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January 29, 2020

What are we looking for in our translators?

A good CV, lots of specialization courses and a huge list of past projects help, but that is not all that we are looking for. . Experienced translators were new at some point in their careers and back then they did not have all those projects under their belt. Everybody starts without much experience, so there must be something more than just experience, right?

  • Don’t forget to run the spellchecker - Translation Quality

This is the most important aspect of being a translator. You can be nice and fast and affordable, but if your translations fail to pass QA or if the client has to re-do the translation from scratch, it is highly likely that another project will be assigned to you.

Your translations have to be smooth and fluid, sound natural in the target language and not be translated directly from the original content (let alone MT!). Using the appropriate grammar is essential, as well as ensuring that there are no spelling mistakes. 

As a knowledgeable translator, you must use the most appropriate professional and technical terms, especially when dealing with industry-specific terminology. Prove that you have a good understanding of the text and the capacity to render the meaning in your own language.

  • Be Reliable – Deliver on time!  

Delivering a good translation is just as important as delivering it on time. In the long run, this will establish a trustful and confident relationship with your PM and, therefore, he/she will be willing to offer you more jobs.

Your Project Manager must be confident that you will deliver on time and that you will be responsive to all the emails and requirements of the project. If Project Managers do not feel that way, it can be nerve wracking for them!

  • Communicate professionally – Is replying fast to emails all that matters?

Communication is key in any event: delays, technical issues with CAT tools, terminology problems, problems with the source text, etc. Do not hesitate to send an email if any difficulty comes up, as most PMs will be willing to help you find a solution. Besides, they prefer to be updated regarding the status of the project so that they can plan ahead!

Replying fast to emails is a very good thing, as most PMs will be thankful if you reply and acknowledge receipt of files and new orders as soon as possible – particularly when working on urgent projects.

But being fast is not everything: writing professional and effective emails is vital. Who likes to exchange a lot of emails clarifying different aspects when things could have been said only once but clearly? Make your purpose clear early on in the email, and then keep your sentences short and free of grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes so that you present a professional image of yourself. 

  • Cultural Intelligence – Bear in mind who you are talking to

As a translator, you will have to deal with cultural barriers on a daily basis. Not only while you translate, but also when talking with customers and colleagues from different nationalities. Cross cultural communication can be tricky, especially if you have any preconceptions and stereotypes about people or if you assume similarities and think that the way you behave and act is the universally accepted rule of behavior — someone doing things differently does not necessarily mean that they are behaving in a bad way. Becoming aware of our perceptions towards others and doing the effort to develop our cross-cultural knowledge will ensure that we do our best to not judge a person prematurely or stick labels on them.

Having a good understanding of the professional standards, practices and ways of communicating can also help you to be more flexible, clear and avoid any misunderstandings. 

  • Ability to deal with feedback – Feedback is not an attack 

If there is one sure thing it is that translation quality is quite difficult to assess, as different scholars and studies have confirmed. It can certainly be quite a subjective process and, therefore, we must be open to comments and questions about our work.

Receiving feedback (either good or bad) is something that every translator goes through regularly. You have to be courteous, understand the feedback and look at it as objectively as possible. After all, each client might have different needs and ideas about what a perfect translation is for them, and part of the job is to learn and adapt the style so that the translations meet their needs.

Besides, it is extremely important to always reply to feedback. Working with translators who do not accept feedback or negative comments and become argumentative is sometimes difficult and most PMs would prefer to stop working with them. Do not blame the reviewer or the client, justify the choices you made and apologize if it caused any inconvenience. This way, the relationship with your client will not be jeopardized.


Happy translating!


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