You might think that someone being fluent in two or more languages instantly qualifies them as professional translators, but this is a misconception that could not be further from the truth! In this entry, we will analyze the criteria that determines the qualifications of a competent translator, and why engaging a bilingual or multilingual speaker with deficient translation experience could be a bad idea.
Firstly, we need to briefly unpack what it means to translate content from one language to another. Translation is the relaying of concepts and ideas from a source language to a target language. Not all concepts can be conveyed in a different language through a mere word-for-word literal comprehension of the source content. This is in fact rarely ever the case. A translator must have a thorough understanding of the idea being communicated, as well as the technicalities and nuances it comes with. This requires extensive experience and background knowledge. Even then, a great deal of research is part and parcel of a professional translator’s process.
This is often overlooked by inexperienced translators, who in many cases produce an unsatisfactory and inaccurate literal translation of the text.
Secondly, professional translators typically have an intimate familiarity with the cultural nuances in both languages. Navigating cross-cultural differences is an essential part of any translation process. This can only come with years of engagement in activities that broaden one’s understanding of the finer details that come with the mannerisms, expressions, metaphors, colloquialisms of varying cultural backgrounds.
Thirdly, speaking more than one language does not necessarily entail good writing skills. A translator’s writing ability is an integral part of their translation portfolio. The mentioned skillset can only be achieved through experience. Even an educational background in linguistics that lacks experience will fall severely short.
As odd as it may sound, inexperienced translators may cost you more too, since their lack of experience would certainly be a hinderance on their hourly output rate. The amount of rework you may be forced to do is another detrimental factor to any project.
Hiring experienced translators doesn’t only guarantee quality, it saves you time and money. It certainly matters.
It takes a lot more than just speaking both languages or even being bilingual. A translator must have the ability to correctly render ideas and concepts from one language into the other. Often this is overlooked by inexperienced translators who tend to do literal translation. On top of that he or she must be a skilled writer and be aware of all cultural nuances in both languages. Quite often translation produced by inexperienced translators does not sound natural in target language or incorrect, as inexperienced translators may pick wrong words or think that being close to intended message translation is enough.
– Strange as it may sound but the cost of inexperienced translators could be higher than that of experienced. Due to lack of experience they tend to spend much more time than experienced translators and price their service based on hours. They may justify the high cost as they find the work very tedious and tiring. Professional translators complete work much faster and price their services at competitive market rates.
– If you buy cheaply you pay dearly. Even if you manage to engage inexperienced translators at very low rate, you may have to redo the translation later, increasing overall cost. This would be best case scenario. If poor translation results in damaged reputation/relations, lost clients/market share – monetary and non-monetary losses would be much higher.
Translation is a skill that cannot come even with degree in translation or linguistics. Its something that comes only with practice. Experience in translation matters.