Even though the boundaries between general translation and specialised translation are not always clear enough, it’s a significant distinction often made within the broad world of translation. In very general terms, as this has been a subject of much debate, general translation texts usually involve less complex terminology, some examples being journalistic and marketing texts, as well as emails. Specialised translation, the focus of this post, encompasses scientific translation, legal translation, literary translation and audiovisual translation, among others. It is in this wide range of specialities that a translator faces more than one challenge, the kind that professional translators love.

To start with, we encounter specific terminology in every area of knowledge, a certain language used within each speciality, meaning that the use of specialised dictionaries is vital. It isn´t enough to consult general bilingual or monolingual dictionaries, although these can serve as a complement.

Some knowledge of the subject matter is also a huge plus. Ideally, the translator will be a specialist in both the language and the subject matter of the texts they normally translate. If this isn’t possible, then having contact with an expert in the subject matter on hand can be a good alternative.

This does entail, however, having to deal with professional intrusion, when someone doesn´t work exclusively in the translation field, but very often dabbles in it. Unfortunately, too many companies frequently turn their employees into translators when they don’t have the required linguistic competence, and just because they can communicate orally, for example. They do a great disservice to translation professionals, even if only in passing.


The ability to document processes and carry out productive research will help the translator with good time management and is fundamental for producing excellent work. The translator has no obligation to know absolutely everything, but they must then research the things they either don’t know or cannot remember. You may suddenly find yourself researching the different elements of a suit of armour for a literary or audiovisual translation or checking the exact term for a chemical reaction. In other words, you never know what you’re going to learn with translation. How exciting!

Having done our research and consulted suitable external sources, we will undoubtedly find a solution to any problem. Problems that can’t be put off -because the deadlines are always lurking- and cannot be passed on to someone else. To be able to work under such pressure is challenge of specialised translation -only a professional translator would understand- which is incredibly motivating and means that no two projects are ever the same.

This is just another day in the life of a specialised translator and these are some of the challenges they face. This post could provide good reading for those who still wonder what a translator actually does, and if this really is a “job”. Keep smiling! Nobody said it would be easy, just that it would be worth it.


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