How to Choose a Translator

Strictly speaking, translation means converting words in one language to equivalent words in another. But a good translation considers the style, tone, register, and format of the source text, as well as cultural or regional differences, and conveys these elements in the target language. If it’s translated well, you shouldn’t be able to tell that it’s translated.

Translation can be an effective business tool. Maybe your company is trying to expand into another country or market. Your head office may be in another country. Perhaps you’ve received documents from a potential supplier in another language. Whatever your need, here are a few things to consider before deciding on a translation vendor.

Translation vs. Interpretation: Translating refers to written text, while interpreting refers to spoken language. These two industries, though related, require different skills and training.

Native Speaker vs. Non-Native Speaker: It’s generally preferable to have a translator who is a native speaker of your target language, because there are many elements beyond simple words that make a translation effective (cultural knowledge, idioms, jokes, linguistic varieties, and so on.) These things can be difficult for a non-native speaker to master, even after years of study.

Agency vs. Freelance: If you have an extremely large volume of translation, or if you require translation of the same material into several target languages, consider a translation agency. An agency will be able to coordinate between translations into several languages. Look for an agency that specializes in your field (marketing, medical, legal, etc.) and language pairs.

If you have an ongoing requirement for translation, consider working with a freelance translator. Working with the same translator helps ensure consistency in your translated materials, as the translator can get familiar with your company’s style and internal terminology. That means less time researching for the translator and more effective and consistent translations for your company.