Before I discuss how to become a translator in India, let’s talk about a few things first.
First, why would you want to become a translator in India?
Business in India
So, in order for translators to become successful it helps if the translator is translating for a business located in a country with a strong economy.
Because as we all know, a struggling business in a terrible economy is not going to be looking to have their business translated into another language.
They’ve got other things to worry about.
Like how to sell their product in their native language.
But once a business starts to do well, which is an effect of a strong economy with high purchasing power for citizens, it can start to look to expand operations.
And one of the ways to do that is by offering products and services to a new segment of the population that doesn’t speak your language.
So what about India?
What about it’s economy?
Is it strong or weak?
Or in other words, are businesses ready to expand internationally? Or at least locally into another language or dialect?
First, India’s economy.
In terms of GDP (or Gross National Product), India ranks number 7 in the world.
In terms of PPP (or Purchasing Power Parity), India is number 3.
At the end of 2014, India replaced China as having the world’s fastest growing major economy.
It’s richest state (Maharashtra) has a nominal GDP on par with Pakistan and Portugal.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
India’s economy is tops.
Languages Spoken in India
Quick, how many languages are spoken in India?
I didn’t know, but I knew it was a lot.
But it’s way more than I would have guessed.
India has 22 official languages. You’ve likely never heard of most of them, unless you live in India.
- Hindi – 380 million speakers
- Bengali – 83 million speakers
- Telugu – 75 million speakers
- Tamil – 70 million speakers
- Marathi – 70 million speakers
- Gujarati – 6o million speakers
- Kannada – 44 million speakers
- Urdu – 52 million speakers
- Malayalam – 33 million speakers
- Odia – 32 million speakers
- Punjabi – 29 million speakers
- Assamese – 13 million speakers
- Maithili – 12.2 million speakers
- Santali – 6.5 million speakers
- Kashmiri – 5.5 million speakers
- Manipuri – 3 million speakers
- Nepali – 2.9 million speakers
- Sindhi – 2.5 million speakers
- Konkani – 2.5 million speakers
- Dogri – 2.3 million speakers
- Bodo – 1.4 million speakers
- Sanskrit – 1,000 speakers
In addition to its 22 official languages, the 2001 census in India recorded:
1635 rationalised mother tongues, 234 identifiable mother tongues and 22 major languages
So nearly 2,000 languages total spoken in India. And that doesn’t even count the non-native languages to the country.
Again, a ripe opportunity for anyone looking to become a translator in India.
English in India
And speaking of non-native languages spoken in India, let’s talk about English.
We all know how prominent English is.
It’s spoken nearly everywhere.
It’s the third most natively-spoken language, only behind Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.
It’s the most commonly-used language online.
It’s the world’s most influential language.
Finally, it’s the world’s most widely-spoken language when you add the number of native English speakers to the number of people who speak it as a second language.
Nearly 1.8 billion people fit into this category!
But what about English in India?
Well, some estimates say that 4% of the population in India speak English.
That might not seem like a lot at first, but when you remember that there are around 900 million people living in India, that’s a good 36 million people that speak English.
That’s makes India the country with the most English speakers behind only the U.S. and the UK.
And for a lot of reasons (most of them political), English, while not one of the 22 official languages of India, still remains at the heart of Indian politics, culture, higher education, and society as a whole.
(English is one of the two official languages of the Union Government of India.)
For translators, this is a plus.
This means that there should be ample opportunities to both translate into English as well as from English.
Population in India
Let’s face it. The more people that speak a given language, the more work (generally) a translator will have translating to or from that language.
I wrote about this somewhat in the post on translation salaries.
I call this the Translator’s Paradox.
Which would you rather be?
One of a handful of translators that can translate a low-density language with not a big demand for translation…
…one of a ton of translators that can translate a high-density language that always needs to be translated?
Low Demand + Low Competition?
High Demand + High Competition?
(High Demand + Low Competition obviously is the best but not many (if any) languages fit into this category.)
Luckily, for our discussion, India fits into both categories.
It has high-density languages that high demand and high competition, but also has language pairs that are low demand and low competition.
Translators can succeed at either spectrum.
That’s one of the benefits when talking about how to become a translator in India.
Ease of Doing Business in India
If there is a negative for translators currently in India or future language junkies looking to become a translator in India, it is without a doubt the as of doing business in India.
There’s actually an index (or measurement) that ranks different countries on how easy it is for people to do business.
It’s based on the average of the following 10 subindices:
- Starting a business
- Dealing with construction permits
- Getting electricity
- Registering property
- Getting credit
- Protecting investors
- Paying taxes
- Trading across borders
- Enforcing contracts
- Resolving insolvency
So, where does India rank?
130 out of 190 countries.
Actually, not very good at all.
It’s behind Iran, Nepal, and Lesotho.
That being said, not every one of these subindices is going to matter for someone looking to become a translator in India.
You’re probably not going to have to deal with construction permits, for example.
However, others could matter, like starting a business or enforcing contracts.
(Feel free to read more on the specifics if you’re interested.)
Regardless, there are still a lot of positives for anyone considering becoming a translator in India.
And now that we’ve discussed the benefits, let’s talk about how to do it once you’ve decided it’s worth it.
Steps to Become a Translator in India
OK, so just like everywhere else, to become a translator in India will require one of two paths to be taken.
If you’re a language expert living inside India and want to become a translator in India, you’re going to follow a slightly different set of steps than a translator living outside India in order to reach your goal.
However, each of these paths has significant crossover, so we’ll talk about them both together.
Feel free to use what is applicable to your particular situation.
First of all, the Ease of Doing Business index I mentioned above is going to have a bigger impact on you than someone looking to do business with India but living outside the country.
But don’t let that scare you.
There are plenty of translators within India that have made it happen before you.
You can become a translator in India, too.
Find a professional translator organization in India.
The first thing you want to do is look for a professional translation organization in India.
These organizations have members that have already gone through what you’re looking to do.
They know the market, the red tape, the good, the bad, and the ugly about becoming a translator in India.
After a quick search, Indian Translators Association seems to be the main translation association here (although I’m sure there are others).
- Indian Translators Association (http://itaindia.org/translators/) – This page has a list of 63 translators with their full contact information. If you emailed all of them (individually, so you don’t spam them) with your questions, I’m sure at least one would answer.
Contact the members of this organization to help you to navigate your way.
Reach out to translation companies in India.
There are a whole host of translation companies in India.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it here again. Translation agencies are a way for you to get started as a translator.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a translator in the UK, in Russia, Sweden, or in India.
Finding the right contacts and clients that will give you a shot to get started is all a numbers game.
The more people you reach out to, the more likely it is that you’ll find someone that needs your services and hires you.
How do you find translation companies in India?
A simple Google search.
ten twelve translation companies in India I found by doing a 30-second search on Google:
- Indian Translator
- Ideal Lingua Translations
- Language Services Bureau
- Crystal Hues
- Salwai Translation Services
- Mayflower Language Services
- Translation in India
- Shakti Enterprise
- Integrated Language Solutions
- Trans Infopreneur
- Lingual Consultancy
Contact each one of them. Tell them that you are a translator with experience and are looking to expand your clientele.
Build a relationship with each of them and work to have it blossom into a working partnership.
Do this with every translation company in India that you can.
Eventually you’ll have success, in the form of someone saying yes, that the company will hire you for a job.
Contact companies in India that could use your skills.
There are thousands of companies in India that need translators.
Some of them might hire in-house translators but most will use independent freelance translators.
These will be businesses ranging from steel manufacturers to medical technology companies to high-tech enterprises.
It doesn’t matter what your specialization is, you’ll be able to find multiple companies that need your services.
It’s just a matter of starting.
The jobs are out there and yours for the taking.
Until next time.