10 ways to get the most from your translator

When you hire a translator, here’s how to get the best value from them.

  1. Provide the pictures. If your text for translation has images, pass them on. Some words can be impossible to translate if you don’t know what you are looking at – e.g. is a “porticato” a portico, a porch or an arcade? Armed with the visuals, your translator can produce a more accurate, appropriate translation for you.
  2. Don’t forget the format. With few exceptions, texts are easier to translate in Microsoft Word format. If all you have is a PDF, that is OK too, only the translator will probably have to spend time converting it with dedicated software, and that will end up costing you more. So if you can provide the Word file up front, so much the better.
  3. Share terminology. If you have your own preferred terms (e.g. “sea view” vs “ocean view”) or style (e.g. “revitalising” vs “revitalizing”), tell your translator. That way, they can deliver your translation just the way you want it.
  4. Plan your translations in advance. Since your translator is a freelancer, you save money by not having to pay for their computer hardware, software, desk, chair, national insurance, etc. But they also have other clients and may not always be available at short notice. Indeed, the best translators are sought after and are often booked up a few days in advance. Approach your translator in good time before your deadline and benefit from the continuity of working with your reliable partner who knows your requirements in detail.
  5. Avoid sending unfinished drafts for translation. If you change the text later, you may end up paying for the translation of words that are not used in the final version. Keep unnecessary costs at bay by finishing the Italian file first.
  6. Check it first. If your text contains errors or unclear phrasing, then your translator may need to ask for clarification, thus interrupting you and distracting you from your work. Help your translator to help you, by checking your document for clarity, completeness, grammar and spelling.
  7. Please pay promptly. Occasional cash-flow problems can affect any business, but if your translator often has to chase you for payment, their administrative overheads grow, and they may need to raise their rates to compensate. Naturally, you’ll want to avoid unnecessary expense.
  8. Have someone available to answer queries. If your translator asks questions about the text, that is a good sign. It means that they are striving to be precise and to reflect exactly what you want to say. There may be a typo or ambiguity to resolve or alternative translations for a term with different connotations to discuss. If you can identify a contact person to reply reasonably swiftly to translation queries, then you will get a better translation.
  9. Provide the entire text. Does your brochure have captions to translate? Does your report have graphs with labels? Are there linked files or images with embedded text? If you forget something and have to come back to your translator a few days later, they will do all they can to help, but you run the risk that they might not be available or contactable. Avoid last-minute panics by identifying everything that you need translating at the outset.
  10. Tell your translator about any constraints. If a translated sentence will be tweeted, ensure your translator knows, so they can keep it within the 140-character limit. If the translation needs to fit a fixed space on a printed leaflet, tell your translator how much room they have to work with. And if you would like alternative renderings, e.g. for a slogan, then please be sure to say.