Good translating needs someone who is a master of the two languages being used, rather than someone who has primarily dabbled in a lot of languages. A person who has not immersed themselves, who cannot read novels or understand movies in their main languages should not be translating, so . . .

A Translator Must Be Well Read

When you look for a translator, ask what kinds of things they have read in the language they’ll be translating from and the one they’ll be translating to. They should have experience with novels, nonfiction writings in your subject matter and, ideally, poetry. Having read novels means that the translator knows how to translate descriptive words and phrases. Having read in the subject matter shows that the translator understands the technical terms and topics you want. Having read poetry shows that the person can translate analogies and pick up emotional overtones from the source language.

A Translator Must Be Well Traveled

No one can really know a language who hasn’t lived in that country for awhile. That’s the only place where a translator can get a real feel for the language and the mental thinking that underlies and distinguishes it. (All languages have their own way of looking at the world.) With source languages that are spoken in many countries, a translator needs to have lived in at least one country for a few years and traveled through others, speaking the language the whole time. This way he/she has a real feel for the variety of meanings that words can express.

A Good Translator Has Subject Expertise

Each subject has its own specialized words, phrases, and implications that affect a translation. In English, “stamp” means something different when talking about folk dancing than it does when talking about postal matters, and “articulate” means one thing in zoology and a completely different thing in communication. Meanwhile “water” in cooking implies clean, potable water, while the same word used with environmental issues implies probable pollution. In order to really translate accurately, a translator needs to know the subject matter of the material to be translated.

Dialog One gives the background for each of its professional translators, so ask today if you want someone good.