Article in partnership with Day Translations. According to an article by Day Translations’ parent company Day Interpreting, in the US the largest market for language interpretation is for English to Spanish and viceversa. This is because Spanish is the second most spoken language in the US, with neighbouring Mexico being an important trading partner for the States, which requires Spanish to English and English to Spanish interpretation.
Quoting from that article, 31 countries speak Spanish which equates to approximately to 16% of countries worldwide.
Chinese and Arabic follow Spanish as the most requested languages for interpreting and translating. However, both Chinese and Arabic comprise several dialects and variations.
How much can someone who is qualified in language translation earn per year, based on the most requested languages?
Translation Jobs Paying the Highest According to Jobs Website Indeed
Jobs website Indeed researched which languages attracted the highest salaries. The figures quoted in this 2021 may be subject to change, however they give a good indication of trends and where the biggest earning opportunities lie.
Between 2019 and 2021 in the States the prediction from the Bureau of Labor was a 20% growth in language-related jobs, particularly in interpreting and translation. The expected average salary for language specialists was calculated at more than $50k a year.
Looking at $50k per year salaries, Indeed compiled a list of ten languages that attract that level of earnings and above.
In the top spot is German, a language associated with a country with a strong economy and even stronger international trading partners. One of the advantages of learning German for non natives is that it is a complex language and therefore competition for jobs is lower compared to other languages. Of course, native German speakers can often speak a second and third language. In Germany the education system encourages children to start learning foreign languages from an early age: you can expect primary school students to start acquaintancing themselves with the sounds of spoken English, with a view of progressively learning English grammar.
Mandarin and Arabic follow as most requested languages for translators, attracting annual salaries of approximately $70K.
Interestingly, those considering a career in Universities teaching French can earn even more, about $80K per year.
The most interesting roles that require language translation are to be found in sectors such as gaming, legal, technical and medical. A factor that also has a positive influence on earning potential is the language pairs being used and in which field.
For example, legal translations in Portugal for Chinese expats or medical translations in Spain for Moroccan patients or translating manufacturing instructions from Swedish to Dutch can be well paid because they are very specific roles requiring both technical knowledge and unique language pairs. It is worth looking at Eastern European languages as well, with Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish, Estonian and so on being in demand, as people travel across European countries to live and work.
Interesting language combinations can be, for example, translating to and from German and Japanese or German and Vietnamese or German and Hindi or German and Korean, depending on global trade relations of individual countries.
For professional translators, looking at what the market needs, how many translators are already available to work and how much demand there is can inform which area to specialise in.