Poll: In how many fields do you specialize (in your top language combination)?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
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Oct 12, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "In how many fields do you specialize (in your top language combination)?".

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Oct 12, 2011

Who's counting?

I'm not really a "specialization" person, seeing it as somehow limiting rather than useful, although I have noticed that I am working in fewer areas than say, 5 years ago. You could say that my main fields of work are BIO, EDI and market research, although I work in several other fields too.

I am usually willing to have a bash at subject areas that I'm not fully conversant with if the conditions are right.


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Angus Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:20
Member (2011)
French to English
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Just one Oct 12, 2011

I specialize solely in the legal field, where my previous career as a solicitor is directly relevant. There are a number of sub fields within this specialism (for example contract and real estate), which provide a degree of variety to my work. Accordingly, I have no need nor inclination to branch out into unrelated fields. In any event, the considerable amount of time I have to invest in undertaking CPD in order to keep my skills and knowledge base in the legal field up to date acts as a disincentive to developing a second specialism.

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Tuncay Kurt  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2011)
English to Turkish
+ ...
the one and only Oct 12, 2011

I have started with medical translation and did nothing but medical translation for 7 years and not planning to change this.
I am not one of those translator who can specialize in more than one field. It would be great but I will not have confidence about the quality in other areas and moreover, I think it is an advantage to have wider knowledge in a "lesser area".

Maybe it is a matter of talent or interest but surely experience is vital in your specialization area. Sadly, considering the financial terms, I do not have free time to try to gain experience in another field. In addition, I do not have much interest in other areas which will encourage me or in the simplest sense bring intellectual fulfillment to give it a go. Yes right, I find medical text satisfying: possessing all those "unnecessarily medical things" is FUN for me!

Tuncay


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Heike Kurtz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:20
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Put them all in boxes... Oct 12, 2011

neilmac wrote:

Who's counting?

I'm not really a "specialization" person, seeing it as somehow limiting rather than useful (...)

I am usually willing to have a bash at subject areas that I'm not fully conversant with if the conditions are right.


Seconded.

are business and economy two different subjects? I do contracts in a business context - should I add "legal" to the list? And "marketing", since I translate marketing texts for banks (which I would list under 'finance')? Hm. Those analysts' reports are definitely 'finance'. Sometimes the banking texts contain parts that might be categorized as "insurance matters". And they use practical examples from a vast range of subjects from petrochemical appliances to tourism...

I guess it's more a "cloud" of specialist subjects with a certain general tendency.


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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:20
German to English
+ ...
I cannot count either Oct 12, 2011

Heike Kurtz wrote:

Are business and economy two different subjects? I do contracts in a business context - should I add "legal" to the list? And "marketing", since I translate marketing texts for banks (which I would list under 'finance')? Hm. Those analysts' reports are definitely 'finance'. Sometimes the banking texts contain parts that might be categorized as "insurance matters". And they use practical examples from a vast range of subjects from petrochemical appliances to tourism...

I guess it's more a "cloud" of specialist subjects with a certain general tendency.


I feel the same way. Many things are too interconnected to count as separate fields conceptually.

I do know, however, that my mind has extremely tenuous connections with the fields of aeronautics, automotive mechanics, medical and pharmaceutical science, and information technology - and I am quite happy that other translators with these specializations exist to take care of texts dealing with these subjects.


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Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 00:20
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
More specializations Oct 12, 2011

I have heard many different opinions and theories. Some people say if you are good at 'A' you cannot be good at 'B' .. ('A' and 'B' are 2 very different fields).
I cannot agree with this opinion. Actually I am experiencing the opposite: more and more clients contact me because I am specialized in different fields. For example medical texts can consist of medical-technical, medical-chemical, or medical-business, medical-finance, medical-legal or medical-marketing combinations. But also finance texts can contain medical or technical parts for example in 50-50%. When clients trust somebody's expertise in 1 field, they really appreciate when they don't have to look for a different translator only because the new project contains other fields as well. When you translate clinical trials and pharmaceutical documents it is essential to be expert in translating informed consents and other legal documents as well, or the manual of high-tech devices (like IVRS). Or when you are translating Forex texts being creative with words (using the right marketing terms) is just as important as knowing and understanding Forex terms. Of course the translator has to have adequate self-critique. Positive feedbacks from agencies are not enough. When end-clients and other people who are working in those fields (not as translators but as specialists: physicians, biologists, lawyers, bankers, IT experts, etc.) contact you either directly because they don't understand something and they ask your help, you are on the right path.

Regards,
Katalin



[Edited at 2011-10-12 14:57 GMT]


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
I believe in specialization Oct 12, 2011

The opposite of specialization is general. Ergo, a jack of all trades, master of none. In my experience, one cannot be very good at more than 5-7 specializations, assuming that some of these specializations are interconnected, like some of you have pointed out.

A few months ago, I was contacted by a new client to do onsite software testing on medical software. Now, this software covered a medical subspecialty (Katalin Szilard will like this): pathology diagnosis software. Now, how many medical translators deal with that field? I don't know. But the assignment was more challenging because it involved testing software.

I am pretty good at software testing, but I consider myself more of a generalist when it comes to medical areas of specialization. Sure, I know a bit of medical devices, another bit of diabetes, and another bit of pharma. But I am no specialist --nor do I claim to be-- in any of those because I don't hold a degree in any medical field. I just love to read all kinds of medical texts, from simple to complex.

As an aside, I don't think the majority of translators can choose their specializations. Specializations, specialized texts choose us instead. I know, it's kind of Zen like...


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:20
Member (2003)
Danish to English
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Narrowing down Oct 12, 2011

I started doing not-very-specialised jobs in a very wide range of fields, and was definitely not really specialising, but it taught me a lot.

In a 'small' lanugage pair like mine, it is very hard to specialise entirely in one area - some people can in Law or Medicine.

I haven't the temperament for that! However, I am now far more cautious about what I take on in some areas, and more ambitious in others. I spend about half my time on medicine. I read, call colleagues and really make an effort. It seems to pay off - clients come back, and I have accumulated a really good TM, which I miss bitterly when I have to work with PDFs that are not sharp enough for OCR.

But the other half of my time - thank goodness - I spend on other subjects. I get tired, and simply need to change to something else.

Food, marketing, contracts, tourist guides (Now THEY can be challenging technology at times, when some museum wants a new version of its guide book!) Much of the time I specialise in the language itself, i.e. rewriting, explaining and rephrasing for readers whose native language may or may not be English, but is certainly not Scandinavian.

My other specialist area is food, which may be anything from the declaration of ingredients on the back of the pack, to the recipes in the supermarket magazine, or the catalogue for a trade fair, gourmet menus or special diets for diabetics or allergy sufferers.

How many times have I agreed to translate a "Legal " text - it's a contract after all - only to find that 75% of it was in fact technical specifications of one kind or another?

I insist on looking at the text thoroughly before I commit myself. It is difficult to say what I specialise in, because so many fields are interlinked, but I can often recognise a job that is best sent on to a colleague who is better qualified.



[Edited at 2011-10-12 19:21 GMT]


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Katalin Szilárd  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 00:20
Member (2006)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Chicken or the egg? Oct 13, 2011

Mario Chavez wrote:

The opposite of specialization is general. Ergo, a jack of all trades, master of none. In my experience, one cannot be very good at more than 5-7 specializations, assuming that some of these specializations are interconnected, like some of you have pointed out.


Did you mean specializations we can see on our Proz profiles or in general?
On Proz profiles sub-specializations and general specializations are mixed. Either they are sub-specializations or specializations, they can be chosen as "specializations". For example if someone is specialized in Medical translations and she/he adds more Medical fields, she/he is almost not able to add any other fields.

Mario Chavez wrote: A few months ago, I was contacted by a new client to do onsite software testing on medical software. Now, this software covered a medical subspecialty (Katalin Szilard will like this): pathology diagnosis software. Now, how many medical translators deal with that field? I don't know. But the assignment was more challenging because it involved testing software.


It must have been a challenging project. Actually according to my experience legal translators meet sometimes more pathological texts than medical translators due to crime related cases. Yes, I agree many projects are the combinations of more fields.

Mario Chavez wrote: As an aside, I don't think the majority of translators can choose their specializations. Specializations, specialized texts choose us instead. I know, it's kind of Zen like...


Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It's not always that easy to decide.:)
As years go by the more skilled and experienced I get in open water scuba diving, and the more specialized I get in marine biology. (Hungary doesn't have an ocean/sea, it's hard to find a marine biology translator). When it comes to translation I choose marine biology texts consciously or do I let them find me?

Best regards,
Katalin





[Edited at 2011-10-13 12:08 GMT]


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Mami Y.  Identity Verified
Japan
Member (2008)
English to Japanese
+ ...
2 Oct 16, 2011

Katalin Szilárd wrote:

I have heard many different opinions and theories. Some people say if you are good at 'A' you cannot be good at 'B' .. ('A' and 'B' are 2 very different fields).
I cannot agree with this opinion. Actually I am experiencing the opposite: more and more clients contact me because I am specialized in different fields. For example medical texts can consist of medical-technical, medical-chemical, or medical-business, medical-finance, medical-legal or medical-marketing combinations. But also finance texts can contain medical or technical parts for example in 50-50%. When clients trust somebody's expertise in 1 field, they really appreciate when they don't have to look for a different translator only because the new project contains other fields as well.

[Edited at 2011-10-12 14:57 GMT]


Recently, I handled medical-cinema project which seems to be superficially heterogeneous combination. Formerly, I focused on medical and medical-related work including research at some institutions. And during it, I got on-the-job training at the court, the Juvenile classification office and the borstal. Now I handle medical related translation work. But I don't receive law work. I think I shouldn't handle it only because I learned a bit of it at the law-related institutes. And I know how I can't handle it by myself And I know the translators who studied at law school and by themselves handle law-related translations. But sometimes I must handle my field translation including law(such as relevant patents).

[Edited at 2011-10-17 06:09 GMT]


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