One of the most discussed aspects of translation is whether it’s 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’ll 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’ve 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’ll 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.
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’m at home. However, the Internet means that this is less of a problem than it would’ve been previously.