This is an article published by Athumani Issa, an English to Swahili translator, proofreader and editor.
Translation is thought of by many people as a field which anybody with bilingual or multilingual ability can handle. This is not a very accurate way of thinking about the profession, however.
This article is going to provide ten reasons why it’s beneficial to hire a professional translator, as opposed to simply hiring someone with multilingual abilities but perhaps lacking the rigorous training and education of a professional.
So the first question to answer is…
What is a professional translator?
Translation is a profession in which an individual receives specialized training at colleges, universities or within translation associations of a certain country in order to transform written text from one language to another.
What does that training really entail, though? A student of translation specializes in linguistics with two or more languages. This may be a native speaker of one language and trained in depth on that language and/or other languages in their rules, culture and uses in specific contexts. In addition to this study, they also receive training on how to best handle the translation process as well.
Therefore, translation offered by a professional is like any other admirable profession such as law, administration, engineering or any other.
The above discussion helps to define what a translator is, and the skills and training that go into becoming a professional translator, but there are ten characteristics that translators typically possess that make them stand out compared to a bilingual speaker.
The 10 Qualities of a Professional Translator
Among other issues that professional or specialized translators may learn in her/his program of study that a multilingual or bilingual speaker may not are as listed below:
Professional translators tend to be very passionate about their translation work. They use all their means and effort to deliver every project in excellent shape, as if it was their own baby.
#2 Translation Skills.
A professional translator must have a specific linguistic education. They should master not only the foreign language they work with, but also the skills of translation (as discussed in the previous section).
A professional translator is curious and motivated to keep on learning new words and expressions. The learning process of a translator is never-ending.
#4 Rich Vocabulary.
A professional translator must have a wide lexicon, not only in the foreign language but also in their mother tongue. This will make the translation process easier and the quality of the translation higher. Translators also acquire technical terms in specific fields, such as business, law, sciences, engineering, etc…
A professional translator’s goal is to express the idea of the source text as clearly as possible, without ambiguity. They should avoid difficult structures when they can use simple ones.
Translators are humans after all, therefore it is normal for them to not know some expressions or words. Nevertheless they shouldn’t just skip it, but they should conduct research and note it down for future reference.
#7 Humble Pride.
A professional translator should always deliver a translation that they can be proud of, but at the same time be humble enough to accept possible corrections from the editor/proofreader. The most important thing in the end is always the quality of the translation.
#8 Translation Quality.
A professional translator is obsessed with quality.
In order to achieve the aforementioned quality, a professional translator should use all available resources at his disposal.
A professional translator should provide an exact transfer of information. Despite it being tempting sometimes, the translator should not correct the source text, trying to maintain its “spirit” instead.
Final thoughts and wrapping up
Apart from the above qualities that a professional translator should possess through effective learning and practice in their academic career, s/he may also have specific translation techniques depending on the client’s requirements. For example, some clients and documents need word by word translation, others literal, semantic or communicative. Thus the multilingual or bilingual speaker may lack the experience of knowing which techniques s/he should apply to the document.
Not only that, but translation has a specific process in which a translator needs to follow to make the translation work more effective; utilizing that process, the professional translator will take many considerations into account in order to make the translated document of the highest possible quality and free from any avoidable errors.
It is high time now for managers and people wishing to hire individuals for translation works to consider specializations and professionalism as they do when hiring engineers, doctors, lawyers or any other career professional.