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?
Is learning languages a hobby for you? Are you a polyglot, someone who speaks multiple languages fluently? Have you thought about what are the best jobs for polyglots?
Learning languages as a hobby and being a polyglot has many perks, like being able to understand sports commentary delivered in other languages or the ability to read texts written in obscure languages like Cyrillic. That’s fine and good…but what if this hobby could be monetized?
A lot of people out there know more than one language, but they don’t actually use this special skill in a way that makes them money. Being a polyglot is attractive within many different job fields, including these four jobs that are absolutely perfect for polyglots.
This is perhaps the most obvious career you can have when you’re a fan of languages. Translation is simply taking words in one language and translating them into another, like translating a brochure written in English into Chinese.
The problem many polyglots encounter when it comes to translating is that they don’t expect the career to require so many other varied tasks. A translator needs to be a “people person”, understand project management responsibilities and language fluidity. It’s not enough to translate words directly — you have to write them in a way that flows well.
Language Training or Teaching
You’ll find that foreign language teachers are always in demand, and the more “rare” the language, the more likely you’ll be to find a job. This job choice may require special certification or specific degrees depending on the state or country involved. Some countries require Bachelor’s Degrees in order to teach a foreign language while teaching languages out of the country can require other specifications.
Teaching also doesn’t have to occur within a classroom. From community centers to online courses, you can find teaching and training positions outside of education establishments.
Finally, online streaming services and media manufacturers are constantly looking for skilled linguists to translate their content into different languages for scripting and subtitling. Netflix and Hulu are two big employers of polyglots. They need multilingual translators to help grow their language base by adding multi-language subtitles to their video content.
If you want to avoid writing, there are other types of jobs for polyglots, too! For example, interpretation may be the better job position for you. Interpreting is like translation in the spoken sense. Imagine there are two people who want to talk but who share no common language. As an interpreter, you can bridge this communication gap by translating for each person. This is also a very basic interpretation of the career; some interpreters help translate for large audiences and within other scenarios.
Interpreters must also be in tune with people. They must be ready to translate tense situations, especially depending on where they’re interpreting. Airlines, pharmacies, police stations, schools. Interpreters exist everywhere, and the context of the conversations change depending on the setting.
Jobs for Polyglots
These are four examples of great jobs that polyglots can apply to and likely land with no problem. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the ONLY four jobs out there. Many different vocations look at someone who has language skills as preferable when compared to someone who only knows one language.
In short, when you put “polyglot” on your resume, you’re likely to get a lot of job offers — but which one will you choose?
Translating is a global job in more ways than one. There’s the obvious correlation in that as a translator, you probably are fluent in languages from around the world; like French, English, Korean and Russian all in one mental melting pot.
The other aspect of translating as a global business is that many translators actually travel while working on their projects. Some never leave home. Some hop around the country. Some are bonafide globetrotters!
No matter how far you travel — whether to foreign lands or to the corner store — translators on the go need tools that work for their mobile needs. These five tools are great for all translators to use, but they’re especially useful for any translators who need mobile capabilities.
Working on projects that require translations often means communicating with clients from outside of your timezone. For instance, translating a guide from Japanese to English means you may be going to sleep when you client is waking up. WorldTimeBuddy is a handy tool that helps you establish time zones, conversions and differences, even when multiple timezones are in the mix.
It’s always great to have a trusty program like Microsoft Word on your desktop computer, but what if you’re on the go? What if you don’t have access to your own computer? Google Docs is an absolute lifesaver in situations like these. You can create documents, easily share them and also have access to them based on your account — not your computer. It’s also easy to share documents with others via Google Docs, whether it’s with an editor or a client for approval.
Storing data and sharing it with clients are two cornerstones of the translation industry. It’s always great to have hard copies of your completed projects on hand, as well as in progress translation jobs that need to be shared between editors and others. Dropbox is an integrated storage application that can work from your desktop and your web browser. Simply drag and drop files to upload them, then invite other users to share your folders.
Programs like Word have pretty decent spellcheck systems in place…but what happens when you don’t have access to that program? Apps like Grammarly are perfect for translators who need to use online methods to write content. Even though the app isn’t directly compatible with Google Docs, it’s still possible to upload files from your computer or device to the Grammarly app. From there you can see grammatical and spelling errors you can fix in the home document.
Finally, translators on the go don’t always have time for checking emails and onboarding new clients. The process can be rather lengthy without a tool like YouCanBook.Me. Once users have created an account, YCBM connects to their iCloud or Google account and accesses their calendar. From there you can set up an account and share your grid, enabling easy bookings with highlighted availability dates.
Don’t let static programs and apps keep you grounded. Find tools that work for your mobile lifestyle and translate (while making money) no matter where you are!
It’s often difficult to describe to people what it means to be a freelance translator. There are still some who have a hard time wrapping their heads around how anyone would or could work from anywhere but a desk within a cubicle, and you may get the combination look of disbelief and surprisingly, pity.
Somehow “freelance” translates to some as “not a stable job” and “translator” makes a few people think that freelance translators are glamorous multilinguistic great travelers of the world.
Then they ask just how many languages a freelance translator should, in fact, speak and expect them to suddenly recite sonnets in 12 different ones. They are surprised to find out that some can only speak 3; technically 2 because they are not fully conversational in the third yet. How can anyone who only knows 2.5 languages be a translator by profession, who works from anywhere, no less?
The reality of working from anywhere
To be a freelance translator, you certainly don’t need to be an expert in multiple languages. But you absolutely must be fluent in at least two of the languages you offer to translate.
And because there are plenty of good translator social networking websites, finding jobs isn’t challenging at all. Apart from freelancer websites, you can also easily find jobs on translator portals and translation agencies. You will get to work with clients, not for them. Realistic deadlines and competitive rates are agreed upon with each respecting the urgency of the project and the nature of your “office hours.”
Since you choose how often you work, you also decide just how much you can earn. For some, this can mean working by the hour or getting paid per project. Again, your schedule, your rates, your rules.
The perks of being a freelance translator
In theory, you can work from anywhere. For some, anywhere is right in the comfort of their own home. But if you were to wake up one morning (or afternoon) and say you wanted to work from the new café around the corner, then you could also certainly do that. Working anywhere really does mean you can work by the beach, in transit, or even on a park bench. You can work wherever your productivity is at its peak.
As a freelance translator, you can set your own terms and define what work-life balance means to you. There are those of us who have never quite fit into the 9-5 work day mold or the “normal” 5-day week.
Perhaps one of the biggest perks about freelance work as a translator is all the money you don’t spend on the commute to the office in the city. There is no more need for the daily shuttle from office to home. Not stressing over the commute also means never worrying about the weather and having to brave the elements.
Yes, there are plenty of telecommuting jobs that are just as convenient and cost-effective, but because of the service you will provide as a freelance translator, yours will be rewarding.
As for “the look” some get when they say that they work from anywhere; You can always say, “I can do my job so efficiently that a boss doesn’t need to constantly look over my shoulder as I work. And because of that, I have rewarded myself the luxury to choose where I work, when, and how often.”
Sometimes, it can be difficult to actually explain what it means to be a freelance translator. People can have varying ideas of what it is you actually do and how it can actually be a “real” job.
So why fight it? Why not just have fun with it and let people’s imaginations roam with what it is you actually do?
For example, imagine the amazing opportunities to entertain yourself at the next boring dinner party you get roped in to attending.
You’re minding your own business, hanging out at the shrimp cocktail platter at the party. Out of the blue, another guest approaches you and says, “So, what’s this I hear about you now being a freelance translator?”
They hang air quotes around “freelance translator” as if it’s a fake term.
You smile politely, nodding your head and staying focused on the shrimp cocktail on your napkin. Truthfully, you are trying to choose your words carefully. Let’s be honest: it’s difficult to explain your business sometimes.
“Yes it’s been an interesting year to –“
They don’t let it go. “Wow! That’s cool! I barely passed English class, let alone speak, like, 19 languages like you. Now you get to just get up when you want, work in your pyjamas and listen to headphones all day. Sounds easy. Must be nice.”
“Well…” you try to clarify that you don’t actually speak 18 languages but they are on a train that is now barreling down the tracks.
“My uncle’s cousin’s ex-roommate needed a translator for some documents one time and he said it was expensive. What’s with that? Like can’t they just use Google Translate and it’s good enough? And don’t you find it boring reading other languages all day long? And how long does it take you to… ”
You suddenly get the urge to wave past his shoulder and say, “Oh, look! There’s Elvis!”
But no, you’re bigger than that. You are a going to represent your career with pride.
Instead of blaming Elvis, you simply smile and say, “Well, for starters, I don’t actually wear pyjamas…”
Maybe some things are just better left to the imagination 😉
I was on a flight from New York to Dakar, Senegal, working on translating a pitch for a German TV series, when it hit me that translation project management and air travel share a lot of striking similarities.
Both air travel and translation are functions of globalization: the first in a physical sense, literally bringing people together and making distances between countries and continents shrink, the second through bridging linguistic divides, connecting individuals and businesses by translating and localizing their content and communications.
The more I thought about it (I had plenty of time: the flight from JFK to Dakar’s Léopold Sédar Senghor airport takes 8 hours), the clearer the parallels became. Let’s look at it step by step:
Ready for Take-Off: Translation Project Preparation vs. Pre-Flight Routines
Translation projects and commercial airline flights can’t be launched on a whim. Both need meticulous, careful preparation to make sure they come off without a hitch.
The first thing any flight requires is a flight plan. The two crucial considerations are fuel calculations to ensure the plane can reach its destination in the most cost-effective way and the best choice of a route by selecting airways and waypoints that comply with air traffic safety regulations and ensure a successful and efficient flight.
Similarly, once a translation project has been commissioned, the project manager has to create a project plan that guarantees the successful completion according to the client’s specifications. The right translators for the required language pair(s) have to be found. Deadlines and project milestones need to be identified. Estimates have to be calculated in much the same way a flight planner calculates the minimum necessary fuel load to guarantee a safe flight.
Now the client can send the files (and the ground crew can board the aircraft) — but even with the passengers in place, the plane/project isn’t quite ready to get off the ground yet.
Before take-off, the captain goes down his pre-flight checklist and mechanics will conduct one or more “walk-arounds” — the so-called physical external check, looking for impact damage, fuel, oil or hydraulic leaks, or blocked ports.
Before a translation project can get off the ground, the project manager also conducts a number of mission-critical checks. Depending on the file format the source texts arrive in, text has to be prepared, segmented, and aligned. Terms have to be extracted and researched, glossaries and term databases created. Translators may need special instructions about file formats, naming conventions, or special project terminology.
In both cases, launching the flight/project without taking all necessary precautions can be fatal.
Cruising Altitude: Executing the Translation Project and In-Flight Monitoring
Once our translation project/transatlantic flight has taken off, it enters a new phase. The role of the translation project manager, which is to say, the air traffic controller in charge of the flight, changes. With all the appropriate planning and preparation completed, they are now more concerned with monitoring and controlling during the flight/translation itself.
In a modern aircraft, flight management systems handle a wide variety of in-flight tasks — to the point where they don’t even any longer carry flight engineers or navigators
It’s tempting to compare the so-called “auto pilot” to modern CAT (computer aided translation) tools. And while translation memories and machine translation can make any translation project easier, they can never replace human translators — much like you wouldn’t send a commercial civilian airliner on its way without a pilot and a computerized flight management system alone.
During the duration of the flight, en-route air traffic controllers monitor the flight and stay in radio and radar contact with the aircraft. They can direct the route, instruct it to climb or descend, provide information about weather conditions and handle unexpected events, such as emergencies or unscheduled traffic.
During this stage in the project, translation project managers often feel like they are sitting in an air traffic control tower as well. Like John Cusack in the 1999 comedy Pushing Tin, they have to multitask to the extreme, dealing with changes in project scope, translators no-shows or delays, additional files, delayed deliverables and time-zone management without succumbing to the stress inherent in juggling incoming and outgoing files in countless languages and formats at all times of day and night.
Whether it’s turbulence or corrupted files without proper backups, this stage of the project/flight is about dealing with unexpected complications while keeping the clients/passengers as happy as possible and bringing the flight/translation in for a smooth, on-time landing. Often, this involves having the cabin crew go around one more time with appeasing smiles and free alcoholic beverages while the flight goes for another “go around” in a holding pattern and the final document is sent for one more round of proof reading.
A Safe Landing
As my flight landed on schedule in Dakar, I was grateful once again for the smooth cooperation between flight attendants, in-flight and ground crews to assure a safe and pleasant trip. These days, we take air travel almost for granted, forgetting how much work, attention, and care goes into even the most routine flight.
In the same way, the smooth, on-time delivery of a translation project owes much to meticulous planning, translating, and proofreading that often goes unnoticed by the client. As the plane descends on its final approach and local air traffic controllers take over, translation project managers run final consistency checks, missing word detection, grammar checks and test advanced file formats for compliance.
When everything goes well and the project arrives safely and on time, we barely notice any turbulence and perhaps even took a little nap that keeps the worst effects of jet lag at bay. On our way to claim our luggage, we thank the crew who waves and says, “we hope you choose to fly with us again in the future.”
Like any airline, a good translation agency aims to build a long-term relationship with its valued customers, project by well-executed project. The only thing missing are platinum “frequent translator” accounts that grant clients access to a VIP lounge while we prepare their next project for take-off.