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 a 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.
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 last year).
- Technical (includes IT)
- Marketing (includes Communication, Transcreation, Social Media translation, etc.)
- Business and Finance
- Social Sciences (includes Politics, Gender Studies, etc.)
- Scientific and Health Care
- Video Games
At Crisol, for example, we specialise in Marketing, Health Care, and IT! We also work with general texts, certificates, agreements, etc.
—and we do an excellent job—, but the first three fields are the areas in which we are experts.
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.”