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Translation Fields: How Many Are There and What Are the Main Ones?

First things first: why do we speak of translation fields? The answer is simple. There’s more to translation than simply replacing one word for another. Although some texts are simpler to translate, like general texts, some others are more complex. The difficulty in translating a death certificate, for example, is not the same as in a medical report or a novel.

Even though many translators survive happily as generalists, ability alone is usually not enough. Specialist translators can provide better-quality work quicker than generalist translators of similar ability. Why? Because of higher productivity! In other words, generalists need to research what a specialist already knows. As you can tell, translation is a lot about understanding the subject matter in depth.

Translation Fields In the Words of Charles Martin

In his paper “Specialization in Translation”, Charles Martin says:

“Everyone in the translation industry seems to agree that translators these days must specialize. (…) [One of the reasons for it is] the exponential expansion of knowledge: 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 well and within a reasonable amount of time.”

The Main Translation Fields

Below is a non-exhaustive list of translation fields, ranked by order of popularity (according to a survey we conducted in 2018).

  • Technical (includes IT)
  • Marketing (includes Communication, Transcreation, Social Media translation, etc.)
  • Legal
  • Business and Finance
  • Social Sciences (includes Politics, Gender Studies, etc.)
  • Scientific and Health Care
  • Literary
  • Audiovisual
  • Video Games

At Crisol, for example, we specialise in Marketing, Health Care, IT, Gastronomy, Tourism, and Social Sciences!

The Influence of the Internet on Translation Specialisation

To quote Charles Martin again,

The Internet is the second and main reason why specialization is increasingly necessary. Firstly, by enabling translators to deliver translations rapidly to customers anywhere in the world and promote their special skills and services far beyond their local markets, 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.”

Why Do Expert Translators Charge Premium Rates?

Quality costs more. It’s as simple as that. Translators who specialise in a particular field become masters of it and deliver superior service. In other words, experts charge more because they give more!

A specialised translator will offer wisdom and solutions that will allow clients to achieve their goals faster and more successfully. Expert translators save their clients’ time and money because their translations are accurate, useful, and tailored to the client’s objectives. Such value costs more upfront because it’s an investment rather than an expense. After all… buy cheap, buy twice!

Our Industry Survey about Fields of Translation

We conducted a survey in 2018 that 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.

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  1. Thanks for this amazing and helpful post!Great Information and awareness for people. I would like to thank you for these usefull tips.