How to choose a translator or interpreter for life

Let’s be honest – a professional interpreter who knows the topic of your conference as much as you do is hard to find. An interpreter who thinks on their feet and doesn’t lose their cool when discussions start to heat up, or a translator capable of digesting your technical report can be your business supporters for life.

1) Chose a certified translator over a professional with a degree in languages. Although fluency in at least two languages is a must when it comes to translation and interpreting, there is more to the profession than language proficiency. Professional translators undergo specialized training that covers topics such as ethics, different approaches to translation based on the source text, localization and domestication, and untranslatability, along with other notions pertinent to translation studies. Linguistics is usually a heavy component of a translator’s and interpreter’s training; however, what really sets them apart from foreign language students is hands-on skills tackling various topics and genres of text.

This is especially true for interpreters as their craft requires a very unique skillset: the ability to grasp a foreign text and translate it into a different language, to rearrange sentences and juggle words all while staying on topic and on time.

2)  Pick someone with translation or interpreting experience in your field. Even better, a translator or interpreter who’s also familiar with adjacent topics. The more exposure they get to the jargon and set expressions used in your area, the more efficient and accurate they will be working with you.

If you can, request a few samples of previous work or a list references – chances are, your potential translator is storing, in hard copies or electronically, files and projects they delivered for other portfolios. When reviewing work samples, zero in on flow and precision: do the chosen words convey the intended meaning and how well do they go together?

3) Try to connect with a potential candidate beforehand. A true connection and mutual understanding are hard to beat. Working with someone you click with energizes your routine and adds more flavour to the work you do. Finding your translator or interpreter goes beyond experience and certification; it’s a feeling of trust and compatibility, topped off with a strong skillset. When it comes to interpreting, building rapport and trust will alleviate any work-related tensions and elevate the overall quality of the assignment.

3) If you can, provide the translator with as much background information as possible. Who is your target audience and what do they expect from you – and the translator or interpreter? Is there a sample document they can review? Do you have a list of specific terms and expressions that will most likely be used in a meeting or conference? Any particular jargon only you and your clients use?

4) Upon completion of the project, follow up with the translator. Whether you’re happy with the service or not, let the translator or interpreter know how they did, what you liked about the service and what they could potentially improve on for future. Just like in any relationship – professional and personal – honesty is the best policy.