How to Choose a Translation Specialization

Literary translation or technical translation? How about marketing translation? Or legal translation! No, wait…maybe business translation. The world of translation is intricate, and finding your specialization can be a daunting task.

A Degree Is Not Enough

If you think speaking another language well is grounds for becoming a professional translator, you are bound to be disappointed. Having a deep knowledge of the grammar and lexicon of another language is fundamental for this activity, and yet it is not enough.

About six years ago, I contacted some online translation companies, believing that a Master’s degree in Foreign Languages and Translation would allow me to join their company. After sending them my résumé, the manager contacted me to ask what my specializations were. That’s when I realized that language skills alone don’t guarantee a successful career in this field.

How to Choose A Specialization

Choose a field you are passionate about and enjoy researching. If you hate engineering, for example, chances are you will get bored after reading three pages on the subject. Because you will have to spend a significant amount of time reading about that specific subject, choose something you are already interested in. If you have a technical background (i.e. if you studied law or medicine, and are familiar with the terminology of those fields), you would be best off pursuing a career as a legal or medical translator.

Broaden Your Skill Set

I have a master’s degree in humanities, so I felt I was best suited for literary translation. You can always broaden your range of skills, though. For example, I have always been passionate about marketing, so I eventually specialized in marketing translation as well. Not having a degree in a certain subject does not mean you can’t become proficient in it. In fact, you can take time to learn about new subjects on your own and broaden your knowledge.

Do Your Research

Moreover, I recommend doing some research online about what types of translation are most in demand. Avoid specializing in a field that might not bring you enough work. Ideally, choose a middle ground between something you are interested in and what would benefit you financially as well.


About Martina Stefani

Martina Stefani is a native Italian speaker living in Rome. She holds a Master’s degree in Foreign Languages and Translation and works as a full-time freelance translator and writer. Her working languages are Italian, English, German and French. She specializes in translating literature, marketing, medical, technical and business related content.