What's the Competition Doing?

February 5, 2024
What's the Competition Doing?

The language that you translate will to a large extent determine the rates that you can charge and the demand that there will be for your skills. So which common languages are most in demand? Which will pay best? Here we look at 7 of the most sought-after languages for translation to ensure that you know where you sit compared with the competition. 

The official figures

Over half the world speaks one of these 10 languages, connecting cultures and driving business across the globe! According to the CIA World Factbook, these are the top 10 most spoken languages, based on the percentage of native speakers:

English - 18.8%
Mandarin Chinese - 13.8%
Hindi - 7.5%
Spanish - 6.9%
French - 3.4%
Arabic - 3.4%
Bengali - 3.4%
Russian - 3.2%
Portuguese - 3.2%
Urdu - 2.9%

Thus translating one (or more) of these languages is a guaranteed way to open up a large number of potential jobs. 

Get a head start

Your native language will determine the translation services that you can offer, so the competition is largely based on how widely your particular language is spoken. For example, Spanish is the most widely taught second language in schools in the United States, so a high number of individuals can translate from Spanish to English and vice versa. 

Spanish, as the second most spoken language in the world, is much in demand for translation, but its widespread usage means that competition from other translators is likely to be fierce!

Discover the 15 best languages you should learn and boost your career.

Maximize your profits

Consider how much demand there is for the translation of your language when you set your rates. Consider also the level of competition that you face, as this will also determine how much you can charge and still successfully gain clients. Mandarin is the world’s most widely spoken language, yet the number of available Mandarin-to-English translators is far lower than the number of Spanish-to-English translators. Therefore if you can translate Mandarin you already have a serious competitive edge. 

Two for the price of one

If you are lucky enough to speak two linked languages, this can impact positively on your translation income. Portuguese and Spanish, for example, though they sound very different, have a large number of grammatical, construction, and spelling similarities. By speaking one fluently, you may find that the other comes naturally to you as a second string to add to your translation bow. Portuguese, as the seventh most spoken language in the world, is in much demand. 

Think outside the box

While both Spanish and German translators are frequently sought after, non-European languages top the tables of the world’s most spoken languages, with Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, and Russian all making the top ten of languages when listed by number of speakers. 

Be a rarity

Translating lesser-spoken languages can be a great way to boost your translation income and stay one step ahead of the competition. One online survey found Burmese to be the most in-demand language for translation on its site, when demands for translation were compared to the number of available translators. By singling yourself out as a rarity, you can capture a larger portion of the translation market for your chosen language. 

Which language do you translate and how do you single yourself out from the competition? Share your experiences in the comments box. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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