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Specialisation in Translation: The Most Common Fields of Expertise in the Industry

This post includes partial results from a survey we conducted in 2018. Such survey included questions about average rates worldwide and specialisation fields. We wanted to get a general picture of the translation industry at a global level. For that purpose, we gathered 400 answers.

The respondents include translators and interpreters from every continent, field of specialisation, and level of experience. In today’s article, we deal with the most common areas of expertise within the translation industry.

Respondents’ Origin

Out of the 401 linguists who filled out the survey, the majority live in Europe (55%). Answers coming from South America amount to 18%, and 13% of the input originates in North America. Regarding the rest of the continents, 3% of the respondents live in Central America. Moreover, 4% are from Africa, 6% from Asia, and 1% from Oceania.

The Most Popular Field of Specialisation

According to our survey, technical translation seems to be the most popular among the different types of specialised translation. It includes, for example, the translation of manuals and user guides. In addition, any text dealing with the practical application of scientific and technological information is considered technical. Technical translation involves the use of so-called “controlled language”, for which machine translation has proven to work well. However, our survey proves that human technical translators are not going anywhere! On the contrary, the results suggest that this field is where there seems to be more work.

The Areas with the Fewer Specialised Translators

The areas in which there seem to be fewer specialised translators are varied. They include literature, travel and tourism, transcription, audiovisual/entertainment, and video-games. This doesn’t mean, however, that these are fields demanding little amount of translation work. Rather, it means that not as many linguists have specialised in them as in the technical, legal, or marketing translation fields.

Food for Thought

We would like to quote Charles Martin in his paper “Specialization in Translation”:

“Everyone in the translation industry seems to agree that translators these days must specialize. There are mainly two reasons why this need has become increasingly apparent in recent years. The first is the exponential expansion of knowledge. This means that there is simply much more to know about any given subject and many new subjects to know. No translator can be expected to have the knowledge required to translate all types of documents. Let alone do it well and within a reasonable amount of time.

The Internet is the second and main reason why specialization is increasingly necessary. Firstly, the Interne enables translators to deliver translations rapidly to customers anywhere in the world. They can promote their special skills and services far beyond their local markets. For this reason, the worldwide web has made it much easier for translators to specialize. Secondly, by putting a wealth of information at their disposal and thus allowing them to venture into new and more specialized areas. But the Internet has also intensified competition, by enabling people with documents to translate to search the world over for someone capable of meeting their specific needs, or price.”

Do you agree? We certainly do! Let us know your ideas in the comments!

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