Tips for finding a good translator
There are lots of translation forums and blogs on the Internet where we can find an endless number of discussions about the translation industry: fees, associations, translation technologies, recommended courses, recommendations on best practices, anecdotes, tips about freelancing, etc. You can even find hundreds of comments on how to get more translation jobs, whether this or that client pays well or not, including lists indicating characteristics of a “perfect client” a translator should look for.
Nevertheless, we would rarely find information that actually serves customers by thinking from a customer’s perspective. There is hardly any information on how a potential client could meet up with a trustworthy professional to leave a document in his/her hand for a good translation.
Accordingly, I have elaborated this guide with some general rules to help a customer find the right translator to deliver the right translation.
For more information about how to buy translations, please visit this helpful link to Translation. Getting it right. A Guide to buying translations, written by translator Chris Durban, and avaible at the American Translation Association.
What kind of translation do I need?
First of all, as a customer, we are to identify what kind of translation is needed in order to identify what kind of translator you should look for.
If the translation is for official purposes, then a sworn or certified translator is needed for the job in order to validate the document. There is no sworn translator that is internationally recognized; however, depending on the country, some countries may provide a list of authorized translators (at embassies or governmental offices). For example, in Spain, competent translators can be officially registered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and so that is where you may need to ask for help.
If the translation needed is for other purposes, then you would be mostly free to hire services from any independent translators or contact any translation agencies, depending as well on the language required and the characteristics of the projects, whether it is general or whether some specific or technical knowledge is required.
Where can I find a translator?
We have different options here:
- Through recommendations. In case you have friends or someone you know having experience with some translator or some agencies, this may be a safe choice for you to look for sincere recommendations.
- Telephone guide. The traditional telephone guide could still work.
- Professional Associations. Professional associations of translators would normally publish the lists of registered translators in their websites. Here are some names you can search for:
- Asociación Española de Traductores, Correctores e Intérpretes (Asetrad)
- Institute of Translators and Interpreting (ITI)
- American Translators Association (ATA)
- Chartered Institute of Linguists (IoL)
Internet search. Perhaps this is the quickest way. Simply enter the key words in any search engine and try to make a selection among the results. For instance, “French technical translator”, “Chinese interpreter in London”, etc.
How do I know I’m hiring a good professional?
Regardless of how big is our effort in searching for a “good” translator, whether a professional or someone from an agency, we will only know that we have found the right translator only when we receive the document back translated, and check for ourselves that it is a good translation or just a readable copy.
Of course, what if you do not know the language and that is why you need a translator, what can you do then? Here you have some tips you can keep in mind and that may help you choose a translator:
1. Professional web page. Almost 100% of translators and translation agencies would have a website where they would at least provide a list of their services, languages they work with and the contact information. From there, you may be able to find other information that could be useful, such as a list of their clients, customer’s references and comments on their services, as well as their profiles. You may also be able to spot logos of any professional translation associations where they are being members. Some may also declare they follow international standards such as ISO and UNE as a proof for their quality services.
2. Translator’s professional attitude. Once you are in touch with a translator or an agency already, you can feel from what they ask you whether they know exactly what they have to do or not. Most of the time you will be asked certain questions like “What are the languages needed to work with the documents?”, “What kind of translation do you need?”, “The purpose of the translation”, “How many words does the document contain?”, “When would you need the document?”, etc. Then, it is very important that the translator or the project manager of that agency clearly informs you since the first place how and when the services will be charged for, and if there are any other conditions you should know. A written agreement should be issued and duly signed before commencing the work.
3. Contact. The assigned translator or agency should be reachable during the office hours in order to responds to your queries. This would give you a confident of a formal professional.
4. Delivery of translation. A good translator would deliver you the work on time. In the case that there are some inevitable delays, a professional would give you a prior notice.
5. Other clues. If during the working process, the translator happens to be unsure about some points, a good translator would always get in touch with the customer in order to clarify the doubts before he/she proceeds in finishing up the work. A good translator may also give you some suggestions about the project. In addition, very likely that, once the work is done and submitted to the client, he/she would do a follow up call to see if you are happy with the translation.