How I chose my specialisations as a translator

As many of you’ll know, I specialise in corporate communications and tourism translation.

I worked in administration for two years before I went to university to study languages. After graduation, I taught English in Spain to improve my spoken Spanish. While I was there a contact I met through teaching learnt that I had an interest in translation. He asked if I could translate a company report from Spanish into English for him because his regular translator was ill. I had never translated in a professional capacity. However, I found that my previous experience doing administration work for financial organisations meant I understood the layout and terminology of company reports. My contact was pleased with my work and he became my first client. I translated a range of corporate documents and contracts for him. I was very fortunate in that he knew I was just getting started as a translator and enabled me to learn from my mistakes. One of my favourite jobs for him was the translation of a chapter from a travel guide. I’ve been travelling and reading travel guides from a young age which turned out to be informal continuing professional development (CPD) for translating this type of text. I soon added tourism as a specialisation.


How to choose your specialisations as a translator

Choose your specialisations as a translatorIf your educational background isn’t just in languages you could choose the non-language element as your specialisation. For example, if you studied finance and French at university you might decide to specialise in the translation of financial texts. The same is true if you had a job before you became a translator: if you’ve worked as a lawyer you might consider specialising in legal texts. If you’ll be gaining your specialisation on the job you need to think about what type of texts you enjoy translating and which will earn you money. Do you have any contacts who could help you with a particular subject? Do you have any interesting hobbies? Is the area you live in known for a particular service? Does your language combination lend itself to a particular specialisation? These are all questions you should ask when choosing your specialisation as a translator.   


Advantages and disadvantages of gaining a specialisation on the job

There are advantages and disadvantages to learning your specialisations on the job as I did. The main advantages are that you learn straight away how to adapt your knowledge to the texts you’re translating and you’re saving time by doing your CPD on the job. The disadvantage is that your future clients may not recognise this “informal” CPD. Therefore you might end up having to take courses to formalise your learning.


Why is it important to choose a specialisation?

Many posts have been written about the importance of specialising. Since my language combinations are common I’ve found it useful to have strong specialisations, even if I have to keep reminding some agencies what these specialisations are! If you specialise it becomes a lot easier to be seen as an expert because you can focus your CPD efforts on that specialisation. It’ll also help you target your marketing because you only need to reach prospects who’ll require the type of texts you work on.  



How did you choose your specialisations? Let me know in the comments.


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