7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Translator

    Danilo Coviello

    Most companies offering translation services have detailed websites containing all sorts of information that describe their services and pricing.  These are some of the things you may wish to consider before choosing who to work with.  Before you choose a translation service, you need to understand what the scope of your project is.  All projects will have different needs.  What languages will be needed?  What format do you expect the translation to be delivered in?  What countries will you use the end project in?

    1. Native Speakers

    Are the translators native speakers?  You will always get a better result when you use a translator that is translating into their native language.  If you need something translated into Japanese, then use a native-Japanese speaker.

    Also, make sure your translator is using the language from the country you will be using the end project in.  For example, there is a big difference between the Portuguese spoken in Portugal and the Portuguese spoken in Brazil.  If you are planning to use the project in Brazil, then make sure your translation is completed by a native Brazilian.

    2. Subject Matter Expertise

    If you are trying to translate a long legal briefing, then it does not make sense to use a translator that has no previous experience in the legal industry.  The same can be said for patents, medical transcripts or other subject matters that require a more experienced translator.

    We don’t suggest you find a student who spent a summer in Mexico to translate your Spanish Medical journal, for example.  Chances are, you won’t be happy with the end result and you’ll be looking elsewhere to have it translated again.

    Translation agencies have large networks of translators divided into specialties, meaning they will most certainly be able to ensure your medical terminology is accurately translated by someone with experience in the sector.

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    3. Accreditation and Experience

    Does the agency you are looking to hire have any accreditations?  There are plenty of translation companies out there who are not accredited or part of professional organisations that will still do a fantastic job.

    Accreditation is not a deal-breaker requirement, but it never hurts to see some additional accreditations to help build the firm’s credibility.

    An example is the ISO 17100:2015 certification which ensures that your translation is completed by a native translator with at least 5 years’ experience and that the document is translated by one linguist and revised by another.

    It is not uncommon for clients to ask to see previous translation projects. Unfortunately, this can only be done for published works that have been made publically available. For data protection reasons, translation companies are unable to share other clients’ translations, therefore to verify a company’s ability, we recommend relying on online reviews.

    If you are still unsure, you may even want to ask them for references of past clients that were satisfied with your work.  The agency should be able and willing to provide all of this.  If they can’t or won’t, feel free to move on and find another supplier that will.

    4. Cost Structure

    When choosing a translator, make sure you have a good understanding of their pricing structure and what your project will cost you.  Agree to terms and conditions before anyone starts working on your job.

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    There are multiple ways translation agencies set up their cost structure.  They may charge by the word, page, hour, or charge a flat fee.  Many charge per word, while this is standard make sure you understand whether they are charging for the word count of the original or the final document.  This can vary greatly and you don’t want any surprises.

    Make sure there aren’t any additional or surprise charges.  We know budget will play a huge part in choosing a translating service.  Make sure you ask them about their structure and if they offer any discounts for things like missed deadlines, redundant translations or bulk projects.  Also, it would be a good idea for you to make sure you know if there are any additional fees for rush projects, technical or advanced content, added creative content, graphics or image inclusion, editing, formatting and revisions.

    5. Location

    This one may not matter to you much, or it might matter a lot.  Where are you located and where is your translator located?  Do you require in-person meetings or can you work via chat, email, phone or another way?  How will you interact with each other and what time zones are you both located in?

    6. Are They Working Independently?

    It’s common with professional translation firms to have a two-step approach to each job.  The first is the translating that is usually done by one person, and then the second step is editing and proofreading done by someone else.  This offers certain checks and assurances.  It’s a good way to ensure quality and a more polished end product.  If you hire a freelancer who works alone, you may not get the same two-step approach.

    7. Know Your Audience.

    No matter what you are having translated, it’s important to know your demographic and audience and make sure your translator has a clear understanding of your audience as well.  They should form their translations to suit your audience.  That may change the choice of words, phrases or tone of the piece.  It’s important that their translated voice speaks to your audience.