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!