Working With Translators

By Oleg Kuzin

Remember your own reactions to a badly written instruction sheet, to an incoherent package or to a message that was obviously written by someone who didn’t understand you. You don’t want your customer to react the same way. Just as you select lawyers, accountants, doctors or other professionals based on their reputation rather than on what they charge, take the time to examine the translators’ backgrounds. Ask for a biography or look up that information on their Web site. Their track record illustrates their achievements, so take the time to speak to them about their experiences . Ask them to tell you about their most challenging project, tell them about a translation problem you had in the past and ask them how they would have solved it. Look for a guide, not just a bridge.

Translators are curious by nature, they love to observe and compare – they have had the opportunity to study and live the culture that you are speaking to, but they also intimately know your own culture, how you view things and what is important to you. Then your message will be expressed in such a way that the reader will not even notice that it comes from another language.

Translators need two types of expertise: the knowledge of the language and culture, but also the knowledge of the subject matter. What is the point of buying the services of an expert in pharmaceuticals if you need an expert in advertising? Like most communicators, translators need to be constantly informed on many things and in many fields (their chosen specialty, the developments in science, the present translation practices, the proper use of computers and various software, Internet search techniques, etc). When you interview them, find out what makes them tick, what disciplines they are absolutely crazy about, what makes what they do a labour of love. Translators like these will give you the best results.

The original English message that you are having translated took time to compose, most probably going through several versions and rewrites – it was a creative process. Translators have to understand the process you went through, internalize it and then convey the message in the other language, using a similar approach to the one you used. If you allow too short a time for the translation, it will most probably be rushed through and the result will not be as effective.

Have there been previous communications on this same subject and is there a continuity that you are trying to maintain? Pass on this information to the translators in order for them to do a job that dovetails into what you have said before.

The end-user of your translation may have personnel who speak the language into which you are translating. For example it may be a national Canadian company with regional offices or warehouses in different provinces, including Quebec. Make sure you allow interchange between the translators and those staff prior during and after the translation process. It will ensure that agreement has been reached on the way the message is to be conveyed and that everyone is comfortable with the result. You do not want to pay for the translation and then find out that it is not acceptable in the field.

The best translations are enhanced by collaboration that allows input from both sides so that your message and its translation are optimized. Isn’t this what you did with the original message?

Finally, do you need another language combination, one that your translators do not offer? Don’t hesitate to contact them anyway – they probably know someone as they most likely belong to a professional translator group where these combinations are found. In Canada, the profession of translator falls under provincial jurisdiction. The web site of the Ontario Translators Association (, gives, under the caption Related Links, the names of the various translation and interpretation associations throughout Canada.

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