Whether you’re in need of proofreading services, website localisation or document translation, businesses need to hire translators who are speedy, accurate, professional and reasonably priced. Faced with this process, it may be tempting for businesses to settle for cheap machine translation or even go in-house. Both can, and often do, result in disastrous translation mistakes that ruins content and damages reputations.
Competent linguists can be invaluable. However, deciphering the experts from the chancers can be difficult. As translation and interpretation experts, we hire over 4,000 linguists, so we are perfectly placed to spot the skills your business should look for when trying to find a good translator.
What skills do translators need?
It’s important to remember that speaking two or more languages does not make someone a translator. Good translators also need to be good writers, and good writing is a skill that must be honed. There are a number of other important skills that all good translators must possess. These include:
- Fluency in multiple languages
- The ability to translate accurately in different styles and to different audiences
- The ability to translate quickly in order to meet tight deadlines
- Strong research skills
- An expert knowledge of both the target language and the target country/community
- Strong verbal and grammatical skills
- The ability to work quickly and to tight deadlines
Although valuable, these skills alone don’t necessarily make them the right translator for your business. So what else do translators need?
What qualifications do translators need?
It’s a hugely advantageous for translators in the UK be educated to degree level, with languages courses being obviously preferable. A combined degree course i.e languages and law would also be advantageous. An MA or MSc in translation or translation studies is useful to look for when hiring an interpreter who has been purposely trained in the skill.
The ability to localise your content
Ideally, your translator will be a native speaker of the “target language,” or the language being translated into. For example, if you need an English to German translation service, use a German born translator. If you need a document translated from German to English, find an English translator. At Global Voices, we only use native tongue translators.
Similarly, it is also important that they have a localised knowledge of the country, region or community you are working in. Why is localisation important? You don’t want to accidentally alienate the audience you are targeting, which is what often happens when businesses go cheap and use machine translation. Remember, in order to work globally, you must communicate locally.
So, for example, if you’re working in Mexico you’ll need a Mexican translator with knowledge of local business, culture and customs, rather than a Spanish translator who merely speaks the language.
For businesses looking for a translation service in a specific industry, even a native speaker with all the relevant qualifications doesn’t always suffice.
The very best translators are not only talented writers and linguists, they also have industry-specific knowledge and can master appropriate terminology. For example, if your business is in marketing and looking to produce content for a Mandarin audience based in Beijing, it is best practice to use a Chinese translator whose native tongue is Mandarin and has a background in marketing.
At Global Voices we stick rigidly to these high standards, whether the industry is manufacturing, pharmaceutical, legal, finance or more obscure, each of our translators is picked for their expert knowledge of a specific industry, allowing us to support clients across all industry sectors, and deliver consistent high-standards.
Weigh up each factor
You may be tempted to select the translator with the most certifications, the lowest rates, or the fastest service. But remember that when it comes to price, quality and time, it’s best to weigh up a number of factors before making a final decision.
You should be very wary of individual translators claiming to be able to offer a translation service for a number of different languages. Translating content can be a minefield for businesses, and inaccurate translation has led to some of the world’s biggest marketing disasters from companies as big as HSBC and Starbucks.