11 Ways to Identify a Good Translator Match
Like any recruitment or hiring decision, evaluating both the competency qualifications and the soft skills of your future employee or independent contractor is very important. How can you evaluate the abilities of a translator if you don’t speak their native language though? After all, that is why you are hiring them to translate your content instead of doing it yourself! Even if they have impeccable language translation proficiency, how do you know whether they are a good match for your specific project needs?
The following two categories of professional translator qualifications should be considered when choosing your foreign language translation partner: Hard and soft skills.
Technical Skills, Training and Experience
Proficiencies in these areas are usually easy to verify. Reputable foreign translation services have stringent recruitment, skill assessment procedures and hiring processes to ensure all of their translators meet specific requirements.
- Native Speakers: Translators must be able to fully understand the context in the source language and convey the same meaning into the target language. That’s why it is very important that they are native speakers of the region and understand the audience that the content is intended to reach. Languages evolve and, therefore, your translator needs to be up to date on the language combination to provide a quality deliverable. It is only then that you can be assured that your intended meaning will be conveyed accurately.
- Education: Translation degrees and certifications are held by most professional translators and can be confirmed with documentation.
- Skills Assessments: It is common for language service providers to verify the skills of their translators. Typically, a translation test must be passed prior to being hired.
- Experience: Obtaining degrees and passing tests are the minimum requirements, but nothing beats real life project experience. At Renaissance Translations, we require our translators to have a minimum of 5 years of professional translation experience before they are assigned jobs.
- Professional Affiliations: Although some consider it a formality, there are professional translation associations which many professional translators are members of. For example, many of our translators are members of groups like: Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI), Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) and American Translators Association (ATA).
- References: When in doubt ask for and contact references that have worked with the firm or individual on a similar project in the past.
- Talent, Style & Soft Skills: When all else is equal, sometimes soft skills and even personality are the differentiating criteria when choosing the best translator for your unique needs, e.g. a business to consumer retail cosmetics company is looking to translate its Chinese social media content into English. The translation company suggests its top Chinese to English translator who was born in China but has lived in the US for 20 years and has superior skills to work on your project. After reviewing the translator’s credentials and checking references, you find out he is a technical writer that works 90% of the time translating electronic engineering manuals for Chinese manufacturers to English. Perhaps a millennial female Chinese American blogger would be a better fit though.
- Writing Talent & Style: Writing goes beyond the understanding of vocabulary and grammar, especially when translating between languages. The style of the translator must match the objectives of the project. Always ask for writing samples in a language you read and write well in order to assess the overall writing talent and style.
- Cultural Intelligence: This was touched on above in the requirement that the translator must be a native speaker of the output language. Just as important as the words themselves, the person working on your project needs to understand the cultural nuances of your target audience. Cultural barriers can create brand reputation issues and miscommunications. This is where localisation and transcreation services are needed beyond basic translation.
- Subject Matter Expertise: Understanding specific industry terminology and having specialised knowledge is what makes a good translator great. A generalist should never translate medical, scientific or legal documents, for example. An additional assurance for the client is when the translation agency offers certified translation and has professional indemnity insurance to protect all the parties involved.
- Technology & Technical Proficiencies: Gone are the days when a translator just needed a fast Internet connection, modern laptop and a basic word processing program like Microsoft Word. Translation technology has advanced. The ability to use various translation memory software programs is now required for fast and accurate content output. For more information on this topic, read our blog on the role of technology in translation today.
- Project Management Skills: Partnering with a translation agency is more than just providing content to be translated. The process requires excellent communication and customer service. You may be paired with a team of professionals who all must have excellent listening, communication, time management and customer service skills. This can often be assessed while you are in the contracting phase. Ask yourself:
- Do they have a 24/7 service if you are in a different time zone and have an urgent situation? How quickly do they respond to your requests?
- Do they listen carefully to understand all your requirements?
- Are their responses complete and easy to understand?
- Do you enjoy your interactions?
- Do they seem credible and trustworthy to complete your project to your satisfaction?
Contracting a translation partner for your important projects is a big decision. We hope this article was helpful in providing some evaluation criteria. Our team at Renaissance Translations would be honoured to satisfy your translation needs. Please contact us to discuss your upcoming project.