Learning of which language pays more?

ad peter and aybee77: You are welcome. I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have with regard to translating and/or interpreting (even though it may take some time before I can respond). As for proz.com I’d like to add that sometimes translators post jobs there as well (because they may not be able to handle an assignment all by themselves due to the volume of the job or a really tight deadline). My experience has been that these jobs are mostly better paid than those coming from translation agencies. But, of course, you will also find honest and fair people who run their own agencies. I have been working a lot for agencies but I have never gotten into contact with any of them through proz.com or translatorscafe.com etc.

In my opinion proz.com is one of the more reliable sites with many experienced and helpful translators. Whether they are all on the site to get jobs or are focusing on establishing contacts with colleagues I cannot tell. I used to be a member maybe 10 or 12 years ago. And I still use that site from time to time to look up specific terms and/or translations. Of course, I also try to offer help to other translators there. As I said, it might be a good idea to have a look at the site to get some understanding of what is required to become a translator. Just know what to expect and you should be fine.

ad Friedemann: (…) I have heard somewhere that people who can translate Chinese novels are in extremely high demand and are very well paid (…)

This must be due to the rather recent popularity of Chinese literature in the West and to the fact that it certainly is extremely difficult to find translators who possess the skills necessary for this rather daunting task. I have read a few articles by experienced translators (some of them writers themselves) who said that they believe that some Chinese literature supposedly is simply not translatable.

As for European languages, translators are mostly paid comparatively low rates for the translation of novels (mostly by the page, while otherwise you are paid either by so-called standard lines or the number of words which results in a much higher pay than getting a lump-sum per page).

This is an interesting article about people who translate novels and other literary works: Kreativität an kurzer Leine - DER SPIEGEL

The article is old but unfortunately the situation has not improved much. So, I guess the Chinese translators you are talking about are extremely lucky. Most translators of novels I met did not make more than 1,500 EUR a month (and, of course, they have to pay taxes, social security contributions etc.). The big money goes to the publishing houses.

ALL of them have all their contracts written in English (sometimes only in English and sometimes in English and the local language).

As an Eastern European lawyer I would add, that translators are normally not allowed to do actual translations of contracts. Just proofreading. As for proofreading, quality standards in international legal firms normally require it to be done by native speakers. So, at this league, each translator’s main working language is his native one and all the interaction with other languages is limited to doing the comparison with the document he is proofreading. However, there is also a lot of room for doing simultaneous oral translations on business negotiations, if you are planing to live in the country.

ad eugrus:
(…) As an Eastern European lawyer I would add, that translators are normally not allowed to do actual translations of contracts. (…)

This must be a peculiarity of the Russian market. I have been working for American, Austrian, German lawyers for more than a decade and I personally know a lot of other translators who are not lawyers themselves and who translate legal texts. Actually, in some cases I proofread translations done by lawyers. Most of them know the legal terms of course but this does not automatically qualify them for the work of translators. Besides, in Western countries we have certified translators (I’m afraid I don’t know what the situation is like in Russia in this respect) and if the worst comes to the worst and contract parties take legal action against each other the court will request certified translations of contracts etc. and these cannot be provided by a lawyer (unless, of course, he is also a certified translator).

(…) As for proofreading, quality standards in international legal firms normally require it to be done by native speakers. (…)

I’d say yes and no. The reason why I proofread a lot of legal texts written by native speakers of English is that there is a risk of them having misunderstood the German source text and misinterpreting a legal term may cause much more harm than a grammatical mistake or a not so elegant wording. There is no doubt whatsoever that their level of English is higher than mine but misinterpretations of German legal terms or complicated sentence structures are more common than one might think and my job is to make sure there aren’t any errors of this kind in the translations. When a client is more concerned about the style he normally hires a native speaker of English to do the proofreading, if he worries that the translator has misunderstood the German source text, it is mostly Austrians he wants to check the translation.

I always contact the translator of course if I think that there is a mistake and we talk about it. I don’t just correct the text. (By the way, my translations are also checked by colleagues). The Austrian legal term “Bestandsverträge” for example has been translated incorrectly by native speakers of English in about 80 % of the texts I have proofread. And since sometimes texts lack enough context to verify the exact meaning of a term, I can readily understand why this happens. In most cases the translators interpret “Bestand” here as “inventory”, which however is completely wrong. It is this kind of things I am checking.

I guess the best way to ensure a high-quality outcome is to have an experienced translator working in his mother tongue and closely cooperating with the client when it comes to clarifying any doubts that may arise.

In any case you seem to have an excellent professional background, being a lawyer and obviously having a very good command of German. Just the kind of experts the international market is looking for I guess.

P.S. I am working on a large legal translation right now (into German) :wink:

I have seen Arabic, Pashto and Farsi have been in a great demand recently for political reasons. A translator of these languages can get paid $180.000 per year in certain areas. Pashto is the best paying language right now because of its importance these days and because of the shortage of translators.