You don’t hire a history teacher to help you with math or an engineer to write product marketing brochures. The same way, you don’t hire an excellent technical translator to translate your website or a Brazilian Portuguese translator to translate content that will be read by people in Portugal. The result will not be good no matter how good the translator is.
The best translator for your job is the one who understands the content to be translated, has training and experience with the type of content (user guide, website, marketing material) of your project and, above all, is a native speaker of the target language. In addition, there is the cost. You shouldn’t pay for what you don’t need.
4 questions you should answer before looking for a translator
#1 – What type of content do you want to translate?
A user guide of your product? Is it your website to sell your product abroad? Is it a collection of tweets where your product was mentioned? A digital brochure to use in your digital marketing campaign? This is critical because being a skilled translator doesn’t mean one can translate all types of content well. Website translations are more complex. It requires good understanding of tags and html codes not to create bugs. In addition, website translators need to be aware of the page layout to make sure the words they choose won’t mess up the layout. For marketing translations you want translators who are comfortable deviating from the original text, taking some liberty to convey the message as intended.
#2 – Where is the audience of your content located?
Languages evolve differently in different countries, thus, you want to select a translator who is a native of the country you are targeting. If your audience is in Canada, don’t pick a translator from France. Canadians will roll their eyes with the neologisms that contaminated the language in France. Plus, they will think that you are either reusing a translation made for an audience in France or don’t know that they speak a different variation of the language. If your content type is a marketing piece, it goes without saying that this is not the best way to approach a market for your product.
#3 – What is the subject matter of your translation?
One needs to understand the subject of the content to be able to communicate the message and not make mistakes when choosing the proper terminology. Remember, translation is not just the exchange of words from one language to another. Translation is communicating what one wants to say in another language, thus, translators need to know what they are talking about.
#4 – How do you intend to use the translation?
Translations that are critical to your business, like customer facing content (marketing material, instructions and user guides) should be handled by experienced professionals in the respective content type, like translators for marketing, and technical translators for manuals. You want to create the best first-impression and ensure that your customers will have as few questions on how to use your product as possible. Websites are worth the investment in skillful experienced translators. On the other hand, non-customer facing or short shelf-life content can be handled by less-skilled translators. This consideration will help you stretch your localization budget.
However, never let your budget drive your choice of translator for your project. If you don’t have enough money to translate all you would like to, reduce the scope of your project instead of going with the lowest quote. An inadequate translation is worse than not having a translation.
About the Author
Monica Oliveira, ProZ.com VP of Services and Sourcing Solutions, has been working in the localization industry for the past 20 years. She started as a translator of Brazilian Portuguese, worked as a project manager, and made a career in vendor management. She was director of Worldwide Sourcing Management at Lionbridge before joining ProZ.com to work with building solutions for business members.