Translating from second foreign language to native language?
Thread poster: Alexandre Chetrite

Alexandre Chetrite
France
Local time: 21:46
English to French
Jun 21, 2016

Hello,

I only do English/French freelance translations for now.

However Spanish is my "second foreign language" (after Engligh ).

Though I have a much lower level of mastery over Spanish than over English, I learned Spanish for many years back in my youth, and I still read quite some Spanish articles in newspapers over the year, which allows me to keep an intermediate level of Spanish.

I would like to expand my translator activity and do Spanish>French translations.

Is this possible do you think or not all with a medium level in Spanish? I mean: I have no problem with the Spanish of contracts and businesses, and Spanish in international and local newspapers/media.( I speak of Castillan :I don't know South American variations and specific expressions).

It would only take a few months of training to get me up to date and to an acceptable level to deliver good quality translations,and I know a very good language website: Babbel.com.

I know that the general rule in the translation industry is to only translate to your mother tongue's language. However, if one masters several foreign languages at good levels, is it recommended to only pick one or two foreign languages only, or there is no limit in the number of foreign languages to translate from in this particular case?

Because a translator needs a much better level of mastery in the target language (French, native language) than in the source language ,I believe.Even if it is better to be fully qualified for both, of course to detect all the small details that make the difference (expressions, vocabulary, etc).


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Only you Jun 22, 2016

Only you can decide. I have been considering the same thing myself: my main second language, in which I am fluent, is Italian, but at one time I was fairly fluent in French, read French books and newspapers, and lived with French people. I'm rusty now, but my French is still there in the dusty attic of my brain and could be dusted off and polished up.

However I don't expect anyone else to give me confidence about doing this; it's got to be my decision.

[Edited at 2016-06-22 13:13 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Two source languages is fine; if you have the level Jun 22, 2016

Alexandre Chetrite wrote:
Though I have a much lower level of mastery over Spanish than over English, I learned Spanish for many years back in my youth, and I still read quite some Spanish articles in newspapers over the year, which allows me to keep an intermediate level of Spanish.

Hmm...How alive is your Spanish nowadays? It doesn't sound to me as though it's bang up-to-date, nor does it sound as though it's likely to be at a very high level - language doesn't stay at the same level if it doesn't get used.

I have no problem with the Spanish of contracts and businesses, and Spanish in international and local newspapers/media.( I speak of Castillan :I don't know South American variations and specific expressions).

It would only take a few months of training to get me up to date and to an acceptable level to deliver good quality translations,and I know a very good language website: Babbel.com.

Ah, so you are planning on bringing your level up? That would certainly make a big difference. I'm sure you've got a really good grounding in the language so there will be need for a bit of a refresher than you can add to that. But Babbel.com? I just had a look and it seems very basic. They only do an intermediate course. You'd need to be into advanced course levels. Intermediate isn't anything like good enough, IMHO. I'm just about into that in Spanish and wouldn't dream of translating from it professionally.

Because a translator needs a much better level of mastery in the target language (French, native language) than in the source language ,I believe.

I know what you mean and to some extent I agree. However, I think it's a misleading statement. Of course, your written expression in your target language must be 100%. Not just grammatically correct, either - it has to be well-structured, unambiguous and pleasant to read. You don't need that level in your source language. However, your comprehension of the source language has to be top. Personally, I studied French from 8-20 years of age, then on and off until 40, then I lived in France for 15 years. I didn't start translating until I'd been there for seven years and today, four years after leaving, I can feel my level dropping a little - fortunately not much yet on the comprehension side. Now, you may have far better language skills (and you're doubtless far younger than me) but I still suspect you'll have to do some serious long-term study with a serious outfit (Cervantes?) or, preferably, come to live and work here for a few years.

But there's nothing to stop you marketing your services if you feel that you can cope with the job. You'll soon find out that way! After all, we aren't contracted to do any job until we actually accept it, so you can read each text and decide if you feel confident to tackle it.


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David GAY  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
Clients? Jun 22, 2016

Do you think you can get any clients and at which
rate? This pair is very common as the French and
Spanish languages are very similar. I think there are
too many translators in this pair as many French people
are of spanish descent.


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Alexandre Chetrite
France
Local time: 21:46
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Idea? Jun 22, 2016

David GAY wrote:

Do you think you can get any clients and at which
rate? This pair is very common as the French and
Spanish languages are very similar. I think there are
too many translators in this pair as many French people
are of spanish descent.


David: you score one point. That's true...But that's the only additional option I have. Unless I can train in a completely new language that is in the a niche market and translate to my native language (French). But it would take years before I can get operational in this new language pair, so better invest in what I know already..But why not?

However, if you had to learn a new language that is quite rare and will still generate revenues in the next years, which one would you chose? Criteria are: the fastest to learn (business documents), a market where there are far less freelance translators, and widespread enough to get new customers (existence of several business sectors).Must be a latin based language (asiatic languages too difficult to learn in short time).

I was thinking about Portuguese (Portuguese>French), but I'm not sure..One can work with Brazilian market with this language pair at least.I need to find a comparative chart or document with my criteria...Any idea?


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Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 21:46
German to English
+ ...
Lots of EU staff translators translate from several languages Jun 22, 2016

EU staff translators translating into English often translate from four to six source languages. They attend language classes for three years, reach level B2 and then start translating. If you only translate texts from your area of specialization it can be done - at least if it's technical, legal or finance. It's more difficult if it's marketing or literature.

[Edited at 2016-06-22 14:45 GMT]


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Go for it! Jun 22, 2016

It sounds like you're reasonably well qualified to translate Spanish, and it could significantly boost your income. Maybe get a fellow translator to cast an eye over your first few translations. My grasp of Spanish was distinctly shaky when I started out, but that was 25 years ago.

[Edited at 2016-06-22 16:51 GMT]


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David GAY  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
set very competitive rates Jun 22, 2016

Some translators on this site have official rates
at only 0.06 euro per word or less although they are experienced (10-20 y ) , french nationals , bilingual ,
have a good diploma in translation and live in Spain or Latin America.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:46
German to English
Why? Jun 23, 2016

I can understand wanting to improve your Spanish. There are tons of things that I would love to be able to read in Spanish and it is a great place to travel.

I can also understand the advantage of employees translating from languages that they don't master (B2 is nothing if someone has learned quickly and specifically trained to pass a test - if someone passes a B2 test without specific preparation and/or has great passive and terrible active skills, then that is a different matter). Employers need flexible staff to avoid down time, and the employees in Maria's example are presumably working within a strong support system. Employees also have the advantage of being able to effectively accumulate a lot of very specific knowledge and resources, which may outweigh other disadvantages.

As a freelancer in a very competitive market, what exactly do you hope to gain? Are you looking for more work, better-paid work, a change of pace? That is not a rhetorical question: I can think of a few reasonable answers, so I'm interested to hear yours.

Translators should master their source language (at least passively), their target language, the trade of translation, and their subject matter. All translators have their weaknesses, but why not go with your strengths?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:46
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Why a second language? Jun 23, 2016

Alexandre Chetrite wrote:
But that's the only additional option I have. Unless I can train in a completely new language that is in the a niche market and translate to my native language (French). But it would take years before I can get operational in this new language pair, so better invest in what I know already..But why not?

Why not an additional specialisation, or replace your current specialisation(s)?

I don't know exactly what you do, but business is a very large sector and a very great deal of it doesn't require any very specialised terminology so it's a favourite with those who are really more generalists. This brings rates down, of course. I see you also do IT-related work and indeed have a qualification in that area. Have you thought of increasing the visibility of this, over the business area? It can be a very "techie" area where clients will look only for the real specialists, and so I imagine the rates are pretty good. There's also perhaps less of a need for a very high level in the source language in general, I should think - more specialised texts and fewer general ones? So maybe Spanish would be a better bet for you in this area? You could do an IT course in Spanish - MOOCs etc?

I stress that I don't know the IT sector (nowadays) or Spanish as a working language in any depth, so I may be making false assumptions to some extent here.

PS: I second every word of Michael's recent post.


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Alexandre Chetrite
France
Local time: 21:46
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Details about my expectations Jun 23, 2016

Hi,

My main objective is to diversify my freelance activities and get more customers on a regular basis. (and to generate revenues as fast as possible because much needed).Right now I don't have enough customers and I'm having an even harder time trying to reach new ones because the competition is more fierce on Internet over the years...I spend a lot of time applying to translation jobs without getting any answer .

I sometimes get some missions on upwork.com and such websites, but only punctually.

I thought that I would double my chances of getting more work by learning a new language pair, it's as simple as that. And also I am investing right now in my future: by learning German on Babbel.com (yes , I know SHEILA..not the best language website...) and starting to refresh my Spanish skills, this could get interesting in one or two years (or maybe before depending on my free time).

I also thought about targeting a language pair with little competition to maximize my chances, but this would require heavy learning in a completely new language where I don't have any experience nor cultural affinity...But potentially big returns in the long-term.

Perhaps I could do both? Reinforce my Spanish skills in the short-term (that makes Spanish>French in IT and Business fields), then in the medium-term learn a new language , competition-scarce by nature, and translate to French (target language as always). In the meantime I could also boost my German language skills on babbel.com or with face-to-face courses (easy to find nowadays).

I am also starting a freelance activity in Web development and learning everyday HTML, CSS, Javascript, bootstrap, etc because it looks very lucratuve, therefore I will be very busy this year.


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