Who is a good translator

What makes a good translator?

Dear Sirs and Madames,

I am a bilingual secretary at X and do translations on the side. I would be interested in working with you. You will find my résumé attached.

With best regards,

Monika Mustermann

We get such emails a lot. From a bilingual secretary who translates in her spare time, probably to add to her salary. The only problem: we don't work with part-time translators. We want to work with professional translators who dedicate themselves to this profession full-time, who are specialized, who are further educated; who live and breathe translation.

But what actually makes a good translator?

The last section already shows that he has to devote himself to his profession full-time, with body and soul, a requirement that also applies to other professions. But that's not enough. We have been looking for talented translators for thirty years. Some things we think are fundamental to being a good translator:

1. Write well

It is impossible to translate well if you are not writing well. A perfect expression in the written language is one of the most important requirements for a good translator. Many do not associate the importance of writing good texts with their job as a translator, but a bad essay usually also points to a terrible translator.

2. Read a lot

This point has a lot to do with good writing. To write well, you have to read a lot. That is why we recommend reading as much as possible - books, newspapers, magazines, etc. Reading broadens the vocabulary and contributes to general education. Your writing style is sure to improve, as will your linguistic repertoire.

3. Always be up to date

This point has a lot to do with the previous one. A translator should always be well informed and therefore has to read a lot. Getting information is one of the daily tasks of a translator, because he will probably have to translate texts that are related to current topics and are discussed in social networks and if you are familiar with these topics, you have already done half the work .

4. Research

No matter how well a translator masters a certain topic, there will always be some technical terms that he does not know. Then it is important to know how to research. Google is a great source of information here, but there are many more, such as online glossaries, Wikipedia (with a few exceptions), etc. It is now almost always possible to use the Internet to clarify your translation questions. So there are no more excuses: you just have to know how to use the material available online. Quite apart from specialist dictionaries, which should not be missing in a translator's private library.

5. Collaborate with colleagues

If no answer can be found even after intensive research, there is the possibility of asking colleagues for advice. Networking with your colleagues is therefore very important because you will always have someone who can answer your questions.

6. Specialize

We always ask translators about their specialty. And to our great surprise, I keep getting answers like: “I translate in all areas”, or “I specialize in finance, medicine, auto mechanics, chemistry, biology, astrophysics, football, contracts and social sciences.” Honestly, there we get suspicious. Worse still, when we get such answers, the candidate is often eliminated straight away. We employ Translators who work exclusively in the field of medicine, others have focused on that Translation of legal texts specialized, etc. As versatile as a translator is, they should always specialize in one area.

7. Educate yourself

This point also applies to all professions, but translators in particular should always take care of their further training. This can be a course on spelling reform, translation techniques, legal terminology or CAT tools.

8. Computer literacy

We will give you a tragic example of this. We once sent a translator who was supposed to work for us for the first time a Word document that was completely formatted, with bold and italic words, various sources, an automatic table of contents, etc. The translation we got was not at all formatted, without boldface, sources, etc. We were perplexed. We immediately called the translator and got the following (and bizarre) answer: “I printed out the document and worked with the printout. I always do that. ”No comment. Needless to say, that was the first and last translation this translator made for us.

A translator should at least be able to use the Office suite. If I send you a document in a certain format (except in pdf), I would like to get it back in the same format. You should therefore be able to master Word, Excel and PowerPoint without any problems.

9. Know and be able to use CAT tools (Trados, Wordfast, Déjà Vu, etc.)

As a translation company, we keep hearing that translators complain that they are “forced to work with Trados (Wordfast, etc.) because agency X, with which they work, requires them to do so.” The picture from the CAT -Tool is very negative in these cases. It is only used by the agency to earn more at the translator's expense. This may be the case in some cases, but in these cases the translators forget something fundamental: these programs increase productivity, i.e. they also increase the translator's earnings. So, whether you work for an agency or directly for a client, using such a program ultimately means you can be more productive and earn more.

We don't understand how translators can still work today without CAT tools. It increases productivity, standardizes terminology, saves you from typing digits, etc. Translators should therefore give up their skepticism and use these programs.

10. Always be attentive and perfectionist

This point may seem like an exaggeration, but we believe that attention is fundamental to a translator. We have already stopped counting the number of times we have seen translations in which a word or even a whole sentence was not translated or data was incorrectly transmitted (which is not good with a normal translation, but much worse with a certified one) . A translator should always be very attentive when translating and check his translations carefully. He should be a bit of a perfectionist with the goal of delivering a perfect translation, because both agencies and direct customers expect a flawless result that requires as little revision as possible, and that should be the goal of every translator.

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