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Specialized subjects in translating
Thread poster: DariaR

Local time: 06:20
English to Polish
Oct 26, 2004

Dear All,

As I am still new to translating, would you be able to advise me what specialised subjects are most popular?
As far as I know the key to become a good translator is to specialise in certain topics, such as law, computing etc?

I am starting MA in Bilingual Translating at Westminster University next September, at the moment I am finding voluntary work or charity translating to build up my experience, but eventually I would have to chose a subject in which I would specialise.

Many thanks

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2004-10-26 12:00]

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Alison Schwitzgebel
Local time: 07:20
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
What are you interested in? Oct 26, 2004

Hi Daria!

Welcome to Proz! The main thing about chosing a specialist subject is to find something you are interested in. I chose financial translation because I worked in the financial sector before deciding to take the plunge. I would never consider specializing in medical translation - simply because most of that stuff just grosses me out!

You can also search the forums for previous postings on this subject using the search box at the left of your screen. There's loads of good information already in the forums.


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:20
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Alison Oct 26, 2004


I would have to agree with Alison here - pick something you enjoy or are interested in, as this makes your work as a translator 100 times easier!

I started out as a specialist in tourism, as I had worked as a linguist and PM for a tour operator here in Scotland. This led on to other translations, and eventually I also went into the business side of things as well. Now, I am competent in a few specialities, having been entrusted with marketing texts, for example, based on my tourism translations. Start with something you enjoy and your translation will reflect your enthusiasm: and good translation = more work!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:20
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Learn the basics in several areas and specialise in your favourite. Oct 26, 2004

While I totally agree with the comments above, I found a good strategy was to try several subjects at basic level.

The diploma I took required modules in technology, law and economics, and I actually like medical translation, so I opted for that as well. I thought Law would be a real bore, but we were lucky in having an exceptionally good lecturer, and I got interested. In fact I ended up taking extra modules there too!

Basic law is a good way of earning some honest money if you can do it. There is a story behind every case! Family law and business law are always in demand, and there are not too many good translators in the field. It involves knowing the differences in legal systems and how they deal with property rights, divorce, risks, guarantees etc. that may be different from one country to another, and legal terminology is a sport (or a nightmare) in itself.

Technology is a boundless ocean, but surely you will find one area or another interesting. There is sometimes more 'straight translation' in technology (service and repair manuals, for instance, or product specifications). The more you learn about your topic in detail, the more interesting it gets. (Or else you know it's not for you and you can move on.)

Apart from that, most subjects overlap. I've seen contracts that were more technical than legal (IT programming and service contracts for instance, or building contracts with specifications).

Sales and marketing are very often more localisation than straight translation. Here too you have to gear your translation to the target group, and not just use the arguments that work in the country of the source language.

Find out which kinds of translation you do best and like best - the informative style that is close to the source, or the communicative style that translates the ideas but not necessarily each word individually. This will influence your choice of specialisation.

Try your hand at everything and learn to be versatile - then go for your favourite area. Best of luck!

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Local time: 06:20
English to Polish
Specialized subjects in translating Oct 26, 2004

Thank you all for the good advise, it really helps!

At the moment the only subject I am interested in is history, but after looking at this and other sites there isnt much interest in history, however hopefully during my studies I might pick other subjects, such as law that might interest me

Right now I am just about to begin a free of charge translatio of a polish web site of my home village, which really covers all aspects of subjects, it should be fun

Again many thanks!!!!

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Julio Torres
English to Spanish
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Two kinds of specialisation subjects Oct 27, 2004

Dear Daria:

In my opinion, there are two kinds of specialisation areas if you want to live as a translator:

1.- Topics with demand in your circumstances: for example, I live in an industrial city, then, I studied subjects related to this kind of market: engineering, waste management, machine tools, etc. because it was necessary.
2.- Topics you have knowledge o you like them. If you have read many books about some area, or you have another degree, may be you are prepared to write a translation in your mother tongue. May be there are less jobs you will obtain in these areas, but you will be well prepared, and you will enjoy the job. Sometimes you will notice mistakes in the original because you are an expert!

Anyway, do not try to show you are "specialised" in many different areas: the customer will suspect you can not be a genius. Be honest and focus in the areas you manage best, and do not accept jobs you are not sure to translate well.

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Spanish to German
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fun versus money Nov 3, 2004

I agree with Julio Torres in his approach.

If you specialize in that what brings fun, perhaps you never see money, because there is no demand for this kind of translation.
If you specialize in fields where are a lot of translators, you get to hear: We have already enough translators in this area.
If you think only where to get a lot of money, you do perhaps work, you do not like.

Thus, the best is to make a mixture:
one specialization you like to do - to get fun
one specialization where you see a big demand on the market - to get money...
and one specialization of matters most people does not like - to get jobs!

and three specializations could be enough!

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