How To Choose Your Specialisation
Specialised Translators – How To Choose Your Specialisation
In my previous article I tackled the problem of whether becoming a specialised translator is always positive or not. The answer is not straight forward, so I invite you to read the article and tell me your point of view. Today we will discuss how to choose your area of expertise within the translation field.
- A – focus on what the market needs – first analyse the market, then choose the subjects to specialise in
- B – focus on what you like – choose the areas you are passionate about, then offer your expertise to the market.
There’s not only one right answer – they are two different approaches that can coexist and benefit from each other. For the first one you need to know the market trends. You need to understand what fields could be more profitable, what kind of companies are investing in the countries where your mother tongue is spoken. In other words, you need data. How do you collect it? Well, this is the hard part, because usually we linguists are not very interested in economics or market trends, which is a shame. Here is a list of new sectors that surely need help with translation:
- > e-commerce websites
- > mobile and web apps
- > technical translations (to learn more, listen to my interview about Technical Writing and Technical Translation)
- > video games
- > social media (see also the article “Multilingual Social Media Management”)
- > companies that want to start a social marketing strategy in another country
- > copywriting
- > localization (see my article on SEO and Localization)
- > transcreation, also called ‘creative translation’, ‘cross-market copywriting’, ‘international copy adaptation’, ‘marketing translation’, ‘internationalization’, and ‘cultural adaptation’.(see my Glossary to learn more)
- > finally, here you find a list of translation fields – around 120 possible areas of work.
And here there are some other useful links:
- > Speaking of languages
- > Most spoken languages in the World
- > Top E-retail markets of the world
- > Books translated each year
When we think about a career in translation we often think about literary, medical or legal translation, the best known fields. But there are several new areas of the market that might be more profitable. New technologies open doors to opportunities that didn’t exist as little as 5 years ago, so don’t expect universities to teach you this stuff.
You have to look around, explore new areas, talk with people, learn from others and from new fields. If you have a friend working for a marketing agency ask him or her what kind of clients they’re working for, and you will get better ideas.
The second criterion requires that you know what you like doing.
Have you ever noticed how few people actually know what they like? We human beings are not very aware of our own tastes and preferences. If you know what you like, then great. Otherwise, you might want to explore your life to find out what you enjoy doing, and use it as a possible field to specialise in. Tim Windhof, a friend of mine working as German-English translator, worked as an attorney for a while before realising that translation was his real passion. Given his experience in the legal field, he specialised in legal translation, putting together two of his main interest.
Once you’ve found your area of specialisation, try your best to enter that market. Even if it’s a small niche, there will be some opportunities. Consider, moreover, that the smaller the niche the fewer the people aware of it.
What if you could be the specialist in gluten-free or vegan products, for example, because you’re passionate about healthy food? You study, you build your terms list, you gain some experience in that field then conduct market research to find out which companies work in that field. They may export to some other country and if you’re lucky they’ll need your language. So what’s the answer? How do you choose your specialisation?
- 1 – do your homework: collect data
- 2 – find out what market areas are more profitable in your country or what are the most requested language pairs (namely the combination of languages you can speak)
- 3 – imagine yourself working in this field for ten years: are you happy with this idea or can’t you stand it? If you can’t, the keep on looking
- 4 – find something that makes you special, specialise in two or three fields: that makes it easier to market yourself
- 5 – if you have a hobby, maybe you can transform it into your speciality: you will enjoy spending hours on it!
- 6 – keep your mind open. Keep an eye on the market and try to see what’s going on in the world: opportunities come if you look for them.
- 7 – and above all, learn from others’ experience. You can listen to some of my interviews, to see how other translators found their way, and get inspired to find yours.