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How did you choose your specialization?
Thread poster: Annamaria Lagattolla

Annamaria Lagattolla  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:32
Member (Jun 2018)
Italian to German
+ ...


Posted via
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Jul 3

Dear all,
I have been working for a while now and apart from studying, resourcing and well..being passionate the main reason why I started something was your advice on LinkedIn! So here I am. Asking again! This time, I want to know how you chose your specialization and why! So that I can make up my mind on what actually works for me. Should I just look at the quantity of the projects I could get in a field of expertise or just go with what I think I like? The thing is, I am very curious and eclectic so I can jump from medical to cosmetic to law without even noticing but I realized it gets hard and confusing. What do you think?


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 10:32
German to English
+ ...
Background Jul 4

I have a B.Ed., earned my teaching certificate, and have taught. So I definitely have a specialization in teaching. In the professional organization in my country, you can only add specializations in your listing as a certified member there if you have an actual background of this sort. it differs in different places, including what it means to have a specialization.

 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 23:32
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
You don't choose your specializations Jul 4

Your specializations choose you.

Josephine Cassar
STELLA DINAKI
Amel Abdullah
Meta Arkadia
missdutch
Tom in London
mona elshazly
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:32
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Sometimes it's the clients who decide. Jul 4

I happened to get hired in an agency specialising in fashion and textiles, and as my mother taught me dressmaking, I knew a lot of the terminology already. Then, since there were all sorts of jobs coming in, I was able to try my hand at various things. I found that the creative style needed for fashion would also work in cosmetics and various other "frivolous" fields like tourism and cultural topics. One thing sort of led to another and I now have a long list of specialist subjects.

Being interested in all sorts of things does help. I don't like technical translation much, in that there is no room for my creativity there, but when it's a field I'm interested in (especially leaning towards the environment and sustainable development) I'm prepared to make the effort. And even technical-oriented customers need well-written press releases. I started doing that simply because a woman working for a client company in show business suddenly left for a firm working in alternative energy sources.

I prefer to work in fields I find interesting, even though I know other fields pay better. I'm pretty sure that my interest shines through my work, meaning that the client comes back. Also, I learn a lot of interesting stuff while researching the subjects! (My family are sick of hearing me pontificate, if ever they challenge what I'm saying, I retort, I know about this, I did a translation on it, look it up yourself if you don't believe me)


Tom in London
Annamaria Lagattolla
Chris S
Luciana Trevisi
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I agree with Lincoln Jul 4

Lincoln Hui wrote:

Your specializations choose you.


Before becoming a translator I was a busy architect working bilingually between the UK and Italy. I also taught architecture at university level in both countries. It took me a while to realise that if I ever got tired of architecture I had another career lined up, as a translator specialising in architecture and related fields. I'm still an architect but now I'm an architect-translator. Being specialised brings me lots of work in the areas that interest me. I have no qualifications as a translator but I have many years of experience.

But I'm probably an exception to the rule; for most translators it's a matter of specialising after qualifying as a translator. I would recommend choosing an area in which you already have some knowledge. Get involved in it. Try to find an in-house job as a translator, working in your chosen area. Then move on from there.


Meta Arkadia
Annamaria Lagattolla
Valérie Ourset
Kaspars Melkis
liviu roth
 

Meta Arkadia
Local time: 22:32
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Just about anything will do Jul 4

Tom in London wrote: I have no qualifications as a translator but I have many years of experience.


Probably most of us are "language people" (I prefer that term to "linguists, which I think is ambiguous: You can be a linguist without knowing any another language than your mother tongue, I'm sure). And I think that's true in the case of the OP. And her question probably comes down to, "Should I become a legal, medical, technical, or IT translator?" Whereas you prove you can become an "architectural" translator. I bet the OP never thought of that, nor of Kay's "fashion" translator. I think anything will do. Are you fond of diving, motorbikes, tennis, medieval history, or even going on holidays? Those can very well be specialisms.

The boy of my neighbours was a good-for-nothing. He even refused to go to school. He only played chess, and he wasn't very good at that either (I was five years younger, and even I could easily beat him). But he knew everything about it. When his father wanted to kick him out of the house, he sent some articles about chess to various newspapers. One of the most prominent Dutch newspapers (NRC) hired him. And later some weeklies. He traveled the world, made a nice bit of money, and most importantly, he was very happy with what he was doing. Chess can be a specialism. Anything can be a specialism.

Cheers,

Hans


liviu roth
Emma Page
 

mona elshazly  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 17:32
Member (2016)
Arabic to English
+ ...
According to the company Jul 4

After I had been appointed in my present company I saw that the majority of documents are legal or technical so chose these specializations. It is according to the company you are appointed in.

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Pick something you enjoy Jul 4

If a field doesn't interest you then you're not going to be very happy even if it pays well.

For 20 years I specialised in enzymes and diabetes because there was a lot of work there from Danish (still is in Peanutville), and I did enjoy most of it, but I'm much happier now translating economics (beats me too).

Never quite been able to shake off insurance, which is a bugger, but I'm pleased to say I haven't worked on contracts and tenders, those staples of the fledgling translator, for many years.


Tom in London
Mirko Mainardi
Nelly Keavney
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ecom Jul 4

Chris S wrote:

...For 20 years I specialised in enzymes and diabetes ...and I did enjoy most of it, but I'm much happier now translating economics (beats me too).


Interesting to hear that "the sad science" is more fun than... diabetes and (oh, the thrill) insurance. I suppose it all depends on what you mean by "fun".

I imagine that as a specialisation, economics offers rich pickings for the translator - although you'd need to know exactly what you're talking about since in my experience of economists, they spend a lot of time disputing the terminology! (What exactly IS money?)

Ideally a choice of specialism would need to artfully balance how much work there is in that field for the future, against how many expert competitors one might be likely to be up against?


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
sporadic need Jul 4

Usually it's something sporadic or entwined with what one likes and understands, coming natural even in the native language. Indeed, one could start with something topical or not related and go on till it becomes necessary or clear--the former or the latter

[Edited at 2018-07-04 14:00 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Above all, you need to be good at it Jul 4

There's only one reason that clients will come back to award a translator repeat orders - they've done a really good job. I'm sure we all go outside our specialist areas from time to time, and of course for a beginner that's one way to actually gain a specialisation if they don't have a ready-made one. We don't have to be rigid in what we accept but we do, IMO, need to market ourselves in a coherent fashion. Someone who purports to specialise in sectors as diverse as medical, law, science, marketing, history and literature (as examples) is sending a clear message that they're unlikely to do any of them particularly well - a "jack of all trades, master of none". And in some subject areas you really need to have a deep understanding of the jargon rather than relying on a good bilingual dictionary (e.g. medical, technical) and/or you need to know the language "rules" (e.g. legal).

Any translator should be able to find enough work in just one pair (in all but the rarest pairs, anyway), even if they have a very restricted set of specialisations. A specialist will often get more work, in fact, because they become the go-to person in that pair/subject. That means they can command higher rates. So I would advise translators to only translate from the languages they really master (C1/C2) into their native or native equivalent language(s), and then only in the subject areas that they really know something about. Otherwise you're always going to be doing a second-best job, or even a third-best, which is not great for your reputation.


Kaspars Melkis
Rachel Waddington
Nikki Scott-Despaigne
liviu roth
Yasser Salama
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:32
French to English
Clients vote with their (virtual) feet Jul 4

If a client is happy with the work you do, they will come back and probably recommend you to others. If you do a bad piece of work for them, they will not come back and will also talk to others. One substandard piece of work can ruin years of hard work building a reputation and a source of income.

You can write convincingly when you know what you are doing. That means having field knowledge. What it is important to recognise, is that specialist knowledge can be gained in many ways: formal study, professional experience or both. Expertise can also come from areas of personal interest and activities you do in your spare time. Finally, you can also acquire extra knowledge as you take on texts in one of your areas which force you to do a fair bit of research. This way, you can sometimes develop what was a minor field into a major one.

When I started translating, I had qualifications in law and language, and I had worked in a legal environment where almost everyone was qualified in law and wrote/spoke at least two languages fluently. Later on I changed direction and obtained a research master's degree in biology and neuroscience. Finally, I switched to clinical psychology. In each of those fields, I know I can do a good job in certain areas and probably know enough about my limitations and know when to turn down a job too. AS a child and a teenager, I had sailed a little and had some very basic knowledge. I later married a professional ocean-racing yachtsman and acquired specialist knowledge there through following projects from conception through to translatlantic and round-the-world record attempts. It has become one of my main specializations, particularly when combined with legal terminology.

Even in one of your chosen fields, you will often learn new things through translation. Curiosity is a necessity and learning new things is what many translators enjoy most. When working in one of your specialist areas, then you will find yourself being stretched or even out of your comfort zone. Again, many (most?) of us enjoy that. However, it means you will need to allow more time for the research you will need to do to understand the source and to then find adequate sources for your translation. This way you build on existing knowledge and continue to enhance your expertise. So chose an area you like, a field you know something about and one that you will be confident and happy with. When you have that, you will also know what work you should refuse.


Annamaria Lagattolla
Josephine Cassar
Tom in London
Dongwoo Lee
Christine Andersen
Yasser Salama
 

Anthony Teixeira
Japan
Local time: 00:32
Member (2011)
English to French
+ ...
University degree Jul 5

Coming from a completely different industry, the choice of specialization was pretty obvious.

If you've studied translation, you'll preferably want to choose something you like/are already familiar with and improve your knowledge of the field.

Regardless of background, some have a more practical approach and go for whatever specialization they feel have the potential to keep them busy and well paid.

So, that would be another of those "it depends". I guess it's all about finding the balance between what you already know, what you want to do on a more personal level and what your professional goals are.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:32
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Excellent post Jul 5

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

an excellent and very interesting post !


For the record, here's what can happen via Proz, if you have a clearly defined area of specialisation:

Two days ago a Prozian colleague I didn't know contacted me privately (presumably having seen my profile) to say that her husband, an architect, needed an architectural translator urgently.

As a result I have spent the past 2 days working more or less round the clock, feverishly translating a series of complex, specialised documents that were fed to me one by one as my architect colleague in Italy completed them.

As I sent them back translated, he passed them on to his end client.

He was paying me quite a bit more than my usual rate and at the end, he told me to increase the amount on my invoice because he'll be needing me again.

This all happened because of having a specialisation.

Nikki, your story is fascinating- especially the ocean-going sailing part! Of course (I say to myself)- that must be a field where there's a lot of scope for translation IF you know what you're doing.

[Edited at 2018-07-05 07:17 GMT]


 

Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 17:32
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
My specialization = what I played with as a kid Jul 5

And it still feels like playing.

 
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