Which specialisation for someone just starting out
Thread poster: Mike Alizade

Mike Alizade
Local time: 05:57
German to English
+ ...
Nov 30, 2009

Hello all

I have recently decided to establish myself as a freelance German/French to English translator and now find myself struggling with the issue of specialisation. Having been a web developer for the last ten years, it's a no-brainer to specialise in 'the internet', but that seems to be quite restrictive / vague, as I cant imagine I'd ever be inundated with work in that field, as opposed to law for example.

So my question is how can i eventually hope to make a comfortable living with that one specialisation. I have a variety of other interests e.g health fitness, martial arts, environment for example, but could I count them among my specialisations? Should I include ones which I feel are general enough to be able to just do, e.g. tourism? Or is it a case of starting with a very small amount of work for a fairly long period of time until I'm able to get clued up about other more in-demand areas? Or is it all the above?

Any advice is greatly appreciated

Mike


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Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:57
Member (2007)
English to Italian
Why not? Nov 30, 2009

Mike Alizade wrote:

I have a variety of other interests e.g health fitness, martial arts, environment for example, but could I count them among my specialisations?


One of the best way to enjoy this job is to translate stuff about things you like. It also speeds up the workflow because of little research involved, if you know what the article is talking about. Go for it
G


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 06:57
Italian to English
+ ...
The Ones That Pay Nov 30, 2009

Actually I think that IT and telecommunications are a good start. But technology, medicine, and law are also good. I would not put too much stock in tourism.

If you are interested in environment, I would suggest combining that with renewable energy technology, such a solar, maybe wind, agriculture and biofuels (this may extend into science). In any case, I know that Germany has some leading renewable energy companies, it may be worth dedicating some time to developing a specialization in this field in your three languages.

All the best!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Environment! Nov 30, 2009

I'd say environment might be your best bet, as it is a main topic across all industries in Germany and incresingly in the English-speaking countries.

My suggestion is that you read as much as you can about environment in the two languages, and at the same time make bilingual glossaries of terms you can use in your work. Maybe start a termbase, but that all depends on how much you want to invest in software and training. You might also want to invest in bilingual technical dictionaries in matters like chemistry, biology, agriculture, power generation, etc.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
IT, telecoms... no good Nov 30, 2009

Latin_Hellas wrote:
Actually I think that IT and telecommunications are a good start.

I don't agree at all. The reason is that IT and telecoms companies are precisely the ones pushing for widespread automatic translation in their work, so the actual amount of human translation they will need in the future will do nothing but shrink.

Personally I see no long-term future in IT or telecoms translation for independent translation professionals.


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 06:57
English to Polish
+ ...
specifics of the language pair Nov 30, 2009

I'd consider:

- what types of products and/or services cross borders the most,
- what products and/or services originating specifically from Germany/Austria/Switzerland – or marketed from Germany/Austria/Switzerland – are sold to English speakers.

For instance, do you think automotive German-English translations might sound like something in demand?

Then, you could consider how big and how saturated that translation market is. Rates might be a good indicator. Personally, I have no idea how, but if you want it enough, you can probably find out.

Then, do the same for the French-English pair. Wine bottle labels and nuclear energy might not be the only options

[Edited at 2009-11-30 16:14 GMT]


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:57
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Don't specialise -- generalise ! Nov 30, 2009

My employment background is similar to yours (e-commerce) and that particular specialisation provides less than10% of my work. So my strategy is simple -- generalisation, not specialisation.

While I agree with many of the comments and suggestions made, it is potentially dangerous to claim a specialisation acquired only as a translator. This applies particularly to deadly serious specialisations such as legal and medical. Customers will rightly assume that you have some professional experience in these fields, not just a few suitable dictionaries. Claiming a specialisation exposes you to greater risk.

Much better therefore to offer your services as a general-purpose translator. There is a great deal of such non-specialised work. And rather than stating any specialisations, give a list of the sort of work you have done - marketing texts, advertising brochures, tender documents, guidelines, instructions, business management. If customers can see that you have done similar work, they are just as likely to employ you as if you claim a specialisation. Anyway, it works for me.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:57
Flemish to English
+ ...
Business and IT Dec 1, 2009

When setting up one's own business, a knowledge of math, economics, accountancy, financial management, operations management, tax-laws, (corporate) law might come handy.
If the economy is in a slump, you can be a translator, if not you can apply elsewhere.

[Edited at 2009-12-01 08:54 GMT]


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Mike Alizade
Local time: 05:57
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Dec 1, 2009

Many thanks for all your replies, theyve all been very useful and have given me a good idea of the options open to me

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