Translating from German to a second language

Dear Joanna

I am a freelance translator. I have a BA in English translation, but my native language is not English. I have been working as a freelance translator for 4 years.

Currently, I am studying German, but I haven't mastered it yet. I love learning a new language and I would like to become a German translator (translating from German to English and vice versa).

I know that for a non-native English or German speaker doing the task of translating the source language into a language other than your mother tongue is considered very hard or almost impossible. However, I read on this subject online and another translator was talking about a translator who translated texts into language that wasn't native to him and was very successful at doing so.

I was wondering if pursuing this path might gain any results and if so, where should I start regarding German translation?

Or should I look into another career that needs foreign language skills? I would like to know your opinion on this matter.

Thank you for your consideration


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German to English Translation
by: Charlie Bavister

While searching over the internet for German translation I found your amazing blog which has great information regarding German translation. Thanks for sharing with us, and I will try to share this on my social platform also.

A fairly common situation!
by: Joanna

Hi Atusa

Thanks for your email. I suspect you’re in a similar position to many others considering a future in professional translation.

With a BA in English translation, your English must already be pretty good. But as you plan to translate into a language which is not your native tongue, one idea might be to specialize in a fairly specific field, one with a relatively restricted and established range of terminology and vocabulary. I’m thinking of subjects such as law, finance/banking/insurance, technology, engineering, etc. Of course, this will depend on your own educational background, interests, strengths and experience. Perhaps you should avoid more linguistically creative fields, such as marketing and PR, where language use can be far more subtle.

You say you’ve been working in translation for 4 years already, so I’d ask what languages you are currently working with? And where’s the problem? If your language combination is too popular, you need to specialize in order to command sufficiently good rates.

You’re right to take an analytical approach to your future in translation, but only you can judge your linguistic abilities. Are you are natural linguist, fascinated by language and able to pick up a new language quickly? Do you have the time and resources to invest in language and translation qualifications? Many of the good translators I’ve met/heard about who are able to translate in and out of multiple languages have a bilingual background, are highly qualified, and are long term residents of one or both of the countries in which the language they work with is spoken.

You have many options, and language skills will always be in demand, whether they are the focus of your professional career or not.

Wishing you all the best,


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German to English Translation

Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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