Working with only one language pair in Europe + adding a pair later in life: realistic?
Thread poster: JulieGe

JulieGe
Canada
Local time: 15:55
English to French
Mar 9

Hi all,

I’ve been freelancing for 15 years in Canada and getting along fine with my one and only language pair (eng-fr).

Now I’m thinking of moving to Europe.

Is it realistic to think I could make a decent living there as a freelancer or as a salaried employee without adding a second combination?

Any of you have experience training in a second language and working with it later in your career?

Thanks.


 

Daniel Frisano
Switzerland
Local time: 21:55
English to Italian
+ ...
Yes Mar 9

Not only you can get by with a single pair, you may even make a comfortable living within a specialized field within that pair.

I do 80-90% patents, and I know colleagues who work almost exclusively in legal or financial.

Adding a second pair can be done either (1) if you already master that 3rd language at least at an intermediate level or (2) if the 3rd language is close to the 2nd, e.g. somebody working in DE-EN who starts doing NL-EN, or (3) factoring in a long and
... See more
Not only you can get by with a single pair, you may even make a comfortable living within a specialized field within that pair.

I do 80-90% patents, and I know colleagues who work almost exclusively in legal or financial.

Adding a second pair can be done either (1) if you already master that 3rd language at least at an intermediate level or (2) if the 3rd language is close to the 2nd, e.g. somebody working in DE-EN who starts doing NL-EN, or (3) factoring in a long and often discouraging assimilation curve. It pays off at the end, but you need tons of patience until you get there.

Realistic, yes, easy... not so much.
Collapse


Christine Andersen
Jorge Payan
Philippe Etienne
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 20:55
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes Mar 9

When I first began freelancing some 40 years ago, I started with two pairs FR-PT and EN-PT, some years later I added ES-PT and IT-PT (I knew both languages at an intermediate level and I wanted to improve my knowledge for future use), but the truth is that I’ve been translating much more EN-PT than any of the other pairs, so…

 

JulieGe
Canada
Local time: 15:55
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Mar 10

Thank you both for your helpful replies.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Make your specialisation work for you Mar 10

I can't see any advantage at all in spending loads of time and perhaps some money learning another language just to get more work. It's a bit different if you happen to have acquired one for some other reason. It would make sense if you were working in quite a rare pair, but IMO in your pair it would only make sense if you wanted to specialise in a very narrow field and could gain expertise quite easily in another language.

Christine Andersen
Jorge Payan
Dan Lucas
Philippe Etienne
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:55
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Concentrate on being really good at what you do Mar 10

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Not only you can get by with a single pair, you may even make a comfortable living within a specialized field within that pair.

I do 80-90% patents, and I know colleagues who work almost exclusively in legal or financial.

Adding a second pair can be done either (1) if you already master that 3rd language at least at an intermediate level or (2) if the 3rd language is close to the 2nd, e.g. somebody working in DE-EN who starts doing NL-EN, or (3) factoring in a long and often discouraging assimilation curve. It pays off at the end, but you need tons of patience until you get there.

Realistic, yes, easy... not so much.


You really need a specialist subject area, and you need to go for the top end of the market. I don't believe machine translation is going to put humans out of work, but if you want to translate, rather than post-edit, you have to aim for the work that MT is not going to take over.
Where fluency and accuracy are absolutely necessary, and where cultural differences and localisation call for real human understanding, not algorithms.

You will be offered post-editing… and I would never discourage anyone who can do it. It is necessary, but it is IMHO a different job and calls for a different approach. Personally, I find it is not what I signed up for as a translator, and I hate it!

Make sure you write the kind of French that clients expect - specialise in differences between Canadian and European French, for instance, and check the variety of English you are working with! You can possibly turn it to your advantage if you do it properly.
I have a similar situation with Scandinavian languages - some people think they are are similar, but there are traps and false friends, which a translator needs to know about.

In a specialist area, I find it is an advantage to be able to take a range of other areas that overlap with your core area. Over the years, I have had several insurance cases, with medical records and correspondence about legal and compensation issues, alongside a lot of e-mails and informal explanations to the patient and non-specialists.
Or work for museums that both carry on academic research and inform tourists and the general public about what is on show in current exhibitions.

I can sometimes take on on a contract with appendices and schedules that describe quite technical products and services to be delivered. On other occasions the contract is straightforward, but the technical side calls for an expert, and I have to turn it down. Here the technical expert needs to know enough about basic contract law to translate the whole document.

Find your niche and good luck!


Philippe Etienne
 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:55
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
But.. Mar 10

I'm not saying you cannot learn another language to translate in - though, mind you, to translate from that language, you have to know it really well, not just obtain superficial knowledge + knowledge of the specialist area which I suggest so as to stand out in that area, and it is difficult enough mastering the terms from one language pair, let alone 2. I mean you have to know the specialist area in 2 source languages + their nuances, culture milieu where systems and way of doing things vary ve... See more
I'm not saying you cannot learn another language to translate in - though, mind you, to translate from that language, you have to know it really well, not just obtain superficial knowledge + knowledge of the specialist area which I suggest so as to stand out in that area, and it is difficult enough mastering the terms from one language pair, let alone 2. I mean you have to know the specialist area in 2 source languages + their nuances, culture milieu where systems and way of doing things vary very much without any equivalence. I translate from 2 different source languages and found the going quite hard but it is not impossible though I agree, you can certainly do well even in Europe with just 1 source language to translate from.Collapse


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:55
Member (2018)
French to English
Where in Europe? Mar 11

If you're moving to a country where they speak a pretty rare language, and if you make the effort to meet other people and speak in that language you can get up to speed pretty quickly, especially if you sign up for a course to learn the finer points that you don't pick up in everyday life.

With a rarer language, you'll find yourself translating a broader range of subjects. At the agency where I worked, I had a different translator into English for each different subject, whereas a
... See more
If you're moving to a country where they speak a pretty rare language, and if you make the effort to meet other people and speak in that language you can get up to speed pretty quickly, especially if you sign up for a course to learn the finer points that you don't pick up in everyday life.

With a rarer language, you'll find yourself translating a broader range of subjects. At the agency where I worked, I had a different translator into English for each different subject, whereas anything in Norwegian went to the same translator each time.
Collapse


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Question Mar 11

JulieGe wrote:
I’ve been freelancing for 15 years in Canada and getting along fine with my one and only language pair (eng-fr).
Now I’m thinking of moving to Europe.

Why would it be any different if you move to Europe? Surely you can do the same work for the same clients wherever in the world you happen to be!

As for adding another language pair, I don't see why you would need to. There's plenty of work out there. Anyway, the more languages/subjects you work in, the less well you will do them.


Sheila Wilson
 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:55
Member
English to French
As a freelancer, yes Mar 11

JulieGe wrote:
...
I’ve been freelancing for 15 years in Canada and getting along fine with my one and only language pair (eng-fr)...

I’ve been freelancing for 19 years in a couple of countries, including European, and getting along fine with my one and only language pair (eng-fr), FR-FR variant only (no FR-CA, FR-BE, FR-CH, FR-LU...). But I'd be a bit wary if I were starting from scratch now.

I moved from Morocco to Spain in 2010 and brought my customer base with me. Improving my proficiency in Spanish to serious-translator level - from scratch 8 years ago - would require a significant investment in time and perhaps money, which is not justified by any single-language-pair issue.

Philippe


 

JulieGe
Canada
Local time: 15:55
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Chris Mar 12

Chris S wrote:
Why would it be any different if you move to Europe? Surely you can do the same work for the same clients wherever in the world you happen to be!

Different fiscal rates. My income would tank to unsustainable levels.


 

JulieGe
Canada
Local time: 15:55
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Philippe Mar 12

Philippe Etienne wrote:
But I'd be a bit wary if I were starting from scratch now.

May I ask why?

Also, Philippe, you said "As a freelancer, yes." But not as an employee?


 


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