So you’ve made the decision to hire an expert translator. That’s fantastic!
Translation is just like any other craft and requires years of actual hands-on experience in order for the translator’s skills to be at a high enough level.
Chances are, in your own profession, you wouldn’t have the time to master this skill on your own – sure, you may know a foreign language, but that’s not really enough to create a translation of a document that doesn’t actually sound like an obvious translation.
With business deals that involve a lot of money, a sub-par translation could actually sink you.
Once you find a translator that you’re happy with, you might be tempted to just have them handle all of your translation projects in the future.
For the most part, that would be the wisest course of action, as you know what you’re looking for the best. There’s only one issue with that – if your next translation project is from a wildly different field, you might end up shooting yourself in the foot with this approach.
If you really want your documents to be translated in the most competent manner, what you need is the help of a specialized translator.
We’re here to tell you all about specialized translation – what it’s all about, why you should pick a specialized translator, as well as what the most common translation specializations are.
What is a Specialized Translator?
Before going into what a specialized translator is, it is important to define what a translator is in the first place.
You might think it’s nothing more complicated than just someone who knows two languages. After all, that’s all you really need to do to be able to translate properly, right?
By that logic, any kid that’s had Spanish in the 10th grade could translate a document – but that sounds absurd.
Translators need to know a second language at an incredibly high level.
For this reason, a lot of bilinguals, who have an innate knowledge of two languages at an early age, decide to become translators at some point in their life. But just the fact that they have that leg up in language knowledge doesn’t make them better translators by default.
In fact, translation itself is a separate skill on its own. It engages the brain in a different manner than just speaking or reading in a foreign language.
Since languages rarely follow the same rules or have a similar vocabulary, translators need to perform a lot of code-switching on the fly so as to avoid something that’s called a calque – that’s when a sentence technically uses the words from the target language, but the grammar is all from the source language.
It takes a lot of work and dedication to get so good at a translation that the resulting document doesn’t look like it was ever written in a different language.
Specialized translators take this one step further.
While good translators, in general, have to possess an intrinsic intuition and feel for the languages they work with, the amount of vocabulary in any language is staggering, and one person can only know so much.
Specialized translators exist for the purpose of being familiar with texts from one particular field – as well as just having an interest in the field in themselves – in order to provide the best quality translation for documents within that field in the most efficient way possible.
While someone unfamiliar with the topic might spend a lot of time on research and still get some nuances wrong, a specialist will know exactly what they’re talking about.
1) A master of the craft
In order to become a specialized translator, it’s not really enough to be a translator with an interest in a particular field. Like all worthwhile things in life, it takes time and dedication to really get there.
All translators begin as generalists and later shift into their specialization either by chance or by calling. It may be that a company-hired translator simply had to grow into their specialization because they’ve been handed specific types of documents for a longer period of time.
For freelancers, they often have more choice in the matter, but it’s more the issue of finding the field you’re comfortable with and honing your skills in that regard.
Considering the above, it’s quite obvious that, the more important and specialized your project is, the more experienced a translator you should look for.
With more texts of a similar nature in their portfolio, they’ll simply perform the task faster, more efficiently, and more accurately. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give more generalist translators a chance – they do need the experience, and they will do for tasks that don’t require extensive knowledge of the field.
They’ll also come cheaper, so it really all depends on the needs of your company.
If you’re just starting out, you can hire a translator that will grow with you, but if you’re already dealing with high stakes and need absolute accuracy – you should definitely go all out and get a specialist that’s a master of their craft to do the job.
2) Boosted efficiency
The benefits of a specialized translator are basically two-fold. The first one is obvious – quality.
Someone who knows more about a specific field and has experience translating within it will give you a much more accurate translation.
This alone boosts your company’s prestige, as everyone around will be able to see just how many lengths you were willing to go to to make sure that the end results are nothing short of impeccable.
But while increased prestige will get you positive attention, it won’t make the process more efficient or cost-effective. That’s where the second benefit comes in – speed.
Someone who is specialized in a specific field has it as their second skin, so to speak. These translators are not only really good at what they do, knowing all the ins and outs of their field of knowledge, but they’re also incredibly comfortable with these types of documents as they’ve already translated hundreds like them.
Since you’re not dealing with a generalist, who might feel more or less intimidated with a given topic, you are ensuring maximum speed and efficiency. Your projects get done sooner and you lose less money on delays and reviews by other specialists who aren’t translators.
All this makes the entire process more stable and reliable, giving you the peace of mind that only comes with making sound business decisions.
3) Choosing the right one
Of course, just saying you need a specialist translator is one thing. Once you’ve reached that place, you need to decide what kind of specialization you’re really looking for. There is, of course, a whole host of specializations and sub-specializations and if you look hard enough, you can find a translator to fill any niche.
We’ve compiled a list of four of the most common fields of translation that you’re bound to find a great selection of translators for.
a) The medical field
Medicine, in general, is a very specialized field. With so many terms related to drugs, diseases, and specialized equipment, there’s a whole breadth of knowledge there that might simply be unnavigable to a generalist translator.
Of course, the best kind of medical translators have doctor friends at hand who have active experience in the field, but even without them, they can do a lot using their own know-how.
Aside from the obvious hospitals and pharmacies, medical translation specialists are particularly useful to insurance companies and governmental institutions, for whenever any medical documentation needs to be translated.
b) Legal matters
Even disregarding foreign languages, legalese is one of the most convoluted aspects of all legal matters.
This makes legal translators particularly instrumental, as they need to have a thorough knowledge of the jargon in both of the languages they work in if they want to make sure all legal documents are accurate representations.
This specialization also requires the translator to be aware of all the differences between the legal systems of the countries in question, so that the documents aren’t just literal equivalents, but make sense within the context of the target legal system.
While this type of specialist translator is among the rarest, it is also probably the most valuable.
Most companies face the risk of encountering legal issues at one point or another, and this becomes particularly problematic for multinational companies that have to consider the law of various countries and adhere to it. Legal translators become instrumental should things ever go south for them.
c) Technical translations
Technical translations are quite a broad term and can generally be summed up as the translation of any documentation that has anything at all to do with technology.
This includes things as mundane as instruction manuals, as well as blueprints for some new, cutting edge tech that is only about to enter mass production. Needless to say, these are fields in which an inaccurate translation can cause a lot of damage.
Additionally, technical terminology can be incredibly precise, with every minute element most likely being crucial to the functioning of a given device. With differences between these elements often being very subtle, it takes an experienced eye to really know what the translation actually demands from the translator.
Finally, there’s the field of academic translations. With English being the de facto lingua franca of the world right now, most internationally available academic papers are being written in that language.
However, not every publication that is using them as a source has to be in English, and neither does the writer have to speak it. In those cases, in order to ease the flow of academic data, academic translators are brought on board.
This greatly reduces the risk of inaccuracies and awkward phrasing, as well as just ensuring that everyone can truly get the point that is being made in the papers.
Translators come in all flavors.
While a general translator will serve their purpose in most instances, the more advanced the documents you’re dealing with, the more experienced a translator you’ll need in order to maintain accuracy.
Their services may cost more, but they’ll do their job better and quicker, saving you resources and showing your clients and partners that you really care.