Who qualifies as a good translator? How can project managers identify the right translators for their jobs?
The perpetual question and bane of any project manager is how do I identify a good translator. How does one know whether the job assigned is the hands of a qualified, capable and reliable linguist?
There are several parameters that one must look for while assessing a translator.
First and foremost one must ensure that the translator is naturally proficient in the two languages concerned. Here again, it is ideal when the translator’s native tongue is the TARGET language and the source language is the one that s/he may have studied in college. However, it is not simply enough that the merely reads and writes in his native tongue, but that his formal high school and university education must have been in the same. Also essential is to have had a formal qualification in the source language.
Qualification in Translation
The second parameter is that the translator must have a relevant degree or qualification in linguistics or translation studies. Knowing the language is one matter, but a formal education in the science of language and translation is essential. This could be substituted by a degree in literature and culture too, where linguistics may be a minor subject.
Subject Matter Expertise
The next level of filtration requires specialisation in the specific area of translation. An experienced translator who may have several years of legal expertise may still not be able to translate medical or scientific documents. For mechanical translation, for example, either a specific mention of mechanics in the curriculum vitae OR a degree in mechanical engineering for example, would be desirable. For legal translations, a degree in law, and similarly, for biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, an educational background in the said fields would be most certainly required before the translator could embark on such translation.
Another important aspect of identification would be to look out for they experience in a given field of translation. This becomes evident from the profile or curriculum vitae of a translator. A close look of the CV is of great value is evaluating a translator.
Apart from the qualifications and experiences one can rely on one’s intuition and experience in the manner in which a translator interacts with and presents himself to a project manager. Subtle signs of experience, authority and knowledge are reflected in the manner in which a translator writes and approaches the discussion. One can gauge not only the level of proficiency and professionalism but also the extent of punctuality and reliability purely from the interactions that one has with linguists. Project managers ought to have a keen eye for such signs and trust what they call their ‘gut’.
Identifying the right fit for a job is just like any other job. Acuity in applying this skill to the specific area of translation and language services requires a knowledge of language and linguistics. Most project managers in the field are not linguists themselves and this may present a gap in the understanding of the requirements and shortcomings of a project, the process or in the capabilities of a linguist. That project managers themselves be linguist may not always be possible, but most certainly helps in making the right choice for a given project.