Living in your source language or target 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 source language skills and cultural knowledge up-to-date.

Many translators will tell you that their source 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.

While many translators state that living in a country where their source language is spoken helps keep their skills up-to-date, 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

Although I currently live in my home country (the United Kingdom) I personally 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.

 

To see samples of my French into English work please click here.

To see samples of my Spanish into English work please click here.

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