Assessing translators’ performance

December 22nd, 2009

With so many translators around, how do you choose a particular translator? What are the qualifications required of a translator? How do you go about assessing the performance of a translator before hiring? This article gives some pointers to these questions. As is well known, translation is the technique of transferring a sentence or words from one language into another. It is an intricate job requiring many abilities though it is not easily apparent to an outsider. Hence great care must be taken before hiring translators. If not, the hirer runs the risk of inaccurate information being conveyed in the translations. A good translation is one that communicates both the explicit and implied meaning of the text in source language in the target language as completely and correctly as possible. One of the basic skills required for a translator is competence in the source and target languages which means he/she must be able to read and understand the source language and also write comprehensively in the target language. The latter means the translator must be able to choose the corresponding expression in the target language to that in the source language that wholly conveys or the best match of the meaning intended by the writer. This skill is often referred to as congruity judgment. The difficulty of the translation job increases with the complexity of the text to be translated. Apart from language proficiency, the translator may need to have domain knowledge which the subject matter deals with and also its socio-cultural aspects depending topic discussed in order to carry the true import of the source text into the target language. The translator may need to access relevant resources like dictionaries, thesaurus, online aids etc. and sometimes even consult experts in order to arrive at an accurate translation. This may require some training and a lot of practice. Hence to summarize, a translator’s performance level is dependent upon factors such as command of the two languages, ability to apply congruity judgment and also a translation methodology, knowledge of the cultural context of both the languages, familiarity with the terminology in specialized areas, and finally ability to complete the job within time specified as well as per specifications. Based on the above, some of the credentials of a potential translator that a hirer should look at are: 1) college degree in the languages as well as the subject matter preferably 2) certification in translation 3) sample translation 4) client references 5) experience in non linguistic field. Some of the specializations that a translator may need to have expertise in depending on the topic include medical, technology, marketing, literature, science, commerce etc. Since translation is not exact science, even though everything looks good on paper, a translator needs to have good aptitude and self learning skills in order to succeed in the profession. This can only be assessed from previous references and possibly through a sample test. Thus careful considerations are required in order to choose the right person so that the hirer can save his time and money.

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