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Is there a market for Spanish>English patent translation?
Thread poster: Jill Heske
Jill Heske  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:19
Spanish to English
Apr 14, 2008

Hi All!

I am a Translations Studies student and brand new to Proz.com. I have a Master of Science degree in Engineering and have been in IT, as a programmer, for 25 years, so I'm really looking forward to doing IT translations. My husband is a patent agent so I thought that with my technical background it might be a great idea to specialize in patent translations. I was wondering whether some of the experienced translators could comment on whether there is a market for translating patents from Spanish to English, and if so, could elaborate a bit. If there is a potential market, I will take the time to study the field and even take some patent application and claims-related courses. I'm just beginning my studies, so I have time to elect the Legal Translating (obviously more general than patent law) courses too, if there is a chance that this would help.

Thanks so much to the experts for any advice!


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:19
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
You will have to find the market Apr 15, 2008

I have been "established" as a Spanish and French into English translators for about 10 years. It has taken me ten years to be asked to translate an expert opinion about a patent from Spanish-English, merely because an agency looked at my profile on Proz and asked me if I could take on the work

Nobody will come knocking at your door. Any opportunities you get will come from your own efforts.

Who knows if there is a market for Spanish into English patents, but somebody must be doing them. I doubt whether you will get a helping hand to directly lead you to your desires.

If I were you I would contact the Patent Offices direct (wherever they may be), but there must be details on sites re patents, and let them know about your talents.

Nothing is handed to us on a plate in this profession I am afraid.

You can only hope for another translator who is in this field to tell you how they got into translating patents

Sorry I cannot be of further help to you.

Liz Askew


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Jill Heske  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:19
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Apr 15, 2008

Thanks very much for your comments. I'm not sure I've ever heard of a profession where the clients come knocking at your door, especially at the beginning. Wouldn't we all love it if they did!

Right now I'm just a student trying to investigate possible areas of specialization. Asking the experts is one of a variety of methods I'll use to investigate my possibilities. I'm hoping that being in the US, in close proximity to Latin America and its rapidly developing economies, might provide some interesting opportunities.

Thanks again for your thoughts.


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Kathryn Litherland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:19
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
more work in IT and engineering Apr 16, 2008

I'm fairly new to the freelance side myself, but based on my limited experience, I'd say you can probably find a TON of work specializing in IT and engineering. Some coursework on legal translation would be a good complement to that, however--not necessarily specifically for patent translation, but because there's often a "Reeses peanut butter cup" element to many so-called technical jobs (a reference to the old Reeses' ad "you're getting chocolate in my peanut butter" "no, you're getting peanut butter in my chocolate!"). By which I mean, there's a big chunk of work in things like RFPs that may have both technical aspects and things like model contracts.

In other words, if you specialize in IT/engineering, you should be able to find a lot of business. Being competent to handle the intersection with legal work is a bonus--but the bulk of that intersection for SP>EN is in the area of contract law rather than patent law. That's kind of the logical result when your source countries are net buyers of technology and your target country/language is a net supplier of technology. You wind up translating far more "buyer" documents like RFPs and contracts than you do "supplier" documents like patents and technical manuals. My guess is that the SP>EN patent market is not huge, and I would hesitate to "drill down" that narrow when thinking about a specialization.


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Jill Heske  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:19
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for a great answer Apr 16, 2008

Thanks very much for such a lucid answer! I suspect you are right about the demand for patent work in this language pair, but I'll keep looking and try to remain hopeful. I will definitely look into the legal courses to supplement my IT background. I'm just afraid that my complete lack of experience in the legal world might make the classes impossible to pass, or even worse, keep me from providing the best-quality service to my clients.

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