So you know a lot of languages and want to monetize your skill…that’s great! Now it’s time to figure out language profitability. That is, what languages will net you the most when it comes to translation jobs?
Figuring out what language will net you the highest paying translation jobs is difficult. Why? There are a lot of variables involved in determining language profitability.
One variable is location. If you live in Saudi Arabia, the most profitable translation jobs are probably not the same ones as in the USA. Location matters, both in terms of which languages and in which sectors are most highly prized. Therefore, it’s hard to pinpoint which languages are the most profitable across the board.
For the sake of this article, let’s say you live in a certain unnamed US city. What languages will make you the most money when it comes to translation work?
Japan currently has a lot of trade deals with regards to technology and products coming in and out of the USA. In fact, the United States and Japan partner on many, many things. Therefore, companies from both countries are always looking for translators that can help them with all types of communications.
The good news is that while there is a high demand for Japanese translators, the competition is relatively low due to the complexity of the language. Therefore, Japan has a high language profitability in the USA.
There’s a little more competition when it comes to Chinese translation jobs, mostly due to the fact that it’s the most widely spoken language in the world. Many Chinese citizens often snag these jobs because they learn another language as their second language. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other translators in this market.
Also like Japan, China has a lot of reason to need English-to-Chinese translations and vice versa. There’s a lot of demand, quite a bit of competition and a lot of money involved.
German is considered to be a rare language in the United States. Despite there being a substantial German population within many states, it’s not a commonly spoken language. If you walk into a building and ask if anyone speaks German, there’s likely to be a low positive response. Especially compared to other languages like French or Spanish.
This is a circumstance in which there’s a large population with little outside fluency. Meaning, many companies are willing to pay top-dollar for German translators that can help sell products and services to an untapped market.
Swedish (and Other Nordic Languages)
Swedish, as well as other languages that exist in the Nordic region, is also gaining popularity among translators. Why? Because jobs dealing with Nordic languages pay well. The Nordic countries are quickly bringing in more and more Western influences to their major cities, which means they have to acclimate to Western languages.
The good thing about learning a language like Swedish is trans-language fluency. If you know Swedish, you’re more than halfway there to learning Norwegian and Danish. Learning any one of these languages and studying the other two lightly can net you three potential translation pools.
Finally, countries in the Middle East are also looking to communicate more and more with countries that speak English. Larger companies are already on top of this, especially if they’re in the oil industry. Now, the little guys are looking to cash in on business deals with companies in the United States, too. Arabic isn’t a language commonly learned in the United States unless you’re specifically looking for work in the Middle East.
Remember that the above example is for the USA, and language profitability depends on your location. Therefore, if you live in England, the languages that will net you the most may be different. Be sure to ask your fellow translators working in similar locations or in similar sectors for advice. What languages have netted them the highest paying translation jobs?
Do you like going out with friends on the weekend? Enjoying a beverage together? Going out to dinner with friends and romantic prospects when you want to? Maybe you even like day trips out with friends? If so, you and I aren’t going to see eye to eye on this.
See, I used to be like you. I used to enjoy going out with my buddies, watching movies in the theater and buying groceries in a store. Social lives cost money, though, so I thought I might make some extra pocket money by utilizing my language skills. I put myself out there as a freelance translator hoping I could easily translate a few brochures or instruction manuals for hapless housewives who accidentally bought a Chinese product and can’t figure out how to use it.
It wasn’t long before I realized how wrong my presumptions were, even though they feel so right now.
I began to realize that my time was being taken up by managing my projects and translating as expertly as I could. It used to be that I would vaguely offer a client the gist of a 30-page e-book, but I realized that wasn’t going to give me the cash I was looking for. Then it hit me – the problem wasn’t that I was overloading myself with projects I wasn’t equipped for. The problem was that I was wasting my time on socializing!
The answer? Completely cut out social interaction.
The less I went outside, the more work I got done. The quality of my translations were directly correlated to whether or not I put on pants in the morning. What’s the point when you aren’t going anywhere all day?
More time meant more clients, and now I have tons and they keep coming back for more. I’ve managed to exclude all possible social life that would get in the way of the quantity or quality of my work.
What do I do for food? That’s what the Internet’s for. I can order takeout and groceries via my phone. Some weeks the only person I have to talk to is my pizza delivery guy, and he doesn’t mind that my life has devolved into nonstop translating and greasy hair.
There is one problem – I do have to talk to clients, though I don’t have to meet any of them in person. Still, I’m not exactly excited when I have to shoot them an email or call them on the phone. If only we could cut off all social contact forever, am I right?
Translating and project management have improved my life greatly. I may not be able to remember what my friends look like or the last time I actually looked a person in the eye, but what does that matter when my life is constantly fulfilled by translating thought leadership blogs for American businessmen?
Here’s what I want you to take away from my story: my life’s pretty sweet. I get to ignore everyone and spend my life translating and doing project management all day long. It’s alright if you’re jealous. It’s pretty understandable when I have it this good.
P.S: We feel compelled to confirm that this article is tongue in cheek 🙂
People think knowing more than one language is cool…and they’re not wrong! They assume that utilizing this skill in the workplace is easy — after all, the hard part is learning the language, not using it.
The problem is that people don’t think about language in the context of work. Being a translator or translation project manager is just as stressful as any other job, if not more so.
Translating documents and content isn’t just about talking to people in short bursts in their native tongue. It’s being able to accurately translate their content into other languages, constantly honing your language skills, leading a team of translators with different ideas and skill levels, handling multiple deadlines and connecting with clients in valuable ways across different languages.
Suffice to say, my life as a project manager and translator was once frustrating more often than not. This is also just one aspect of my life — imagine all of your own typical everyday life problems and commitments. Family, relationships, finances, personal growth. Now toss in a stressful translation project management job on top of it all.
Being honest, I was often lost as to how to climb over my mountain of stress.
You may have stumbled onto this article without being truly interested in translation, I still have some advice for you: you have to find a way to alleviate work stress in your life. If you are a translator and/or translation project manager, this need to de-stress is even greater.
As an individual, you have the ability to come up with your own method of alleviating stress. I want to tell you all about mine.
My Own Stress Story
Life as a project manager and translator was getting to be too much for me to handle. I had consistently overlapping projects and deadlines that required multiple people working on each project. I would have to wrangle multiple teams at once while simultaneously working with clients, and sometimes clients weren’t the nicest or most reasonable.
I could see members of my team were stressed, but I was essentially powerless to do much to help them. After all, I was drowning in stress myself.
It got to the point where I finally admitted something to myself: something has to give. Either I find a way to let off steam and keep my stress low, or this job is going to eat me alive.
My solution was reiki. For those who are unfamiliar, Reiki is a Japanese meditation technique that focuses on stress reduction, inner healing and relaxation. It’s taught through healing touch and allows a person to unlock an endless supply of life’s energy. Reiki meditation features many different levels that can heal your physical body and clear your conscious mind.
Now I practice Reiki at least an hour a day. This simultaneously gives me scheduled time away from work, while also allowing me to ease my tension and let go of stress. When I’m more relaxed, I perform better at my job. I’m capable of leading my team and helping them with their own stress. I can be more communicative with vendors. I feel more empowered to negotiate with clients so that we can see eye to eye.
Because of my work, I’m now essentially a Reiki meditation expert. This is my way of dealing with stress — what will yours be?
If you think a job as a translator is all about knowing languages and being able to write well, I have some news for you: you’re sorely mistaken.
It takes a lot of different skills to be a professional translator, freelance or no. Of course, you need to be fluent in at least two languages, as well as possess some great writing skills, but there’s much more to it than that. You have to be gifted with technology, know how to manage projects, speak with clients constantly and be very committed to your deadlines.
Because there are so many varied skills involved with translation work, it makes sense that a lot could go wrong. As much as I love my life as a translator and linguist, that’s not to say I haven’t had my fair share of nightmares.
Here are three possible scenarios — you may not find yourself in these positions, and that’s great! But each situation is highly possible, and I’m here to tell you how to avoid them.
1. Incorrect Project Briefings
I say “incorrect” to keep things vague. Sometimes this is as simple as a client misunderstanding the language needed to convey the project in detail, but other times it’s the act of a scammer. You accept a job to translate a 10-page ebook, but suddenly you’re on the hook for a much larger ebook and the associated print and marketing materials that go with it. That’s definitely not what you signed up for!
Whether because of a miscommunication or a malicious act, this can cause you a lot of stress and strife, especially if you have other projects on your plate. The common mistake translators make is accepting the job without the materials or a sample of the materials.
If a client doesn’t want to give you the materials without confirmation for privacy reasons, that’s sometimes understandable — but ask for a screenshot of the materials or a list of the exact materials needed to complete the project. This helps you avoid misunderstandings and can also alert you to a scammer if they’re dodgy with the request.
2. Clients from Hell
Like I said, you have to be able to talk to people and negotiate if you want to be a translator. Even if you’re just working on your own, dealing with a client can be taxing work. It’s bad to speak ill of a client, but sometimes you find clients that are so controlling, inflexible or otherwise difficult that you can’t help but want to scream.
In this case, there’s no real way to avoid these clients 100% — but it’s good to get to know them as much as possible before taking on their project. Schedule a phone or Skype meeting and have a conversation. You’d be amazed at how obvious clients from hell are before you even accept the project. This will help you avoid ‘round the clock emails or ridiculously impossible requests.
3. System Failure
Most translation work is done on a computer now, which is great! Technology and translating go hand in hand. However, technology isn’t infallible. Electricity can go out, hard drives can be corrupted, etc. Relying solely on your laptop or desktop for your translation work is a recipe for disaster.
Make sure that you have a backup measure in place. Sites like Dropbox can store your files in a way that’s easily shareable, making it easier to sleep at night knowing your progress and projects are protected.
Everyone loves Netflix, right? The streaming provider of movies and TV content has quickly become an international media-viewing phenomenon, available in 190 countries. The company produces so much high-quality original content that you could binge non-stop just to keep up with it — and some of us do!
One subset of people who especially love Netflix are translators.
You may be wondering why this is so. What is the secret link that connects translators to a movie and TV streaming service? There isn’t just one reason we translators love Netflix — there are three!
Subtitles are fun for language geeks
Many Netflix shows come with language subtitle options, as well as a myriad of audio options. If you’ve ever watched a Netflix Original in its entirety, you may realize the credits can get pretty long. Observant watchers will realize this is because the credits also list the names of the additional foreign language dubbing and subbing staff.
If you’re a burgeoning translator, I actually recommend you use Netflix as a way to familiarize yourself with a language you’re not fluent in. Set the audio for a show to a language you don’t have fluency in, then set the subtitles to a language you’re comfortable with when it comes to reading fluency. Study the words and the subtitles. Do you recognize repeating words in both the dialogue and the subtitles?
This is also a great tool for those who are already fluent or semi-fluent in a language. This helps translators polish their language skills while also learning cool new words, synonyms, and slang terms. Perfect for language geeks, no?
Netflix is constantly looking for translators
Netflix’s appeal is that it’s global. If they want to serve content-consuming customers in a specific country, they need to have enough content translated into relevant languages in order to expand. Netflix will never run out of the need for translators because there will always be a new market to infiltrate, and new content always needs to be translated. This doesn’t even include existing content that needs translation packages!
If you’re looking for translation work that is simple yet prestigious, always look to Netflix. More translators for different languages cuts down on their subtitling time, and you get to see amazing shows before anyone else!
It’s a cultural smorgasbord
Because Netflix is global, it goes without saying that they have access to a lot of global content. You can find Bollywood movies, Korean dramas and Mexican telenovelas all available on Netflix, even if you reside in an English-dominated country like the United States or Canada.
There’s also the possibility for obscure translation crossovers, as well. Not every piece of content will be about switching from English to French, or from French to Spanish. What about Russian to Portuguese? Japanese to French? The possibilities are endless when you’re a global content curation platform like Netflix.
At the end of the day, media is about language, whether expressed verbally or otherwise. Language makes up how we consume most content — we read it, we listen to it. Netflix gives us a window into the world of media and makes it more accessible to a global audience.
Thus, Netflix is about an interconnected web of language barriers that are finally being broken. What translator wouldn’t love it?