Do the right thing – English version

12 Déc

I get asked a lot about what to look for in a translator and where to find one. My best piece of advice to anyone looking into buying a translation would be to read the ATA (American Translators Association) translation buying guide here.

You just want a couple tips to get you started?

Tip #1: Define your needs

Take a minute to think about what you need.  Just a one-off translation? Regular projects about the same subject matter? What about the volume? Can you give potential providers an idea of how long your documents are? Possibly a number of words? Are they to be translated in just one language or several? All these will help you decide who you want to work with and how much you want to spend on your translations. For a big multilingual project, you might want to hire an agency for instance. A good agency will manage the project for you, find suitable translators  for the job, provide editing and/or proofreading and deliver you the final product. On the other hand, if you have to get a certain type of document translated on a regular basis, a newsletter about your industry for instance, you might wanna build a relationship with a dedicated freelance translator. That way you’ll achieve consistency in your communication and you’ll be able to talk directly with the person about what you want. Also, you have more of a chance to find someone with a good knowledge of your industry.

Tip#2: Covering the basics

An interpreter translates oral communication, whereas a translator deals with written text. Some people work both as translators and interpreters but the two professions require a different set of skills. Basically, you can be a great orator and a poor writer and vice-versa, or you can excel at both. Anyway, I’m talking about written communication here. The source language is the language of the document you need to translate. The target language is the language you need to translate it into. A good translator only works towards their mother tongue. Exceptions to that rule include extremely rare language pairs where you have to compromise. For example, finding a czech to tagalog financial translator might not prove as easy as finding a Spanish to English legal translator. In some instances, you might have no choice but to work with a non-professional. In that case, you cannot expect a professional finished product. However, someone working in a « regular » language pair translating towards a foreign language sould raise a red flag. Them having a foreign spouse or having spend some time in the country is not a valid argument.

Some ressources

Most translators’associations run directories of their members. They’re not foolproof, but they are a great place to try and find a translator suitable to your needs, much better than a bidding site where anyone can say  « hey, I’m a translator, hire me! »

A few suggestions:

ATA online directories

SFT’s directory (in French)

Public profiles of members of the American Literary Translators’Association

Directory of the alumni association of ESIT (my alma mater!)


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