Business Translation Center

Sector specialism versus language skills – which is key to accurate translation?

by OFER TIROSH 17/07/2019

Many clients focus primarily on language when it comes to finding the right translation service, but the translator’s sector specialisation is also hugely important. As such, we’ve taken a look at both below in order to consider which should be the priority. 

Language skills 

Top notch language skills are, of course, a prerequisite when it comes to accurate document translation. That’s why Tomedes focuses on working with translators who hold appropriate language qualifications from around the world. 

It seems that we are predisposed to be able to be multilingual. Various studies have shown that there are more multilingual people in the world than there are monolingual people. In Europe, Eurostat reports in this article on foreign language skills statistics, that 80% of the working-age population with a tertiary level of education knew at least one foreign language. Levels of multilingualism range from 34.6% of those aged 25-64 in the UK to 96.6% in Sweden. 

However, having some knowledge of a language and being able to speak and write it well enough to translate it professionally are two different matters. Translators need to be fluent in both languages and have superb grammar skills and vocabularies in order to meet their clients’ needs. 

Then there is the matter of sector specialisation… 

Why sector-specific knowledge is so important for high quality translation

For every translation job that Tomedes undertakes, we don’t just pair the translator’s language skills to the work at hand but also their experience. This is key to providing the best quality translations, as well as to ensuring our translators are happy working on projects that interest them. 

Let’s look at audio translation as an example. Audio translation is a specialist skill that often requires the translator to transcribe the content, as well as translate it. Some audio translation jobs also require foreign language voiceover recording. 

Take legal translation as another example. Providing legal translation services requires specialist knowledge of legal terms in both languages. General language skills alone won’t suffice, as the translator needs to understand what the legal terms mean and what the equivalent phrasing is in the target language. 

An audio translator is likely to struggle with legal translation, while a legal translator may not be well equipped to undertake transcription or voiceover work. These are just two examples, but they serve to highlight the importance of specialisation. The same is true for medical translation, literary translation, website translation and so on and so forth. This is why businesses should approach their translation tasks with their sector specialisations firmly in mind, as well as their language requirements. 

Other skills to look for in a translator

With language pairing and sector expertise taken care of, there are a number of other skills that business clients require from their translators. The ability to translate speedily is one such requirement. This article on why we are all so busy from Psychology Today reports that we are busier than ever. Who, then, has time to wait around for translation any longer than is strictly necessary, especially in the business world? 

In addition to speed, translators must also be incredibly accurate with the language that they use. Proofreading translations to catch any typos that have crept in requires keen attention to detail. At the same time, the translator must remain calm under pressure, so as to be unphased by short deadlines, thus ensuring that quality is not compromised as the pressure mounts. 

All of these skills and more go into providing the perfect translation service. Thankfully for busy business clients, translation agencies are here to vet translators in advance, ensuring that they meet certain quality criteria. This means that businesses can focus simply on the languages they require and the particular sector specialisms, both of which are essential if they are to get the best possible quality translation. 

Business translation insights

There are plenty more business translation insights available on the Tomedes Business Translation Center, so why not have a flick through our articles to find out more?