Translation Industry in Germany

Topics: Translation, Language interpretation, Professional association Pages: 11 (2982 words) Published: March 9, 2013
The Translation Industry

Presentation 1 – Draft version for 15th February

* How does the translation industry operate in my area?

My area of focus is Germany. I translate from German to English and am permanently living in Frankfurt. Therefore both my current and future client base is over here, with the occasional exception. Nonetheless, for anyone working into English, it is vital to keep up with the UK translation market and, if possible, to be listed with any professional bodies/organisations in the UK. So, I shall also be looking at certain aspects of the UK market as well.

The German translation market is not regulated. Therefore the market is full of translators calling themselves a translator without necessarily holding any real qualifications. Latest figures state there to be around 40,000 translators, 2/3rds of which are women. 33,000 of these are said to be free-lance workers, whilst the remaining 7,000 work as in-house translators1.

The translation market in Germany has a turnover of around 1bn euro. With globalisation leading to ever more integrated business connections, demand for translation is steadily increasing. The sector is expecting a yearly growth of at least 10% up to 20152.

There is some regulation when it comes to the translation of official documentation. In order to be able to work as a certified translator, you need to have passed the state certification exams set by the Ministry for Culture - Staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer3 and can then be listed as an official translator. This allows you to work in court and in any official public offices as a translator of documents, transcripts, certificates etc. The problem is that this speciality does not pay well particularly well.

1. Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer (BdÜ)

2. IHK & analysis


A very convenient aspect of setting up a business in Germany is the so-called Kleinunternehmerreglung4. This is essentially a tax benefit for start-ups or freelancers, whereby in the first year of business you can earn up to 17,500 euros and in the following year up to 50,000 euros without paying any taxes. You simply get a tax number from the relevant bodies and then state this tax exemption clause and your tax number on every bill that you send out. This is a perfect way of sussing out the market without having to tie yourself to a GmbH (a Ltd company).

So as a qualified (or non-qualified) translator, what are your options in the German market? If you are qualified, then you can either chose to approach agencies, or to set up on your own. The agencies will most likely send you a sample text to translate and if they are happy with the results they will put you on their books. Depending on your specialisation you could be looking at a regular amount of work, but would probably need to be working for a handful of agencies in order to actually make a living from it. The agencies only pay you a small part of the actual monies they receive for the translation. There are many agencies in Germany: two of the largest with around 15 regional offices around the country are Lingua-World and das Übersetzernetzwerk.

Should you decide to go free-lance then you have many more options. If you have the state accreditation, then this allows you to list yourself on numerous official sites for potential clients seeking a translator. Firstly you can register with the BdÜ – Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer5, a professional association that is certainly the most reputable address in the country, similar to the IOL. They have exceptionally high standards and once on their official database you can expect to receive serious work enquiries and opportunities. But you do need to prove yourself in order to get there: either the state examination, proof of long-term official work as a translator or a post-graduate degree...
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