How to Find a Good Professional Translator

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Last week, I restarted graduate school to finish my master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications, and already, I have gained some valuable new insight: Many people still don’t know how to find a professional translator. During a discussion of the translation industry in our online class forum, one of my fellow marketing students – the director of program services for a large, national nonprofit organization – remarked that she had found herself in need of a translator not too long ago but did not know where to look. So she did what most people in her situation would do: She asked Google.

“I really wasn’t sure where to start and picked a company based on price, turn-around time and ease of process,” she admitted. I realized that in general, laypeople – and that’s most people who need translation services – don’t know where to find a translator at all, let alone how to find a professional linguist who can produce high-quality translations. So, for all you translation virgins out there, here is a brief guide.

Basically, you have two options:

1. Yes, Google

Or Yahoo. Or Bing. It doesn’t matter which search engine you use, as long as you know what to look for. Chances are, if you’re a translation newbie in need of a translator to translate your English website into French, you will enter something like French translator into the search bar. You’ll get about 42 million hits, most of which will be completely useless, and then you’ll spend hours randomly clicking on links in hope of finding a suitable translator or agency that might be able to fulfill your translation needs. If you still have energy left after this endeavor, you might even compare a few websites, maybe get a quote or two, send your documents to the lowest bidder, and hope for the best. Good luck with that approach.

But don’t despair. There is a better way. Here’s how to make the most of your Google (or Yahoo, or Bing…) search.

  • Be as specific as possible. Don’t just search for French translator. Instead, search for English into French “marketing translator” and boom, you just narrowed your options to 13,000 with some very specific leads on page one of the results. If you want to narrow your search even more, you could add more qualifiers, such as a location. A Google search for English into French “marketing translator” Colorado only produces 2,700 results, for example. Still plenty to choose from, but not nearly as overwhelming anymore. 
  • Look for individual translators. OK, maybe I’m biased, being an individual translator myself and all. But unless you’re looking to get your text translated into 15 different languages, you’re probably better off with a one-stop shop than a large translation agency. To find out why, read my previous post on the advantages of hiring a freelancer.
  • Dare to compare. Don’t just decide on the first translator whose website or profile shows up in your search results. If someone sounds promising, take the time to check out the translator’s website and check out their experience, areas of expertise, testimonials, work samples and professional certifications. Anyone can claim to provide “quality translations, on-time delivery and competitive rates.” If these claims are true, you should be able to find substantiating evidence on the website. See if the translator is a member of any professional associations, such as the American Translators Association (ATA) or a local chapter such as the Colorado Translators Association. Membership in a non-translation related association (for a marketing translator, for example, the American Advertising Federation or American Marketing Association) is an even better indicator of the translator’s expertise and professionalism.
  • Consider the whole package. You may be tempted to select the translation provider with the most certifications, the lowest rates, or the fastest service. But remember that when it comes to price, quality and time, there is always a trade-off.

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    Find the compromise that works best for your situation, keeping in mind the purpose of your translation. If, for example, your brand’s reputation is at stake, you don’t want to cut corners in the wrong place and sacrifice quality for cost or speed. A little more up-front investment may lead to higher returns in the long run.

2. Professional Directories

There are numerous professional associations for translators around the world, and most of them provide directories of their members. These are excellent resources for anyone who is looking for a reliable translator. Most associations allow you to set specific criteria for your search, narrowing your results significantly. The directory of the American Translators Association, for example, lets you search by language pair, specialization, certification and geographic location. A comprehensive list of translators associations is available here.

In addition to professional associations, there are other industry directories, such as ProZ.com or Translators’ Café, where anybody who calls himself a translator may create a public profile and offer his services. This, too, can be a good resource, although the free nature of these portals may allow some less reputable translators to try and blend in with the upper ranks. I’m not saying that every translator who is listed in the ATA directory is perfect, but overall, the chances of finding a bad apple are much lower when more barriers (such as association membership fees) are in place.

So now that you know how to find a good translator, what’s stopping you from getting your website, brochures, or press releases translated into another language? And pssst… if you’re looking for a great English into German marketing translator, I’ve heard that this girl here is pretty good…

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8 Reasons Why Translators Should Attend Non-Translation Conferences

By Marion Rhodes
English-German Translator

Step outside your comfort zone.

Step outside your comfort zone.

One of my resolutions for this year was to step out of my professional comfort zone and try new ways to connect with potential clients. So when I learned that the second annual conference of the Colorado American Marketing Association would take place in Denver at the end of February, I seized the opportunity and signed up for my first professional conference outside of the translation industry: REV UP 360º.

For a marketing translator and student of integrated marketing communications, this event was a natural fit. It was a one-day, local affair – perfect to ease my entry into this new world. Sure, I had attended conferences held by the American Translators Association and the Colorado Translators Association in the past, but this was a completely different ballgame. I wasn’t attending as a translator among fellow translators. This time, I was attending as a marketing professional.

Not knowing what to expect, I attended the conference without any specific goals. I spent the day observing and learning, letting the event carry me along for the ride. I met several interesting people, learned about trends in the marketing industry, and even found a potential new client for my translation business – by pure chance. It was a great day.

So for anyone who’s been thinking about taking the plunge into non-translation conferences, here is a list of 8 reasons to go for it:

1. To rub elbows with industry professionals

First things first: If you go to any industry conference with the specific goal to gain new clients for your translation business, you’ll likely end up disappointed. Instead, think of yourself as an industry expert, one of “them” – if you’re a translator who specializes in the field, you are. Don’t approach people with the expectation of finding a new lead. Nothing stops a conversation faster in its tracks than introducing yourself with, “Hi, I’m a translator looking for new clients.” Instead, join conversations about the event and get to know the other people at the conference. Try to blend in. Observe how peers talk to each other. Establish connections that are based on your mutual area of interest. If you feel like a fish out of water, maybe you need to immerse yourself more into your subject of expertise.

2. To boost your expertise

If you are a specialized translator, you need to stay on top of current developments within your area of specialization as much as those who work directly in the field. An industry conference allows you to learn about new developments and provides a perfect opportunity to brush up on your terminology. Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense for a marketing translator to attend a conference of the American Bar Association. But it might for a legal translator. Find the conference that makes the most sense for your specialty, and soak up as much information as you can.

3. To connect on social media

In today’s day and age, most conferences have their own Twitter hashtags, which is good news for social media savvy translators. Join the conversation about the event on Twitter, and you’ll pop up on the radar of other attendees who are following the hashtag. You’ll also be able to find out who else is attending, allowing you to identify potential business prospects. Then, connect with those people by following their updates and replying to their tweets. You’ll likely gain some new followers that way – followers who may just turn out to be interested in your translation services down the road. At the very least, you’ll get your name out there to a very specific crowd of people.

4. To see how other industries do conferences

We translators are spoiled. The annual conference of the American Translators Association, a three-day event, only costs about $400. Events of similar magnitude in other industries often cost more than $1,000 to attend. In fact, even the one-day REV UP conference set me back $266 – twice as much as the registration fee for our two-day annual conference of the Colorado Translators Association. How’s that for perspective?

5. To get out of the house

Many, if not most, freelance translators work from home. A conference is always a welcome opportunity to put on our fancy business suits (which are gathering dust in our closets) and meet people face to face. Getting out into the real world every once in a while is important – not only for our social skills, but to avoid burn-out. From time to time, we need to remind ourselves that we are successful business professionals rather than lonely home-office-nerds.

6. To educate others about the translation process

As far as I know, I was the only translator at the REV UP conference. Many of the people I talked to had no idea what my job entails and why a translator would attend a marketing conference. While translation is an important part of the marketing process, the details of how we work aren’t well known to those outside of the translation profession. I enjoyed telling people about the translation process and explaining to them why good translations are vital if you want to achieve international marketing success. In the age of Google Translate and the commoditization of translation, it is up to us professional translators to make sure people are aware of the added value we provide.

7. To meet new clients

I put this at the end of my list, because this is, at best, a potential added benefit rather than a given. At the REV UP conference, I got lucky: I was talking casually to another attendee about his business when he asked me what I do. I told him I’m a translator specializing in marketing and PR. As luck would have it, a woman passed by us right then and overheard our conversation. It turned out she was a marketing sales manager at a local company who had recently started working with some new companies in Germany and was in need of a good translator for press releases and marketing material. She asked for my business card. Sometimes, it’s better to let things happen naturally than to try to pursue specific goals.

8. To get swag

Need I say more? I mean, you can never have too many water bottles.