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Thread poster: Michelle Temple

Michelle Temple  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Nov 23, 2003

I'm trying to get started as a freelance Spanish/Portuguese into English translator and was wondering if anyone had any ideas on what areas are best to specialize in for these language combinations. I've heard that areas such as automotive, aerospace and IT/Computers are good ones, but from what I've been told it seems that most of the work comes from translating from English into another language. Also, is it a good idea to try and start up as a freelance translator without a specialization? Is it best to work for an agency first to gain specialization? And when can one consider him/herself "specialized"?

I would love to hear everyone else's opinions on this topic! Thanks in advance!

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sylver  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:56
English to French
Some clues Nov 24, 2003

If you can read Frecnh, there is a thread on that topic at the French forum. Anyway, in your case, I think you should look at your current abilities and assess them.

What topics do you have a good command of? What are your strong points? Why do you have those strong points? Or rather, how are you going to convince the client that you are the right person for a specific kind of job? Say you worked as a nurse in the past, that would give ground to your knowledge of medical terminology. Something like that.

If you are just starting, as is apparently the case, you will probably work with agencies most of the time. They *should* check everything you translate. Unfortunately, many don't. Also, many will give you the job because you are available, and not because the job fits in your specialities. It's up to you to know your limits and how much you can learn.

To acquire a new speciality, there are more or less 3 methods:
1. Formal study - not very practical in many cases
2. Self study. Roam the net and study on your own the stuff you need. Learning is a personnal matter, after all, and Internet is an incredible source of data.
3. Coaching. Find an experienced translator and arrange with him to review your translations and correct them (for a price of course)

I would suggest 2&3 above are very good solutions for a freelance translator.


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Alison Schwitzgebel
Local time: 01:56
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
What are YOU interested in? Nov 24, 2003

In my particular language pair (De-En) I know that there is a lot of (well-paid) demand for medical translations. But medicine totally grosses me out. The less I have to do with it the better!!!

I don't do technical translations, because that just doesn't turn me on.

What do I like? Business (especially financial) with a spot of legal thrown in for good measure. So that's what I translate.

Don't forget that when you specialized you're going to be dealing with that subject day in, day out for (hopefully!) the rest of your life, so you're best to make it something you're interested in and that you understand.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: one of the best ways to specialize is to actually work in your chosen subject area in a non-translation capacity. Then you get to know what you're dealing with inside out - which really helps when it comes to translating.

If you can't find work in your chosen subject area, then study it - take a degree, or just some courses at university level in your chosen area. Read everything you can find on the subject. Subscribe to subject-area specific magazines (and read them ).

What course of action did I take? I studied German at university, came to Germany in 1993 to work in investment banking, moved into commercial real estate for a while, before going back to M&A took a marketing diploma and another in business administration, and then I set up as a translator. My background really helps with some of the translations I get in!!!

The exact course of action you choose to take is entirely up to you, but these suggestions have worked for others (including myself) in the past.



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