How to Choose a Professional Translator: 5 Tips for Making a Smart Green Choice

Translation is an essential step for businesses who want to conquer new markets and win new customers. But choosing a good, preferably eco-conscious, translator is not straightforward and can prove extremely time-consuming if you don’t factor in certain considerations. Here are a few criteria to bear in mind when selecting a good eco-friendly and professional translator.

How to Choose a green professional Translator?
There are several things to bear in mind when choosing a professional translator.

1. Look for a professional translator

It’s always tempting to call upon a bilingual acquaintance or colleague to translate your documents at a lower cost. While this is understandable, speaking several languages doesn’t automatically make you a translator, any more than having two hands makes you a pianist.

Choosing a professional translator is an assurance of qualityreliability and peace of mind. You can then delegate a task to your chosen translator while you focus on other activities.  As in many other professions, translators tend to specialize. Some are gifted in legal translation, while others choose medical translation or even environmental translation. This specialization is a guarantee of additional quality, as the professional translator really understands your field, can handle your jargon and masters the technical vocabulary, etc.

2. Professional translators: should they stick to their mother tongue?

People often think that a translator can easily translate into several languages. In reality, most professional translators only translate into their native language. There is a simple reason for this: we rarely master all the nuances of a foreign language as well as we do our own. It is also the surest way to produce a naturalflowing text and one that doesn’t sound like a translation.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some translators have genuinely been brought up with two mother tongues and are capable of translating naturally into both of these languages, but this scenario is quite rare.

It is therefore a good idea to check whether your translator’s mother tongue is the one you need if you don’t want to receive a poor-quality translation.

3. The price of professional translation services

Translation rates can vary considerably from one professional to the next. In fact, many criteria are taken into account when calculating prices.

Translators set their prices depending on the urgency of the project, the complexity of the text, the type of service (translation, revision, proofreading, SEO?), the level of quality required (e.g. is the text going to be published, or does it need to be adapted for a specific audience?), the target market, but also the languages involved. Rates sometimes reflect additional elements such as certification (ISO standard, for example), specialized training (requiring a specific qualification) or a particular way of working.

Unicorns don’t exist: if a translator offers you a super-fast service and excellent quality at a competitive price, there is probably a catch. What’s more, a more expensive translator will almost certainly save you the time and money wasted on a cheap but poor translator.

Choosing a green professional translation: what's the cost?
Choosing a green translator: how much does it cost?

4. Freelance translator, translation agency or machine translation tool: which is right for you?

When you’re searching for the perfect translator, you will certainly come across several translation agencies as well as freelance translators. Of course, Google will no doubt suggest you use machine translation (Google Translate, for example).

The important thing here is to evaluate your needs properly in advance: Do you have a lot of text to translate? Are you planning to have your documents translated into several languages in quite a short space of time? 

If the answer to either of these is yes, a translation agency will probably be better suited to your needs, as they will have access to a database of translators to find the right ones for you.

Choosing a professional freelance translator: a go-to partner

By opting for a freelance translator, you will have direct contact with your chosen linguist, allowing you to communicate your requirements more easily. The other huge benefit is price: by working directly with one freelance translator, you save yourself the commission charged by the intermediary (agency).

It can also be tempting to use machine translation. A free translation in just a few seconds—almost too good to be true! Unfortunately, that’s exactly the case, as machine translation also has its drawbacks: problems with confidentiality (nothing is completely free), “robotic” translations, mistranslations, inability to make decisions when confronted with polysemy (a word with more than one meaning). In other words, it is sensible to use this option to understand the gist of a text, but not to translate your communications, and certainly not your website!

5. Opt for service providers who share your values

If you attach importance to the origin and environmental impact of your purchases, as well as to the practices of their producers, why not apply the same criteria to select your professional translator?

Some translators apply various strategies to reduce their ecological footprint and offer eco-friendly services by, for example:

  • using recycled paper and only printing when strictly necessary
  • reducing their digital footprint (by sorting emails, for example)
  • offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions
  • switching off devices rather than leaving them on standby
  • etc.

Ideally, these actions to help the planet should go beyond the professional setting and become part of an all-round more responsible lifestyle (supporting the circular economy, aiming for zero waste, consuming local and organic products, opting for reusable items, etc.).

To recap

Carefully evaluate your needs before selecting a translator. Keep in mind that prices are not the be all and end all and that quality doesn’t come cheap. Also consider opting for an eco-conscious translator (such as a carbon-neutral translator) who is aligned with your values and specialized in your field. Why not take a look at my environmental translation services?

Article written by Maxime Vandecassye

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