Friday, May 29, 2015

Why It's Hard to Be a Translator and a Language Lover

You might have guessed that we like languages here at The Lingua File. However, what you may not have known (though might have guessed), is that we are both freelance translators. 

Before going any further, I believe it's important to state that I am aware that being a translator requires much more than simply speaking two languages.

As a language lover, I want to share my passion for languages with everyone. I love sharing stories about the trials and tribulations of learning another language as well as the interesting facets and nuances of said languages.

My love of languages started with learning languages, which eventually set me on the path to studying translation, and in turn led me to become a freelance translator. As a freelance translator, all of my income is reliant on the fact that my clients do not have the language skills necessary to complete their own translations.

If you're familiar with translation work, you'll be aware that it's hardly the most lucrative of industries (though it's not the least either). In the UK, the average wage for authors, writers, and translators is around £26,000 per year. I believe this is rather low given that professional translators require near-native knowledge of at least two languages (which often requires in-country experience), impeccable cultural knowledge, between four and six years of higher education, and expertise in whatever field their translations may be in. For those living outside of the UK who would be quite happy earning this amount per year, do not forget that wages are related to the cost of living, which is rather high in the UK. But I digress...

One part of me would love for everyone to have the same passion for foreign languages as me and yearn to learn more of and about them. However, the other part worries about an increasing number of skilled linguists inevitably ending up in the translation industry, which would result in more competition (which is better for the consumer than the translator), lower wages, and make finding work more difficult. Do I really want everyone in the world to learn more languages, or do I want to protect my own financial interests?

Are you a translator (freelance or otherwise)? How do you strike the balance between loving languages and keeping your skills valued and sought after? Voice your opinion in the comments below.