Do you know a language or two?
I speak three languages myself, and here are 5 ways I earned income as a multilingual.
Not sure if your skills are up to par to earn a side income? Start with a small gig to put out a feeler. You can try many of these and make a side income this weekend and see which one you like the most.
This is probably the first job that comes to mind for people with multiple language skills.
You can get started with translation by doing favors for your friends. I’ve done translation for news articles, legal contracts, medical records, apps, speeches, textbooks, sales pages, YouTube video captions, and even love letters between a long-distance international couple (they are now happily married).
When it comes to translation, it pays to specialize. For example, translating engineering or legal documents sound boring and difficult, right? That is why professional translators in those fields usually command a higher rate than those who are just translating fun YouTube video captions.
Having an area of expertise would also make it easier to land on client projects because you’re also an expert in the field. It does mean you’re going to need to equip yourself with the background knowledge of the chosen field in both your native and target languages, but that’s something you should start thinking about if you want to earn an income from translation long term.
It’s common for a translator to get paid by the word count or the character count of the source text you’re translating from. Check out this article to learn about how to get started as a translator.
Start Translating this Weekend
You won’t know if translating is something you can enjoy until you try. Why not make some extra bucks for a few minutes of work this weekend?
Create an account on Fiverr, a market place for freelancers who want to offer services for small scale projects.
Set up your profile as a translator and state your language pair. For example, say you are an English to Spanish translator. Offer to translate 100 English words for $5. There’s no need to overcomplicate here. You’re trying to see if you enjoy translating and assess your own language levels and translation skills.
Showcasing an example from your past translation work would make it easier for potential clients to agree to work with you.
Set up your profile on Fiverr and start earning money this weekend.
For further education on being a translator, consider joining ProZ’s paid membership. The membership offers plenty of training materials, as well as access to their premium job boards and discussion boards with fellow translators.
Language Teacher / Conversation Buddy
Teaching English online has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me. Becoming an English teacher is fairly easy to get started, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you don’t have any teaching certificate or don’t know how to teach English grammar.
What does your student want? Sometimes a student just wants a conversation buddy and nothing more. I’ve charged $10, $20, or even $50 per hour just to have a conversation in English, without really teaching anything. Be upfront about the gap of your knowledge (for example, if you don’t know the grammar rules or how standardized tests work, openly say it) and answer the student questions with the best of your ability. If a student asks you whether she used an expression correctly and if it doesn’t quite sound natural, tell her a more common expression that you use.
Of course, you can always study the grammar rules, take standardized language tests yourself, understand the regional language differences, and dabble into pronunciation and accent training in order to increase your value as a language teacher.
Start Teaching a Language this Weekend
Here are my recommended teaching sites that you should sign up to be a teacher.
When creating a teacher profile, highlight some of your interests and areas of expertise to make yourself stand out from other teachers. It would also help students with a common interest to find you.
Italki has a huge database of teachers who can speak and teach all kinds of languages. Although you do not need to be a professional teacher, there still is an application process. You can name your rate, but Italki will charge a 15% fee on transactions between you and your students.
Cambly is an on-demand matching app for English teachers and learners. They do screen your profile before you’re approved since they only feature English teachers who are native or near-native. Cambly pays you $0.17 per minute or $10.20 per hour.
When creating a profile on these sites, use a clean, professional-looking photo and upload a video introducing yourself.
Advice for Teachers
I’ve been an English teacher myself, and I worked with thousands of students. The most common complaint students have about their English tutor is this:
The English teacher speaks way too much.
Remember, as an English tutor and a conversation buddy, your job is to help your students speak English. Ask them a question and shut up. If they’re stuck coming up with the right combination of words or phrases, gently nudge them in the right direction. If your student asks about you, keep your answer short and ask another question that prompts your student to speak more.
Think of yourself more as a facilitator, rather than just a conversation friend. They’re not paying you to only listen to your English. They’re paying you so that they can speak English.
Do you like recommending restaurants and places to check out to your friends? Then why not become a tour guide?
As a tour guide, you get to inform and entertain your customers with cultural, historical, and contemporary anecdotes.
When you take people out for a tour, they’ll ask you stereotypical questions. It’s important not to make them feel stupid when you present them with a more accurate view. You could acknowledge the stereotype they have about the local culture and give a funny example of when that stereotype becomes true.
Be an informer and a storyteller, not a professor.
The difference between an interpreter and a translator is that the interpreter speaks, and the translator writes. You’re the intermediary between the main speaker and the audience. The main speaker speaks, and you say what he or she has said in the language the audience understands. There are two kinds of interpretation.
Consecutive interpretation is when you listen to the main speaker and interpret what he or she has said, line by line. This is a common form of interpretation when you’re interpreting a conversation between two parties or working with an emcee to facilitate an event.
Simultaneous interpretation is when you interpret and speak at the same time as the main speaker. For example, you’re in another segregated interpretation room at an event hall while the audience sits in front of the main speaker while listening to your interpretation on a radio receiver. If a radio transmitter is not available or broken (happened to one of my gigs), you’d sit right behind the table of the audience who needs interpretation and speak at a low volume so as not to be too disturbing to the other audience who does not need the interpretation.
As an interpreter, you have to be able to think quickly on your feet and maintain a high level of concentration for a long period of time. You’ll get paid a whole lot more per hour, but it’ll also be physically draining.
To get some experience as a novice interpreter, look for opportunities in your local communities. Consider interpreting for college events for international students, local church events, non-profit initiatives or, interest-group meetups before you take a stab at a more “serious” business interpretation gigs.
Content Creation, Curation and Publishing
Can you read the news in one language and deliver succinctly in another language? Those skills would be very valuable.
Read the trending news on a particular topic, and write a short, periodic summary in the second language. I did this at my previous corporate job, but I could imagine how you could offer this service as a freelancer or agency.
It doesn’t have to be news or a business topic. You could write about the best local restaurant on a blog, which could tie well to your tour guide gig. Or, blog about your favorite mobile game apps and review their wording and script, and position yourself as a translator specialized in mobile game apps.
Create and curate content and publish them online. Start posting on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. You won’t earn any income immediately, but having a body of work that’s visible publicly can lead you to other opportunities, such as consulting or getting a full-time job.
In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I started my English-learning YouTube channel. I got multiple consulting gigs and job offers as a result.
You could certainly highlight your language skills when getting a full-time job. There are too many possible jobs to list here, but you could start looking into trading companies or companies with an overseas department.
I worked for an IT corporate in Tokyo, as in the Global Communications team. My day to day tasks involved handling the communication between the Japanese headquarter and the offices in Southeast Asia.
In this job, not only are you required to be fluent in English and Japanese, but you’re also required to deliver messages accurately and concisely. Some of my responsibilities involved communicating with journalists and PR personnel, which means I had to be very careful with the way I phrase things so as not to give wrong ideas accidentally.
The job required language skills but also a high degree of business and people skills.
Your Next Step
There are many career options, and it goes a long way to know a second or even a third language.
My recommendation to you right now is to start earning an extra side income from small projects.
Sign up as a Fiverr seller to start offering your translation service.
Become a language tutor on Italki or Cambly and help students learn a language.
Those experiences will lead you to your next big thing in your career trajectory.
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