These days, searching for the right translator for your translation project is made easier by technology and the internet – instant searches can yield plenty of translation professionals with specializations relevant to your needs at the click of a button. But it can be challenging to figure out how to find the right translator for your exact needs and to know what to look for. At ACR Translations, I live and work by solid principles and they are what I suggest anyone seeking out translations services should look for as well.
Find a human. Depending on your translation project, you may be tempted to use Google Translate or other machine translations but know that without the help of a translation professional, the translation these programs produce leave a lot to be desired and are often completely incorrect! It might feel like a bit more of a time and money investment to seek out a real live human translator for your project, but you will pay less in the long run because you won’t be spending time and money to correct machine-created errors. Plus, you have the added bonus of supporting a local entrepreneur or freelancer which helps boost the economy and circulate funds within your community – rather than giving clicks to a multinational that doesn’t care about the accuracy of your message. Step one is to find a person – someone who has devoted their life and career to the love of language and communication, like me!
One of the other benefits of finding a human is that many translators also offer simultaneous copy-editing or proofreading services for their clients – something you simply will not have access to with a machine translation. Additionally, if you are looking for a translator in a global region where you are seeking to build a business or raise investment, a translator can sometimes become more like a resourceful collaborator, offering extra localized information that can aid you in your journey – especially if you build a long-term relationship with them. And given the fact that they will likely be a specialist in the field of your work (see below!) they can also assist you in networking with other industry professionals they may or may not have working relationships with as well. Sometimes all it takes is a name or a suggestion and a connection is made – something only on-the-ground language professionals can offer.
Hire a native (or near native) speaker. Your translation professional doesn’t necessarily need to have the source/target languages as their mother tongue but it sure helps for them to have a long history of experience with the language, particularly its culturally immersive elements like slang, colloquialisms and the like. Your translation is bound to be better for it so aim to hire someone with this level of fluency.
Get the correct language combination and credentials. Sounds obvious but you would be surprised at how many people end up wasting their own valuable time seeking out a translator who has the wrong language pair or has the correct combination but in the wrong direction of translation. Make sure the person you want to hire is adept at translating from the source language to the target language you most need. Additionally, make sure you are, in fact, seeking the services of the right person. If you’re looking for a translator, make sure you are getting a translator and not asking a medical interpreter to work on a birth certificate or something. If you need written documents translated, a translator will work for you – any verbal exchanges will require interpretation and believe it or not, not every language professional does both!
Find a specialized expert. If you need legal translation or technical work done, make sure you are seeking out someone with specialized training and/or experience in that field. As a general rule, translators tend to specialize one way or another because it suits them well to become very adept and well-versed in specialized fields. It helps them to produce the best possible translations with the most knowledge and accuracy. It doesn’t do anyone well to have to send or reply to a bunch of emails about literary translation if someone primarily works on government documents, and vice versa. Some translation professionals do it all, or nearly all, but for the most part, people tend to specialize in what they have additional knowledge, training or experience in – and your translation will be improved from that industry or field-specific knowledge.
Get the right price for both of you. Remember that you are paying for the services of someone whose livelihood likely rests (at least partially) on the freelance work you and others are commissioning. It isn’t fair to ask that translators work for free or for artificially low fees, especially when you factor in how long they have taken to become a trained professional and how annual certification or licensing works in many areas. Remember that you may be getting a localized consultant who can offer you important insights and connections, and such things are pretty much invaluable in a world that still thrives on interpersonal business and community connections. At the same time, there are three main factors which can affect the fees your translator invoices you for and it is best to discuss such things and settle on a fee before a project is started.
- Languages used – If a language is “rarer”, it may result in higher fees being charged simply because of the scarcity of language professionals available or the difficulty of finding someone with the language combination you require. This is less an issue for Spanish and English which are among the most commonly spoken and used languages in the world!
- Subject – The more specialized and obscure the field is, the higher the fees for service will be, especially in light of the rarity of the required language combination. If you happen to need someone who can translate East European bovine care manuals from Serbo-Croatian into Ukrainian, expect that you will need to offer specialized fees.
- Country of origin/residence – Yes, this matters! If you go global for a translation, the exchange rate could potentially work to your benefit while still offering a translator a decent living wage where they are located. At the same time, it can also have the opposite effect and could be a bit of an expense to budget for with your project – just a point to factor in and consider when negotiating fees. If someone is not working in the same economic region as you, it is reasonable to expect that differences in pricing will arise – the best tip is to openly communicate about your needs and to reasonably expect the professional you are hiring to do so as well!