Why Translators And Interpreters Compare Themselves To Doctors And Lawyers

A professional translator and interpreter should be seen in the same way as any professional in the medical or legal profession, because ultimately all three are intertwined.

"There are cases where a translator’s or interpreter's unique choice of words and how to render a phrase saved a life, or whose special knowledge of culture prevented a legal or political disaster, or whose expertise and skills are so critical to national security, that they do not ever talk about those jobs and have in fact played a crucial role in history." -Unknown.

In the medical field, translators translate textbooks used to study medicine, the manuals used for medical consultations, and surgery equipment.

Interpreters interpret the communication between patients and doctors.

Precise translation and interpretation for a patient can mean the difference between life and death.

In the legal field, translators translate contracts and various legal documents used in and out of court.

Interpreters facilitate communication between lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, criminals, and the court. 

Precise translation and interpretation, for a defendant, can mean the difference between freedom, a simple fine, jail time, life in prison or even the death penalty.

What makes the profession of a translator and interpreter similar to that of a doctor or lawyer? 

There are three major common factors that these three professions share: 

1) Extensive years of study, education, and experience 2) Vast fields of expertise and specialization  3) Intellectually challenging work 

Let us examine and compare each in detail.


Physicians and surgeons have demanding education and training requirements. 

Almost all physicians complete at least 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and, depending on their specialty, 3 to 8 years on internship and residency programs.

Learning does not end when physicians complete their residency or fellowship training. 

Doctors continue to receive credits for continuing medical education and some states require a certain number of CME credits per year to ensure the doctor's knowledge and skills remain current.

Continuing medical education requirements vary by state, by professional organizations, and by hospital medical staff organizations. [1],[2]


A lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. 

Most states require that applicants graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass one or more written bar exams, and be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others. 

Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state often must take separate bar exams in each state.
After graduation, lawyers must keep informed about legal developments that affect their practices. 

Almost all states require lawyers to participate in continuing legal education either every year or every 3 years. [4] 

Translators and Interpreters

Expert and native-speaker level for one or more foreign language, can take translators and interpreters a minimum of 5-10 years of study.  

For many it is a lifetime of study because they grow up communicating in the languages in which they work.  

Most professional translators and interpreters have a four-year bachelor's degree, several years of work related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.  

Translators and interpreters obtain credentials and language degrees from colleges, universities, associations and/or other recognized language programs.

"A competent translator [and interpreter] is not only bilingual but bicultural. A language is not merely a collection of words and of rules of grammar and syntax for generating sentences, but also a vast interconnecting system of connotations and cultural references whose mastery, writes linguist Mario Pei, 'comes close to being a lifetime job'." Mario Pei, The Story of Language
Learning does not end when they become qualified or certified translators and interpreters, professional organizations also require ongoing education.  

All professionals engage in some type of ongoing education via training, special event, conference or seminar.  

Translators and interpreters never truly master the language in its entirety, because language is constantly evolving and growing, thus making them life long learners.  

Professionals learn new terms, slang words, idioms every single day.  

They are constantly improving their skills, accumulating knowledge and experience. [6],[7],[8],[9]

Below are condensed lists of the expertise fields and specializations for doctors, lawyers, translators and interpreters.


1.   Anesthesiologists
2.    Cardiologist
3.    Coroners
4.    Dentists
5.    Dermatologists
6.    Diabetologists
7.    Emergency physicians
8.    Endocrinologists
9.    Euthanasia Doctors
10.  Gastroenterologists
11.  General Practitioners
12.  Gynecologists
13.  Hematologists
14.  Hygienists
15.  Immunologists
16.  Internists
17.  Leprologists
18.  Nephrologists
19.  Neurologists
20.  Neurosurgeons
21.  Nuclear medicine Physicians
22.  Obstetricians
23.  Oncologists
24.  Ophthalmologists
25.  Orthopedists
26.  Osteopathy physicians
27.  Otolaryngologists
28.  Parasitologists
29.  Pathologists
30.  Pediatricians
31.  Phthisiatrists
32.  Podiatrists
33.  Psychiatrists
34.  Pulmonologists
35.  Radiologists
36.  Rheumatologists
37.  Serologists
38.  Surgeons
39.  Toxicologists
40.  Traumatologists
41.  Tropical Physicians
42.  Urologists
43.  Venereologists
44.  Virologists [3]


1.    Administrative Law
2.    Admiral Law
3.    AIDS/HIV
4.    Alternative Dispute Resolution
5.    Animal Rights
6.    Antitrust
7.    Appellate
8.    Arts
9.    Aviation Law
10.  Banking Law
11.  Bankruptcy Law
12.  Children and Youth
13.  Civil Rights/Civil Liberties
14.  Community Economic Development
15.  Communications Law
16.  Consumer Law
17.  Constitutional Law
18.  Corporate Law
19.  Criminal Law
20.  Death penalty/Prisoner's rights
21.  Disability Law
22.  Domestic Law
23.  Education
24.  Elder Law
25.  Employment/Labor
26.  Energy
27.  Entertainment/Sports Law
28.  Environmental Law
29.  Federal Indian Law
30.  Health Care Law
31.  Homeless/Housing Law
32.  Insurance Law
33.  Immigration Law
34.  Intellectual property/Computer Law
35.  International Corporate Practice
36.  International Human Rights
37.  Litigation
38.  Military Law
39.  Municipal Law
40.  Patent Law
41.  Real Estate/Zoning
42.  Securities Law
43.  Taxation
44.  Tort Law
45.  Trust Estate Law [5]

Translators and Interpreters

1.    Academic
2.    Accounting/Auditing
3.    Advertising/Public Relations
4.    Aerospace Engineering
5.    Agriculture
6.    Alternative Fuels/Solar/Electricity
7.    Anatomy/Physiology
8.    Anthropology
9.    Aquaculture/Fishing
10.  Architecture
11.  Art
12.  Astronomy
13.  Automation/Robotics
14. Automotive/Mechanical
15.  Aviation
16.  Banking
17.  Banking/Financial Law
18.  Behavioral Science
19.  Bibliography
20.  Biochemistry
21.  Biography
22.  Biology
23.  Botany
24.  Building/Construction
25.  Certificates/Diplomas/Licenses
26.  Chemical Engineering
27.  Chemistry
28.  Civil and Hydraulic Engineering
29.  Civil Law
30.  Computer Hardware
31.  Computer Systems Analysis
32.  Computer Systems/Networks
33.  Corporate Law
34.  Cosmetics/Beauty
35.  Criminology/Penology
36.  Customs/Immigration
37.  Dentistry
38.  Ecology/Environmental Science
39.  e-Commerce
40.  Economics/Finance
41.  Education
42.  Electrical Engineering
43.  Electronics
44.  Emergency Services
45.  Energy
46.  Exercise
47.  Family Law
48.  Film
49.  Forestry
50.  Furniture/Household Appliances
51.  Games/Video Games
52.  Gaming/Casino
53.  Gastronomy/Culinary Arts
54.  Genealogy
55.  Genetics
56.  Geography/Cartography
57.  Geology
58.  Geophysics
59.  Glass/Ceramics
60.  Graphic Arts/Photo Imaging
61.  Health/Wellness
62.  Health care
63.  Health care Insurance
64.  History
65.  Hotel Management
66.  Human Resources
67.  Human Rights
68.  Immigration Law
69.  Immunology
70.  Industrial Engineering
71.  Information Technology (IT)
72.  Information/Library Services
73.  Insurance
74.  International Development
75.  Internet
76.  Journalism
77.  Labor Relations
78.  Law Enforcement
79.  Legal Contracts
80.  Linguistics
81.  Literature
82.  Literature-Children
83.  Literature-Fiction
84.  Literature-Poetry
85.  Literature-Theory/Criticism
86.  Machinery/Tools
87.  Marketing
88.  Materials Science
89.  Mathematics/Statistics
90.  Mechanical Engineering
91.  Medical Instruments
92.  Metallurgy
93.  Microbiology/Bacteriology/Virology
94.  Military/Weapons
95.  Mining/Minerals
96.  Multimedia
97.  Music
98.  Non-Traditional Medicine
99.  Nuclear Engineering
100.  Nutrition
101.  Oceanography
102.  Paper/Paper Products
103.  Patent/Trademarks/Copyrights
104.  Personal Injury Law
105.  Petroleum Engineering
106.  Petroleum/Natural Gas/Coal
107.  Pharmaceuticals
108.  Philosophy
109.  Photography
110.  Physical Sciences
111.  Physical Therapy
112.  Physics
113.  Plastics/Rubber
114.  Political Science
115.  Printing/Publishing
116.  Psychiatry
117.  Psychology
118.  Radio
119.  Radiology
120.  Real Estate
121.  Religion
122.  Shipping/Maritime
123.  Social Media
124.  Sociology
125.  Software Localization
126.  Sports
127.  Steel Making
128.  Stock Market/Investment
129.  Tax Law
130.  Telecommunications
131.  Television
132.  Textiles/Fashion
133.  Theater
134.  Toxicology
135.  Transportation
136.  Travel/Tourism
137.  Veterinary Medicine
138.  Website Localization
139.  Worker's Compensation
140.  Zoology/Entomology
"The complexity of the translator's task cannot be overstated; one author suggests that becoming an accomplished translator — after having already acquired a good basic knowledge of both languages and cultures — may require a minimum of ten years' experience. Viewed in this light, it is a serious misconception to assume that a person who has fair fluency in two languages will, by virtue of that fact alone, be consistently competent to translate between them." -Kasparek, 'The Translator's Endless Toil' 


Communication skills. Physicians and surgeons need to be excellent communicators. They must be able to communicate effectively with their patients and other health care support staff.

Compassion. Physicians and surgeons deal with patients who are sick or injured and may be in extreme pain or distress. Physicians and surgeons must be able to treat patients and their families with compassion and understanding.

Detail oriented. Physicians and surgeons must ensure that patients are receiving appropriate treatment and medications. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.

Dexterity. Physicians and surgeons must be good at working with their hands. They work with very precise and sometimes sharp tools, and mistakes can have serious consequences.

Leadership skills. Physicians who work in their own practice need to be effective leaders. They must be able to manage a staff of other professionals to run their practice.

Organizational skills. Some physicians own their own practice. Strong organizational skills, including good record keeping, are critical in both medical and business settings.

Patience. Physicians and surgeons may work for long periods with patients who need special attention. Children and adult patients who fear medical treatment may require more patience.

Physical stamina. Physicians and surgeons should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as lifting or turning disabled patients. Surgeons may spend a great deal of time bending over patients during surgery.

Problem-solving skills. Physicians and surgeons need to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments. They often need to do this quickly in order to save a patient’s life. [1],[2]


Analytic skills. Lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues. As a result, they must be able to analyze large amounts of information, determine relevant facts, and propose viable solutions.

Interpersonal skills. Lawyers must win the respect and confidence of their clients by building a trusting relationship, so that clients feel comfortable and share personal information related to their case.

Problem-solving skills. Lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the matter. Therefore, good problem-solving skills are important for lawyers, to prepare the best defense and recommendation.

Research skills. Preparing legal advice or representation for a client commonly requires substantial research. All lawyers need to be able to find what applicable laws and regulations apply to a specific matter.

Speaking skills. Lawyers are hired by their clients to speak on their behalf. Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain evidence to a judge and jury. 

Writing skills. Lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. [4]

Translators and Interpreters

"In...interpreting, it is not acceptable to omit anything from the source, no matter how quickly the source speaks, since not only is accuracy a principal canon for interpreters, but mandatory. The inaccurate interpretation of even a single word in a material can totally mislead...(Wikipedia)

Business skills. Self-employed professional interpreters and translators need general business skills to manage their finances and careers successfully. They must set fees for their services, bill customers, keep records, and market their services to build their client base.

Concentration. Interpreters must have the ability to concentrate while others are speaking or moving around them.  Simultaneous interpreting (interpreting in 'real time' while others are speaking) is an extremely complex mental task, requiring concentration far beyond what most people usually experience.  Interpreting has been compared to working as an air traffic controller.

Cultural sensitivity. Interpreters and translators must be sensitive to cultural differences and expectations among the people whom they are helping to communicate. Successful interpreting and translating is not only a matter of knowing the words in different languages but also of understanding people’s cultures.  When localizing, a translator is customizing the translation to a particular market and culture suitable and familiar to the target audience.

Dexterity. Sign language interpreters must be able to make quick and coordinated hand, finger, and arm movements when interpreting.

Interpersonal skills. Interpreters and translators, particularly those who are self-employed, must be able to get along with those who hire or use their services in order to retain clients and attract new business.

Language skills.  Interpreters and translators must have a very good knowledge, excellent command, and profound understanding of the written and spoken language, its etymology and idiomatic expressions.  The translators and interpreters function is to convey every language element, tone, register, intention, and feeling of the message from the source language to the target language.

Listening skills. Interpreters must listen carefully when interpreting for audiences to ensure that they hear and interpret correctly.  Interpreters sometimes take short notes to help recall key words or numbers.

Research skills.  Translators must deal with jobs with long, complex, and even profound series of choices which a translator must make; of not just how to render a given word, but most often a phrase or paragraph.

Speaking skills. Interpreters and translators must speak clearly in the languages they are conveying. 

Writing skills.  Interpreters and translators must be able to write clearly and effectively in the languages they translate.  A translators must be very skilled because a single source text has dozens, hundreds perhaps thousands of possible translations. [6],[7],[8],[9]

As you can see, translators and interpreters do not compare their services to the services of a doctor or lawyer; but more a comparison of the similarities in the lengthy education, numerous specializations, and the intellectually challenging nature of their profession.

Some food for thought: In certain multibillion-dollar and classified markets, translators and interpreters are paid fees higher than most working attorneys and many physicians.

Where can you find professional translators and interpreters?

eLingual.Net is a great place to start.

Unlike traditional translation-interpretation job marketplaces where jobs are auctioned off or given to a middleman, eLingual.Net works to find you the most qualified professional translators or interpreters in our network. 

Here’s how it works:
  1. You provide what's important to you in your job description.
  2. We'll recommend your job to members with the right skills and experience based on their profile.
  3. You get a qualified applicant pool to choose from.

We'll be happy to help you find a professional translator or interpreter.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing my posts.  Please if any of my blogs inspire you, give credit where credit is due.  Let's be fair, honest and professional.  Let's help each other be great and stay great!

 Feel free to connect or email me, Carmen Arismendy.  I'm a professional Spanish interpreter-translator and founder of eLingual.Net.  I started the eLingual Network because I could not find a fair, no middleman, no job bidding, ethical, and transparent meeting place for translators, interpreters and clients online.  The website is in beta phase and by no means perfect but it's a step in the right direction.
eLingual.Net's mission is to spread happiness worldwide through happy translators, interpreters, and clients.
For the professional translator and interpreter, this means no middleman, no job bidding, the freedom of setting their own fees, having control over their services, and who they choose to work with.
For the clients, this means working directly with ethical and professional translators and interpreters committed to quality and value.
Join our happy community, let's work together!



  1. Hi, This is a very good piece. My name is Vishal and I am a India based practicing translator. I translate novels and historical narratives from Gujarati (my mother tongue)and Hindi into English. I am a college teacher as well. Thank you for sharing this.


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