All writers can benefit from foreign language skills and authors, who aim for international self-publishing success, have even more advantages. Read on to learn more.
1. Become a better writer and editor in your own language
Language structures can vary a lot and if you are new to learning foreign languages, it may feel odd when you find out that you cannot simply translate word by word. You may also come across metaphors that are very different from the ones you are used to. But all of this is great for authors, as you have to think outside the box and develop the skill to juggle with language in a new way, which enables you to express yourself more creatively in your own language as well.
2. Boost your brain power
Scientists have found out that foreign language skills can contribute to developing a sharper mind, improved memory and your overall creativity may benefit as well.
In addition, people with a predisposition for Alzheimer’s usually develop the illness later, if they speak a foreign language, regardless whether they learned it as a child or as an adult.
It is not enough, however, if you acquired your knowledge in the past and forgot about it later – you have to actually use it. But don’t think you are ever too old to learn a language or brush up on rusty skills: I have seen students at retirement age who were better than many young people. In my experience, motivation and passion are more important than anything else.
If it has never occured to you to publish a book in a foreign language, you may want to reconsider, as it can give you extra income.
What if your book could be as popular or even more popular abroad than in you own country, because it covers something that people are particularly interested in elsewhere? Wouldn’t you regret missing out on this? Well, if you don’t speak the language, you might never know…
You have three options to check out foreign markets: you could hire someone to do this for you and the second way would be to wait until information about your area of interest becomes available in English, but this might never happen. The third alternative, i.e. doing research yourself on foreign markets in the language of the country, is by far the most efficient one. It gives you the added benefit to stay up to date with any new developments. As we all know, things are changing very fast in the publishing world.
And when it comes to international book fairs, Frankfurt is certainly the most important one. Last year, they offered a two day programme for self-publishers in English. In addition, there was a lot more information available in German during all 5 days of the Fair, which I found really useful.
Germany is also currently the most promising country to self-publish a book after English-speaking markets, although I am sure that other countries will catch up. Many people find the language scary, though, as the grammar is not the easiest in the world. But if you want to learn it, don’t be discouraged, there is a rather pleasant way to do this. And consider this: German has fewer words than English, which means it becomes easier when you progress.
4. Find a translator of your choice
English native speakers have an advantage when it comes to getting their book translated, because there are more translators out there who translate from English than from any other language. However, is is not necessarily easy to discover them.
Most experienced translators can only be found via websites and social media in their own language. I do have a few links to other translators on my blog, if you click on “Links” above. If you have skills in the relevant language, you can use it to find translators yourself and check out what kind of books they translated in the past. Reviews on Amazon and other sites might then tell you whether these books have been successful.
Recommendations from other authors can help to find translators as well, but these writer colleagues may specialize in a different area and ideally you want to find someone who is good at translating exactly your type of book.
If you are not a native speaker of English, on the other hand, and you want your book to be translated into English, you will often have different challenges, which can be overcome. I have written another article about it.
5. Publish and market your translated book yourself
Once you have your book translated, you might like to have full control and upload it to platforms yourself, which is a lot easier if you know at least a little bit of the language. You might then also get occasional emails from these platforms, which are naturally always in the language of the country. And as far as marketing is concerned, most self-publishers are doing it themselves and even those who are with publishing houses are often doing a lot of it themselves, provided it is a language they are familiar with. If you can contribute at least a bit to it in another language, you have a distinct advantage. Your own contribution comes with the added benefit that you have more say in how exactly you would like to be perceived elsewhere in the world.
6. Read reviews
Once you have published your book in a foreign market, you certainly want to know what people think about it and read your reviews, which won’t be in your native language either.
Learning a foreign language is not just limited to speaking the actual language itself. It also provides more insight into another culture. You discover that certain ways of human behaviour and interaction that you always took for granted can be quite different in other parts of the world. This knowledge can help to understand how your book is received elsewhere, even if you acquire only basic skills and any actual communication takes place in English. Accessing a culture through its language can provide a broader view and you will see more cultural nuances that go beyond the general stereotypes.
And finally some words on Google Translate
Google Translate and other automated translation can sometimes help, but you will very often see strange or even funny results. These are not the biggest problem, because you can immediately spot that something is wrong. It is worse to deal with translations that seem right, but are actually not. You assume you know what this is all about, but you don’t. Therefore an actual knowledge of the language, however modest, is always an advantage.