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Poll: Do you accept jobs that do not meet your area of expertise?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 22:21
Jun 24, 2013

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you accept jobs that do not meet your area of expertise?".

This poll was originally submitted by Asad Hussain. View the poll results »


Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:21
Member (2006)
German to English
No, never Jun 24, 2013

I did do that once or twice with unfavourable outcome, and since then I just keep to what I can do and everything works out fine


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:21
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Yes, sometimes Jun 24, 2013

Because a job not specifically within my "areas of expertise" per se may still be well within my "comfort zone."
As Michael says, accepting work you are not skilled enough to handle does lead to dire consequences not just for yourself.

Perhaps we should add a distinction between "fields of expertise" and "capabilities" in this poll. My fields of expertise are at the top of my list of capabilities or skillset.

Added the last line

[Edited at 2013-06-24 09:37 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Local time: 06:21
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, sometimes Jun 24, 2013

As Julian says: a job not specifically within my "areas of expertise" per se may still be well within my "comfort zone." So, sometimes I will have a look at the document and then decide to accept... or not. But if it is nuclear engineering (or the like) I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole!


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:21
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
For a variety of reasons Jun 24, 2013

In principle, if a text is written for 'the general reader', it does not require a specialist translator. However, I do NOT believe anyone can translate anything. icon_wink.gif

I do not accept texts that I don't feel comfortable with - I tell clients I am not the person they are looking for, and sometimes recommend a colleague.

A client was once quite annoyed with me because I turned down an offer to translate a book on football - forcing him to spend time searching for another translator who understands Danish. Of course my husband watches football, but this was not a book for people like me who don't. I would never have got the style and the spirit right...

In practice I turn down more work than I take on some months.

On the other hand, I have worked my way through quite technical museum guides, or press releases and publicity material on dozens of different topics.

OK, I specialise in 'communicative texts' and language as much as anything, but if I can research the information I need or ask the client, I take on the text.

I enjoy my specialist subject fields, but I would die of boredom without the variety of other jobs.

[Edited at 2013-06-24 16:43 GMT]


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:21
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Seldom Jun 24, 2013

Usually, I only accept job outside of my area of expertize from long-standing clients.

Stay with what you know best.icon_smile.gif


Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, I do Jun 24, 2013

Yes I do sometimes if I am free. Variety is the spice of life, and I do need a bit of variety. This is one of the reasons I work with agencies. I work mainly with Spanish agencies and Spanish agencies will only tend to send work to translators based in Spain, which means that I will be no more or no less qualified than the next translator.

When I translate in my area of specialisation I am offering my services as a specialist translator, in all other areas I work as a general translator. Naturally, it would be better if everyone only worked in their area of specialisation but translation would be a much more costly process if this were the case.

You'd be hard pushed to find a specialist technical translator in Spain. Now, translators that have experience in technical texts, that would be the whole lot of us...


Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:21
Member (2008)
English to Italian
sometimes Jun 24, 2013

If I have a bit of time, I like working on short projects outside my field.


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:21
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sometimes, but not often Jun 24, 2013

It depends how big a stretch it is. I don't do it often because I already have my hands full doing what comes easily to me. The times I have gone out on a limb, I have often regretted it.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:21
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Two different approaches Jun 24, 2013

Some time in the 1970s I went to a meeting of the Translators' Guild (predecessor of the ITI) in London, at which two speakers reflected the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of specialization.
The first speaker (can't remember his name), was English but had been brought up in Germany, and was truly bilingual in English and German. He entered the machine tool industry, and rose from the shop floor to chief engineer and then sales manager. After about 20 years in this field, he became a freelance translator, and thanks to his deep knowledge of the machine tool industry and his good contacts in it, was able to charge a high rate and earn a good living and reputation as a translator, always working within this field.
The second speaker was Rear-Admiral Maitland MakGill Crichton. His work in Naval intelligence had given him knowledge of several languages (including Russian, on the same course as myself many years earlier). He had a great aptitude for languages and learned many more. He had a working knowledge of 23 languages and some knowledge of about eight others. He would translate from any of his working languages on virtually any subject. He too earned a good income and had a very good reputation as a translator.

I think most of us are probably somewhere in between, starting either as a general translator or within a certain specialization but then acquiring more knowledge first of related fields, and then of others, as we go along.


Allison Wright (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
Yes, sometimes Jun 24, 2013

As Julian says, I will accept jobs which are well within my capabilities, but not necessarily what I perceive to be my areas of expertise.
This has led to the acquiring or so-called "specialist knowledge" in a few areas.

I have twice in my career accepted (not very big) jobs which were definitely not within my capability, although they initially appeared to be. In the first instance, I leaned heavily on the expertise of the client, and managed to achieve something he was satisfied with. In the second, I apologised for accepting the job, charged zero, and promised I would never do that again. And I haven't. And I won't.


Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
German to English
Only if.. Jun 24, 2013

Only if it is fairly easily possible to research the subject matter and/or it is general material not requiring specialist expertise.

For example, anything involving either chemistry or medical, etc. I would generally reject, as these are not really my fields. I often turn down jobs, even profitable ones, which I could easily "blag" because, quite simply, I am not happy with returning anything less than a fully satisfactory result.

Basic rule: If you don't thoroughly understand it, don't translate it!!

Steve K.


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:21
German to English
+ ...
"For the general reader" is a good guideline Jun 24, 2013

Because I have Latvian>English (native) in my profile and that is not a common combination, I get asked about all manner of jobs. I always turn down the medical, pharmaceutical and technical ones due to total lack of knowledge about those fields. That goes for German as well. However, I quite enjoy the one-off jobs - for the general reader, as Christine said above - on subjects like cooking or perhaps a resume or personal letter.

[Edited at 2013-06-24 13:00 GMT]


Carmen Grabs
Local time: 07:21
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
Law and IT are the only two fields I turn down Jun 24, 2013

Although I prefer certain topics, I take on almost everything I feel comfortable with.


Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
The areas of my expertise (there's a book title) Jun 24, 2013

Yes, there is a book with that title!

I started with law and some accounting based on my educational background. I ended up working with finance, banking, marketing, medical devices, software, hardware, cell phone technologies, machinery, civil engineering, health care, medicine and now oil & gas, and cybersecurity.

Humans evolve in experience and knowledge. So, the areas of my expertise are never static. That means that I have accepted assignments outside those areas into some mildly related fields. Sometimes a long-time client will ask me to translate into an area I have no experience, but they insist and will edit the final copy. So I say yes, sure, why not.

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Poll: Do you accept jobs that do not meet your area of expertise?

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