Translation services are a premium service globally. If you get to ever talk to translators they will tell you that it is big money. The approaches to translation services are varied. It can be real-time live translation e.g. when two people with different languages are conversing. It can be voice-overs e.g. on video content or even real-time live broadcasting. It can also be in written form where one translates a piece of text or writing. My focus today is writing translation services as a business in Zimbabwe. There are lots of undiscovered business opportunities in that regard.

Why This Business Idea?

A few days ago I saw a story about the lack of Ndebele textbooks for young age groups in Bulawayo. It got me thinking about how widespread this problem could be. I figured it expands even beyond just the academic field. I started thinking about the number of languages in Zimbabwe – we have 16 official languages. These are English, Shona, Ndebele, Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koi-san, Nambya, Ndau, Shangani, Sign Language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa.

Just how many of those languages are fully represented in all available literature? There are countless people out there who are deprived of valuable literature because it is not available in their language. Their inclusion will mean interventions in writing translation services. It also dawned on me that this line of business can create employment for many Zimbabweans. There are Zimbabweans out there who studied or majored in linguistics who can put their skills to noble and lucrative use.

Possible Clients

The range of possible clients is quite broad. The academic system would be one of the biggest clients or client pools. I believe core textbooks need to be translated into several local languages. The excessive dependence on English is why local languages in Zimbabwe are not celebrated. I remember back then I used to dislike BTV from Botswana. This was because you would rarely find content in English. It would mostly be their native language(s). If when kids are young they do not have access to textbooks in local languages, they can never celebrate them. The same goes for novels and other types of non-academic literature.

From the academic field, there are other possible clients such as government and associated departments. An interesting example that comes to mind is the Zimbabwe Constitution. We also have other commonly read literature such as the bible, for example. There are also areas such as civic society. Most of their activities entail engaging at times marginalized minority language communities. It would help if they had literature made in or translated into their languages. You have places like airports, hotels, restaurants, and other types of public places. It would be necessary at times to have literature available in various languages.

The Prospects

The prospects of this type of business are quite significant. On average, writing translation services can be charged at around 12 US cents per word – typical for a range of up to 1000 words. That would be US$120 for 1000 words. The charge per word can vary given the length of work involved. It is also possible to charge per project or hour; it depends on the scenario in question. No doubt writing translation is demanding but there is good money to be made. The important thing is to strategically niche such that your focus is profitable. For instance, it can be wise to work on writing translation work that has repeat purchases. As in, you only get to work once but the income will be recurrent over the long haul.

That is writing translation as a business in Zimbabwe, and trust me the opportunities are even more. Consider voiceovers or subtitles on video content e.g. documentaries, films, series, and so on. How many locally-made videos have you seen with voiceovers or subtitles? Writing translation services are yet to become a common feature in Zimbabwe. There is so much money to be made and most of you are sleeping on this. I know this is speaking directly to some of you; what are you waiting for? Go for it!