You may wonder whether this is just another of those quirky “lost in translation” articles that seem to be the trend nowadays, and which really don’t have a thing to do with translation. Wrong assumption. This article has everything to do with translation. And should you wonder why should it concern you, think of when you open a manual or surf the net in search of an article and find they were first drafted in a foreign language: you would certainly want to be sure that the English rendition is an accurate version of the original, wouldn’t you?
Therefore, regardless of how large or how insignificant your project is, the qualifications you should look for in a translator remain invariable.
Translators should be professionals, never amateurs.
Linguists should be knowledgeable, proficient and adequately schooled, at a tertiary or post-graduate level if possible, in the languages of their choice. Amateurs on the other hand, are individuals who, having a passable knowledge of the source, target, or both of the languages they claim to translate from or into, are not able to turn out more than “passable” translations; or even worse, more often than not, incorrect ones. This is where translation bloopers originate, to the amusement or even glee of professionals.
Translators should be native in the target language.
A good translation is, paradoxically, the one that does not look as a translation at all. That is, the style is idiomatic, flows naturally, and boasts perfect grammar, usage and construction. This can be achieved only by native speakers. The “native” tag involves some nuances, but this exceeds the scope of this summary and I will not deal with that issue here
Translators should live where their native tongue is the official language.
Linguistic change is a reality that cannot be ignored. Language evolves, as cultures and societies do. If linguists live elsewhere than where their language of origin is spoken, they may lose “exposure” to the ongoing changes and their construction may easily become dated or stilted.
Professional Credentials are all-important.
Credentials, in the form of a college or translation school diploma, give assurance that the linguist has dedicated a few years of his or her life to study the theory and practice of translation, has sat for exams or other tests and been approved by the relevant educational authority. Credentials are the proof of having acquired an important set of skills that will set professionals apart from amateurs, every time.
Proper accreditation or certification.
What! Is this not the same as having credentials? Not so. Being certified means that the linguist is officially accredited before the proper authorities and is authorized to sign translations which may become part in a lawsuit or simply cause the translated document to be recognized as valid for processing at various public offices or departments. Moreover, certification signifies accountability; a certified translator is responsible for the translator he or she has signed as such.
Being bilingual is nowhere near enough.
Stop right there! If a person masters, or claims to, two languages, surely he or she can translate from one into the other? Negative. Not by a far cry. Being a translator involves hard study, often during several years, in order to acquire a very special set of skills. Which certainly involve, but amply exceed, being bilingual. Mere bilinguals originate most of the mistranslations found in ads, on the net and elsewhere, which have caused no small amount of embarrassment to companies and governments alike.I intend to give you shortly a few examples of the funny translations that may result from hiring non-professional, non-accredited, non-certified translators. So that you may conclude, with me, that while rates are a secondary consideration, quality must be always the first when you are searching for a good translator.
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