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Subject Matter Expertise in Translation Services

translation services expertise

Last updated on June 6th, 2023 at 10:20 am

subject matter expertise

Translation services are more than just trading words. There are many elements to considered to produce high quality translation likewise there are many qualifications that make a good translator, including native-level fluency in both the target and source language, a deep cultural understanding of both languages, and subject matter expertise.

The first two qualifications for a professional translator are self-explanatory, but what do we mean by subject matter expertise?

Subject Matter Expertise on a Translation Project

Subject matter expertise refers to a translator’s knowledge and experience in the field of the content and documents being translated.

It goes without saying that your translator should understand the language and the material they’re translating, but a general understanding is not enough. When translating texts on oncology, does the translator have expertise in the medical field or oncology specifically? When working with legal documents, does the translator have experience working with international law or real estate law? Specialties exist within fields, so it’s important to make sure you’re that the translation agency selected is working with translators that are subject matter expert for your project.

Every field has its own jargon and lexicon. While a translator can research most everything they need to know, that is a time-consuming and inefficient way to work. A subject matter expert can efficiently turn around a translated document that reads well, retains the intended message, and is grammatically and culturally accurate in both languages with the appropriate use of terms.

But a translator’s knowledge cannot be surface level; to be a subject matter expert requires as much work in a given field as it takes to become natively fluent in multiple languages. Subject matter experts have years of experience, though they may vary in how they become experts.

There are three types of subject matter expertise:

● Academic

● Experiential

● Performance

Academic Subject Matter Experts

Professional translators with an academic level of subject matter expertise usually have advanced degrees in the field of their translation services. They understand the linguistic capacity of the document, but they also have a deep understanding of the subject matter as well. These translators usually have experience writing about their chosen field, often in multiple languages.

Experiential Subject Matter Experts

A translator with an experiential level of knowledge in a subject has worked firsthand in that field. They’ve spent years working in their chosen industry, whether within legal, health care, government relations, or other areas. Their knowledge comes from their own experience and these translators are often retired industry experts.

Performance Subject Matter Experts

Translators with performance-based expertise currently work in the field they are translating for. Because of this, they can stay up to date on practices, procedures, terminology, and changing regulations. All translators keep up to date in these areas, but performance-based translators do so as a matter of enhancing their employment. Performance translators can become experiential translators at a later point in their careers.

  • Understanding of Specialized language

An expert in any given field understands the nuances of language that are specific to the field. This can include abbreviations, acronyms, shorthand, jargon, and technical phrases. Phrases and nomenclature are rarely translated word for word because cultural context gives meaning to the phrases. A short phrase in the source language may necessitate a paragraph in the target language to explain. There are many details, which is why an expert is needed.


  • Understanding of Symbol and iconography.

Every field has its own nomenclature as well as language. Symbols and icons represent words, phrases, or even instructions, so a translator must understand the complexities behind each one to correctly translate their meaning and communicate it clearly. The professional translator will have the knowledge to use the symbols and iconography in the new language. Will also know which need to stay in English for example


  • Procedure Knowledge

Every field has its own procedures and instructions, and these can be conveyed in many ways. It is quickly apparent if the translator doesn’t have a firm understanding of the subject matter when explaining complex practices or processes that include industry jargon. Subject matter experts understand the bigger picture of how these procedures fit into the industry beyond the words on the page.

Our skilled team is experienced in:

● eCommerce
● Education
● eLearning
● Energy, oil, and gas
● Financial
● Video games
● Government
● Human Resources
● Information Technology
● Legal
● Marketing and advertising
● Medical

To illustrate the point, I am a native Spanish software engineer, so I translate content from the field of Information technology, but I am not capable neither qualify to translate legal document, medical records, or technical manuals for oil and gas. The main reason is that I do not have the subject matter expertise to manage the terminology.

Depending on the project you might be working with content for a very specific niche. Recently we worked on a website translation into French for Canada and the content of the website was tools.  I learn tools are very specific, have categories and specifications. It took us time to find the right team due to the how specialized the content was.

At JR Language we hand-pick the team of translators that will work on your project depending on your content and the area of expertise required.

Select only the Best for your Translation Services Project

Hand-picked a translation company with the right experience, technology, and team of subject matter experts for any translation project that your company embarks on. Having the language partner that can better achieve your goals and fulfill your requests will make the difference in generating multilingual content that is adequate to your products and to the language of your clients.

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela and has a BS in computer engineering. As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. 20 Years of experience in marketing Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.