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Choosing the right translator: Welcome to the jungle!

“What’s your profession?”

“I’m a translator.”

“Oh, you’re a translator. That’s an easy job, right? I mean, all you need is a dictionary!”

Well, that’s not even close to true, but I guess you already know that – otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article. Finding a qualified translator is a bit of jungle. “Translator” is not a protected title, so virtually anyone can (mis)use it. And they do.

So, how can you find out if a translator has the necessary skills and can deliver the quality you require?

There are no guarantees, but below are a handful of tips to help make the decision easier:

  1. Does the translator have a degree in translation or languages and professional experience as a translator? Check their background and recommendations on LinkedIn, or ask them to send you their CV; a professional translator is likely to have a CV listing a portfolio of brands and clients they have worked for.
  2. What are the translator’s areas of expertise? Beware if they’re “all-round specialists”. Just imagine the time it takes for an accountant to become familiar with accounting terminology or an attorney to understand the law! A translator usually has only a few areas of specialisation, such as finance, business or law. Make sure they’re specialised in your particular field before you hire them!
  3. Is the translator willing to provide a test translation? Find a short text that contains common words and expressions, and even pitfalls, from your industry. Just a short one if it’s unpaid. This way you can easily check if they’re able to deliver the quality you expect and have a grasp of the terminology and tone you are using.
  4. Ask for references! References will give you an idea of the translator’s portfolio and the level of quality the translator can deliver. They will also give you peace of mind.
  5. Check if the translator works with a so-called CAT tool (computer-assisted translation). This is NOT the same as machine translation! On the contrary – it’s a tool to ensure accuracy, consistency and quality in your translation projects.

If you are considering hiring a translation agency for large-scale projects, you may also check if the agency is certified according to ISO 17100. This requires them to live up to certain standards, including the level of skills and qualifications of the translators they employ or hire on contract.

For more advice on choosing the right translator or agency for your projects, feel free to give me a ring on +45 22 77 44 38.

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