Poll: Do you usually accept projects in subjects/fields that you are not very familiar with?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 11:14
Nov 30, 2015

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you usually accept projects in subjects/fields that you are not very familiar with?".

This poll was originally submitted by Luke Mersh. View the poll results »


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, sometimes Nov 30, 2015

Although I wouldn't recommend it for everyone,I can usually scan a document and decide whether I will be able to handle it or not, whether I am familiar with the subject area or not. If you have access to the authors of the text or someone with in-depth or working knowledge of the field you can consult about any doubts or queries, it shouldn't be a problem. Over the years I have revised and translated texts in several different fields that people would probably consider highly specialised. In fact, the only subject area I can think of that I avoid like the plague nowadays is finance.

[Edited at 2015-11-30 08:20 GMT]

PS: And literature. (This poll has just reminded me that) I currently have a literary text to be translated, which I have already had a crack at, but it's a toughie and it would take me forever to do it properly, so I'm going to pass it onto someone with more time, experience and patience.

[Edited at 2015-11-30 08:25 GMT]


Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:14
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Not now Nov 30, 2015

When I first started out, I accepted anything and everything - mainly because I was inexperienced and wasn't familiar with a lot of stuff - but then my customers were aware of this. They tolerated this situation because I did lots of research (yes, we had to go to libraries back then Gasp!) to make up for any lack of knowledge and they were quite happy with what I delivered. Besides, I was one of a only a handful of people in this area who could translate J>E. icon_smile.gif

Now, with over 30+ years of translating primarily for Japanese industry under my belt, I have my own particular skill set in technical translation and a lot of 'peripheral knowledge' which I generally don't apply to translation I accept on a general daily basis. However, like Neilmac, if a job comes along that does not quite fit my skill set but falls within my 'comfort zone' I can take it on without any problem.

I will, however, refuse legal, medical, pharma, biotech and patent translation in a blink of the eyelid. This stuff gives me hives just thinking about it. icon_rolleyes.gif

Small addition

[Edited at 2015-12-01 05:45 GMT]


Doan Quang  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:14
English to Vietnamese
Yes, but Nov 30, 2015

Yes, but I want to see source documents.


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:14
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sometimes Nov 30, 2015

But it has to be something I can get my head around. My best client sends me texts in a wide range of fields, but they are not too technical and I have managed to get by, learning a lot in the process. If I didn't stretch myself a little, I might not have a full plate of work. I enjoy learning about new subjects. I had to be a generalist for the first 6 years of my career, then I specialized in public health and medicine for about 20 years. Now I'd say about 70% of my work is in my specialized areas and the other 30% could be just about anything that's not too technical.

Yesterday I was asked to translate a series of news clips about a transnational criminal gang that had been brought to justice. I feel as if I learn something new almost every day.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:14
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
If it is information for the 'general reader' Nov 30, 2015

A certain amount of the work I do is aimed at the 'general reader', and I have always put myself in that category. icon_wink.gif
Press releases and information for non-specialists, for instance.

I am a little more cautious than I used to be, and check the text through first or ask the client about terminology, but I do a fair number of short, informative texts and learn a lot along the way.


Teresa Borges
Local time: 19:14
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, sometimes! Nov 30, 2015

Depends on the subject! I will avoid like the plague extremely technical stuff (nuclear engineering, pharmacy, chemistry, for instance). Anyway, whatever the subject, I always examine first the source document. If I’m available and feel that with a good amount of research I’m able to do a good job, I’ll do it. I view translation as a constant learning curve and the beauty of it, being so multidimensional and complex at times, is that it pushes my limits and challenges my intellect.


Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:14
Member (2006)
German to English
No Nov 30, 2015

not any more.
Did try, but quickly realised myself that it did not work out.
Better to turn something down than make a mess of it!


Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No Nov 30, 2015

Cos I is more professional than what u is


Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:14
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sometimes Nov 30, 2015

I do not refuse jobs in any field, as long as I feel comfortable translating it. For example, medicine is not one of my specialization areas, so I won't take a job describing a surgery or disease, for example, but I will take a translation of a manual for a medical equipment. I will probably not accept a thesis in chemistry, but I would accept one in pedagogy (though either area is one of mine specializations).

I do not think a professional translator should refuse jobs in any area simply because it's not their expertise. The theme and the contents have to be assessed. On the other hand, you should never accept a job in an area you know nothing about, as you could make an undue translation and cause serious damages, even to human health, and you don't want to be responsible for that.

[Edited at 2015-11-30 14:01 GMT]


Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Nov 30, 2015

I did at first, but I'm really only good at translating certain kinds of texts. I'm actually working to cut back even further now and only working in my very best fields and outsourcing everything else to trusted colleagues.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:14
Member (2007)
+ ...
Some element of it is inevitable Nov 30, 2015

I can't vouch for other specialisations, but mine are marketing and tourism. Now a guide to an area will contain lots of very general terminology that needs to read ultra well. That's right down my street. But then maybe the area has some ruins dating back to some period noted for its architecture; or maybe an extreme sporting event is held there each year; or you can dive and see 25 species of local fish (all named); or... well, you get the drift.

But I wouldn't take on a true technical text. I wouldn't enjoy it and if I'm going to spend all day doing something I don't enjoy then I think I'd rather retire.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Jared Tabor[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Poll: Do you usually accept projects in subjects/fields that you are not very familiar with?

Advanced search

SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »
SDL Trados Studio 2017 only €435 / $519
Get the cheapest prices for SDL Trados Studio 2017 on ProZ.com

Join this translator’s group buy brought to you by ProZ.com and buy SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance for only €435 / $519 / £345 / ¥63000 You will also receive FREE access to Studio 2019 when released.

More info »

  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search