HOW TO CHOOSE A TRANSLATOR, INTERPRETER OR A LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION PROFESSIONAL TO SUIT YOUR NEEDS
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A) UNDERSTAND TRANSLATORS AND INTERPRETERS
1. We need translators and interpreters
In the current times of advanced technology and globalization, we and our companies, contacts and clients travel to more places and communicate with more people of different languages and cultures than ever before in the history of humankind. Therefore, there is an evergrowing need for language and cultural mediators, such as translators and interpreters.
2. ¿Why is it important to know how to choose a good translator or interpreter?
Choosing a translator, interpreter or language and communication professional can be a challenging and frustrating task for most people. In this job and in many others there is a high rate of unqualified people trying to pass as professionals, although their work is usually of a bad quality compared to the work done by qualified professionals.
3. A translator is not the same as an interprer
To begin with, it is important to distinguish what is a "translator" and what is an "interpreter". Both translators and interpreters are professionals who understand a message in a language and convey that message into another language. The main difference is that the translator does it in writing and the interpret does it orally. Translators, sworn or certified translators, interpreters, copy editors and proofreaders are all language and communication professionals, and it is important to know how to choose them appropriately in order to get a top quality job free of long term problems.
B) KNOW THE MAIN POINTS
In order to better understand this subject, we are going to explain a few main points, and at the same time we will debunk certain myths. Most of the features that we attribute to translation in this article may also be applicable to interpretation and to language services in general. However, we will keep the general name "translation" and "translator" throughout this article so that this text may be understood by all types of readers, even if they are not language experts.
4. Translation is not an easy job
Translation does not consist on the mere substitution of words written or uttered in a particular language by words written or uttered in another language. This "word by word" translation would render catastrophic results, as languages are very complex and when it comes to translating there are many syntactic, spelling, contextual, stylistic, cultural and linguistic aspects to be taken into account. This can only be done efficiently by someone with experience and with the required qualifications and skills.
5. A good translation cannot be done by just anyone, even if that person is bilingual
After what has been said in point 4, we begin to understand why a good translation cannot be done by just anyone, even if that person is bilingual. Despite general belief, bilingualism is not a guarantee of fluent writing or of good translating or interpreting skills. In order to render a good translation it is necessary, among other things, to understand well the original text and to convey its meaning appropriately in the target text or translation, which must reflect the message and the style of the original text. In fact, translators often receive projects that clients have had translated elsewhere and with which they have problems at a later stage. Sometimes these translations have been done by apparently bilingual relatives, friends or acquaintances of clients, and clients send them to the translators for proofreading after the problems begin to appear. But proofreading these translations is not always possible, as it is usually more lengthy to proofread these bad translations than to do new translations starting from scratch.
6. Free online translation websites do not render quality results
The computer programs behind these websites translate "word by word", as we saw in point 4 above. In fact, the output of these programs usually shows great translation counterexamples, as they have many errors, lack proper meaning and style and can even render such absurd output that can make the reader laugh... or cry. This output could be useful to get a vague idea of a certain information, but given the large amount of errors it contains, it should never be published or trusted thoroughly. Unfortunately, we know many examples where this output was published and it had disastrous consequences for the corporate image and the legal liability of the companies who trusted these bad quality services far too much.
7. Bad translation means bad communication
We also know of many cases in which a bad translation resulted in a communicative error with dire consequences, such as the loss of a trial or a court case, the cancellation of an administrative dealing or the loss of valuable clients. In these cases, it is better to be safe than sorry, and in order to be on the safe side it is advisable to choose well the translator or professional who will take care of your project.
C) MAKE SURE OF THE FOLLOWING:
8. Work with qualified professionals
That is, work with experienced and qualified professionals who can guarantee confidentiality, efficiency and accuracy towards the original text or speech. Make sure to ask that certain quality and accuracy standards will be followed, taking into account the specific field, context and languages of each project. For example, a good legal translator may not be as good translating a scientific article or a textbook on new technologies, and vice versa. Each field or knowledge area is a world in itself, and the professional you work with must know that particular world, its specialised terminology and the appropriate conventions for each case.
9. Ask for samples or credentials
Ask the translator or professional for samples of former jobs or for credentials that prove his experience, specialisation and ability to carry out your project with the expected results. Do not trust appearances and make sure that your translator is a native speaker of the language he or she translates into and lives in the country where the translation is targeted.
10. The translation will depend on the target country or market
If you wish to translate a text from Spanish into English for a British company who will use that text in the British market, your best translator choice would be a native British translator who currently lives in the United Kingdom. In this case this is a better choice than an American, an Australian, a South African or a Canadian translator, who are also native English speakers but were not born and do not live in the target country or market, and therefore they do not know the British regional variety of English as well as a British translator. However, these other translators may be the most suitable in other cases. There are many dialects and regional varieties that must be taken into account, and for an appropriate and effective communication, it is better to adapt the text or communication tool to the variety spoken by the target audience in the target area. Each country has its own dialect or regional variety, and it is extremely important that both you and your language professional take this into account.
11. Talk to your translator or language professional
Make sure to inform your translator or language professional about what you need and to give them the information needed to complete their work. Giving your language professional the necessary information is extremely important, since it is not the same to translate a 10 word sentence for an internal report as translating the same sentence for an advertising campaign to be shown in several countries. In addition, you are urged to keep in touch with your translator during the project´s development, ensuring that you reply to his or her questions, that you are appropriately informed about the status of the project and that everything is clear for both sides. Give your translator any useful information and materials you may have, such as former translations, brochures, glossaries, etc. This helps to maintain terminology coherence and the client´s wishes and preferences. The more information you give to your translator, the better the outcome will be.
12. If you find a better service, buy it!
This classic consumer rule is also applicable in this context. It may be very helpful to compare the services, lead times, quotes and customer service provided by different professionals. Nowadays the decisive factor when choosing a service is sometimes the price, but next we explain why it is essential that quality figures prominently on your decision making process.
D) KNOW THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING WITH A QUALITY TRANSLATOR
There are many benefits resulting from working with a qualilty translator or language professional. Below, we will just mention the main ones:
13. Better communication
This enables you to have a clearer and more fluent communication and to ensure that the translation or interpretation of your contents will maintain the integrity of the original text or speech. Your clients, partners and contacts will respond and react faster if they understand very clearly what you mean.
14. Greater competitiveness
These are hard times where there is great competitiveness at a global level. Many clients are companies that want that extra advantage making them more attractive for their clients and partners. A good translation or language project will help you communicate better and be more competitive. Do not waste all the effort that the different departments of your company have put together to create your documents because of a bad translation which may also influence negatively on your image and your company´s.
15. More peace of mind
Enjoy your peace of mind and forget stress by knowing that your project has been carried out by professionals who respect the agreed lead times and conditions and that you will not have any problem at all. We know of cases where the clients have had to invest more time, effort and money than initially planned because the translation was bad. In other cases, a bad translation leads to certain extra costs or a complete redo of costly printing materials that contained errors.
16. A good investment
Investing in a good translator or language professional is always a good investment, whichever way you look at it. You will obtain greater quality, communication, competitiveness and peace of mind. This will result in full satisfaction for yourself, your clients and your contacts.
E) SOME PIECES OF ADVICE
17. Plan your actions in good time
Whenever possible, choose the professional you want to work with before the project is ready to be sent out to the translator or language professional. Make sure to give the professional enough time to carry out the work with the required quality and expectations.
18. Respect terminology coherence
It is advisable to respect terminology coherence in your documents. One way of doing it could be the compilation of glossaries with the terminology that you usually use or that you prefer to use. This task can also be done by a language professional, and in any case it will ensure that the vocabulary is coherent both in your original texts and in your translations.
19. Translating is important, so do translate
The surveys published by the chambers of commerce indicate that companies who translate their documents reach more markets and have better sales. It is necessary to understand that a small investment in translation may allow us to largely increase the number of people that our information can reach. This always has consequences, and in the case of companies, these consequences are a greater impact and better sales, which lead to expansion and growth.
20. But do not translate it all, only whatever is necessary
Many companies that expand to other markets do not need to translate all their documents, as in many cases there is repeated information that could even be counterproductive. Talk to your translator or language professional to check which documents you have now and which ones would be useful to translate to achieve your aim. In other cases, it might be better to summarize certain documents and then have them translated. For all this, make sure that your language professional also provides language consultancy services.
21. An image is worth a thousand words
There are certain cases where intercultural communication is more effective by combining words with images. This is the case of IKEA, for example, who is currently selling products in more than 40 countries and in more than 30 languages. In order to face this diversity, their materials include both images and texts. 80 % of their assembly instructions is made up of explanatory drawings and the remaining 20% contains texts informing about safety measures which are translated into the relevant languages. Another clear example of the use of both images and texts for a more effective intercultural communication can be seen at most airports. All their signs usually combine globally understandable images with brief texts translated into 2 or 3 languages. Each case is different, and a good language consultancy service may help you to establish which is the best and most cost-effective solution for your case.
22. Avoid certain local cultural references
If you wish to translate a document (especially in the case of commercial or marketing materials) into several languages, avoid as much as possible cultural references to certain local aspects, and review your document with the help of an expert. Certain references to national sports or body parts may be regarded differently by different cultures. Idioms or expressions such as "Essex girl", "Everything is big in Texas" or "In a New York minute" could be translated looking for a cultural equivalent instead of a literal equivalent, but they probably will not have the nuances or the meaning they had for the original audience.
23. Check with your language consultant
Use the help of your language consultant to obtain a text or material that is globally understandable and that reflects your intentions accurately. When it comes to printing or sending your contact details, make sure to include the international dialling codes for telephone and fax. Aim for an international image without language or cultural errors, which could be insulting for certain cultures.
24. Enjoy the advantages of working with translation and interpretation agencies and with freelance professionals
Translation and interpretation agencies offer added advantages when compared to freelance translators. These advantages include secondary proofreading for quality purposes, experience in finding quality translators in different languages, specific fields and knowledge areas, the ability to manage projects of any size, and a wide range of services to cater for all your language needs.
25. You choose
Knowing how to choose a good translator or language professional will help you to better export and sell your products and services and to communicate your ideas and messages more efficiently. Even if you only put into practice half of the pieces of advice contained in this article, you will see how the quality of your translations and language projects will greatly improve.