The Right Person for the Job: Choosing a Translator

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A quick search online for any given language pairing could bring up pages and pages of translators working all over the world. How do you sort the true professionals from the crowd? How do you make sure that you will get the product you need? Choosing the right translator for a job can seem overwhelming at first, but there are some steps you can take to simplify the process and make a hiring decision with confidence. 

Evaluate the nature of your project and identify its needs. What is the content that you need translated, and who is your target audience? You wouldn’t hire a technical writer who is proficient in writing software manuals to write snappy social media content. Like any other kind of writing, translation requires a sensitivity to the connotations and nuance of language, and some translators will be more experienced and adept at translating certain types of content than others. 

Also determine whether your document is required to be translated by a Certified Translator, such as a passport, birth certificate or marriage certificate, and whether it needs to be notarized. 


Consider your resources. What information and resources can you provide your translator to support them in delivering the product that you need? Previously translated materials can provide a sense of tone, style, and vocabulary. A style guide or glossary can provide a set of standards and preferred vocabulary.

Consider how you will evaluate the quality of the translation upon completion. This is a unique challenge of hiring translation services. If you need to hire a translator, you are probably in a poor position to assess the work of that translator. Before hiring a translator, find out whether they include proofreading by a second translator in the cost of their services and, if not, consider finding a second translator to provide proofreading services.

Narrow your options by using a professional association’s directory or by working with a reputable Language Services Provider. Professional associations such as the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta (ATIA) have membership requirements such as a Code of Ethics and Certification exams that guarantee a level of training, experience and professionalism.

A good Language Service Provider (LSP) will act as an intermediary and match you with a translator suited to your project. They will charge a fee over the translator’s payment. Bear in mind, however, that some agencies do not necessarily work with Certified Translators so ask for an ATIA-Certified Translator to ensure quality and confidentiality.

Examine your candidates’ qualifications. Making your search through a professional association’s membership directory will connect you with professionals bound by a Code of Ethics and subject to standardized membership requirements. Beyond those credentials, also consider whether someone is a native speaker in the target language, what formal training they have as a translator, and perhaps most importantly, how experienced they are. Of course, credentials and greater experience will be reflected in a translator’s rates.

As was mentioned previously, it is important to consider the nature of the text that you need translated. It is important to not just consider how much experience a translator has, but what type of experience. Look for translators with experience in the area of your project, whether that is literature, legal documents, marketing content or technical documents. They will be familiar with the appropriate tone and style and the required vocabulary. 

Taking these steps will ensure that you have a good understanding of your own project, as well as an understanding of the translation services available to you. This will empower you to confidently select the right person for the job.