

[quote]Lisa Simpson, CL

I would pretty much agree that Australia is a language desert, apart from some one ethnic groups. However you will find some people who are interested in languages so don't discount everyone.


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