Becoming a Translator in Lesser-Known Languages
If you decide to specialize in a lesser-known language (or languages), how viable would a freelance business be?
If you’re a translator and you’re working with the Spanish language, then you already know that there are lots of translators working in this area and that there’s tons of work – probably enough to go around. With languages such as German and French there’s still quite a lot of work, but not an over-abundance of translators working in these languages. Then we have languages like Nepali translation, Tagalog, Amharic, Bulgarian, Icelandic, and so on; and the question is: If you decide to specialize in a lesser-known language (or languages), how viable would a freelance business be?
You Must Do Your Research and Assess the Demand
You’re only looking for enough work for one person, but that could be a struggle with some lesser-known languages. Are you prepared to add additional services such as editing, interpreting, voice-over, etc.? In order to make your business viable you may have to be more open to taking on different tasks, compared with someone who’s translating Japanese or German.
Be Prepared to Translate Anything and Everything in Your Specialty Language.
If you’re going to work with just one language you should expect to be asked to translate all types of documents in your language. Obviously you don’t have to say yes to everything because you should never take on anything that’s beyond your capabilities; but your clients will assume that you’re capable of handling anything at all in your language.
Do You Wish to Work with Agencies?
If your aim is to work with agencies, then blanket the field. Get your applications out there, aiming for between three and five every day. Your resume should be on file with every agency, worldwide.
Look for Trade Ties between Your Non-English Country and English-Speaking Countries
If your aim is to work with direct clients, then one avenue for you is to research any trade ties between your country and English-speaking countries - such as the United States and the United Kingdom. You’ll find that most countries have some sort of foreign direct investment authority, economic development authority, or other similar entities. Do your research and look here for ideas, then contact any companies related to those industries that might possibly be able to use your services.
Translate into English Using a Native English-Speaking Proof-Reader
As a last resort, consider projects that require using your translation skills to translate into English, then use a native English-speaking proof-reader. This may work for small diffusion languages into English, and sometimes this can be the only option. For example, there aren’t many native English-speakers who translate from Khmer or Lingala. In addition, many of these niche countries are popular tourist destinations for English speakers, and most of these tourists wouldn’t understand anything at all about the local language. This means that you may be able to find work translating for resorts in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, or any place that is hoping to attract English speaking tourists.