Do You Need To Be A Specialised Translator To Succeed?

By Chiara Grassilli
In Getting Started
Apr 15th, 2013

Is It Necessary To Be A Specialised Translator?


I see a lot of people on translators’ forums like asking if it is really necessary to be a specialised translator to be a good translator, and how to choose the right areas of expertise.

In this article I will try to answer the first question presented – while in this article we analyse how to choose your specialisation.

To answer the question “Is it necessary to specialise?” we must first consider another question: what are the most important skills a translator should have?

I would definitely say linguistic skills are of the utmost importance.

Nevertheless, I believe that other skills a good translator should have are knowledge and comprehension of the subject he translates into.

A translator in the medical field is not expected to have a masters nor a degree in medicine. But for sure he has to know how the human body works and what’s the name of each disease in his language. I can’t imagine the possible errors that could occur here!

There are hundreds of possible translation fields, and each one has its own specific terminology and references that we might not know. So how can we be sure we understand every text we want to translate, from legal to medical, from automotive to philosophy?

Well, we have two choices:

  • 1 > we could do preliminary research every time we don’t have enough knowledge of the subject, to fill in our knowledge gaps
  • 2 > we could specialise in two, three or four subjects and increase our specific knowledge over the years, then focus solely on these ones.

Since I believe in balance, I suggest a mix of the two:

Keep your options open: if specialisation means that you refuse every bit of work outside your speciality, you’re limiting your possibilities. But be expert in one or two fields and keep them as your main work areas.
Moreover, there are some advantages to specialising:
  • – you build your identity as a professional. It’s much easier to market yourself as freelancer if you have something specific to show
  • – if you work with translation memories and CAT tools, you can build your own translation memory – specific to your areas of expertise, and month after month your work will become faster.

In this article you will find some tips on how to choose your areas of expertise. This will allow you to follow your interests while pursuing and finding work.

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About "" Has 116 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog

12 Responses to “Do You Need To Be A Specialised Translator To Succeed?”

  1. Abdulhay says:

    thank you. an illuminating article

  2. Irene Cudich says:

    I believe that a lot has to do with what your translator´s career brings to your path. If your first translations are from the medical field, then you become a translator specialized in medicine. That applies to any translation field, as far as I can tell.

  3. The more you work in a particular field the more competent you become whenever you make an effor to improve quality.

  4. […] my previous article I tackled the problem of whether becoming a specialised translator is always positive or not. The […]

  5. […] Do You Need To Specialize To Succeed? […]

  6. […] Is it necessary to be a specialised translator to be a good translator? Some pros and cons of focusing only on some areas of expertise.  […]

  7. Carla says:

    Hi Chiara,
    first of all thank you for your illuminating article and blog.
    What do you suggest me to do in order to get a specialization in a concrete field?
    Thank you in advance.

  8. Dc Wijeratna says:

    My interest is Pali-English translation. Pali is the language of Theravada Buddhism and considered to an ancient language related to Sanskrit. Any views on Pali-English translation or translation of ancient texts.

  9. Julio says:

    Hi dear Chiara, thank you for your useful tips.

  10. Juliane says:

    I really liked the article. It’s very useful! Thanks!

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