To specialise or not to specialise
To specialise or not to specialise, this is the question many translators ask themselves, particularly during the early stages of their career. Whilst other factors for a successful career in translation are also important, such as commensurate academic credentials and experience in using computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, my answer to the question of whether or not to specialise is a clear ‘yes’. Specialisation offers significant advantages for both the translator and the client. But what does specialisation mean and what exactly are its merits?
The route to becoming a translator typically involves a language degree and, more often than not, a non-linguistic degree and/or professional experience in a field other than foreign languages. In my case, this comprises a degree in economics and more than two decades spent in London’s banking sector.
Why is non-linguistic specialised experience so important?
Why is non-linguistic specialised experience so important? Because it provides the translator with a solid foundation in thematic fields that are in high demand in the translation industry, such as business (e.g. financial reports and corporate communication), and legal (e.g. contracts). The same applies to other fields of specialisation, e.g. medical and technical texts. A lateral move into the translation industry should ideally include a linguistic degree, for example in the UK the internationally renowned in Diploma in Translation by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL). A combination of linguistic and non-linguistic expertise ensures that translators have in-depth experience in the relevant vocabulary and text type and have developed some finesse when rendering texts into their mother tongue so that the translation reads like an authentic text rather than a translation. The translator’s knowledge of specialised terms is helpful when building glossaries that support speedy and consistent translations, often aided by translation memories that are specific to a sector or client.
❝Specialisation contributes to high-quality translations, smooth client interaction, and higher fees. It’s a win-win situation fostering long-term client relationships.
Specialisation makes the transition into a successful translation career easier since translators can then launch their career with a high level of confidence in their abilities, and they can approach translation agencies known for their specialisation as well as direct clients active in the relevant sector. Specialisation contributes to high-quality translations, smooth client interaction, and higher fees. It’s a win-win situation fostering long-term client relationships.
I offer specialised translations in the fields of business, legal and social science and would always recommend colleagues to develop their own field of excellence to ensure client satisfaction and, thus, help build a successful and long-lasting translation career. Specialisation is relevant in various service offerings that are part of a translator’s profile, e.g. post-editing, revision, proofreading, transcription etc. It can also provide some degree of protection in an environment where, with the rise of machine translations, human translation is increasingly commoditised.