Make money with languages

 

french

Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages. – Dave Barry

 

 

I speak a few languages, among them English, French and Spanish to a level of fluency that allows me to make money with it. This website is one fine example of how I make money because I speak English. I will go into more details below, it is sufficient to say that over the years, being trilingual has made me a lot of money being monolingual wouldn’t have. How can you make money thanks to your language skills?

 

 

Ask for more money at your day job

 

I was hired at my last job because I spoke three languages well, and another two they could use too. They didn’t care about my Master in Business or my previous work experience, or that I didn’t know much about computer languages and it was a job that required coding skills. They said learning HTML is like learning another language so you can do it. It was true, computer languages are simpler than learning the pluperfect.

Once I was trained, I could support foreign customers, and my colleagues could not, so I was more valuable than they were. I got a big raise. If your language skills are going to be needed at work, you can ask for more money than a person who just speaks English. You open your company to new markets, can reach new customers, can translate their website, and so on.

Learning languages is not that expensive, you can borrow books at the library or learn online, and you can also finance a language course with companies like Credit Noble. Just figure out the return on investment to see if it is worth it. For me, it was a 30% raise over the course of a year, so the answer is a big yes.

 

Make money teaching languages

 

Another way I made quite a bit of money with my language skills was teaching French and Spanish to English speakers. I worked for myself and gave private lessons at night and on weekends on top of my day job. I also worked on behalf of a few language companies for their corporate clients about to be relocated by their firm to France or Switzerland, and I gave them crash courses before they moved.

My usual rate was $50 per hour, although I got up to $90 per hour. With transportation, it took about an hour and a half of my time to give a one hour lesson, but the money was much better than baby-sitting or tutoring kids for homework.

A friend of mine is teaching languages via Skype, with much lower rates, but in the comfort of his own home, and this is a location independent job, so he can be on the beach in Honolulu and still make money.

 

Make an app or a language program

 

This one requires that you have computer skills on top of your language skills, although you can hire out most of the tech process. Many people are looking to improve their language skills, and if you know how to position your product properly, you may be able to sell it to them.

It can be a language app like duolingo,  a small conversation book for your smartphone, or those funny programs that will listen to you talk and then talk back, saying what you just said in another language.

More and more people are traveling internationally each year. The world is getting smaller, and the need to communicate bigger. I can’t help you with the details of how to start making such apps, but I am confident that with proper marketing, there is money to be made.

 

Freelance translation gigs

 

Another way I made money with my language skills was translating documents and websites for people. Most of my jobs I got from word of mouth. It is a tough world online to get translation jobs, as many people highly bilingual from lower cost of living countries will be at 10% of what you bid for.

But if you know people who may be expanding internationally or looking for a translation of their manual, work documents, etc. it is a great way to make extra money.

I mostly translated websites, sometimes within the software, sometimes they would send me a Word document with the content of the website and I would translate in Word. I also translated my own writing when I wrote for travel websites and they launched the same site in a new country I spoke the language of. It took way less time as I knew what I had written before in another language.

Usual rates are around $0.10 per word, then you can ask extra if the text is technical, if you have to upload it online or perform another complicated action.

Companies such as 1st Transnational marketing translations can hire you as well, rates are generally lower but they will do all the work of finding clients, following up etc. which means your hourly rate will only be spent translating, not doing back office work.

 

 

Enjoy new niches

 

This is where this website pops up again. If I had started my personal finance website in France, I would have had a readership limited to residents of the Hexagon. Actually, there are a couple of websites who tried to take over the PF niche, one is a Ramit Sethi copycat, and the worst is he admits it, the other one tried to tackle the coupon/frugal niche and is pretty painful to read as well.

France is a nation of thrifty people. Our grandparents lived through the war, our parents grew up with rationed food still, they mend and make do, they are not in debt except for a mortgage that will be long paid by the time they retire, they have a cushy pension courtesy of the French government. There may be things to talk about, but people who would listen are far and few. So thanks to my English skills, I was able to start two blogs which generate a nice little side income, and to showcase my reading to any English speaker in the world. RFI has readers on the five continents, it would be a miracle if the same had happened with my French blog.

 

One step further, I was once hired as a business developer for a company. Their point was “you have lived and traveled all over the world, you may know business concepts that are not being developed here but could be successful, give us ideas and we will fund the projects”. Thanks to a multilingual background, I was able to get several jobs that were otherwise out of reach, but people were ready to gamble on me because I spoke several languages.

 

Have you ever got a job thanks to your language skills? What would you add to my list?

 

This post was featured on the Yakezie Carnival, Mo Money Mo Houses, Control Your Cash, thank you!


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About Pauline

A 30 something French girl looking for ways to make more money. I blog about real estate, side hustles, improving your career, investing and making money online.

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Comments

  1. I have gotten jobs because of my Spanish skills. Actually almost all of my jobs I got were because of my Spanish proficiency. The 5k I spent in undergrad studying abroad really paid off! I find that learning other languages helps me understand cultures, understand English better and helps me communicate. I’ve also tried to learn French and Portuguese, but with little success. This year I’d like to focus on increasing my skills, because I know it pays off.
    Dear Debt recently posted…How to Survive a Long Distance Relationship – On a BudgetMy Profile

  2. We managed to get a transfer with work from the UK to Marseille because we spoke a little French. Sometimes, you only need that little bit to get the opportunity to progress further.

    Oh, and speaking with others in their native tongue should be all the motivation you need to learn a new language. The money on top is an added bonus!!
    moneystepper recently posted…Salary changes over time – by sector in the UKMy Profile

    • That is fantastic when you can position yourself as the only one able to do the job, even though you only speak a little. It can improve your career a lot.

  3. I can only speak English, so I suspect my language skills might not be as in demand as many other peoples. Still, the idea of teaching English doesn’t sound too bad.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted…What is Cryptocurrency – Bitcoin, Litecoin, PeercoinMy Profile

    • There are a few good deals if you go teach in Dubai or Korea for example, teachers are on expat packages with their housing paid, right after college it is a great way to travel while being paid and saving a bit.

  4. I would love to speak more than just English!

    I can attest to what you have said here. I’ve seen a lot of executives at other companies come through and get promoted because of not just their ability to speak the language, but also because they were familiar with the culture and well traveled. In business, that can count for a lot!
    MMD @ My Money Design recently posted…Traditional vs Roth 401k – Is the Roth Really the Better Deal? Maybe Not!My Profile

    • I think my round the world trip for a year after college was a great investment, because it shows flexibility, adaptability on a CV and you can leverage that pretty well those days.

  5. Unfortunately I do not have any language skills outside of English. I can sometimes catch a few words of Spanish, but I never dove into learning it as much as I should have while I was in school. I think if I had language skills outside of English I would leverage it to work with businesses outside of the United States.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Is Roku a Good Alternative to Cable?My Profile

    • Expat jobs are the best you can do with your language skills, although they are becoming very rare. People in Guatemala have amazing pay packages when they come work for a US company.

  6. I speak 2 languages and I’m confused. Some people are naturally just better at language learning and I don’t think I’m one of them. But I do want to challenge myself to learn a third language.
    Michelle’s Finance Journal recently posted…WordPressers Making a Splash: January EditionMy Profile

    • If you choose a close language (for example you speak Spanish and try to learn Italian) it can be pretty easy to learn, then the next language comes even easier. Although I forgot most of my Italian by living in a Spanish speaking country for the past few years.

  7. I’m envious you have those skills, much like I’m envious of people who can play an instrument or sing. Here in the states there was NOT much emphasis places on learning another language at a young age, and by the time it was an elective in school, most people just avoided it, or did the bare minimum then forgot everything they learned. Like me. I know a tiny, tiny bit of French as it’s my favorite foreign language, but without dedication and practice it really goes to waste.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Imbalance and Lifestyle InflationMy Profile

    • That is a shame, but English is so dominant those days you will rarely find a business person unable to speak English. If you do however, that is a great new market for you.

  8. Knowing multiple languages is clearly a bonus, but it matters a lot what languages you know. I’m fluent in Romanian (my native language) and English, but knowing Romanian doesn’t open many doors. I am really upset that I didn’t invest more time in high school learning the two other languages I should’ve learned – Spanish and German – knowing them would’ve certainly opened up a ton more opportunities.
    C. the Romanian recently posted…Why Do We Care What Others Think of Us?My Profile

  9. I’ve never had a job because of my language skills but my hubby speaks three languages (Greek, French and English). I always tell him he should get a translating gig!
    Liz recently posted…Should I Get a Master’s Degree?My Profile

  10. Language skills are key! I wish I had more of an aptitude for language, but unfortunately I really don’t. I can get by in French (sort of) and have picked up a tiny bit of Spanish and German as well.
    I had two friends in university who worked doing translations for one person’s Mom. They were translating stuff from Spanish to English for immigration and refugee cases. It was a lot better pay than working at the local bar, plus looks good on a resume.
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted…Group Wedding Gift for A GuyMy Profile

  11. Hey Pauline and thanks for an enjoyable read :)

    The only language I know is English, although there are those who say that music is a language as well so I guess I know two languages intimately!

    While I have never used my language as a business model, apart from writing on blogs, I have had friends who taught English as a second language at home and in Japan. If I had the lust to wander I might have done something like that myself…but since I prefer staying home, I’m good :)

    Thanks again Pauline and take care. All the best.

    Lyle
    lyle @ The Joy of Simple recently posted…My Five Simple And Frugal Tips To Save Cash In 2014 And BeyondMy Profile

  12. Alas, only English – though I’ve made plenty of money tutoring foreign students who don’t have English as a first language.
    eemusings recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Sweet San FranciscoMy Profile

  13. Great idea, though I don’t know if I can make money on my french. I definitely need to brush up on my second language skills that’s for sure.
    Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses recently posted…Top Personal Finance Books of 2014 – Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!My Profile

  14. I have a job as a police dispatcher with a decent sized agency and the coworkers who speak multiple languages usually make more money. If we don’t have anyone in the dispatch center who speaks the language of the caller, we have to transfer to a very expensive AT&T interpreter. I would say that knowing more than one language can make you extra money.
    zimmy recently posted…Freelance Writer? Earn Some Extra Money With DevtomeMy Profile

  15. Besides English, I’m a native speaker of Portuguese and I’m learning some Japanese. School taught me a bit of Spanish, but most of my skills in that language are now lost, since I haven’t practiced for years… Any suggested languages I should pick for online translation jobs?

    • My dream was always to live overseas from the US. In college ended up studying German and reached a good if unspectacular level. I was able to land a cool job in New Zealand because they were looking for someone who could speak German. (of all languages) It was for an international company headquartered in Switzerland. The pay was less than in the USA, but hey it was NZ! After a fun year in New Zealand, I was offered a job at the headquarters in Switzerland. I was ecstatic….the money was about 60% more than what i would have made in the US and with lower taxes. After 6 years in Switzerland, life has been great, I have picked up some french and italian as well so it will help me in the future as well

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    • Gabriel says:

      It’s not required to have much technical knowledge for starting a blog, most of the skills you can just pick along the way. Even if you want to go “pro” (get a proper host instead of using services such as Blogger and WordPress.com), pretty much all hosting services offer a suite of useful tools already installed and make it very easy for the user to customize. More advanced stuff such as plug-ins are usually available on the web, either for free or a reasonable price.

      That said, you might want to learn some basics: how the web works, what a CMS does and how to choose the ideal one for you, analytic tools for blogs, a bit of SEO, etc. Just don’t get too obsessed with SEO, worry about making a good site for humans rather than search engines.

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