The Olive Way E-Newsletter 

April 2009


Hiring a Quality Translator


In the previous issue, we discussed the benefits of getting marketing materials translated.  That was only part of the story.  Whether your translated materials will help you sell and sell big depends on the quality of the translation.  Before you rush to get your materials translated, you may wish to know how to ensure the desired quality.


The key to ensure quality is to find a quality translator.  You may ask:“I don’t have any knowledge of the target language.  How do I know if a translator is good or not?”  That’s a good question.  There are some ways to tell and to find out.  In the following, I will share with you some tips for selecting a translator.


· Translation is both a skill and an art.  It takes years of training and practice.  Just because someone is bilingual does not make him/her a qualified translator.  Do not settle on someone for the wrong reason, e.g. convenience, low cost or no charge etc..  The translation piece reflects on you and your business.  If not done right, it may cost you dearly down the road (time, money and, worst of all, brand). 


· A translator must have excellent command over both the source and target languages.  One of these languages will have to be his/her mother tongue.  If a translator does not have a solid foundation of his/her own native language, he/she is limited in mastering translation both as a skill and an art.  


· Do research, get reference, and most importantly, interview the translator.  Talk to him/her, get an idea how well he/she speaks your language.  More importantly, since translation differs from interpreting in that it is written, find out how well he/she writes in your language.  Read any published work the person has, if any.  Read his/her translation from another language into your language.  Does the translation flow like an original piece of work or does it sound awkward?  If the person does not meet these very preliminary criteria, look somewhere else.


· When you are convinced the person meets the above minimum requirements, you can go a step further, give him/her something short to translate from your language to the target language.  By so doing, you want to reach one or two objectives:


1. You want the same question asked above answered. 

2. If the translation sounds like an original piece, you want to know whether the translation accurately reflects the meaning and the tone of the original. 


Of course, to achieve these purposes, you need to enlist the help of a proofreader.  That way, if the translation is not satisfactory, you can look for someone else.  You may have to pay the translator for translating your test piece, but at least you know early on in your project that if he/she is not the right one, you are not stuck with him/her for the rest of the project. 


· The size of the company that does your translation is unimportant.  What matters is that one translator.  Does he/she have the credentials to do the job right for you?  If you want some kind of quality assurance, you need to do some independent research and to talk to the person directly.   


Some translation agencies have long lists of freelancers.  They usually farm out their work.  Quality control could remain a question as they rush to fill their orders. 


Do not be misled by some unreal advertising.  Some small companies would claim that they have several hundred qualified translators, who have certain accreditation, and who are members of certain translators’ associations etc..  Accreditation or membership can be a reference but not a deciding factor.  Also quality varies greatly  among those accredited. 


· The translator should have adequate subject knowledge in addition to general knowledge.  I have proofread some translations that clearly revealed the translator’s lack in both.  The translations were done so poorly that they needed a complete makeover in order to make some sense.  


· Word for word literal translation is never a good translation.  If a translator is matching every word in one language with that in another language, and if he or she starts to get too analytical, e.g. the composition of a word, it is not a good sign and you’d better run as fast as you can.


Marketing materials, when translated, are meant to establish and promote a company’s brand in its target market.  If you want to save money, time and your brand, I strongly recommend that you go for the quality.



Have a comment?  Want to share your thoughts and stories with me or our readers?  Please send your email to us.  We look forward to hearing from you!


© 2009  Jacqueline Wu & Olive Kan Global.  All rights reserved.

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