So you have a project that you know you cannot use Google Translate for. You were smart in that respect. You read through our Complete Idiot’s Guide to Google Translate and figured, yeah, not this time. Maybe you have already gotten some leads from colleagues and friends on some translators. But how can you be sure that you are hiring the right translator?
Consider your needs
One of the reasons for hiring a professional translator is to make your text shine in another language. But what does that mean exactly? Have you considered who you are writing for, for example? If you are looking to translate a marketing campaign slogan for the CeBIT computer expo in Germany, you are going to have different needs than, say, someone who is looking to translate a quick start guide for a company’s latest software product for the Brazilian market. And if you are looking to advertise for that CeBIT, you will have a different approach for your B2B campaign than you do for your B2C campaign.
This may sound elementary, as in “Of course I know who I am writing for!”, but this is the kind of information that you need to have so that you can be sure that you hire the right translator for the job. In other words, you will not want to hire someone with solid experience in translating for auto engineering when you really need someone who knows how to write for computer software magazines.
Take stock of your resources
A quality translation job is subjective. Of course, that judgment is best made by someone who knows the language inside and out — a skill that you yourself do not have. Or you wouldn’t be in the market for a translator in the first place, right? Do you have someone on hand who, after the translation job, will be able to evaluate its quality? And, because this matters too, is the person doing the quality assurance check right for the job herself?
Quality assurance reviewers are not the only resources you should have on hand. There are of course other ways that you can ensure, in advance, that the translation will be done correctly for you. For example, having a pre-approved style guide or a glossary or a terminology database can go a long way in ensuring that your translation actually meets your need. Even previously translated materials can provide hints to the kind of language style and terminology that is right for the translation job.
Hire a qualified person
We have written a lot about the pitfalls of hiring Little Johnny for your translation projects. Yes, it’s great that he studied French for his summer abroad on its southern beaches. Nevertheless, Little Johnny is really not the right person for your precious translation project.
One part is, of course, native-speaker knowledge of the target language. There is no substitute for language knowledge coming from actually growing up with it. A language is more than its nouns, verbs, and grammatical structure. Language is a living thing. It is a shared experience from grandma’s knee on through the romp through the schoolyard and on into a heated political debate at the local pub. There are formal and informal versions; the difference between what you speak in the boardroom and on the beach. And, yes, when it comes to making a translated piece sound “normal” it really, really matters.
A second part is, then, translation training. If native speaking alone signified full language expertise, we would never need to learn grammar in the schools nor hire an editor for a publication. So too for translation.
Yes, great translators have a “feel” for language, but even good translators can get the job done to your satisfaction. One needn’t do four years in colleague, although such programs do exist and those graduating translators can command appropriate prices. There are also certificate courses and apprenticeship programs and certification groups. But as many in the industry know, a language talent that has years of experience in the industry has as much value, if not more, than a just-fresh-from-school language student.
That means, then, that the third part of translation qualification is experience. Recall, however, that this is about finding the right person for your particular translation job. So when you say you want someone with translation experience, you probably mean someone with expertise in your industry and in the type of translation you need — whether marketing transcreation, legal, medical, or more — and the audience that you are targeting.
How should companies proceed?
LSPs are most capable to find the best resources, and that is our suggestion on how to get the best result. LSPs have checklists and testing processes to ferret out the amateurs and generalists from the specialized professionals. For example, Moravia has a dedicated team responsible for resourcing and establishing a large bench of qualified translators to cover incoming work at any volume.
How do you find the most qualified and reliable translators?