How to get started in scientific translation
Thread poster: xxxPastinus
xxxPastinus
Local time: 04:36
English to Dutch
+ ...
Sep 4, 2011

Howdy everyone.

I've always wanted to become a German-English scientific translator. When I finish my studies in July next year, I'll have the necessary qualifications, but I just can't find any work in this field.

I've e-mailed translation agencies that work in this language combination, but most of them rarely, if ever, receive any requests for scientific translations (90% of their work seems to be in the field of business and finance! It must be an accurate reflection of the money-centered world we live in).

I came to ProZ thinking I could find many more potential scientific translation clients, but it seems clients here are more or less the same as in "the real world". You get loads of legal and business translations, a few technical translations and some medical translations, but scientific ones are very few and far between.

So I don't know what to do. I have the necessary qualifications but the clients just seem to be non-existent. What can I do to get started in the world of scientific translation? Who should I e-mail? Where should I look for clients that require this type of translations, and not just legal/business ones?


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 10:36
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
I started with what I was interested in Sep 5, 2011

I started with what I was interested in. It was gas engine: my masterpiece research during energy crisis in 1970s.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 11:36
Chinese to English
Marketing Sep 5, 2011

The problem you're describing is a real one. Most of the world's scientific literature is published in English; so to stay current, researchers generally read English; so they generally write directly in English, too.

That said, there are some things you can do. I got my scientific work through a small agency who just happened to be hooked into a network of academics. Hunt around and see if you can find the agencies who handle this work. You could also market yourself directly to universities through email lists and bulletin boards. However, you might want to be a bit wary of saying "scientific translator". A lot of authors are looking for someone with subject-specific expertise: they worry that a biologist won't necessarily know anything about thermodynamics; that a chemist will not be an effective translator of paleontology papers. If you can get some experience and start listing specific areas, people will see that you have a record of translating in fields close to theirs, and will be more willing to trust you.

The other thing you might consider, though, is patents. They've got a lot of science in them, they're often quite interesting, and most importantly, there's a lot of patent business out there. They might be a good compromise for you between the documents you love and the realities of the market.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Took the words out of my mouth Sep 5, 2011

Phil Hand wrote:

The problem you're describing is a real one. Most of the world's scientific literature is published in English; so to stay current, researchers generally read English; so they generally write directly in English, too.


The other thing you might consider, though, is patents. They've got a lot of science in them, they're often quite interesting, and most importantly, there's a lot of patent business out there. They might be a good compromise for you between the documents you love and the realities of the market.


I agree with all Phil said, and his patents suggestion is more good advice than I can muster. My personal experience tells me that one tends to up specialising rather than setting out in what is really a niche area, so I'd say try to broaden your options. I've often translated or revised texts myself in fields I knew little or nothing about per se to start with.


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Dr. Matthias Schauen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:36
Member
English to German
Necessary qualifications? Sep 5, 2011

Hello Pastinus,

just a curious questions: What are the necessary qualifications for scientific translations you refer to?

Best regards,
Matthias


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