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5 signs of a professional translator

This is a guest post from Olga Arakelyan, a professional translator.

So you’re in need of professional translation. Maybe you‘re a business owner and you want to open a branch of your company in a different country.

Or maybe you have a website, or a brochure, book, etc, and you want it to be available to people who speak a different language.

Either way, you need a translator. But how do you make sure you’re hiring a professional? In my experience I’ve found there are five important things to remember:

1. Linguistic training: It’s not enough to just speak a foreign language. Professional translators have normally been educated in the field of translation or linguistics. They also understand the culture of the country whose language they speak, and have an excellent command of their own native language. This helps to ensure that the translated text sounds natural, is easy to understand and doesn’t contain spelling or grammatical mistakes (although even professional translators can overlook errors, so it is best to hire a proofreader as well).

2. Areas of specialisation: Professional translators won’t agree to translate texts on topics which they don’t understand or are not educated in. This is especially important for medical, legal and technical translations. Sometimes a wrong translation can lead to fatal results. It’s impossible to be an expert in all fields at once, so if you see a translator’s CV where they claim to specialise in many different areas without any proof (no samples of work, no references from clients, etc), this could be a huge warning sign.

3.  Professionals translate into their native tongue: There’s an in-depth discussion about translating into one’s mother tongue here. No matter how well a translator speaks a foreign language, they know how hard it is to maintain the same high level of work if it is done into a foreign language. It’s just impossible to gain the same feel of the language that the natives have!

4Reputation is vital: That’s why professional translators will provide you with samples of their work and references (it is usually done upon your request). You may also want to search your candidate’s name in Google and see if there’s any unfavourable feedback about their services. If someone is claiming that they are an experienced translator with XX years of freelance experience, but you can’t find any information about them online no matter how hard you try, this is also a warning sign.

5. But there’s one more thing to remember: No matter how good your translator is, the best results are achieved in close cooperation. Therefore, a good quality source text, clear instructions and timely answers to the translator’s questions are vital.

Olga Arakelyan is a professional translator from English and German into Russian. She specialises in religion, education, music, tourism, real estate and marketing. In her blog she writes about translation, language teaching and Russian culture. Follow Olga on Twitter: @Olenkaarakelyan.


Lingo24 is a global translation company, with interests in marketing, e-commerce, product management and many other areas that are of relevance to our clients. We share news on our company performance, innovative technology solutions, exciting new hires and guest posts from some of our translators.

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