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You have a copy to translate. It’s crucial that you end up with a good quality translation that’s accurate and reads naturally. Who should you ask? What background should they have? Where do you find them? So many questions, so many things to consider! What a headache!
In many language combinations there are thousands of translators out there – if not tens of thousands. Selecting the one for you might seem like an impossible, overwhelming task. But do not fret, there are a few pointers that may help you choose the best fit for your project.
First of all, let’s see who you’ll be looking for.
A professional translator.
While it’s tempting to ask one of your bilingual colleagues or a friend who took extracurricular language classes at school to translate your marketing copy or user manual, most often it’s not the right way to go. Not everyone who speaks two languages is a translator. Translation is a special skill that needs to be learnt and practised. Not using a professional translator may lead to inaccuracies, mistranslations, inappropriate terminology use, grammatical issues, and the list goes on…
A specialised translator.
A creative marketing copy will need a different kind of translator from a legal contract where the last thing you want from your translator is going creative. Just like you wouldn’t ask an eye surgeon to operate on your heart, for the best results you should find a translator who is specialised in the type of translations you are after, and knows the ins and outs of the given subject.
When should you start looking for the right professional?
As the saying goes, good work takes time, so don’t leave selecting your translator to the last minute. A good quality translation does not happen by the click of a button. The translator will need to read your copy carefully, analyse it, do their research, do their translation, check it carefully, proofread it and then re-check it.
Start your selection process as soon as your need for a translation arises. This will give you enough time to find the right person, agree on the details, and leave them enough time to actually complete the translation to a high standard.
What will you need from a professional translator?
As a rule of thumb, professional translators only translate into their mother tongue, or their language of habitual use. While they do need to have an excellent grasp of the source language (the language they translate from) to fully understand the intricacies of your text, in order to produce a copy that doesn’t read clunky or unnatural, they need to be able to masterfully manipulate their target language (the language they translate into).
Although there are some people who are naturally talented, the best of the best have a formal qualification in translation. This means they have a solid background in the theory as well as the practice of translation and their competencies have been formally tried and tested. Think university degrees or postgraduate diplomas in translation! For example, in the UK, if you find someone who holds a university degree in Translation Studies or a Diploma in Translation (affectionately called the “DipTrans”), that’s a good sign that you can trust their work.
Translation skills are like a good wine: they need time to mature. The more a translator translates, the more confident they become. The more time they have had to learn from their clients’ or their peers’ feedback, the better their translations may become. They have had the chance to “meet” many different types of texts, improve their research skills, build up their personal reference-library, learn about various templates, hone their technical skills, etc.
The gold standard: professional organisations.
Professional organisations make sure that they only allow people in their ranks who are committed to adhering to high standards. If the translator you are eyeing is a member of such an organisation, you can be sure they are just as keen on quality work and ethical business as you are. In the UK, look out for members of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) or the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL).
So, where can you find these professional translators?
If you go directly to professional organisations, you can most probably find a trustworthy translator who will be a good match for your project: both the ITI and the CIOL have their own searchable online directories which list their qualified members.
Another good place to find a translator is a site called ProZ.com. Here you can search by language combination, filter by subject matter, check out translators’ profiles, look at testimonials and recommendations.
The world wide web.
Don’t forget… Google is your friend! Many professional translators have their own website you can search for and browse through. Their website will give you a bit more information about their background or how they work and you might even get a glimpse into their personalities, so you can see if you would like to collaborate with them.
I hope you found this quick guide useful and next time you need a translator, it will be easier to get the right person who can provide you with a high quality, well-written translation your business needs.
Did I miss anything? Do you have any nagging questions about translation and translators? Don’t keep them to yourself! Comment below and let’s start a conversation!
Originally I posted this article on my LinkedIn page on 7 December 2018.