Career as a translator, which languages? (UK)?

Hey there, I am currently completing an undergraduate degree in Classics (mostly ancient greek), but following my passion for languages I am aiming for a career as a translator. Ambitious I know, but I am determined to do it. Of course, many languages are needed but I am having trouble deciding which ones to go for. I have read much advice along the lines of 'do the culture that you are most interested in', and I thinks that's a good way to go about it.

I am British, but I speak fluent Polish as I have had several Polish boyfriends and picked up the language fairly quickly and I plan to teach English there when I graduate just to improve. I am absolutely in love with Poland, esp. Krakow, plus I think this would be a good language to learn. It's an EU country, with a growing economy, large diaspora community, increasing business links so I think it would be a good one from what I've researched. Also, translators are required (in europe at least) to translate into their mother tongue only, which would give me a huge advantage since although the Poles are falling over themselves desperately learning English, I have never met any native English speakers with fluent Polish.

Can anyone give any hints as to some other languages that would be useful is addition to Polish. I do not want to go for Chinese, Arabic, Spanish etc. as these don't interest me and/or are not practical to learn alongside Polish. I am a fan of unusual eastern european languages really, so I was thinking maybe Lithuanian/Lativian/Hunagrian/Modern Greek? It would certainly add to the rarity value among these languages, but would I be specialising too much? I know reasonable French and German from school, but everyone offers these languages and there is naturally fierce competition for jobs. If I had to pick another language I was crazy about it would be Finnish, but I can't imagine there is much call for Finnish translators. Though I imagine there would be few Brits with fluent Finnish... Obviously it is important to go for the languages that grab you but I want to be pragmatic as well and not limit myself unnecessarily.

Could anybody with experience in this industry or with specific links offer me anything by way of advice? I have done my research and scoured the internet but could do with some pointers from people in the know about the industry.

Many thanks.

2 Answers

  • 8 years ago
    Best Answer

    The industry is completely unpredictable. While on the one hand it is tempting to learn the most common languages, on the other hand those with knowledge of less common ones will be able to step in and seize unusual opportunities as they present themselves. There is a growing number of native English speakers with fluent Polish -- those Poles who were brought up and schooled in the UK and who therefore know more English than Polish. I am thinking of one such person whose command of English would shame many a native speaker!

    The best thing is to follow your heart and also consider whether you really want to be a translator. It is a solitary job and you sound as though you are the kind of person who would be happier following another profession in which you use your languages. I believe the most successful translators are those with a thorough grasp of technical language in their own profession and years of experience in using it. Do you really want to restrict your options in this way?

    Another thing to consider is the availability of courses in your chosen language(s). Part of the reason for university students tending to stick to the well trodden paths is that these are the languages taught. While it might seem attractive to branch out and study something unusual, you will have to think whether this is actually a language offered on the faculty of your choice -- and whether there are sufficient students taking it for it to be continued to be offered when your time comes. If there are not enough students to make a course worthwhile, it tends to be axed during cost cutting exercises.

  • 4 years ago

    There is a major market out there for chinese translators as the country is one of the world's leading economies so to be honest I would try to rethink that chioce but now on to the other languages: Russian it's a huge country and like it being scarce to find native english speaker that is fluent in Russian (Polish people had to learn Russian in a similar way that native English speakers had to learn Latin). Romanian, Czech Slovakian are some ideas. Hope this helped.

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