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Fields of expertise: the Search for Ithaca

Hi everybody! I am back! Pages are still being updated, but you can now search for pretty much any post (except for a couple personal ones) using the categories in the upper part of the website. I do hope that it will make the navigation easier for you. And you can still use the search field in the upper right corner of the page to look for any other topics. Marketing and social media posts are now grouped together under freelance business category, so don't worry, they did not disappear :)

So, I am back with a fresh mind, and here's what a bit of rest does to me: I get creative :) And I thought it's high time to introduce a new topic to my blog, which is specialization and its importance for freelance translators. But instead of just me preaching about it, you will learn from fellow translators who have determined their spheres of expertise and are successfully growing their business. And my first guest is Konstantina Drakou! Here's what she has to say.

Fields of expertise: the Search for Ithaca
Swimming in a sea of translations, professional translators often feel shipwrecked, abandoned and helpless without a compass to point the right direction to them, left only with a bamboo raft. There are so many different sectors they could choose from and apply their skills that often do not know where to start from. Some translators in their attempt to add glamour dust to their profession, choose their fields depending on how the rest of the world perceives certain professional sectors (e.g. health professionals). This is certainly not the right way to go, as it could lead to an ocean full of fishing nets! The compass, although it is not easily realized, is actually themselves, their interests, their passion for a specific area, their skills. Here are some suggestions to help translators choose their fields of expertise and reach Ithaca, the holy land of their niche market. 

Testing the water
Getting exposed to various fields is a good starting point. Many chances are given to translators to come face to face with different fields and projects and explore them to their advantage. Usually, a translator produces a top-notch translation when the project is of interest. The latter is a strong indication of being a potential field of expertise. Another way to reach the holy land is by means of elimination: boredom is never a wise advisor, so if a translator is bored of a project in a particular field, it is probably the only proof needed that this field is a ship that has sailed. Most fields require extensive research skills, especially the ones that evolve all the time (e.g. medicine). If a translator does not wish to put her/himself through the task of acquiring such skills, then this particular translator could end up stack in sandy shallow waters. Other fields such literature and poetry, require natural talents and one needs to have a flare of a writer or a poet. These talents are easier spotted.

Hands on deck
So, the compass worked and it points north. Translators start shyly, slowly but steadily their paddling towards Ithaca. Those translators that have the luxury to take an academic postgraduate course on their future field of expertise or be disciplined enough to educate themselves will definitely have more strength when pulling their paddles in rough terminology waters. Those translators that do not have that luxury, they can approach Ithaca through a different channel: they can find themselves a part-time post in the sector they wish to specialize in. They will practically be exposed to terminology that will go eventually under their skin, as it is used on a daily basis. Inevitably, this will strengthen their arms and the paddling will become a lighter task. 

Reaching Ithaca
The more a translator educates and familiarizes her/himself with a field of specialization, the better the end product will be. Reaching Ithaca, though, does not mean that the Odyssey is over. Ulysses himself had to face the Suitors, never forget! Other translators that also expertise (or claim they do!) in the same field are disguised as Suitors. Tackling this group is not an easy task; a translator needs to be a step or two ahead of them collecting knowledge while continuous paddling. And even, this translator is way ahead of the Suitors, the paddles should not be stored in a fisherman’s hut left to rotten. Rotten paddles result in weak arms. Faithful Penelope, a role played by clients, needs be convinced of the translator’s proven skill in the field of expert terminology. Convincing them requires dedication, self-discipline and persistence; all backed up by a proven track record of experience in the chosen fields of expertise and continues education.
Fields of expertise to a translator are as vital as academic qualifications; a matter of professional life or death, success or failure. Like in most professions, specialized translators earn their skills with sweat and tears, create a niche market for themselves, deserve every hard-earned penny (or cent!) they earn by theoretically or practically educating themselves and realizing in which sector they are good at. And by doing all the above, they manage to paddle through rough oceans, stormy winds and rocky narrow whirlpools!

About the author:
Konstantina Drakou is an English/German/Swedish into Greek translator. Educated in the UK (BA Double Hons in German and Swedish, MA in Translation Studies), Konstantina mainly translates IT related (localization, websites), technical and hotel marketing texts. You can contact her, follow her on Facebook or Twitter


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