Translators: specialists or experts?

In his book Wordpower, Edward De Bono says:

The difference between an expert and a specialist is that a specialist is looking forward in a certain well-defined direction, and an expert is looking backwards in the same direction. A specialist goes on narrowing their field in order to increase their concentration of knowledge in an area. An expert is satisfied that they know all there is to know and is trying to widen their field on the assumption that their expertise will widen with it.

Although “expert” and “specialist” tend to be used interchangeably, based on De Bono’s definition I would say that as translators we are specialists, specialists who produce expert translations. (Bearing in mind that anyone can call themselves a specialist, however they may produce inexpert translations).

When we translate in a certain field (be it technology, law, medicine, or marketing) it’s generally because we have specialist knowledge of that field, through study and/or previous employment. We can often prove this specialisation through tangible, objective criteria such as qualifications. It can be difficult to say the same for an expert; we may be experts as well as specialists, but ‘expert’ is generally a title bestowed upon us by others, who recognise our expertise for what it truly is.

What are your thoughts on the subject?


4 responses

  1. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. I’ve used the word expert on my website, but I should change it – I guess it’s a title I’ve bestowed on myself! I remember learning about de Bono’s thinking hats in relation to education.

  2. This is a well written blog that has given a new perspective to such a topic.
    Some might use these terms interchangeably but by distinguishing between the two, you’ve provided great food for thought. These will be concepts to bear in mind when using them next.

    Thank you!

  3. Pingback: Around the web – June 2020 | A Smart Translator's Reunion

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