Poll: How many areas do you specialize in?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 07:48
May 11, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How many areas do you specialize in?".

This poll was originally submitted by Ikram Mahyuddin. View the poll results »


Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
One May 11, 2015


[reaches for bucket]


Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:48
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
What is an area? May 11, 2015

The number depends on the definition of an area. Is Medicine part of Life sciences? In that case I specialise in only one area (although I may of course accept work outside the area of Life Sciences occasionally).


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:48
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Other: I know what I do NOT specialise in! May 11, 2015

I came late to translation after a checkered career in several different fields, and all experience is useful. In practice, however, I have never gone in-depth enough to specialise much.

Because sites and questionnaires are built up that way, I say I specialise in a handful of subject areas, and I have built up knowledge and collected terminology in those fields. I can take on the broad run of texts because I have learnt enough law, for instance, to translate most normal employment or property leasing contracts. I know where to look things up and who to ask when in doubt.

From hard-won experience of translating, I have learnt to look carefully at texts and tell the client when they are really too specialised for me, and occasionally to recommend a colleague.

Sometimes the job comes back a day or two later - the agency cannot find anyone else, and then it depends... I used to be flattered and try anyway, but that can be dangerous. That is how I have learnt to be cautious!

I have only lost one good client that way - all the work they had in my language pair was in one highly specialised field. We parted as friends. Several others have come confidently back with work I could tackle.

PS Chris S says it all in one word!

[Edited at 2015-05-11 12:49 GMT]


Teresa Borges
Local time: 15:48
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Other May 11, 2015

Like Christine, I know quite well what I’m not specialized in! I didn't start out my career as a translator. There were more than a couple of other completely different professions (civil servant, senior secretary, hotel manager, junior director, account executive, public relations officer, vocational trainer) before this one. I do not regret at all this intricate weaving as it gave me a valuable insight of different areas of business. Then one day translation found me: part-time for a few years followed by 20 years as full-time in-house translator and reviser (retired now). Like most freelance translators, I started out as a generalist but pretty quickly realized that there are certain types of text I’m not qualified to handle or that I simply don’t enjoy. I still consider myself a generalist and enjoy projects where I can use my various skills. Nowadays, I translate mostly EU affairs, medicine (medical devices), education… Am I specialized? Only in never biting off more than I can chew!


Michel Virasolvy  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:48
Member (2012)
English to French
Areas of specialty are too thin to really stand as "specialist". May 11, 2015

Just like Marjolein, I think it really depends on the definition of an area. I studied electronics, got assigned a considerable amount of IT videos to subtitle and never understood how I came from one area of expertise to the other. Even when translating a CAD software I studied a lil' bit of architecture and now for some reason the guy keeps coming over as if I were a civil engineer, making me deepen my knowledge in real-life architecture. I only indicate one (electronics) out of safety, to avoid legal documentation, but, honestly? There's not such thing as an "area of specialty", just a bunch of topics you're much more fluent than the average guy who'll look for a dictionary for every single word.


Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:48
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Hunners May 11, 2015

There isn't any broader subject field in which I would handle just any text. So I have to take a narrower view. But very precisely defined areas quickly add up to large numbers. In the face of time-restraints, I shall skip the counting and put forward the rough estimate: tons.


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
Four-ish May 11, 2015

They tend to sort of overlap. For example, if we call BIO an area, that takes in everything from agriculture to animal husbandry to water resources management... etc.
BUSINESS is another wide-ranging area... involving accountancy, new technologies...
EDUCATION is another broad field encompassing things like sociology... and other -ologies.
There must be some other area I could stick in there in capital letters, but I can't think of it right now...


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:48
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
If I mention technical translation... May 11, 2015

...everyone seems to think that I translate every possible subject under the sun for industry. But, that's not what happens. Engineers are not that versatile and neither am I. So, here goes.

- Industrial automation (process control, PLCs, etc.) (20+ years)
- Machine tools / industrial robots (6 years)
- Printing / prepress / image processing (10+ years)
- Office automation (10+ years)
- Semiconductor manufacturing equipment (5+ years)
- Automotive (pretty much full-time basis past 3+ years)
- Laboratory analysis/measurement/testing equipment and systems (for electronics, environment and machinery) (6 years)
- Medical systems and equipment (6 years)

All of the above and more on and off and to differing degrees.

There was even a time of about one whole year that all I did was industrial automation stuff for the top five Japanese manufacturers day in day out. I'm glad I never messed up the model Nos. icon_smile.gif

With technical translation, there is a decent amount of technology overlap - you can move onto an 'adjacent' area of industry and apply the translation skills and knowledge you've already gained. And, if you're interested and motivated and are a quick learn, you can move out a litter further afield and learn even more, which is really quite fun.

So, 'quality' was part of your bucket list? icon_biggrin.gif

Small edit

[Edited at 2015-05-11 13:54 GMT]


Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:48
Member (2008)
English to Italian
I voted other May 11, 2015

I am specialized in 1 big area, but this area comprises a number of sub-areas.... so it is getting difficult to answer the question.


Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:48
Portuguese to English
+ ...
several May 11, 2015

I paid my own way through college working in construction trades and the restaurant industry.
I then worked as an English teacher, then a Spanish teacher.
I taught myself to program computers and do web development.
I initially went to school to study kinesiology and sports medicine, but changed to languages after already studying much of anatomy, physiology, nutrition, etc.
I'm diabetic, and have battled cancer, and have long been an athelete (runner/cyclist).
When I first came to the language services sector, I worked as a medical and court interpreter.
So I primarily work in medical and legal fields, but also in IT/technology.
I end up doing a lot of construction contract related materials (tech specs, calls for bids, etc.),
materials for patents related to medical devices and other technology, software and web localization,
tech contract materials.
I suppose this means I "specialize" in legal, medical, and technical/technological areas.
I've also translated many psychology and sociology related academic articles (had about 15 credit hours in those fields in college as electives due to personal interest).
I do occasionally take other materials (marketing surveys, news articles, etc.) that are unrelated to those fields, but more general in nature, really, too.
I'm a walking (running/cycling) encyclopedia of knowledge in 4 languages on a broad spectrum of topics.
I don't feel particularly special here, knowing many brilliant colleagues whose knowledge and wisdom surpass my own.
We're a rare lot, us translators.


Alberto Montpellier  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...

Kinda like Anthony Baldwin... May 11, 2015

I've done some construction work and worked at a refinery for a development project, so Engineering, Oil&Gas and Construction are kind of my strong suit, but if being an engineer counts as a "specialist", then I'm not a specialist.

I come from a family of doctors and grew up listening to them discuss medical stuff and I also taught Medical English at the Med School here for some years, so I am very comfortable with the medical field. Can I translate ANYTHING within the medical realm? Of course not!! It's too big a field.

I've also handled a lot of international contracts and done interpretation during their negotiation, so that's another "specialization area". Due to this, I'm also capable of working with general financial stuff.

[Edited at 2015-05-11 15:35 GMT]


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:48
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Like Teresa May 13, 2015

Teresa Borges wrote:

Am I specialized? Only in never biting off more than I can chew!

I'm much clearer on what I cannot do than what I can do. I do just about any topic that international organizations deal in except law. Over 40 years with the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization has given me strength in medicine and public health, but I do just about anything in the life sciences and social and economic development. I also do linguistics, which was my graduate major. And I have a soft spot for art and architecture, fields that my husband specialized in.


Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:48
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Specialization? May 21, 2015

As noted by many colleagues, considering oneself "specialized" depends on many factors. And considering the many sub-areas of each area, the number of specializations raises. For example, one of the areas I consider myself "specialized" in is engineering. However, I could call myself an expert in mining and metallurgy, power generation or mechanics, but not in oil & gas, robotics and agronomy. So, would that make me specialized in many subareas or only in engineering (1 area)?

Also, would anybody be actually considered "specialized" in anything at all without a certificate or diploma in that area? Quite subjective.


Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:48
English to Polish
+ ...
Mostly one Jun 9, 2015

My one real true specialization is the law, but I translate business, marketing, popular science IT and some other stuff too. Actually, I do a lot of technical or legal/technical translations, but that's a coincidence, not a career choice.


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