Living in your source language or native language country: which is best?

One of the most discussed aspects of translation is whether it is better for a translator to live in a country where their source language is spoken or to reside in their native country.

Advantages of living in a country where your source language is spoken

• Easier to keep your foreign language skills and cultural knowledge up-to-date.

Many translators will tell you that their foreign language skills get a bit “rusty” if they live in a country where a different language is spoken. If you live in a country where your source language is spoken then you will have ready access to newspapers, television, cultural events and native speakers meaning you can keep your skills up-to-date without even having to think about it.

• Better marketing opportunities?

Several translators I have spoken to have attended networking events and been told: “It’s a pity, we could use people with your language combination but in the opposite direction”. This would suggest that if you live in a country where your source language is spoken you will find it easier to network with potential clients.

Disadvantages of living in a country where your source language is spoken

• Harder to keep up-to-date with target language and culture.

Many translators state that living in a country where their source language is spoken helps keep their skills up-to-date. However, others claim that they would lose capabilities in their target language if there were immersed in their source language culture long-term. Indeed, many translation agencies will only work with translators who live in a country where their target language is spoken for that reason.

My opinion

While I currently live in my native country (the United Kingdom), I prefer living in one of my source language countries simply because I find it easier to work on my target language skills abroad than to work on my source language skills when I am at home. However, the Internet means that this is less of a problem that it would have been previously.

 
 

See samples of my French into English work

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