Are translation specialisations important to clients?
There are lots of articles, talks and blogs covering why translators should specialise. However, I have noticed a trend for asking translators to work on texts which are not 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 which are not in their specialist fields. I have heard of potential direct clients questioning why a legal translator cannot 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 is not, why is it important to translators?
Since it is likely that translation specialisations are important to clients; they would not ask an engineer to write their company report. Therefore why do they not 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 who 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 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 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?