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Specialization in Professional Japanese Translation – Part 2

In the first part of this article, we noted the dilemma faced by new translators when listing specialist fields.

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Whereas falsely claiming specialties may lead to poor quality work and result in blacklisting, failure to name specialties will probably lead to a very low volume of work. We noted that the invention of the Internet has made it more tempting to claim specialist knowledge as the translation of complex technical terms is only a few mouse clicks away. The necessity of claiming expert knowledge often leads to a “sink or swim” situation when the either the translator learns on the job or finds themselves out of favor with translation companies due to poor quality of work.

I would suggest that there is a better way. As also noted in the first part, it is often difficult for translation companies (and their end users) to find expert Japanese translators in particular fields. There is merit, therefore, in honestly explaining your limitations while sincerely offering to work with the translation company to improve your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic. At the end of the day, the common goal of all stakeholders is to have a high-quality end product so end users are often very happy to cooperate, through provision of term lists and the like.

If you start to establish a good working relationship with a Japanese translation company, it is worth discussing with them in what subjects they have the greatest demand. You can then offer to spend some time reading materials on that subject in both the source and target language to gain a good understanding. Becoming an expert in that subject (even if you do not have a formal background in that area) may work to provide you with a steady stream of work. For the translation company, you have solved a major headache they have when allocating work on that subject.

Additionally, nothing is potentially more damaging to a relationship between customer and translation company/end user than claiming to be an expert and then providing shoddy work. The approach described above will convince them that you are sincere and are somebody that they can feel comfortable working with.

As described above, the “sink or swim” approach to translating specialist material is a huge gamble that often leaves the translator with egg on their faces. A more honest approach that discusses limitations but expresses a willingness to work with the company to improve translation quality will often pay off and allow the translator to reap the benefit of regular work.

About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, owner of the Japanese Translation Company, Tokyo, Japan, providers of Certified Japanese Translation Service Visit SAECULII for the latest case studies, articles and news by professional translation service

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