12 Myths Busted to Help You Buy a Quality Translation

Last updated Jan 22, 2024
By Gwenydd Jones

No one wants to throw their money away on poor translations. This article will help you make sure you avoid a bad translation investment. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these 12 things assure a quality translation.

1. Being bilingual

If someone can speak two languages, sometimes people assume they’re a translator. Even if they make their living doing something else. What these people forget is that professional translators are trained in their craft. They have translation diplomas, degrees and even doctorates. They may also add years of experience into the bargain, making them fast and accurate. And don’t forget the small matter of knowing how to edit and punctuate at a professional level. Readers will know when you present them with an amateur translation, and it’ll make you look amateur too.

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2. Being a language teacher

Language teachers have diplomas, degrees and even doctorates. In teaching. While they may know the ins and outs of grammar, they aren’t trained writers or translators. Some language teachers move into translation in their career development. But the serious ones train and qualify. They don’t just wake up one morning with the ability to produce a quality translation.

3. The translator writing or proofreading in their second language

To assure a quality translation, the translator should write in their native language. This is because our passive language skills develop much faster than our active ones. So, when you learn a language, it’s possible to get really good at reading and understanding. But it’s super hard to write and speak at a native level. A professional translator is an excellent writer in their native language. Few translators will ever achieve writing excellence in their second language. That’s just humans for you.

4. A sworn translator working in their second language

A sworn translator is officially approved to swear that a translation is accurate. But they still need the right experience to produce a quality translation. Just like any other professional translator. Sworn translators are sometimes officially allowed to sign off translations into their second languages. But, the professional ones outsource them to native professionals and then sign them off, to avoid mistakes (see point 3).

5. Being an interpreter

Interpreting is a challenging profession, but it’s a different profession to translation. Interpreting involves listening and speaking. Translation involves reading and writing. Some interpreters are also qualified translators. Though most professionals specialise in one field or the other. If someone is a professional interpreter, it doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to produce a quality translation.

6. Writing the text yourself in your second language

Many translation customers resort to this (or get someone in their office to do it) to save money. A professional translator can translate, edit and proofread 3,000–4,000 words on a good day. With translation quality assurance. Someone who isn’t a translator will take much longer and make a lot of errors. The translation will probably be unusable. Or at least, you probably shouldn’t use it.

7. A translator with low prices

Everyone likes a bargain. And sometimes people think that when you get a bargain you also get quality assurance. Like when you buy reduced vegetables or unbranded windscreen wipers. Or get a cheap builder to fix your roof. Hello mould, no visibility and leaks. Every consumer understands the price-quality relationship. Assure a quality translation by paying a professional rate.

8. The translator being on the Internet

Searching a translator’s name in inverted commas, e.g., “Gwenydd Jones”, is a great way to check them out. But just because someone advertises on translation websites, it doesn’t mean they know how to produce a quality translation. Or that they’re telling the truth about their credentials. Look for membership of official associations, like the Chartered Institute of Linguists. Or see if you can find customer reviews on LinkedIn.

9. Giving specialist texts to translators who know nothing about your specialisation

Sometimes scientists, engineers, lawyers and other experts write specialist texts. They don’t normally ask their friends and families to read them. Because their loved ones don’t have the right training to understand these documents. Yet, they think any translator can understand their text, and translate it. While assuring translation quality. Even if the translator knows nothing about their specialisation. Comment if you can spot the hole in this logic.

10. Having a tight deadline

How long does a translation take? I can do 4,000 words a day under the whip, and still assure a quality translation. Some customers think it’s a good idea to finish writing a 10,000-word text on Friday night. Then ask for the translation back on Monday morning. Sometimes they also refuse to pay an urgency charge or weekend rate. So, no professional translator wants the job. Welcome to a Disaster-waiting-to-happen.

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11. Splitting a text between various translators without a professional editor and proofreader

When there is a big text and tight deadline, the only option is to split the text. This doesn’t have to be a problem, as long as one translator runs the show. This person collates the translations and edits and proofreads the final document. You need them because the translations will be inconsistent. This is because every translator has different knowledge and preferences. Also, when you have to form a team of 10 translators at the drop of a hat, some will always be less experienced. So, some parts of the collated document will contain more errors than others. To assure a quality translation on projects like these, you need professional project management.

12. Having someone who studied the language in school and once did an exam do the translation.

If you’re being serious, I think you’d better go back to the start of this article. Or ask us for a quote. At The Translator’s Studio, we’re professional translators. So, when you work with use, you’ll be assured a quality translation.

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Written by Gwenydd Jones

Gwenydd Jones is a Spanish- and French-to-English translator, an SEO blogger and a course creator. She is the founder of The Translator's Studio and the lead teacher on its courses. Connect with Gwenydd on LinkedIn or contact her through this website.

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