Are translation specialisations important to clients?

There are lots of articles, talks and blogs covering why translators should specialise. However, I’ve noticed a trend for asking translators to work on texts which aren’t related to their field of specialisation. For example, agencies often state that they like their freelancers to be able to manage several distinct fields. Some agencies ask translators to do test translations that aren’t in their specialist fields. I’ve heard of potential direct clients questioning why a legal translator can’t translate a software manual. This made me think, is this another aspect of the need to educate clients or is specialisation not important to clients.  If it isn’t, why is it important to translators?

Since translation specialisations are likely important to clients; they would not ask an engineer to write their company report. Therefore, why don’t they appear to realise that the same rules apply when getting a text translated? There are several reasons why many people outside the translation industry might not realise that most translators specialise. One reason is that many large translation agencies accept work in all fields. A company that sends both company reports and user manuals to the same agency may not realise that different translators are working on these documents. If this company decides to start working with individual translators, they may be surprised to find that one translator can’t 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 background, as opposed to a business or scientific background. Therefore, many clients may question translators’ abilities to manage the terminology of their specialised texts. The solution to this is to make clients aware of the continuing professional development undertaken by professional 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 understanding your specialisations?




This Post Has One 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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