Translation and Language Industry Observations

One of the questions that we often get here at GTS: are the translators that you are using subject-matter experts?  And that’s a great question. Because translation is more than just trading words. A good translation must read well to the people in that field. So if you are translating a legal contract, the terminology must be legalese. If you are translating a gaming application for online poker, the players need to read the UI and understand everything perfectly.

Every field has its own language. And even if a translator can research the terminology and get it done accurately, doing it each time for a new field is very time consuming. Which means that the cost to the customer is higher. A subject matter-expert translator will turn the in job faster, at lower cost and with assured accuracy. A subject-matter expert will also have access to specialized dictionaries and linguistic resources. That’s why using subject-matter translators is so important.

There are many different types of subject matter in the translation industry. Here, we will try and list the main ones and outline the types of expertise required in each.

Medical/Pharmaceutical Translation

This is perhaps the trickiest of them all. Because as everyone knows, there are so many different branches of medicine. Oncology, cardiology, radiology, orthopedics, psychiatry, the list is very long. Dentistry has also become a hot area, with many new startups in the field of implants and dental technology. Do you need a different translator for each branch of medicine? That would obviously be the best option, but may not be practical.

For very specialized kinds of medical texts, like physician evaluations and radiology reports, getting a translator who is a medical doctor or a qualified nurse can be necessary. A medical doctor will understand the source text and associated terminology, and will be able to translate the text so that other doctors and medical staff will understand it perfectly. Fortunately, there are such doctors and nurses who established a career in translation. We have access to such people at GTS and we use them for high-level medical texts.

Other kinds of medical texts may require a lower level of subject-matter expertise. Informed consent forms for example. These documents are intended for patients who are lay people, sometimes even barely literate. These kinds of documents do not require a very high level of medical expertise. Some medical device translations may also not need in-depth medical knowledge, since here too some of the material is intended for patients or non-medical staff.

Legal Translation

There are many branches of law. Real estate, wills, prenups, different kinds of contracts. Constitutional law, international law. Legal translations must be dead accurate as mistakes can be extremely costly. Using lawyers for legal translation work is good, but is not a must. There are many subject-matter experts in legal translation and in all branches of law. Some legal translators have a high-level of certification to do legal translation. And in some countries, translators are authorized by the state to perform translations for the courts. In legal, you must use expert legal translators and reviewers.

Technical Translation

Electronics, chemical (SDS), mechanical, engineering, architecture, software/IT. Here too the list is long and there are subject-matter experts in each field. Translators who are qualified engineers, technicians and technical experts will be best.

Automotive Translation

Automotive translation is big business. As a car owner, you know that each automobile is delivered with an auto manual. And the manuals are always translated into the local language. Audi, BMW, Volvo etc. are sold in dozens of countries and the manuals are therefore translated into dozens of languages. Service information, software and UI are also translated into each language. The heavy duty automotive translation is usually done by specialized translation companies which only translate for the automotive industry. These companies employ translators who are specialized in the automotive field.

Aerospace Translation

Maintaining documentation for aircraft, aircraft engines and aircraft maintenance is a mammoth task. Like in the automotive industry, documentation needs to available in each language where the aircraft is sold and/or maintained. And like in the automotive industry, these translations are often done in-house or by specialized translation companies.


Money has a language of its own. Annual reports of international corporations are typically translated into other languages. A wide range of corporate documents such as articles of incorporation are also often translated. Subject-matter translators in the financial and business fields are required for this work.

Other Specialized Areas

Some other fields that require subject-matter expertise are: gaming, cosmetics, fashion, military/defense, firearms, HVAC, Oil and Gas, water technology.

In Summary

Using subject-matter expert translators is crucial when ordering document translation services and for most kinds of translation. This is what makes translation such a competitive and specialized skill. The translator must not only have excellent language skills in the source and target languages, they must also have in-depth knowledge in the area pertaining to the translation documents.


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