What to Look out for when Hiring a Translator
Dealing with the translation/interpreting market is not a simple matter. A translation project may fail for several reasons. By choosing professional translators and interpreters, you can avoid common problems and boost your business. Here are some useful tips from the Panhellenic Association of Translators (PEM).
Who to trust for your translations
Translation is written, while interpreting is spoken. Find out which professional meets your needs.
If your business activities include documents that must be worded in a different language, then you need a translator.
If you wish to communicate with others in a foreign language, e.g. at a conference or at a business meeting, then you need an interpreter.
Professionals work into their mother tongue
A translator does not speak 10 languages, nor translates into and out of every language combination.
Most translators translate into their mother tongue (e.g. English to Greek, French to Greek, etc.).
Furthermore, they usually specialise in specific texts (e.g. legal, medical, financial, technical).
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Translators who specialise in one field (e.g. legal texts) may also be able to translate into a foreign language. In this case, ask the translator for a sample of their work. Additionally, you can ask for the final editing to be done by a translator who is a native speaker of the language of the text.
Be careful of teachers, academics or students of foreign languages
Speaking a foreign language does not mean proficiency in translation.
Teaching foreign languages is a demanding process that requires special skills. However, teachers or academics are not translators. Furthermore, students of foreign languages may offer a cheap solution, but the result might not be of high quality.
Just as you wouldn’t assign the preparation of your tax return to an accounting student, you shouldn’t assign the translation of professional texts to non-professionals.
Translation is done by professional translators, with knowledge and experience in the field of translation.
Interpreting is done by professional interpreters, who have been trained in the demanding conditions of the profession.
Be careful of bilingual speakers
Bilingual individuals speak two languages fluently, but are not necessarily proficient in conveying information from one language to the other, particularly in writing.
To translate your text as correctly as possible, they must have proven specialisation and experience in translation.
How to reduce costs
Translate only the necessary sections of documents or create new, shorter texts for translation.
Cut out anything that does not need translating
You do not have to translate entire documents blindly. Decide which sections need to be translated and which can be omitted.
If certain information is not of interest to your clients, you do not need to include it in the translated text.
Reduce the word count
You can use images and charts for your international readers instead of texts with complex technical terms. This way:
- The translator’s job becomes easier.
- The risk of incorrect translation of technical terminology becomes much smaller.
- The translation cost decreases.
Finalise the text
To avoid errors in the final translation, finalise the text before sending it to the translator.
When multiple versions of the same text are exchanged between your company and the translator, the risk of error rises.
Furthermore, if the final version differs greatly from the original version, you will be paying for translations that you will ultimately not be using.
In certain cases, the deadline may be so tight that the translation must begin before the original text has been finalised. In such cases, use suitable names for each version, add a date and time, and clearly mark the changes between versions. This will make it easier for the translator and reduce your costs.
What the final translation charge includes
As is the case in any type of professional work, the final charge depends on the time, quality and volume of the text.
While the calculation is based on the volume of text, the charge you are priced (per word, per page, etc.) includes administrative costs and the added value to the project by the knowledge and experience of each professional.
When you request a quote for translation services, quotes may vary significantly. However, low price must not be the only factor at play when choosing translation services. On the contrary, a very low price often leads to the delivery of poor-quality translations.
Ask professionals to justify why they charge more than others. Request samples of their work before reaching a final decision.
What machine translation is
This is translation carried out by machines rather than translators. The quality of such translations is dubious.
Machine translation (e.g. Google translate) can give you a general idea of what a text is about.
However, in the case of texts addressed to customers or users of your products, it is best to secure the services of a professional translator.
Machine translation and post-editing
To cut costs, certain translation agencies offer machine translation & post-editing (MTPE).
In this case, the translation is carried out by machines and corrected by a professional translator/text editor.
This type of translation may be appropriate for simple texts with high repeatability (e.g. financial statements, technical manuals). However, the quality of the result will not be as high as if a professional translator had translated it to begin with.
Translation memory software
Translation memory software (CAT tools, e.g. SDL Trados, DéjàVu, memoQ) are not machine translation software programmes.
They are software suites that help translate texts faster. They allow translators to save sentences from texts they have already translated, so that they will not need to translate them again.
Translation memories are created by translators themselves and ensure consistency in the translation of technical terms.
What the different types of interpreting are
Interpreters convey spoken messages from one language into another. There are 3 types of interpreting.
This requires faithful and precise oral conveyance of the message in the same tone, time and speaking pattern as the speaker. Special equipment is required in most cases.
The interpreter listens to speech in the original language and then conveys the message orally in the other language. This does not require special equipment and systems.
This is addressed to a small number of listeners. The interpreter sits near the listeners and carries out simultaneous interpreting, whispering into their ear.
Inform your translator
Explain the purpose of the text and its precise target audience to your translator.
Purpose of the text
Style, expression, word choice, phrasing and sentence length vary depending on where the text will appear and what its purpose will be.
Make sure you are aware of this information and inform your translator of it.
The text must be translated into your readers’ language.
There are major differences between certain languages, and the translator must know precisely who the end readers will be.
For example, if you ask a professional translator to translate a text into English, the first question they will ask is whether you want it in US English or UK English.
Download and read the Translation: Getting it Right guide.