A Guide to Selecting and Working with Professional Translators
What is translation?
Translation is the rendering of written material from one language (the source language) into another (the target language). Professional translators, unlike people who are simply bilingual, have the ability to link the two languages, in effect to rewrite the source text as if it had been originally written in the target language. This skill is acquired though extensive training and practice.
What should I look for in a translator?
Anyone can set up shop and solicit translation work. Therefore you want to be selective when looking for a provider of translation services. Look for individuals who present themselves in a professional manner and whose services meet your needs.
- Does a prospective translator know the subject area well enough to produce a good translation of your text?
- Is he or she willing to provide references, lists of prior projects, or samples of previous work?
- Will the product be provided in the form that you need (camera-ready copy, computer file)?
Many users of translated material prefer to work with a translation bureau, a company that works with many different translators. Some of the advantages that bureaus generally offer are:
- Faster turnaround time for lengthy assignments
- Ability to handle numerous languages and subject areas
- Full coordination of major projects, including graphic design, typesetting, printing, and binding
Other users find it more advantageous to contract directly with an independent translator. An independent can usually offer you:
- Lower fees, due to reduced overhead
- More control over the final product through direct consultation and feedback.
- Greater consistency for long-term projects, due to familiarity with subject matter.
Translators exhibit their commitment to the profession by joining a professional association.
What can I expect from my translator?
There are certain obligations that you as a consumer have a right to expect from a professional translator. A translator should be able to give you a firm estimate of cost and delivery time after examining the text to be translated, and should notify you promptly of any unforeseen changes in these terms. He or she should respect and honor confidentiality requirements. A translator should consult you about any problem areas and unknown terms encountered in the source text and be willing to work with you in finding solutions. Finally, if an assignment is outside the translator's range of expertise, he or she should indicate this to you and refer you to another qualified person if possible.
What does my translator expect from me?
Your translator also expects certain things from you. Allow for reasonable deadlines. Translation is not simply "bilingual typing"; it often requires digging through several dictionaries and other resources to find the right technical term or colloquial expression. Give your translator enough time to provide a high-quality product.
Individuals or companies?
Consumers of language services must decide whether to use a translation services company or an independent translator or interpreter. Each choice has its pros and cons.
Translation: Your Access to the World