In order to write this article, I must explain first what the difference between a translator and an interpreter is: A translator is a person who is able to convert the content of a written document from one language to another. An interpreter is a person who can convert the meaning of what is being spoken from one language to another. One profession deals with written documents, the other with verbal communications.
As a translator and interpreter with over 20 years of experience, I have had my encounter with both good and bad translators and good and bad interpreters on more than one occasion.
So if you’re asking yourself how to hire a good translator, I can provide you with a few easy tips on what to look for:
A good translator should know how to use proper grammar and spelling in both languages
Although some people might disagree with me on this one, I will tell you that it’s very important that the translator have knowledge of the correct usage of grammar and spelling in both the source language as well as the target language. Why? Because more than likely a person with bad grammar and spelling in one language will have the same in the other language. A few years ago, I had a friend who applied to a translation job and was tested for that job. She has horrible spelling and grammar in Spanish, her native language. Since she knows that I translate, she asked me to revise her translation. I had a hard time telling her that the translation was bad, but finally told her that it needed too many corrections, to revise it and send it. She did not get hired.
A good translator will specialize in terminology and not accept “all jobs”
I know, it’s never fun to have a potential translator tell you “I apologize, but that is not my specialty and can’t do this project for you” but trust me, you want them to. A good translator can tell you upfront whether or not the document to be translated is beyond or within their skills and knowledge.
A good translator is a good writer
Most good translators have taken several writing courses or have written professionally.
A good translator will ask questions
Good translators want feedback about their job, they will have open and honest communication with you as their client.
A good translator will give you an approximate date of project completion
It is never a good sign when a translator is not willing to tell you by when they can have a project ready.
Remember that just because someone is bilingual, it doesn’t mean that this person is capable of interpreting or translating. Remember as well that a good interpreter is not always skilled at translating. You are hiring someone based on their ability to write, not just on the fact that they are bilingual.
The best thing you can do is hire an agency that has good references and a good reputation, if you don’t want to do the groundwork yourself (i.e. asking for samples of their work in both languages, or running a document through Microsoft Word spellchecker for example).