Do clients understand specialisation?

There are lots of articles, talks and blogs covering why translators should specialise. However I have recently noticed a trend for asking translators to work on texts which are in no way related to their field of specialisation, whether it be agencies stating that they like their freelancers to be able to manage several distinct fields, requests from agencies to do test translations outwith your specialist fields or potential direct clients questioning why a legal translator cannot translate a software manual. This made me think: is this just another aspect of the need to educate clients (please see my previous post for more on this subject ) or is specialisation really not important to clients and if so, why is it important to translators?

Since it is likely that specialisation is important to clients, they would not ask an engineer to write their company report. Therefore why do they appear not to realise that the same rules apply when getting a text translated? One possible reason why many people outside the translation industry do not realise that most translators specialise is that many large translation agencies accept work in all fields. A company who sends both company reports and user manuals to the same agency may not realise that these documents are being handled by different translators. If this company then decides to start working with individual translators they may be surprised to find that one translator cannot work on all types of texts within a language combination. The solution here would be to try to subtly educate clients about the translation process. Another possibility is that many translators come from a language, as opposed to a business or scientific, background. Therefore many clients may question translators’ abilities to manage the terminology of their highly specialised texts. The solution to this is to make clients aware of the continuing professional development undertaken by translators to make sure they keep up-to-date with developments in the industries they translate for.

What do you think? Have you ever had problems with clients not understanding your specialisation?


Related posts
Why attitudes to translation still need to change


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1 Comment

  1. Tomas Donoval

    Funny enough, some agencies don’t understand specialisation either, expecting the same translator to be equally good at translating financial statements and neuroscience studies.


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