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I’m a specialist: can I translate?

Let’s start by examining the word “specialist” in more detail. A sector specialist is a professional equipped with a technical skill which, depending on the profession in question, has been acquired during a specific study course. For example, doctors or engineers can be referred to as specialists. However, a specialist can also refer to a company leader who, although not in possession of an academic qualification, boasts a certain level of experience acquired on the job.

Given the lack of interest sometimes shown by those who are not linguists, writers or others involved in the humanities, the following question is legitimate: are these specialists really capable of mastering the language in the way that is required of those who produce written texts? This question relates to a context where a growing number of small and medium enterprises, mainly for reasons linked to cost containment, internally satisfy the demand for translations by making use of their own resources that can handle one or more foreign language. However, very often they are not language specialists and the task is considered to be subordinate to their main jobs. This is justified by the company depending on the level of specialisation of the staff entrusted with the translation job as they have the perfect understanding of material and the ability to find the correct technical terminology.

On one hand, it is true that those who have a specific profession, aside from performing their job, can provide an understanding of specific content and awareness of technical terms in use in a determined sector, on the other hand. However, on the other hand, a specialist is not necessarily able to produce and accurate translation due to gaps in the target and source languages and also (and above all) due to the fact of not possessing the tools of the translation trade.

As long as the text to translate is limited to a schematic index of strictly monoreferential terms of which the translator can paradoxically be an excellent bilingual dictionary, the translation work can be carried out by a sector specialist, stranger to the world of translations with satisfactory outcomes. However, as soon as the technical content is just one aspect of a text characterised by precise linguistic demands (commercial, marketing, contract texts) the discursive elements have to be presented in an expressive way which is captivating enough to engage the attention of the reader, such as on websites, and consequently strategies and techniques which can only be expected from a trained translator are required. Here, an accurate stylistic and communicative analysis is needed. The linguistic is in fact, the only one able to understand the deep and emotional fabric of the original text and reproduce it with equal expressive power in a linguistically correct manner.

Originally posted 2013-01-13 15:31:54.

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