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What are the most challenging translation fields?

Linguistic challenges are only the first hurdle qualified translators are expected to jump over. Linguists have to face new challenges in different areas of expertise every day, depending on the field of translation. After breaking down the language barrier, the next challenge is acquiring a deep understanding of the document we are translating, beyond its linguistic dimension. Qualified translators pay special attention to specialized terms and their specific definition in that specific context.

This can really put the translator's ability to test, because, apart from outstanding language skills, we are expected to have a perfect command of the subject area as an essential step of a highly-quality translation project. So what are the most challenging fields of translation?

Why is it important for translators to specialize?

The forces of technology in the developing world are making it necessary for translators and language experts to specialize in subject areas. This means that, apart from mastering the language combination, the translator must have an in-depth knowledge of the translation field for their translation to be remotely acceptable and trustworthy. It also appears that the more the language is in demand, the greater the need for the translator to specialize. It would be rather impractical for a Finnish translator to specialize, since this language is of low diffusion.

On the other hand, if your language pair is English and French, you might find it very beneficial to specialize in order to find a niche in such a large market. Your areas of specialization can put you ahead of your competition because they make your clients think of you as the go-to translator for that specific domain. Unlike your unspecialized counterparts, your knowledge in subject areas, specifically the most challenging translation fields, positions you ahead of many translators who provide generalized translation services.

Find out here how to correctly reflect your fields of expertise on your CV.

The most challenging fields of translation

If a translator decides to become an expert in a particular subject, they would logically begin to wonder what the most challenging translation fields are. If the purpose of specializing is to place yourself in a privileged position in the translation market, it makes little sense to specialize in low-demand fields of expertise. It is, in fact, more profitable to provide generalized translation services.
For this reason, focusing on the most requested translation fields can better orientate the translator in selecting their areas of expertise. Here are some examples:

Medical translation

Medical translation is one of the most challenging translation fields because of how vast the required knowledge is. In order to accurately convey the meaning of a medical document, the translator needs to have much more than basic knowledge in medicine. The level of precision required by the medical translator is unmatched in any other area because the patient's life and safety are on the line. This is why you would need a fundamental understanding of medicine and strict quality assurance if you want to succeed as a medical translator and avoid serious legal consequences.


the most challenging translation fields Medicine is one of the most challenging translation fields

Legal translation

Legal translation is fraught with complexities because of its very specific language and jargon. A general translator might find this field extremely challenging and would have to do profound research to be able to fully comprehend the document and convey its meaning in the target language. Failing to do so can lead to critical ramifications for the parties involved. The smallest error a legal translator makes can cause the whole case to collapse.

Marketing translation

Marketing translation might not seem very difficult at first glance. But what makes this area of specialization challenging is the fact that word-for-word translations are hardly ever a solution. Translators have to really unleash their creativity in order to impress the target audience the same way the original statement seeks to impress them. It takes a special kind of savoir-faire and creativity to execute this task.
Marketing translation mistakes by companies are well documented, and they have the power to diminish the seriousness of your company in the blink of an eye.


The exponential expansion of knowledge leads to the widespread agreement that specialization is highly desirable for translators. By filling positions in the most challenging translation fields, translators can help spread knowledge in a specific field from one language to another in ways that mere word-for-word translations can never achieve.