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The luxury of knowing certain languages or why investing in the languages you already know is your best bet

You think speaking Italian is chic.
Of course you do!
I do too!

But just for the record: For me vino and latte are NOT trendy words that I have incorporated into my vocabulary. They are plain items on my shopping list (I’ve always wanted to say this!!!).
Hey gondoliere! Give us a ride to the nearest, cheapest and fanciest hotel! Subito!

Everybody dreams of Venice, the most fabled place in Italy. But the truth is this. The Venetian lagoon is smelly in the summer and polluted. Swim in it and you will need a new skin. Oh and the gondola treat is a rip off. At least it used to be before the crisis. But I don’t think the gondolieri are doing any discounts.

Translating “luxury”only into certain languages (but of course!)

Last time I checked one of the branches of the tree to the left
in the garden of this villa was on sale for 10.000 usd. Let me make some calls.

Nobody can question the fascino of this country, its beauty, its mesmerising landscape and its elegance. Who doesn’t drool over the idea of a wedding in Tuscany or a honeymoon in Venice? The Italians play a leading part worldwide when it comes to image and style and it’s only fair and natural that Italy is famous for exporting high quality luxury goods. What they did in the food industry is also remarkable. Exquisite food but even more exquisite promotion owing to successful branding. But factories are closing down. Barilla moved (I think to the USA). Pirelli too. I heard Fiat is firing personnel. It’s such a shame that for translation work in pairs like mine (Italian to Greek), “chic” isn’t helping. I have seen various Italian sites for food and luxury goods – especially luxury goods - and I haven’t found A SINGLE ONE with a Greek version. Of course there isn’t one! Why translate an entire site for just a dozen of potential clients/speakers of a specific language? Who is more likely to afford to buy a villa on Lake Como now or use SICIS's lavish mosaics in their bathroom? Can it be a Greek (politicians and the elite wouldn’t expose themselves now…at least I hope so), French, Spanish, Portuguese or - most likely - a Chinese, Arab, Russian client?

Learning Chinese, Arabic or Russian (who are you kidding?)

 For a man like that, I would definitely learn Russian if I had to

I find Russian really fascinating. Truth is I love the Russian letters but listening to the language reminds me of Perestroika and Red October (and Shawn Connery). I love Dostoyevsky but I can’t get “into” the Russian culture. Chinese seems like going to another planet (but I must admit I find the Chinese language tremendously intelligent with symbols being associated to words…but who can remember all that? I’m not a baby). As far as Arabic is concerned, I would never be able to pronounce hhhhhh and even though they have a beautiful writing system – and don’t forget they introduced the numeric system in Europe – I can’t find any motive that would keep me challenged enough to learn Arabic.

Oops, I think I twisted my ankle. Oh, no! I can’t move. …What? No hablas Inglés?

And then there’s Spanish. Almodovar, tango, the bulls. Everybody speaks Spanish. I mean, it’s the second most common language in the USA and “versions” of it are spoken in Chile, Argentina, Brazil etc. I understand most of it when I hear it because I know Italian. I read tweets in Spanish, getting all excited when I understand the meaning (at least I think I do). When I know what they are talking about, I retweet them. Luckily nobody tried to start a discussion with me in Spanish but I think I can manage (by responding in Italian of course)…

But who has the time and energy for a new language when you practically have so little time to yourself?

I’m not saying you should not. But all that time you are going to invest in language learning why not invest it in ways that you can reap benefits from your existing skills? Not just translation. It can be language teaching via skype or baby-sitting/teaching a 5 year old or even do some volunteer work that can bring in paid work sometime in the future. That’s investing. How far can you go with a new language? Maybe you will reach a decent level but realistically speaking will it boost your translation work? Or will it give you a pointless stress? Who needs more stress?

If you want to learn a new language out of pure interest and love for languages, that’s another issue…

Invest in what you know (that’s more like it!)

As far as I’m concerned, I have given up on the idea of learning a new language. Guess what. Since I’ve done that, I’m getting busier and busier! At the moment, I am working with an existing client on translating a variety of food and drink products. I’m so excited! I couldn’t ask for a more interesting field! I’m also getting more work “out of nowhere” without even trying or sending marketing emails.

I’m investing in what I know. Without any “investment” plans or fixed goals. I believe in flexibility. Creative flexibility. And since we are talking about flexibility there’s an extraordinary blog that I suggest you all go check it out. It’s a priceless and “kind” resource for your freelancing. It’s called Freelancery. Throughout Walt Kania’s posts you can feel this “freedom” of doing and deciding and self-respect. He doesn’t tell you “you absolutely should do this” or “10 ways to ensure complete freelance failure” as if you want to hear the word “failure” at 8.00am when you open your emails!

You need to begin by feeling proud of what you already know and what you have done so far. It’s not easy to make it as a freelance translator today with all the competition ready to eat you alive! And I’m not telling you how challenging it has been to work with a little baby in the house. But let’s just keep that private. Don’t want to stave off any potential customers now do we?

Be realistic about your dreams. Some dreams like learning a new language might be exciting but do you have the time for it? Why not improve your existing skills, try seeing how you can be more productive as a freelancer with the languages you already know? Translation is just one option. Share your thoughts!

Guest post by Magda, an IT to GR freelance translator specialising in baby products, marketing, and advertising. She used to work in banking and has a very useful BA in sociology. Besides, Magda is passionate about design, words, Venice, the Greek islands and other enchanting places. 
The 1st and last image were created by Magda for the purposes of this guest post. If you want to republish “Proud to be a freelance translator” image on your site please give the link to this post. The image is not for commercial use. The credit for the other pictures – in order of appearance - belongs to,, and


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