I found this funny.
Novelist Strike Fails to Affect Nation Whatsover
I'm an aspiring writer from Europe. Although it's not my first language, I do all my fiction writing in English. When submitting queries to agents, I was wondering how relevant my job is: I translate non-fiction texts to English, specifically websites and flyers for relatively small companies. It's not fiction, and it's not my own writing, but I do get paid for something that relates to my knowledge of the English language and ability to string sentences together in a vaguely coherent fashion (which is always a plus in writing). Since I have no other writing credentials, this was all I could think of that *might* be relevant in a query letter. What do you think/recommend? Would you see it as positive, neutral, or as grasping at straws?
And while we're on that subject, do you recommend mentioning that I'm a foreign author in the query letter, or to not bring it up until later (on the off chance that the agent is interested in my work)?
To answer your questions in random order:
(1) If your first language is English or you are very, very good at it and primarily write in it (as you seem to), there is no harm in saying you are a foreign writer. Some agents actually find it exotic, and there is an increasing interest in foreign markets (especially with the strength of the euro), so so ahead. Some people who do not know enough English to write in English do query us, but it's always very obvious from their query that they cannot write in English and would require a translator to help them.
(2) By all means, mention any translation work in or out of English, as that is a serious writing credit. Translation, as you know, is very difficult, and if you've done it professionally, it shows how you understand the importance of selecting words and phrases to convey meaning.
To discuss the topic at large, and not your questions specifically, there is a translation market in the US that is always seeking translators, small though it may be. The US market is notoriously xenophobic, and we export far more literature (translated and untranslated) than we import, so generally people who do work in translating foreign works into English are very proud and occasionally a little self-righteous about it.
The English language market is the biggest market for the written word in the world except perhaps for China (in Mandarin). There are a number of historical, political, and economic reasons for this. Thanks to British and American colonialism, English is spoken at least as a second language in - I want to say a majority of countries, but I can't back it up. America and Britain also have strong economies that can support massive book production and have high literacy rates, meaning we are an atmosphere to produce more readers and more people who have enough of a separate income to become writers. While China is approaching us on this, China also has massive state suppression of the press, which includes Chinese novels and the importation and translation of foreign novelists. My convocation speaker at Brown was some Chinese exile poet we'd never heard of.
The biggest translation market in the US, in both directions, is Spanish. English works are constantly translated into Spanish for Spanish-speaking Americans, while Spanish works are particularly hot items on the literary fiction market (especially if the writers are from South America). When I took a translation course for my MFA program to pass my second language competency requirement, almost everyone in the room did Spanish except for a few people who did French because they took it in high school, and three others. I did ancient Hebrew, one woman did Yiddish, and one girl was from Taiwan and did Chinese.
I'm forgetting a lot of growing markets, and leaving out religious markets (which aside from the Christian ones, are almost entirely separate from mainstream publishing) because this is off the top of my head. For all of the Arabic speakers in the world, I've seen very few translations of text that aren't the Qur'an (for which, I recommend Ahmed Ali's translation). Some famous Russian literature of course comes to mind, though most of it dates to pre-Communist or early Communist Russia. And then there's French literature, a lot of dating from when French was a second language to everyone who spoke English (i.e. the 1200s to the 1900s). So excuse me for leaving out major contributions here, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying.