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Translation and the need for specialization

Posted 1/4/2014

As recently stated in another blog post, the profession of freelance translator is undergoing constant change.

After having considered and analyzed the qualities required to perform adequately as a translator specializing in the field of e-Commerce, we will now move to the meaning of the word “specialization” itself.

While in the past, translators were standing out as the professionals to rely on every time it came to transferring the content of any kind of texts into another language, their position has changed in the last decade. Outsourcers have started to wonder, for example, whether to assign a highly technical medical text to a very good linguist or to choose a physician with good linguistic skills and several years’ experience in that given field to take care of the translation.

On the one hand, this might have contributed to a shortage of work for translators, while on the other it has raised an important issue: the need for specialization.

Nowadays translators often also study some other topic or acquire relevant work experience in a certain field. One often meets colleagues who have studied Psychiatry for years and later attended a school for translator, and who spend a great deal of their time translating relevant literature in their field, or the other way round, i. e. translators who develop a deep passion for, say, Arts and decide to attend courses or laboratories in that field. It may even take less effort than one thinks: a strong passion for diving, riding, or also for cosmetics, jewelry, and fashion can become a starting point for a specialization.

After all, what the market asks for is linguists with hobbies, interests and a strong inclination to learning.

After having attended myself a specialization course about the translation of Contracts, I understood the importance of the approach of that specific course. I did not have to deal with a bunch of terms and their English or German equivalents; on the contrary, I learnt to recognize the different kinds of contracts, found out how they work and what the persons involved can expect in every single case. By learning that, by studying those basics for the Italian jurisdiction, I have developed the means, which help me to recognize a specific kind of contract written in another language and to apply my knowledge in order to have a translation output which makes sense in Italian and which refers to the terminology used in the Civil Code.

I have learnt that each kind of contract foresees the use of a certain terminology and that I will start examining a contract (before translating the first thing about it) by asking myself: “Who wants what from whom and why”.

This is one of the many examples, and of course, there is a whole area of creative translations, which allow more freedom and spontaneity, although they might also require knowledge of some standard rules and codes of communication (on the web, newspapers…).

What we can conclude is, however, that the market is certainly asking for translators who are aware of the world in which they live and who are ready to reflect this knowledge in what they write, and pass it on the reader… A matter of huge responsibility.