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5 Ways to Translate Your Language Skills into Online Earnings Posted by on Mar 9, 2016 in Economics of Language Learning

Last month we shared some tips on putting your languages to work on the ground, how to land in country X with nothing but a couple of bags and a few languages and start making money. But the really secret secret is that you don’t have to actually be anywhere to translate language skills into income.

Globalization and the Internet have transformed the twenty-first century into a massively multilingual snowball: people are expatriating across the planet left and right, and businesses are striving to not only reach markets in different languages and different corners of the globe, but to cut costs while they do it.

In 2016, work is increasingly digital and multilingual. In fact, most ‘digital nomads’ will swear to you that what they do is the future of work (and the evidence suggests they’re probably not wrong). More and more, professionals are deciding to convert their skills into ones and zeros, ditching cubicles and fluorescent lighting for exotic destinations and the nearest wifi hotspot.

If you don’t want to commit to months or years in the same place, want to earn a better wage, or are just tired of stuffy offices and demanding schedules, you’re in luck as a multilingual. Here are just five ways multilinguals can start using their languages online to earn an income and total location independence.

language work online

Photo by Scott Maxworthy under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

1) Bridging languages and cultures: more than just translation

Translation is usually the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about earning money online with your languages, and while it can be a low-hanging fruit for many, it’s not the only nor even the most popular option.

On sites like Upwork and ProZ, those with enough knowledge of at least one other language can sign up and get started translating poor confused expats’ electricity bills and websites for small businesses, usually for a modest two-digit price tag in the beginning. Once you build up some experience on lower-paying sites like those, try approaching bigger customers or reaching out to translation agencies that work with freelancers.

For those interested in going a bit further down the path of preparing texts for different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, there’s more to translation than just translation. Localization, for instance, is the process of translating and tailoring texts to specific regions or customer markets, and transcreation employs strong writing skills and cultural knowledge to maintain the message, tone, and style of an original text while ‘transcreating’ a new text for a new language or different target audience within that language.

Getting started as a translator can be a steep climb, but thankfully there are a lot of resources out there on how to take your first steps.

2) Education for the Global (and Multilingual) Generation

Everyone’s heard of spending a year teaching English abroad, but that requires committing twelve whole months to a foreign country and somebody else’s fixed schedule. You can weigh out the pros and cons of such an endeavor for yourself, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the only way to use your pedagogical skills abroad. Nowadays you can teach just about anything online.

Teaching a language online is only becoming more popular: there’s plenty of demand for online English teachers, and some don’t even require TEFL certification (although the ethics of teaching a language without training or experience are questionable). Furthermore, don’t forget that English isn’t your only option: the world’s most studied languages are generating more demand for teachers year by year.

If Skype teaching isn’t your thing, you can still earn money from online courses. Have a skill you’re pretty good at and speak another language? The web is saturated with online marketing courses in English, but you may find that the Portuguese-speaking market is still ripe for the taking. If you can record instructional yoga videos in Farsi or give piano lessons in Polish, there’s some person or company out there on the internet desperate for your expertise.

3) Multilingual Marketing: Using Your Languages to Get the Word Out

Marketing is everywhere, even though most of us never notice it, and its job is to connect people to products and services that they didn’t know about before. And wherever a company has something to market, it needs people who ‘speak the language’–both literally and figuratively–to deliver their message to their audience.

If you speak and write good Spanish and are familiar with Latin American culture, you can find blogging and content writing jobs for everything from the newest productivity apps to washers and dryers for that market.

Social media is also a centerpiece of most companies’ marketing efforts. That means that, for a new travel app designed for young professionals in Japan, that company will need to find somebody who can tweet and post and stumble in crafty Japanese that will resonate with the youth.

Marketing encompasses a lot of different kinds of jobs and languages, so a good starting point for this path is to google something like “[language] marketing jobs”, throwing in some extra keywords like “remote” or “freelance”, but be sure to search in the language you want to work in for better results.

4) More Linguistic Resources = Better Human Resources

Everything’s going digital nowadays, including humans. Remote work and distributed teams are the flavor of the future, and especially in bigger, more diverse companies, talented people are needed to manage those teams and all the languages and cultural identities that make them up.

Multilinguals make fantastic HR managers, as they’ve got a particularly strong advantage not only in communicating with linguistically diverse teams but with understanding the behaviors and values that make up different people’s working cultures.

For growing companies, especially successful young startups like Air BnB or Uber, recruiters are needed to find the best talent in whichever corner of the world it may lay. Speaking English, German, and Russian could make you the perfect new recruiter for an ambitious company in Eastern Europe scouring the region for talent.

If you’ve already got some experience in HR, try browsing the ‘HR & Recruiting’ category on Flexjobs, or browsing by language on the similar category on Top Language Jobs.

5) Getting Technical: Multilingual Jobs for the Technologically Literate

Techy types have a bit of an advantage in the online work scene, and multilingual techies might very well be the most privileged job-seekers on the Internet. If you work somewhere in the broad field of tech, someone in some language is desperate to hire you right now.

As the Internet and its user demographic grow and change, demand for websites in different languages is skyrocketing. A lot of work goes into developing a multilingual website, and they’re only becoming more popular and necessary. While speaking the language isn’t usually a hard and fast requirement, it will certainly make you stand out as uniquely qualified for the task as hand.

IT support is another fruitful field for the technologically and linguistically gifted, since, as we all know, wherever there’s technology, there’s someone having a problem with it. And, just as is the trend with the other jobs mentioned here, customer support is rapidly moving to the web.

Spanish speakers can start the job hunt with sites like tecoloco.com, which compiles IT support jobs throughout Central America. Whatever your language, if you use it to ask Google nicely, it should give back some fruitful starting points.

language work online

Photo by Stephen Bugno under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This is just a glimpse into how multilingual people are joining the remote work movement, scoring online jobs, and living the laptop lifestyle. Others are project managers, sales representatives, consultants, virtual assistants, and countless other titles.

It’s getting easier every day to take your professional skills with you and plug them in wherever you go, and the more languages you learn, the more opportunities you’ll have to convert those skills into a location independent life of languages and travel.

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About the Author:Jakob Gibbons

I write about language and travel on my blog . I often share my experiences with learning languages on the road, and teaching and learning new speech sounds is my specialty.


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