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Accurate translation: language skills vs specialization

Many clients give special importance to the translator's language skills when they reach out for translation services. Little do they know that the translator's areas of expertise can be equally important in order to perform accurate translations. Language skills are without a doubt an indispensable asset for translators and language experts, but what about the translator's educational background?

Language skills and accurate translations

Translators are by their very nature bilingual creatures. You cannot possibly be a monolingual translator. Clients have every right to place the translator's linguistic knowledge at the top of their priorities. But bilingualism is a prerequisite and the way we see it at Pangeanic, a translation is a weighing scale composed by languages and specializations - both sides balance because they represent an equal value.

Areas of expertise and accurate translations

We consider sector-specific knowledge to be closely tied with language skills. If you do not have a background in the legal field, your language skills will not suffice to perform a legal translation because the terminology is not familiar to you. Lack of knowledge in the concerned sector equates lack of field-specific terminology. It makes little sense to make a distinction between the two skills because they are mutually intertwined and they grow in two parallel lines. Excellent language skills alone cannot act as a guarantee for accurate translations. Native speakers are theoretically proficient in their mother tongue, but does that automatically enable them to deliver accurate translations in sectors that are beyond their understanding? Not to mention that in practical application not all translators have native-like fluency in their working languages.

When should sector-specific knowledge be given more importance?

In some cases, the non-native speaker can even be more reliable provided that they have solid knowledge or proven experience in the required field. This is because they have the inarguable advantage of understanding the source text at a deeper level and being able to make wiser decisions when choosing the suitable terms in the target language. In technical translation, for example, the content is factual and the correctness of the information and instructions should be given more importance than fluency and style of writing. Professional translation agencies select translators who have knowledge in the field of expertise except in cases where the translation is of general nature. Expecting a translator to deliver accurate translations in unfamiliar sectors because they can speak two languages is simply unrealistic.

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