The Multidisciplinary Challenge

If your text combines several disciplines, do you expect one translator to be familiar with them all? Do you hire a small team of translators with complementary expertise? Or can you help with some of the terminology yourself?

Unlike Google, professional translators do not claim to be able to translate just about anything you can throw at them. So if your text involves several areas of expertise, you need to think and plan carefully.

First, you need to identify which field prevails in your text; your chosen translator should specialise in the main, overarching topic. If there are only two disciplines, another linguist specialising in the second field could proofread the translation and check that terminology. If your text includes more than two disciplines, you could prepare some handouts for your translator. Would you have a couple of documents previously translated in their languages with the relevant vocabulary that you could share with them? (3 stars if you can.) Could you even create a bilingual glossary of terms to save them time? (5 stars for that one!) In both cases, this will help with consistency across your literature, too. Or perhaps you know of reliable multilingual websites that use the relevant vocabulary. (1 star; NB: Wikipedia does not count as “reliable” – 0 star here.) Finally, if you have several essays written by a range of specialists, why not hire a translator with the matching specialism for each text, plus one proofreader for all to ensure consistency of style?

If no resources are provided, your linguist will have to use their best judgement when researching the terms. This time-consuming task will be taken into account when quoting for the project, however, and you should expect – and be available for – questions. Translation is not guesswork.

Remember that languages (and translation) are not just about words: they are about meaning and understanding first and foremost. So always choose a specialist and provide complementary help and/or resources whenever possible.

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