Give the Cream to Those who Want it Most

Out of the blue, a Toronto-based artist contacted me, asking whether my MA dissertation (on J. M. W. Turner and the Industrial Revolution) was available for purchase. Who would have thought! The artist is currently doing some research on Turner and found my details in the Association of Art Historians’ member directory.

While my translation services are irrelevant in this case, this anecdote illustrates that translators are everywhere, even where you might least think of looking for them. So rather than search widely and randomly (although admittedly, many of us are on Google – that is, on page 258 or there about), or even on the CIOL’s directory (a much better place, but still a big pool if you need a common language such as French, Spanish, German, etc.), why not start at the narrower end of the spectrum, i.e. in your specific field? You will not be spoilt for choice, but this will save you time and, most importantly, you should get straight to the best person for the job with the right knowledge, experience and/or qualifications (possibly with a degree or a previous career in this field).

The translator’s affiliation to an organisation in their domain of expertise is also a clear mark of commitment to and focus on that area of work, so you can be sure that the translator will be a like-minded person who will relish working on your texts. Less specialised individuals may take the work on but may not necessarily enjoy it or know much about your subject and may misunderstand some of the terminology. I was recently talking with a fellow translator who regularly works for a German art publisher and who does not enjoy it, finding the concepts and style tediously abstract and difficult. This was painful for me to hear. I love art. Any art document to translate is a treat and I just can’t get enough of it. It felt like the treat was wasted on this colleague.

For a happy result and a happy working relationship with your translation partner, aim straight for the most dedicated linguists working in your field. You won’t regret it.

cream and strawberries
Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

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