Although the translation and interpreting industry is regulated in many countries, that's not the case for the UK. To start working as a language professional, you don't need a specific degree or diploma. Registering with a professional body is also not compulsory, so the quality on the market can really vary. So how to make sure you hire the right person for the job? I have a few tips for you!
The more the merrier: professional bodies
Being a sole trader means translators often work alone. Isolation is not only bad for mental health, but it can also affect the quality of one’s work. Engaging with colleagues gives us opportunities to ask questions and learn from each other. Expert language providers will be no strangers to professional bodies.
For instance, I am a member of three organisations: Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), and Subtle. Joining these involves an extensive process, including obtaining client references, and for some levels of membership – even taking an exam.
What's more, members of a professional body are bound by a code of conduct. What does it mean for you as a client? Your translator is more likely to deliver high quality services – and will treat you in an ethical way (as otherwise there might be consequences for them!).
Each country has their own organisations: there is the Polish TEPIS, the Spanish Asetrad, and the French SFT. If the language professional you want to hire doesn't belong to at least one professional organisation or isn't active in their industry, it may be a sign they're not the right fit for your company.
Birds of a feather flock together: specialist networks
Joining professional bodies is not enough, though. A translator taking their career seriously will also get involved with the organisation’s networks and groups. Some examples include geographical, language, and specialism networks.
Often such groups offer e-forums for asking terminology queries and discussing best practices. It's common to also organise webinars and interest groups (like book or film clubs). Choosing a translator who belongs to specialist networks is not a must, but it can be a huge benefit.
A good example is the ITI Polish Network (of which I am the Events Coordinator, and get support from my colleagues Ania Marchwiak and Aleksandra Chlon). Many of our members live abroad but thanks to our monthly webinars, revision clubs and book chats it's easier for us to keep on top on our Polish.
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it saved many a translator
Your translator asks questions? Your text is in good hands! Non-linguists might think that asking for clarification shows the lack of expertise, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Languages are not symmetrical, so there might be two terms in one language for a certain item or a concept. The use of the correct term will be determined by the context, register or even just client's preference – that's why it's always good to clarify things.
The translator might also ask questions to make sure they understood your message. You know your company or product inside out, so when you write about it, it's easy to forget that your readers don’t. They might need things explained to them a little more clearly.
Another example: you often write texts aimed at experts, but this time your publication will reach general public. The audience you're trying to reach will not understand the technical jargon you tend to use. The translator who's not afraid to ask questions and seek clarification can really save the day!
Walking the walk: when specialism and personal interests go hand-in-hand
Language specialists with experience in specific areas are more likely to deliver a smooth translation. Same goes for hobbies and interests. Of course, if you want to translate a chemistry book, you don’t have to search for someone who runs experiments in their basement! (That would be pretty dangerous, too.) But finding a translator who has a degree in Chemistry will be a huge benefit. They’re likely to have more inside knowledge on the subject than someone with no experience in this area.
Likewise, hobbies and interests can be helpful when translating certain texts. A vegan translator who loves to cook (like me!) will surely be a better fit for your plant-based cookbook than someone who can’t tell tofu and tempeh apart. Many language professionals carefully craft their social media message so that you, the client, can get to know them better. If you found a translator you’re considering to hire, why not take a moment to check their professional social media channels? It might help you get an idea about their interests. You never know, it might prove to be a source of useful information.
Every day’s a lesson learnt
Translators – or at least those of us who are serious about our careers – love to learn new things. After all, every text we work on teaches us something. Yet the work itself is not enough if we want to excel in our field and grow. Great translators will definitely engage with continuous professional development (CPD), which is often indicated by a logo on their website or in a professional body directory. From cyber security conferences to watching The Great British Sewing Bee, CPD takes many shapes and forms, depending on one's specialism. What's important, though, is to make sure the translator you're considering for the job keeps on learning and developing.