Tag Archives: translation

Why do translators specialise?

Blog specialise

The other day when walking my son to school, he asked me “How do cars go slowly?”. He’s 5 so I answered by explaining that the driver either brakes to slow down or they press the accelerator really lightly to go slowly. Clearly this explanation wasn’t enough and in trying to answer his next question “But how do cars work?” I quickly admitted defeat. Next, we listed two people who might be able to help answer this question… and any others that are sure to pop up along the way.

What’s this got to do with business? Well, we’re all experts at something. Even if you don’t refer to yourself as an expert, you specialise in a particular field and it’s the same with translation. My degree in chemistry made choosing my specialist area fairly easy and consequently I’m known for chemical translations. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy some variety within this field. Last week I translated an advert for a chemical company that needed an extremely creative approach and was a great challenge.

Translators often come from a variety of backgrounds. I have colleagues who were former nurses, bankers, IT specialists and from many other diverse professions. They have since retrained as translators, using their background knowledge to work in their specialist fields.

If a client contacts me asking me to complete a legal or financial translation, I will recommend a colleague or contact someone on their behalf to help with this project. They will do a far better job than me because they understand the subject matter and work in this field on a daily basis. As a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) in the UK, our code of conduct also requires us to refuse work that we know to be beyond our competence because of a lack of specialised knowledge.

I want my clients to have utter faith in me that the translations I deliver are perfect for their brief and hopefully even surpass their expectations. Specialist knowledge helps convey the right concepts in the right way so that your message reaches your target audience. I have nothing but admiration for literary or legal translators. I know my strengths and my limits. I may not know how to explain the internal combustion engine to a 5 year old, but I can explain how to apply anti-corrosion protection to a car and why it’s important. If you need a German to English translation in the chemical field, that I can help with!

Save costs by hiring a translator

European Coatings Show 2015

Earlier this year I attended the European Coatings Show in Nuremberg and was amazed at the number of sales professionals I met who were doing their own translations. (Warning, this is heading into rant territory!) Okay, so I wasn’t surprised that the English translations were being written by non-native speakers – that I could tell and was often the reason for talking to them in the first place – but that the very people who were in charge of bringing in new business, selling the companies’ products and services were also spending their time translating.

Sales professionals who speak a foreign language are most definitely a boon. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many multi-lingual business development managers in my time and admired the way they could confidently do business across a wide variety of cultures and nationalities. But their English wasn’t flawless, sometimes the meaning needed clarification, and they liked to get important documents checked by a native speaker.

One company representative told me that although he didn’t see why they should hire a translator because he speaks and writes excellent English*, sometimes he doesn’t really want to translate. So in this particular company, you have someone hired for his skills selling products and bringing in business that is not bringing in any money because he is doing a job he doesn’t want to do!

And this is besides the fact that, as a rule, you should only translate into your native language. Translating out of your native language is always slower and will always need proofreading before publication to avoid damaging your reputation with errors.

So though you might believe you are saving costs by translating in-house, if you actually look at the time spent on these tasks and your colleagues’ skill sets, the answers might surprise you. In the worst-case scenario, your company is losing business in two ways: by spending valuable time translating instead of making sales, and by producing translations that show a lack of attention to detail and could be putting off potential clients.

Outsourcing this task to a professional translator gives you back the time to make more sales – more than covering the cost of outsourcing. The translation will be completed and proofread by a qualified linguist, and by someone who loves what they do! Not only does this guarantee the best result, you ensure that your excellent reputation remains intact.

*I’m taking his word for it because we were actually talking in German.