How to choose and work with translators wisely

Words connect worlds.

Whether your company is established in a target market or a relatively new player, effective communication with your audience is crucial. One aspect of cross cultural communication that is so often downplayed is translation. 

It is true that your company will often deal with non-native clients or intermediaries who speak fluent English, but don’t forget that the people they are dealing with may not.

Once your content is produced in English, there are a number of questions to consider ahead of translation. For example, how can you ensure that the information will be translated in a way that reflects its true meaning, as opposed to a purely literal one? The nuances in interpretation are real and can be significant. It should be borne in mind that in the view of the non-native target audience, the translated product is the only representation of your company.

Choosing a translator or agency wisely is therefore paramount. 

Having worked with a wide range of clients on projects of varying size and purpose, I repeatedly encounter the same pitfalls. Here are some suggestions based on my experience:  

  • Do not assume any target language speakers can translate

Don’t forget that we are dealing with professional content. The ability to speak another language doesn’t mean one can translate it into their mother tongue – perhaps they don’t even have a clue about it! Asking your Chinese colleagues to translate a professional document may not be the best solution. Think twice! 

  • Do not use cost as the only consideration in choice of translator

We all have a budget when it comes to expenses. But choosing a translator or agency based on marginal savings should not be your objective. The key consideration here should be who can render the best presentation of our company through its translation? 

  • Ask who will be working on your project

Translators often work within their area of expertise, but their experience in these areas varies substantially. A translator with 10 years of experience in financial services documents is much more likely to deliver a translation to your/the audience’s satisfaction than those who have just started out. If you don’t ask, or express your preference, you will never know who is working on your project. 

  • Proofreading is never out of fashion

We make mistakes, but proofreading can correct it. Another question to ask is whether or not proofreading is available, and how this service is charged. When I was working in a large translating agency in China, proofreading was a key stage of quality control, which constituted part of the translation (no additional cost). This is how we serve our clients here at ThinkChinese. However, many recent experiences with clients or translators suggest that this isn’t always the case. Translation is likely to be handled by just one person to keep the quote competitive. 

I hope you will bear the above in mind when you need a translator next time. In my next post, I will write about how to work with translators to help them deliver the translation that is not only faithful to the original content, but also represents your company the best way possible. 

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