10 Golden Rules When Searching For A Translator

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Forget About Google Translate

Google Translate can be a cool tool if you happen to want to get a general idea of, say, a website in what, for you, may be a foreign language. However for translating personal or professional material it suffers from two fatal flaws each of which on its own makes it completely impractical to use.

Firstly – it simply does not do the job at the level it is supposed to. It may look like a duck, it may even quack like a duck – but it’s a goose!

Secondly – tools such as Google Translate make use of publicly accessed data bases. By making use of the tool you are delivering your own private, sometimes confidential or privileged information, to a public data base!

Mother Tongue Translator

Make sure your translator is translating into his/her mother tongue. This is a well-known rule in the translation industry. No matter how good  a translator is or how long he or she has been in the country, there will always be those ‘little things’ that a native mother tongue speaker knows (without knowing why) and that a ‘foreign’ speaker will miss.

Translating IS a Profession (These guys do know what they are doing)

Seek out a genuine professional. It may seem quite a simple affair – until you get into it. What initially seemed a simple affair can very quickly turn into a quagmire. Even if you are bilingually proficient you will be surprised at how time consuming a translation can be. More importantly – you most probably will not be aware of the potential linguistic landmines – even if you unwittingly step on them.

A good and experienced translator will not use ‘ten-dollar’ words to bamboozle you with his knowledge. He’ll use the right words.

No Half Measures

Forget about asking the translator to provide you with a translation that “just gives you some idea”. Either get the work translated or don’t, but don’t go by half-measures. A partial translation is exactly the same work (or maybe even more) than a full translation. A partial translation is a pure fiction. What is the translator supposed to do? Translate a greeting as “hell” instead of “hello” – because only a partial translation was requested?!


Be aware of the following factors regarding translation rates: The price is usually determined on the basis of the target language. So if you need a translation from French into English – it is the number of words in the English translation which will count for the determining of the cost. You must therefore also be aware of the “word inflation” rate between the languages. For example 100 words in Hebrew will come out to approximately 150 words in English.

Translators usually charge per units of 250 words or alternatively per word (in the target language). So be aware if your rate is for less than 250 words. This might be a situation where the price seems cheaper but is actually more expensive.

Most translators charge extra for urgent work, so don’t say its urgent if it isn’t. Also be aware that you and the translator may have a different definition of ‘urgent’. You may think ‘urgent’ is one week and the translator may think that ‘urgent’ is one day. It is best to set a specific deadline – you may be able to negotiate a cheaper price if the deadline is a long one.

Be wary of various additions. Some translators, for example, may charge more for a legal translation, because it takes them more time to check up the terminology. Why pay more for the translators lack of knowledge –try seeking a specialist in the field.

When considering rates you must also consider the rate of words a good translator can do in a day. A good legal translator for example can do 4000-5000 words in a day. Some can only manage 3,000. Some – depending on the material and methods used can reach up to 20,000 words of quality work. Whatever the rate remember that it took time to prepare the original, don’t waste all that time and effort in rushing your translator into performing poor work.


Why pay more for less. A translator who has genuine experience in the field of translation will be able to perform a better, quicker and ultimately cheaper translation. Today it is possible through the internet to find translator in an endless array of language combinations and fields of expertise. Be wary of the translator offering to many areas of expertise or indeed to many languages.

Let Translation Software Work for You

Whilst dismissing out-of-hand use of machine translation tools such as Google Translate, I do recommend trying to take advantage of Computer Aided Translation Software (CATS) where possible. What is the difference? Without going into the technicalities, let it be said that the main difference is this: The human hand. Thus if you have repetitive text (such as in localization or in legal texts) there is no need to translate the same sentence twice. This can help save you time and money.

Editing/Proof Reading

Obviously make sure that your work is edited and proofread. Preferably by an editor other than the translator himself. However, do note that often editors will splatter the page with red ink in an attempt to impress, replacing words with their synonyms or his own personal prejudice. More is not always better and ‘red’ does not necessarily mean that the translator did not do a good job. Be wary of the over-zealous editor. After all – who edits the editor?

Working with Agencies

If you do a Google search for translations or a translator, chances are that the first results will be of agencies. Like any other service provider the quality of its service depends on, to state the obvious, the quality of its service. In other words there are good agencies and there are bad agencies. However there are also some agencies who are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Remember, they are not translating the work themselves but sending the work out for translation – usually to external outsourcing. The subcontractor may be good and the subcontractor may be bad. In an effort to turn a profit the agency might be offering low rates to its subcontractors thus attracting less experienced or less proficient translators. Agencies usually have the advantage of being able to execute large amounts of work in short periods of time, but oftentimes at the expense of quality and sometimes also price.

Human Beings

At the end of the day the translator, the customer and the final end user of the translation (the reader) are all human beings. Communicate with each other. Make it clear what you need and what you expect. Don’t be over zealous. Don’t think that there is only one truth. Make your expectations clear at the very outset. Have clear and precise instructions. Don’t be overly pedantic where it is not necessary.

Once you find a good translator – hang on to him or her for all you are worth.

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