The shortcut to getting a great translation

OK, you have an important text and you need it translated into another language. How do you make sure that you get a great translation, without taking a huge amount of time?

After all, if you’ve paid good money for lawyers to draft a contract, it would be crazy to throw that away with an inaccurate or unclear translation. And if you’ve taken the trouble to produce a beautiful, persuasive brochure, then you don’t want all that work to be wasted with a clumsy, amateurish translation on the cheap. Your reputation is on the line.

So here’s the answer.

The shortcut to getting an excellent translation is simply to hire an excellent translator.

Everyone likes a bargain, but trying to save money by asking your secretary, or a language teacher, or a student, or a relative to do it is a false economy; you’ll just waste time and money.

So now the question is “how do you find an excellent translator?

Well, that’s much easier. First, you need to know what kind of translator you need. A legal specialist to faithfully render a complex court judgment? A marketing copywriter with a persuasive turn of phrase to help your sales page fly? Or someone who knows all the technical terminology in your industry, to make sure your documentation passes regulatory scrutiny? The number of translators with all those three skillsets is virtually (maybe literally) zero.

Choose a qualified professional

Whatever kind of translator you need, you can’t go wrong with someone who has
been assessed and certified by a recognised professional institute in the UK – the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (the ITI) or the Chartered Institute of Linguists (the CIoL).

Choose a translator who is a full professional member – look for the letters MITI or MCIL and the “Diploma in Translation” qualification (DipTrans / DipTransIoLET). Even better, translators who are Chartered Linguists (CL) have met criteria that are even more stringent.

Anyone can set up as a translator, with no qualifications or experience; membership of an institute is not mandatory. So there are plenty of not-very-good translators out there. You will not get a great translation from them.

It’s true that some very good translators do not have the Chartered Linguist qualification or are at best associates of the ITI/CIoL, but why take the risk?

Find a translator

To find a translator, I recommend that you use the ITI “find a translator” or the CIoL “find a linguist” services. I’m on both.

If you already work with a trusted translator, do ask them first. Excellent professionals won’t take a job on themselves if it’s not in their field, but they will probably be glad to recommend a colleague. Many translators do this (e.g. see my extra services page). That way, you can save even more time.

Lumbering yourself with the wrong translator (or even a scammer) can be a costly, painful mistake. Get it right, though, and you can start reaping the rewards straight away.