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As a writer, you’re a wordsmith. A connoisseur of words. At least, in your own native tongue. But what do you do when your words need to be carefully traded for those of another language? Unless you’re lucky enough to be multilingual, you’ll need a translator.
Whether you’re a business writer breaking out into new international markets, or an author looking to sell more books, you might be thinking about translation services. But hiring a translator isn’t always as straightforward as you might imagine. Here’s what you need to know.
Do you really need translation services?
If you need your words in another language, you might think the answer is automatically: “yes!” But actually, there’s a difference in translation versus interpretation. These two terms are often confused by people seeking professional translation services. What’s the difference?
Interpretation usually relates to spoken content and is essentially paraphrasing. Because the didactic use of language differs so wildly between languages, an interpreter will condense the meaning into the most culturally appropriate form. The overall message remains the same, but word for word exchange is altered to reflect the language being used. If you require language services for business meetings or events relating to your writing, interpretation services are what you’re most likely looking for.
Translation, on the other hand, is perfect for the written word. Translation provides an accurate and functional means of communication between two languages. It’s a highly technical undertaking that relies on experts to not only translate the content of your document but also change the formatting so it follows the rules and conventions of the target language. Translation is ideal for highly professional or legal documents, where it’s imperative that the exact meaning of the content remains intact. It’s also what you’ll need for written content like articles and works of fiction.
What you need to consider before hiring a translator
Before you hire a translator, you’ll need to know what your target language is. If your client is in a certain country, this element is taken out of your hands, as you’ll need translation services for that specific language.
If you are a self-published author on Kindle, for instance, you might want to do some market research to see where your book could have a chance of success outside of your own language. Bear in mind that translation into rare languages might cost you more (and be more challenging to source) than translation into a language that is more widely spoken.
Finding a professional service
When you’ve settled on a target language, find a translation service that is an expert within that language. Usually, a translator is a native-level speaker of the language that the work is being translated into. Therefore, you can be sure that your work will not sound unnatural and stilted. When translated by an expert translator and native-speaker, it should flow naturally just as if it had been originally written in that language. So if a translation service offers more than one language, it’s worth checking that the individual translator will be a native in that language.
Reading testimonials and online reviews can give you a great insight into whether this service will offer the kind of value for money you need. Quality translation services, whether they be freelancers or entire companies, should have lots of experience under their belt. They might be able to provide references or examples of previous work.
When getting a quote, the translator should tell you what the fee structures are. You can also ask what the policies are for things like revisions, should you need them. Let them know at this stage if you are likely to have ongoing translation needs; for example, for a series of blog posts, as you might be able to make a deal on pricing for longer-term work.
Look for expertise
More than just being an expert in the given language, your potential translator might also be an expert in your particular field. Whether it’s technical writing, marketing materials, or a full work of fiction, you should be able to find a service that has experience in this area. After all, each type of writing has its own unique conventions and expectations. You’ll want to make sure the translator understands what these are and how to navigate them professionally, just like you have done in your native language.
You’ll also want to make sure that the service looks professional. Translation services are often professionally accredited, with a membership to the relevant membership body in that country. If this is not displayed prominently on the website, it might be worth asking to see a copy. This can help to assure you that the company is serious and that they care about maintaining top quality industry standards.