The first step in choosing the right language professional for your project is to look for a person who has the knowledge and experience to work with the text you need translated. Some translators, editors, and writers specialize in law, medicine, or engineering—technical fields that require very specific knowledge and training. But a translator who executes a perfect translation of a technical document may be hard put to translate an advertising slogan, a magazine article about fashion, or a museum catalog. Each professional brings a unique combination of talents, skills, and experience to the communications market.
In translation, intellectual curiosity and life experience are as important as academic training. Where translators have travelled or lived, other occupations they may have practiced, their cultural, intellectual, and scientific interests and activities, and many other factors will determine what type of text they are best at translating. If a client asks me to translate a text that is not related to one of my fields of experience or expertise, I don’t hesitate to recommend a colleague who specializes in that field for the job.
It’s a good idea to work with a translator who has spent a significant amount of time in a country where the language he or she is translating from is spoken. Living in Spain for over a decade has not only given me an opportunity for me to improve and use my language skills; it has also permitted me to gain useful insight into Spanish society and culture. Years spent working as a bilingual executive secretary have provided me with valuable general knowledge concerning the Spanish Social Security system, labor relations, and business protocol as well as more specific insight into various sectors important to the Spanish economy. Here in Spain, I also enjoy access to an almost unlimited range of reference sources. If I have a question concerning a term or a concept, I can consult an authority or specialist by telephone or visit a nearby library or archive. Whether a text is related to art, architecture, history, tourism, gastronomy, or enology—or more specifically to Roman ruins, Romanesque abbeys, objects of art in the Guggenheim Bilbao or the Prado in Madrid, the wines of a particular region, or the beaches of the Mediterranean—my proximity to the real thing helps me translate, edit, or write a text with an authority that comes from personal experience as well as professional training.
Always request samples of a prospective collaborator’s work if they are not downloadable from his or her website. Membership in professional associations and evidence of ongoing professional training are also signs that a person is a serious wordsmith.
Whenever possible, maintain personal contact with the language professionals you contract. You will get better service by developing long-term relationships with specific translators, editors, or writers. The longer you work together and the better they know and understand your sector, services or products, and your communications style, the more effective their translations and texts will be.