6 Reasons Why New Translators Should Specialize

When you’re starting out in the translation industry, you hear a lot about specialization. People tell you to find your niche and become a specialist, not a generalist. Why? This article will give you six reasons why new translators should consider developing their specialist fields.

Becoming a specialist isn’t an overnight process. There’s nothing wrong with being more of a generalist at the beginning of your career. But, as a new translator, specializing in a few related fields over time will help you in the long run. Here’s why.

  1. Work faster

The more you know about a subject, the faster you can translate texts related to it. If it’s an area where you have expertise, you can work more quickly without this affecting quality. You don’t spend as much time on researching terms because you already understand them.

Maybe this field has a particular jargon or terminology and you’re familiar with it. Perhaps there’s a certain style that’s often used and you’re already up to speed. Compare that with translating in a field you don’t know about; you’d be much slower.

Specializing might allow you to work faster because you’ve worked in the field before, or it might be because you’ve translated a lot in that area. However you get there, expertise and familiarity with the subject will mean you can work more quickly than in areas you don’t know as well. Specializing can help you become more productive.

  1. Earn more

Being more productive (while still ensuring quality) means you can be more profitable. It’s simple mathematics. If you can produce good quality work quickly, you have time to accept more work. But it’s not just about volume.

Specializing or becoming an expert in your field changes the kinds of customers you can attract. Think about it: Your car breaks down. Do you call in a qualified mechanic or try to fix it yourself with the help of YouTube? Most people will choose the person with expertise and/or experience.

Customers want someone they can trust. They want an expert. By being a specialist in their field, you can position yourself as their go-to person. It’s all part of building a relationship of trust. Specializing makes you more productive and a more attractive proposition to potential customers, both of which are very important to new translators.

  1. Find clients

Become a specialist to find customers. Part of specializing means you start to make contacts with people in the same field or industry. Maybe you used to work in that field and these are connections from your time in the industry.

Offering translations in a particular niche means you can use your contacts to meet potential customers—people who might need translations. Because these potential translation buyers work in niche areas they may also be prepared to pay more for a translator they can trust to do a good job.

  1. Develop profitable relationships

Become your customers’ trusted collaborator and develop long-term relationships. Being the customer’s go-to person and someone they can rely on means you can use your specialism, not only to attract these clients but also to keep them.

  1. Grow your business

New translators need to grow their business. If you’re already offering translations to a particular industry, then you can use that expertise to begin to offer other services. Maybe your clients need a related service, like copywriting.

Tourism expertise might lead you to gain contact with industries like beauty and wellness. Starting from a position of knowledge about one area can gradually lead to opportunities in other areas. You might need to do some further study or team up with colleagues, but the opportunities are there.

  1. Enjoy your work

Last, but not least, specializing means you can concentrate on doing what you enjoy. Many new translators become specialists simply by gradually doing more and more of the work they enjoy most. They might go on and do some further study to back that up, but it’s often how a specialism begins.

I specialize in tourism and fashion and both have developed gradually as I accepted more and more work in those fields. These specialist fields can be quite varied and encompass many types of customers and projects. That means I’m never bored; working on projects and with customers I like means I enjoy my job.

First steps to specializing

Think about the skills you already have that might help you decide where you could specialize. Perhaps something you have studied? An industry you have experience in? Maybe a particular field you are interested in? It might be possible to do some further study and use this to leverage some opportunities. For more information about how to specialize, read my article How to Choose a Translation Specialisation. Good luck!

Image source: Unsplash

Author bio

Lucy Williams is a freelance Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer. She holds the IoLET Diploma in Translation (two merits) and has been working as a translator since 2009. Lucy specialises in fashion, tourism, art, literature and social sciences. She is also a copywriter/blogger. You can read her blog at translatorstudio.co.uk. Twitter: @LucyWTranslator.

Cognitive strategies for the resolution of translation problems


Reblogged from the EU’s Terminology Coordination Unit blog, with permission from the author (incl. the images)

The objective of the papers is to draw a panorama of the study of cognitive strategies for the resolution of translation problems, as well as to draw the perspectives of the research.

We consider that translation strategies can be of internal support (cognitive type) and of external support (by the use of resources of documentation of all type), and we focus our interest on the first of these two types. Our interest is to analyse cognitive translation strategies employed in the resolution of translation problems in written translation.

At the beginning, researches in Translation Studies were based mostly on the product with a particular interest in the translated text as object of study. A few decades ago, investigations were redirected towards human translators, investigating the cognitive processes and the skills required to translate properly, proposing theoretical models and experimental research. However, there are still no rigorous empirical studies for cognitive strategies for the resolution of translation problems during the translation process.

In our communication, we will present how the concept of strategy in other disciplines and in Translation Studies has been analysed. Finally, we will draw the perspectives of the research.

  1. Analysis of the notion of strategy in disciplines related to Translation Studies

The notion of strategy has been studied in disciplines such as Cognitive psychology, Language didactics, Psycholinguistics and Pedagogy.

In general, we find a wide nomenclature and large terminological differences with regard to the denomination and classification of strategies:


  • In Cognitive psychology there is a division of (1) strategies for problem resolution and (2) learning strategies. According to Mayer (1981) the used denomination is: heuristic methods and procedures.
  • In Language didactics there are problem-resolution strategies for second language learning. Oxford (1990) is the author who proposed the more complete definition and a classification. She defines strategies such as: “Strategies are specific actions taken by the learner to make easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferrable new situations.” (Oxford 1990: 8). The author proposes the following classification: (1) direct strategies (cognitive, memory and compensation) and (2) indirect strategies (metacognitive, affective and social), (Oxford 1990: 16-21). The definitions of strategies of others authors serve as a complement to Oxford’s proposals (1990). Strategies are called: techniques, mechanisms, processes, thoughts, actions, plans, operations, behaviours, steps, etc.
  • In Psycholinguistics there is no definition or no exclusive classification for strategies, this is why we find the same type of problem-resolution strategies for second language learning as in Language didactics.
  • In Pedagogy strategies are related to Cognitive psychology since this latter science also studies the processes of learning. There is a distinction between (1) teaching strategies and (2) learning strategies.

All the studied disciplines have a wide terminological nomenclature regarding the denomination of strategies: heuristic methods, procedures, ducts, thoughts, specific actions, behaviours, steps, techniques, decision-making processes, activities or mental operations, conscious and intentional activities, flexible and adaptive procedures, joint procedures of steps or skills, etc. Strategies vary based on the analysis of each author and discipline that are studied. It is important to highlight the distinction of: (1) problem-solving strategies; (2) learning strategies and (3) teaching strategies.

  1. Analysis of the notion of strategy in Translation Studies

From Honig and Kussmaul (1982) and, over the last three decades, the study of translation strategies has been acquiring greater importance thanks to several empirical studies, such as Krings (1986), Séguinot (1991) or Gregorio Cano (2014) among others. There are also authors like Hurtado Albir (1996, 2001 and 2015) with no empirical studies, but she makes a proposal of definition, denomination and classification of the notion of strategy with several examples in order to clarify the existing confusion around this concept.

2.1. Denominations

In Translation Studies there are different terminological denominations for the notion of strategy such as: heuristic methods, procedures, techniques of translation, translation strategies, principles of translation, standards, principles, mental process, mechanisms, etc. Despite the great information regarding translation and cognitive strategies employed in the resolution of translation problems there is a terminological confusion and some different classifications.


2.2. Definitions

Krings (1986: 268) defines strategies as “potentially conscious plans for solving a translation problem” and he is based on the authors Færch and Kasper (1983). Séguinot (1991: 82) proposes the following definition “strategies is a term which has been used to refer to both conscious and unconscious procedures, to both overt tactics and mental processes”. Lörscher is based on Krings (1986) and Færch and Kasper (1983) but he has his own definition “a translation strategy is a potentially conscious procedure for the solution of a problem which an individual is faced with when translating a text segment from one language to another” (1991: 76).  In these three definitions we note that Krings (1986) talks about “potentially conscious plans” and Séguinot (1991) and Lörscher (1991) are using the term of “procedure” in order to define strategies.

Jääskeläinen (1993: 116) proposes her own definition for strategies: “a set of (loosely formulated) rules or principles which a translator uses to reach the goals determined by the translating situation in the most effective way”. The author focuses on “guidelines” or “principles” used by the translator not on “procedures”.

Lachat Leal (2003: 344) defines strategies as “el proceso mental que permite al traductor alcanzar la representación del texto traducido a partir de la representación del texto original“. So the author uses the term “process”.

Gregorio Cano (2014: 82) proposes the term “mechanisms” affirming that “la estrategia de traducción es aquel mecanismo que el traductor ha de poner en marcha para resolver un problema de traducción determinado”.

As noted in some of the analysed studies, in many cases, the notion of strategy is confused with the notions of technique and method. This is due to the lack of a general consensus that serves as a reference point for authors and other studies. Hurtado Albir (1996, 2001) aims to put order in this terminological confusion and to clearly define the differences between method, strategy and technique proposing the following definitions:


2.3. Classifications

Not all the authors we studied propose a classification of the notion of strategy. Only Krings (1986), Lörscher (1991) and Jääskeläinen (1993) do so.

Krings (1986) classifies strategies in five categories with one subcategory as (1) comprehension strategies, (2) recovery strategies (with the subcategory of semantically related resources), (3) monitoring strategies, (4) decision-making strategies and, finally, (5) reduction strategies.

Lörscher (1991) distinguishes two phases in the translation process: (1) strategic and (2) non-strategic phase.

On the other hand, Jääskeläinen talks about (1) global and (2) local strategies.

Vinay and Darbelnet (1958) and Hurtado Albir (1996, 2001 and 2015) make a proposal based on their own experience.

2.4. Empirical studies carried out

There are some limitations in experimental design in several of the authors who have done empirical studies such as:

  • The selection of small and hardly representative samples
  • The limitations to the use of the TAPs as the technique of data collection since they do not give access to unconscious processes and create artificial situations.
  • The use of inadequate data collection instruments.

On the other hand, problem-solving strategies still need to be analysed.

  1. Research perspectives

We believe that the results of a more detailed research on cognitive strategies for the resolution of translation problems will lead to a best practice for professional translation and for a better training for translators. In this sense, there are two types of research challenges:

  • Progress in conceptual clarification, clearly distinguishing the notion of strategy of other related notions and establishing links with research in related disciplines.
  • Carrying out experimental-empiric research by using large and representative samples of professional translators and translation students with technical and varied instruments (recordings of the translator process, questionnaires, interviews, etc.); this will allow collecting reliable data on cognitive strategies for the resolution of translation problems and for the acquisition process.

This research will allow us to clarify cognitive strategies for the resolution of translation problems.


To read the paper, please click on: Estrategias cognitivas para la resolución de problemas de traducción.


Olga Jeczmyk

Communication and Terminology Trainee, Translator, Interpreter, Proofreader and Social Media Manager. Olga holds a degree in Translation and Interpreting from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, she is specialized in Economics and Legal Translation with “FR” as her B language and “EN” as her C language. She spent her Erasmus in Paris and Rome. She received her Masters in Linguistic and Cultural Mediation from the Università La Sapienza in Rome and concluded a simultaneous interpreting internship in the FAO. She currently studies Translation Studies and Intercultural Studies at the Universitat Autònoma in Barcelona as PhD candidate. She analyses the cognitive strategies in the resolution of translation problems in writing translation. She speaks Polish, Spanish, Catalan, English, French and Italian. You can read her blog at www.20000lenguas.com and follow her on Twitter at @OlgaJeNo.


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Linguist in the Spotlight: An Interview with Izumi Suzuki

The five interviewees featured so far in our “Linguist in the Spotlight” series possess a collective 100-plus years of experience. This week’s interviewee boasts nearly half that on her own. Izumi Suzuki, who has worked an impressive 40 years as a translator and interpreter, is an ATA-certified translator in Japanese<>English (both directions!), as well as a certified court interpreter.

Of Izumi’s several specializations, at least one may surprise readers: classical ballet. (Read on to learn about her own dance career!) Her other areas of expertise include the perhaps less artistic, but no less formidable, areas of production control, quality assurance, and the automotive industry.

To highlight Izumi’s long-term commitment to the professions (she’s one of about 600 ATA “life members”), and to glean insight from her significant experience, we asked her to share what has kept her going all these years. As someone who has adapted to tremendous change in the professions over the decades, she also offers advice on how newcomers can cope with an evolving landscape in the fields of translation and interpreting.

On what has motivated her long-term ATA membership and commitment to the professions all these years

First of all, I joined ATA to take the certification exam. Then I went to a conference and attended Japanese Language Division sessions. I was blown away by the fact that so many Americans were speaking fluently in Japanese, and the sessions offered me so much to learn. The proverb that came to mind was「井の中の蛙大海を知らず」: “A frog in the well cannot conceive of the ocean.” I met many colleagues, made many friends, and learned so much from them. I have also received many jobs since I became certified.

Then I was asked to be a grader, later the division administrator, and finally, a member of the ATA Board. The more I got involved, the more I learned, and the more friends I made. These volunteer activities benefit not only other members, but the volunteers themselves. Currently, I serve as a member of ATA’s Interpreting Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC) and the Certification Committee. The results we get from these committee activities are rewards to me.

Advice for newcomers on how to adapt to advancing technology: If you can’t beat them, join them

When I started translating, I used a typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. Now I use memoQ. As new software emerges to make translation more efficient and more accurate, new translators should adapt to whatever technological changes come in. Given the progression of AI translation, proofreaders will be needed more and more in the not-too-far future, and translators must be ready.

In interpreting, technologies are coming in, too, such as remote interpreting. New interpreters should be prepared to use devices that support that type of interpreting. Also, mastering note-taking using iPad, etc. would help, too.

However, the fundamental skills for translation/interpreting will not change, and we should keep striving to improve our skills.

Classical ballet, or the story of how a Japanese translator came to translate French

My favorite project has been translation work for the Royal Academy of Dance in England. I am a former ballet dancer (I still take classes almost every day), so I know the exact meaning of ballet terms, all of which are in French.

I occasionally translate materials for ballet-teacher training. Since I teach ballet from time to time, I thoroughly enjoy the content that I translate. This is my dream job. What would be even dreamier would be to interpret for a famous dance company when they visit Japan. I’m still waiting.

What is your favorite part of your work as a translator-interpreter?

I was trained as an interpreter, so I prefer interpreting. Interpreting will make you meet new people, which I love. It’s not just meeting people—you become that person that you are interpreting for a short time. In other words, you live his/her life, just like an actor does, and you get paid for it. What a luxury it is! I have met people who are the best in their fields, and I can always learn a lot from them.

A useful tip for budding interpreters and translators: Know your limits, but don’t limit your opportunities

Do not take an interpreting job if you don’t think you can handle it. In case you do have to take such a job (like when a client is desperate and says they don’t mind even if it’s not your area), make it clear that your knowledge is limited and that you need materials to study beforehand. If no materials are available, then you’d better reject the job. Once you get materials, study hard, ask someone who knows the subject, and memorize terminology.

This applies to translation, too. You may think that you have time to research and check your translation via the internet, but usually there is a deadline. You may lose time for sleep. Then the job is no longer worth doing, and your product will not be good.

To break into a new area, I recommend teaming up with someone who knows the subject so that you can learn. As you do it over and over, you’ll become good at it sooner or later. The most important thing is to GET INTERESTED in the subject once you take a job. This will motivate you to keep going.

Ms. Suzuki established Suzuki-Myers with her late husband, Steve D. Myers, in 1984. She is certified in Japanese<>English translation by the ATA. Currently, she serves as a member of the ATA Certification Committee and the Interpreting Policy Advisory Committee.

Ms. Suzuki is also a state-certified J<>E court interpreter. She is a founding member and former president and board advisor of the Michigan Translators/Interpreters Network) (MiTIN), an ATA chapter. She is a member of the Interpreting Committee of the Japan Association of Translators (JAT) and the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT). She is also Secretary of the Japan America Society of Michigan and Southwestern Ontario.

Buddies Welcome Newbies 2018

This year Buddies Welcome Newbies will be celebrating its sixth year of welcoming newcomers to the American Translators Association annual conference!

After its debut in San Antonio in 2013, Buddies Welcome Newbies has grown to become a well-known event right before the Welcome Celebration of the ATA conference. Designed as an icebreaker for those attending the conference for the first – or even the second – time, it is the place to get your gears in motion, in a fun, comfortable way.

Buddies Welcome Newbies (BWN) is a part of The Savvy Newcomer, where we are constantly innovating and putting new ideas to the test. Just as last year, BWN is one of the event choices in the main conference registration form, so that instead of having a separate link, you can just check a box when you sign up for the conference itself. However, if you missed that one question during registration, and are interested in being a part of this event, do not despair! We will be happy to sign you up manually. Just send us an email at atasavvynewcomer@atanet.org and we will get back with you.

This year we will continue with our ATA Conference Newcomer Blog, packed with resources for newbies and buddies alike. We thought waiting until Wednesday the 24th to share the myriad of things we want to tell you was kind of mean, plus, we could not possibly do it in 45 minutes! So, check it out, if you have not done so already, and be sure to leave us a comment to let us know how we are doing.

And as an extra incentive for our certified Buddies is the opportunity to earn 2.0 ATA CEPs by participating as a Buddy!

What is Buddies Welcome Newbies, you ask? The answer is simple:

Newbie is anyone who is new to the American Translators Association, to translation or interpreting in general, or a new conference attendee.

Buddies are the life of this event – experienced conference attendees, many of them seasoned T&I professionals, who donate their time and expertise for the benefit of Newbies. All our planning, ideas, and enthusiasm would mean nothing if we did not have the support of our awesome Buddies to make all this a reality.

During our opening session, Buddies and Newbies are paired up (the final ratio of Buddies to Newbies will depend on the number of participants in attendance), and off they go to enjoy the conference with the following “assignments”:

  • Newbies and their Buddies make their own plans to attend a conference session together, have a meal together, etc. The number of activities and frequency is up to you.
  • Attend the wrap-up session on Saturday October 27, for even more great information on what to do next and to have your questions answered by guest speakers.

Pretty simple, huh? Yet it is very powerful, as this event can make a big difference in the life of new conference attendees, and who knows, maybe you’ll make a friend or two in the process. Be sure to come to both the opening session and the wrap-up to see the magic for yourself!

Buddies Welcome Newbies Introduction: Wednesday, October 24 @ 4:45-5:30pm

Buddies Welcome Newbies Debriefing: Saturday, October 27 @ 12:30-1:30pm

Book review: Revising and Editing for Translators

Reblogged from Amper Translation Service blog, with permission, incl. the image

Recently I came across a reference to a book on editing that caught my attention, partly because I hadn’t encountered many comprehensive guides on editing at that point and partly because this one was specifically aimed at translators. It turned out that the work had been around since 2001 and was now in its third edition (issued by Routledge in early 2014), so it was obviously popular and had been updated, too).

“Revising and Editing for Translators” is written by Brian Mossop, a Canadian who worked for the Canadian Government’s Translation Bureau for many years and now teaches editing/revision and translation at university level. The author’s considerable experience of revising translations and teaching students and teachers alike about revising and editing is reflected in the clear structure, real-life examples and broad scope of this work.

Routledge’s edition of the book is 244 pages long and divided into 14 chapters. These are followed by six appendices (e.g. on assessing quality and grading texts) and a list of bibliographical references and other books and articles for further reading, plus a helpful index. There are a number of practical exercises and tips for further reading at the end of each chapter, which relate to the subject matter covered. This way of presenting material makes the book suitable for self-study as well as classroom use.

What I like about this work is its clarity: the language the author uses is straightforward and lucid (not academic and dense), the chapters are structured well and he employs plenty of examples to make his points understood. He also illustrates different kinds of attitudes and approaches to editing/revising, i.e. proscriptive v. liberal, without dictating the stance the reader should actually take.

I also like the amount of differentiation Mossop uses, which makes it clear how many different levels there are to editing and how many factors play a role in the choices editors make (cf. chapter 2, “The work of an editor”, chapter 3, “Copyediting” and chapter 4, “Stylistic editing”, for example); basically, chapters 2 to 7 all make this point.

Chapter 8 is particularly interesting in my view as it’s concerned with software tools that editors and revisers can employ:

– internet searches to check terms and phraseology using search engines like Google
– looking for definitions of terms online
– using bilingual databases like Linguee and WeBiText and online translation-memory programs
– using editing features that word-processing programs offer (spelling and grammar checks, find & replace, displaying changes, adding reviewer’s comments, comparing different versions of documents, etc.)

Mossop also makes a clear (albeit personal) distinction between editing and revising at the beginning of the book and consequently divides the work into two sections on each area. Chapters 2 to 7 are on editing, while 9 to 14 are on revising. In a nutshell, he takes editing to mean “reading a text which is not a translation in order to spot problematic passages, and making any needed corrections or improvements” (p. 29). As for revising, he regards this as a task “in which [translators] find features of the draft translation that fall short of what is acceptable, as determined by some concept of quality” (p. 115).

In chapter 10, he discusses 12 parameters that play a role in revision, including accuracy, completeness, logic, facts, page layout and even typography (i.e. the use of bold, italicised or underlined text, capitalisation and colouring). Chapter 11 covers degrees of revision (from “intelligible” to “polished”), whether or not full or partial checks should be done and the risks inherent in spot checking. Chapter 12 is about the actual revision procedure (e.g. which steps to take and in which order) and what you can do about any unsolved issues.

There’s a lot more to the book than I can write about here. In short, I’d say it’s essential reading for any translator, not just for editors and copywriters, since every translator has to read their own work through and edit (or “revise”) it themselves before sending it off to the customer. I’m surprised I only discovered the book by chance, but that may be because it used to be published by a very small specialist publisher (St. Jerome Publishing); perhaps word will spread faster now that Routledge is backing it. (Click here for details about the book.)