Specialized translation: How is it different from other translations?

Published on 12/05/2020

A translation is considered specialized when it requires the use of specific vocabulary and the content of the document is technical, scientific or meets a set of strict standards. We can determine that a translation is specialized when it is addressed to a specialized audience. We find different sectors of activity such as health, legal, IT, financial, etc.

Let's see specifically what the differences are between specialized translation and other types of translation, such as literary translation.

1. Precise and specific terminology

Precise and specific terminology

The first peculiarity of the specialized translation is found in its terminology. It needs a precision that leaves no room for approximation. An ambiguous phrase or a false sense, however insignificant it may seem, can have serious consequences. In addition to having extensive knowledge of the specific vocabulary of the sector of activity in question, the translator must know how to apply it appropriately.

It is therefore a matter of skilfully combining the skills of a professional translator and the skills linked to the corresponding field of expertise. No specialized document can afford the slightest inaccuracy, whether it is an instruction manual for a medical imaging device or a court ruling.

2. Specific experience of the translator

Specific experience of the translator

When faced with a literary translation, the translator must possess a certain general culture that can be enriched through extensive research into the content to be translated. On the other hand, a specialist translator will need to have extensive knowledge of his or her field from the outset.

Without the need for a doctorate, a medical translator will have to be able to understand and analyse medical documents, as well as be familiar with the specific terminology of the healthcare field. In order to be effective and do quality work, the translator will have to constantly keep up to date with the latest developments in the healthcare field and broaden his or her experience and culture in this regard.

3. There is little room for creativity in specialist translation

There is little room for creativity in specialist translation

Literary translation often requires a certain amount of creativity from the translator. In fact, it must be able, beyond translating the words themselves, to convey the author's style, the text's intrinsic message, etc. In order to do this, it must sometimes move away from the source text. 

For example, to translate a joke in which they normally infer cultural traits, the translator will have to find an equivalent joke in the target language. The words and the story will not be the same, but the joke will retain the humor and be adapted to the context.

On theother hand, specialized translation requires precision that leaves little room for creativity. In fact, it needs an adaptive capacity that must be carried out by other means.

For example, in a legal translation, the professional translator must translate taking into account the legal differences between the source and target countries, as well as international legislation, such as the legislation for EU countries.

All translations have points in common, such as the need for good language skills. Each type of translation as well as each type of document will then have its own peculiarities (for example, a manual, a brochure or a blog article will not be translated in the same way).

For its part, specialized translation requires first and foremost a translator who is an expert in his or her field, in addition to possessing the skills required for professional translation in general. 


Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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