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Poll: Specialization is the key to quality
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

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Jul 30, 2010

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Specialization is the key to quality".

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Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:10
English to Russian
+ ...
Other Jul 30, 2010

Well, without doubt the correct answer is "yes". But.... I do not really believe in the concept of "specialization" for a translator. It has always been a fake. I understand that a person can have a good command of a foreign language and be, say, a prominent specialist in microelectronics. Such a person will leave far behind any translator even well versed in that field. But a person who earns his or her living doing translations can never reach such a high level in a range of specializations sufficent for him or her to earn his or her bread and butter.

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Oliver Lawrence  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 05:10
Partial member (2008)
Italian to English
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It's A key to quality Jul 30, 2010

if you haven't got a sensitivity for the source language and an ability to write well and naturally in the target language then knowledge of the subject and its terminology will only get you so far

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Theo Bernards  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:10
English to Dutch
+ ...
As Oliver says... Jul 30, 2010

Oliver Lawrence wrote:

if you haven't got a sensitivity for the source language and an ability to write well and naturally in the target language then knowledge of the subject and its terminology will only get you so far


It is a key to quality. I personally think that the will to succeed and professional integrity (i.e. the determination to only deliver top quality translations) are more important keys to quality, and a thorough understanding of the source language as well as the ability to write well and natural in the target language are very important in those factors. Specialization is the next step in my opinion, not the first step.


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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 22:10
English to Dutch
+ ...
agree with Oliver Jul 30, 2010

I agree. It is one of the keys, not THE key. We sometimes don't even realize that we're making mistakes when we are not really familiar with a specific subject. And it can go pretty far. My customers sometimes ask me to evaluate test translations of easy general texts on the current economic situation from translators who claim to be good at "finance". So often there are horrible interpretation mistakes in them. You can imagine what such translators do with really technical financial stuff! Nobody is perfect, but knowing your limits is so important. And without specialization, we are more limited than we realize or would like to admit.

However, I have to disagree with Alexander. Specialization can be extremely profitable for a translator. You just have to make the right choice (don't pick an area in which there's hardly any work). I know it has worked for me. Because of your specialization, you can charge (quite a lot) more. The only condition is of course that you always deliver good translations, no matter what.

[Edited at 2010-07-30 09:44 GMT]


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Rebekka Groß  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:10
English to German
bit of a sweeping statement... Jul 30, 2010

and as others have already said it is just one of the key ingredients for quality.

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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:10
Spanish to English
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Phraseology Jul 30, 2010

Specialisation doesn't just improve your terminology but also your phraseology, which are the most important aspects of specialised translations. While general translations call for general translating skills.

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Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:10
English to Russian
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Michaël Temmerman wrote: Jul 30, 2010

Michaël Temmerman wrote:


However, I have to disagree with Alexander. Specialization can be extremely profitable for a translator. You just have to make the right choice (don't pick an area in which there's hardly any work). I know it has worked for me. Because of your specialization, you can charge (quite a lot) more. The only condition is of course that you always deliver good translations, no matter what.

[Edited at 2010-07-30 09:44 GMT]


You did not get me right. I only wanted to state that if one claims he or she "specializes in, say, finance" one is most probably unable to match a true professional in finance (say, a Chartered Finance Analyst). Therefore, my conclusion is that if a translator claims to specialize in such and such field this only means that he or she does have a certain experience and\or flair or liking, and nothing more. That's what I call "a fake". However, my statement does not mean a translator should not seek to improve his or her specialization.


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Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:10
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Achieving specialization Jul 30, 2010

In my opinion, true specialization is much more difficult to achieve for translators who only study/work as a translator.

I specialize mainly in construction and engineering because, in addition to my five year university studies in the field of translation and linguistics, I have a university degree (6 year full time course) in engineering and because before becoming a full time translator I used to work as an engineer.

I also specialize in IT and communications because I have been working as a translator and interpreter for an IT/telco company for almost 10 years, but this specialization has been MUCH more difficult to achieve. I feel very comfortable translating in this field, but there are, of course, concepts that I still fail to grasp from a strictly technical point of view.

I'm not saying that a translator cannot specialize in any area they chose, I'm simply saying that, everything else equal (similar translation training and experience), it will always be easier for a person who has hands-on experience and/or formal studies in a certain area to handle specific texts because they will understand the concepts behind the words.

And to answer the original question, yes, I do believe that specialization is key (not THE key) to a good translation. That's why, for example, I would never ever translate a medical text.


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Michaël Temmerman  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 22:10
English to Dutch
+ ...
fake's a strong word Jul 30, 2010

Alexander Kondorsky wrote:

You did not get me right. I only wanted to state that if one claims he or she "specializes in, say, finance" one is most probably unable to match a true professional in finance (say, a Chartered Finance Analyst). Therefore, my conclusion is that if a translator claims to specialize in such and such field this only means that he or she does have a certain experience and\or flair or liking, and nothing more. That's what I call "a fake". However, my statement does not mean a translator should not seek to improve his or her specialization.



You're right, but it depends on the individual translator. Translators who are really serious about their work and their specialization, do self-study, take courses and even go for academic degrees in their field. I wouldn't call those fake. Unfortunately, many translators don't bother with further training, as it costs quite a bit of money...


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Dinny  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 06:10
Italian to Danish
+ ...
I'll second that Jul 30, 2010

Michael (and sorry for the missing "umlaut"), I agree with you here. If, as a translator, a special field interests you more than the others, you will seek to a) improve your language skills in that field, and 2) try to get those kind of translation jobs. Eventually, you might get to say that you "specialize" in that field, without though being a true professional in the specific field (i.e. a Chartered Finance Analyst).

I love doing legal stuff, I do have a background in a legal office, but I am not a lawyer - I do state though that I am specializing in legal translations. Firstly, because I like the subject so much and realize that there are no corners to cut, you have to investigate more time in getting it right, and, secondly, because I am enormeously meticulous when it comes to my job, so I know that I don't deliver a "dubious" translation.

I am considering to try to specialize in medical translations. They require even more effort than the legal ones, but the market is very big. So I might invest some years on going that way, taking courses or whatever it takes, doing minor jobs in that sector, learning by doing. Untill, one day, I feel confident enought to state that I specialize in medical translations. I don't have to be a doctor to do so - but I have to be a damn good translator.


Dinny


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Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:10
English to Serbian
+ ...
:) Jul 30, 2010

Alexander Kondorsky wrote:

Therefore, my conclusion is that if a translator claims to specialize in such and such field this only means that he or she does have a certain experience and\or flair or liking, and nothing more. That's what I call "a fake". However, my statement does not mean a translator should not seek to improve his or her specialization.


Well, it all depends. Surely a translator who has been working with mostly financial/accounting texts for the 5 years or so, will do much better in that area than someone who has worked with, say, medical texts and vice versa. I don't see anything fake about it.


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
The true route to specialisation Jul 30, 2010

I think that the only true route to specialisation is through degree level studies in a given area, nothing else will ever really cut it.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
The true route to specialization Jul 30, 2010

The true route to specialization is not necessarily through degree level studies. It is though study of all kinds, including self-study, which is often the best.

I say it because I have proven it.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:10
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's the essential first step... Jul 30, 2010

... for building a strong business that generates quality work. Of course everyone has to start somewhere to learn their craft, but being a generalist is very confining in the end. When a generalist is faced with a technical translation, the time and energy required to create a serviceable product is disproportionate, and there is always a greater risk for error.

However, as colleagues have already noted, other skills are also involved in producing quality translations.


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