Advice needed on specialization
Thread poster: Cécile Sellier

Cécile Sellier  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:10
English to French
+ ...
Feb 4, 2011

Hi all,

I'm a translator of English to French and my main fields of expertise are Environment/ecology, Travel/tourism, Education, and Literature.

I would like to find out which specialities are most in demand. I have noticed that a lot of translators specialize in the legal or medical fields. What other areas would be a good idea for a translator to specialize in?
I am trying to improve my services and expand my business, and am ready to spend a lot of time and effort in developping a new speciality, for which there is a large demand.

I thank you all in advance for your advice!

Cécile


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:10
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Plastics Feb 4, 2011

Things haven't changed since Dustin Hoffman was young.

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Jean-Pierre Artigau
Canada
Local time: 07:10
English to French
+ ...
Environment, ecology Feb 4, 2011

Environment and ecology certainly have a lot of potential, since a lot of attention is devoted to these fields, and this will last for many more years. If you are ready to devote a lot of time and energy, I suggest you take courses to acquire some deeper knowledge of these fields. In my opinion too many people think they "know" environment an ecology (just like everyone "knows" about politics and economy because they hear about it all the time).

But being a specialist involves a lot more. You should be able, for instance, to translate highly technical documentation; here are a few examples: pollution of rivers by pesticides (i.e. be comfortable with units of measure and names of toxic products, notions of chemistry, scientific notions related to soil erosion, etc.), the effects of deforestation on salamander populations, proper use of pesticides in agriculture (with some vocabulary related to agricultural tools), biological control of insect pests (species names, knowledge of stages of development of insects, etc). These are real examples of what you will see if you claim to be specialized. And once a client starts to recognize the value of your work, he will tend to send you texts in a wider range of fields like biology, biotechnology, health and safety at the workplace, etc.

On the other hand, once you are comfortable with these notions, this becomes extremely interesting, and it allows you to learn as you work! This is the main reason why I haven't retired yet, I just cannot stop learning about salamanders and soil erosion! And the more you know, the more you can accept work that nobody else wants, the more you are "indispensable" (excuse the French) the more it pays!

Good luck Cécile


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Cécile Sellier  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:10
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How to learn more about environment-ecology? Feb 5, 2011

Thanks a lot for your post Jean-Pierre! It does sound very interesting.
As I've been a voluteer with environmental conservation organisations for a few years, I am already familiar with some areas (mainly climate change) but ecology is indeed quite a wide subject and there's always more to be learnt!
What do you think is the best way to improve my knowledge of this field? By reading books in both languages? Taking a course in ecology?
Thanks again!


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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 13:10
Italian to English
+ ...
Chemistry and Physics Feb 5, 2011

Jean-Pierre has already pointed in the right direction.


Social groups are nice, and everyone thinks that the idea of a clean and natural environment is nice, and translations can be a nice business. So far, how nice!

But the business goal has to be competitive ability to translate documents that add value to people and organizations with money willing to pay you.

To be sure, build on your interest in environment/ecology, transforming it into the competitive ability to:

" ... translate highly technical documentation; here are a few examples: pollution of rivers by pesticides (i.e. be comfortable with units of measure and names of toxic products, notions of chemistry, scientific notions related to soil erosion, etc.), the effects of deforestation on salamander populations, proper use of pesticides in agriculture (with some vocabulary related to agricultural tools), biological control of insect pests (species names, knowledge of stages of development of insects, etc). ..."

That probably means studying, at the basics, chemistry and physics, in particular perhaps soil sciences, biofuels, electro-chemistry, then, as mentioned, the technical vocabulary of a particular industry that applies chemistry and physics whose business is more efficient use of environment and energy to improve the quality of human life on earth than what fossil fuels have offered so far.

It's nice to talk about, harder to do it and still deliver basic comforts, like running hot water, electricity, and a variety of fresh foods, plus personal automotive transport, to something like three billion households and seven billion people on a daily basis across the planet.

So, in addition to studying some hard sciences as applied to environment/ecology (e.g. soil sciences), you should also consider trying to intern or land a job with a practical industry company, at least for a while, also a great way to meet potential direct clients!

Good Luck!

[Edited at 2011-02-05 12:23 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-02-05 12:23 GMT]


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Jean-Pierre Artigau
Canada
Local time: 07:10
English to French
+ ...
My answer to Cécile Feb 6, 2011

If you are very interested in ecology or the environment, I suggest you take courses.

The most drastic solution would be to take a full-time curriculum and hope to get a degree after a few years (no joke, this is what I did in biology years ago, but part-time). The only problem is that you might decide to become a biologist and forget about translating...

Or you might take a few basic courses in general sciences like physics, chemistry and biology. You might also choose to work part time as a translator and study part-time. Inquire at your local university about "auditor" possibilities ("auditeur libre", why do we have to write to each other in English?). To be avoided at all cost: two full-time parallel lives, this will just drive you crazy. If you choose to translate part-time, be sure to accept only the corresponding amount of work.

Another less drastic approach is to read "advanced technical" books and and subscribe to specialized reviews in your field. This is where you will learn something, not in those intended for a general public. And a good proportion of these readings should be in your target language (presumably French), because this is the language you will have to write.

And whatever you study, you will always have to learn more as you work. Texts you will receive are not "just" about the environment and ecology. For instance in texts about "ecology and environment", I had to deal with parts of agricultural machinery, proper building of structures for the stockpiling of manure, chemical description and classification of pesticides, worm farming for composting, laws and regulations, minutes of meetings of employees of... the ministry of Environment, etc. And as I said before, your best (most faithful) clients will tend to send you texts in other fields such as health and safety at the workplace. Look at those texts carefully and think twice before saying no...

And another thing: many "specialized" translators have never taken courses in their fields of work; all they know about the subject, they have learned while working. If you choose this approach, you should sometimes be ready to spend a lot of time on your research (thus in the short term your work won't be too profitable). But this can be extremely interesting (intellectually) and it will certainly pay in the longer term. It will pay in the not-so-long term if you have a few "faithful" clients, because each client tends to repeat himself after a while and use the same vocabulary again and again (a good thing for us translators!)

Some new translators also do "subcontracting", i.e. they translate for someone who will revise them... and provide comments on their work. This could be another approach to learning a new field. But I don't know how the translation sector works in France... these are just general ideas.


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Cécile Sellier  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:10
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks a lot for the advice! Feb 6, 2011

Thank you guys for your advice!

I would indeed be interested in taking a course in Ecology, perhaps leading to a degree... I am searching for info about distance learning, as I live in a beautiful but very remote ski resort (Tignes, for those who know it!). Typing this, I am realizing that I should enquire about getting a part-time job or do some volunteering for the Vanoise National Park (Tignes is right in it). I guess I could learn a lot about alpine flora and fauna, land conservation and stuff like that

About books and reviews, if anyone's got anything to recommend, that'd be great! I usually read the usual magazines, but something more technical would be good for me

Finally, about being offered projects where you have to do some research and therefore learn a lot, that's mostly what I get at the moment, but nothing to do with the environment! As I've only just started my business a few months ago, I'm struggling to get work but there's one London-based company that sends me videos to subtitle. My first job was a series of DVDs about rock'n'roll bands, which was fun, but the next one was a 1-hour video about carp fishing... (I've never been fishing and know nothing about it!). It took me a long time to find the right translation for most words (my dictionary doesn't know any more than I do about fishing) but now I know I can take on a similar job and that won't be a problem!

Anyway, thanks so much for your help, I really appreciate!


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