The needless challenges of searching for a quality translator

Clients and friends often ask me to suggest translators. When the translator needed is in my language combination (IT>EN) or vice versa (EN>IT), I have direct experience with quality translators whom I can suggest without reserve. If you need top-of-the-line wine translations from Italian to English, go to Giles Watson (www.watson.it); if you need great IT>EN medical translations, see Marie-Hélène Hayles (hayles-translations.com). But when it’s in other combinations, the search is more difficult than it ought to be.

When it’s for a friend or trusted client, I like to do them a favor and search myself, so they don’t get lost, or hoodwinked by the hordes of eager pretenders offering translations in every language combination possible, with all possible specializations, at low, low prices, lightening speed, and a gummy worm included for free. My good friend who made a fabulous documentary about children from Angola in Catalonia needed a Catalan-to-English translator to translate the glowing reviews of her documentary that appeared in Catalan papers. She had, indeed, already been hoodwinked, having gotten a free “translation” from a native Catalan speaker. Like most people outside of the translation field, she didn’t realize that well-nigh no one can translate well into his or her second language. I searched Google, the ATA Directory and Proz.com  (where one has to be on particular guard against “imitation translators”). The advantage of Proz in this case (as the target language was my native language) was the inclusion of samples. I was able to give her a few suggestions of likely good translators (likely, as you can’t be sure without first-hand experience).

Recently, a client asked me to recommend an Italian-to-French translator specialized in architecture. I went to the AITI‘s database, which gave me one option. I looked through my contacts and contacts of contacts on LinkedIn, but most profiles had too little information. Many of the job descriptions just said “translator” without specifying the language combination. Though I read French very well, it can still be difficult to judge quality in languages other than your own. At any rate, I found no translation samples from the handful of apparently qualified translators I found after much search. I ended up suggesting two translators with the caveat that I only suspected they would be good.

I wish my colleagues would be more visible, offering the World Wide Web easy-to-find information replete with samples, portfolios, specializations, and credentials so I could recommend them with confidence.

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