Long-term Collaboration with a Translator: What to Look for

Translator relationship

Finding the right candidate for a translation job is no easy task. Whether you are a company or an individual, you should make sure you are finding a translator who is skilled, professional and trustworthy. If you want to establish a long-term collaboration with the translator, you want to find out how to distinguish a good translator from a mediocre one. If you are not a language specialist, however, you might not know where to start.

Here is a list of things to keep in mind, when selecting a good translator:

  1. Superior language skills in the source and target language and culture
  2. The translator must be a native speaker of the target language and have a near native level of fluency of the source language. This ensures that some of the nuances in the source text will not go unnoticed or left untranslated.

    If the translator has spent time in the country of the language he or she is translating from, it is a big bonus. This means that the translator has developed a thorough knowledge of the cultural conventions of the specific country and the terminology used in that language variety. For example, compare American English and British English in terms of spelling, terminology, and idiomatic expressions.

    In addition to the pure linguistic skills, good translators are also familiar with how the language is currently used, and the best way to keep up to date is to either live in the country or at least frequently consume media in the source language, in order to sharpen the understanding of the current use of the language. Good translators keep up to date on the latest developments and terminology, usually reading various media (i.e. newspapers, journals and specialist texts) in both source and target languages.

    A good translation should not sound like a text that was originally translated from another text. It should sound like it was originally written in the target language. So it is important that the translator has in depth knowledge of the language complexities and culture of both source and target language to produce a high quality translation.

  3. Subject matter expertise and knowledge of CAT tools
  4. It is important to look for translators that have subject matter expertise in the field you are looking to translate to and from. Many projects require specialized knowledge that a general translator cannot provide so it is important to choose a translator whose subject matter expertise match the specialization needed to complete a certain project.

    Translators are required to keep up to date with the latest translation technology. CAT tools knowledge is essential, and it also speeds up the translation process and ensures a competitive price.

  5. Attention to detail

Good translators are incredibly attentive to details. They have to be, if they want to be good at their job. Ensuring that things like numbers, punctuation, formatting etc. are correct is a solid component of the quality assurance of a translation project. Good translators have developed a keen eye for detail, and are often able to catch inconsistencies in the source files (such as misspellings and mismatched dates).

Good translators usually ask questions before starting the project, making sure they understand the purpose and the intended target audience of the document. They also might ask for digital resources (such as translation memories) to speed up the translation process and ensure consistency in the terminology.


Good translators are able to recreate a text, which carries the meaning and the tone of the original text, while still remaining culturally sensitive and appropriate to the target audience. Even if you are not a language specialist, if you are a native speaker of a given language, you will be able to sense that something is wrong with the tone of a text, or that cultural sensitivity has not been respected. However, if you don’t want any surprises in the end, following the above guidelines will be very helpful in selecting a superior quality translator for long-term collaboration.

This article is written by a professional writer, Ilaria Ghelardoni, associated with Ulatus.  

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