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How to find a qualified German-English translator

How to find a qualified German-English translator
How to find a qualified German-English translator

Customers of translation agencies often make rather “blind” use of their services. Customers are not always entirely aware of what it is they are paying for, particularly when it comes to a document or text being translated into a language that is not their native language. Not all translations are alike, a fact that anyone who has ever felt pain, amusement or confusion when reading a bad translation can attest to.

Bad translations can take many forms and can cause great damage. Be it hilarious translations from online translation services such as Alta Vista’s Babelfish (menu items: “Nice little bits of pig, drunken” and “Pens at the countrywoman”), translations by overzealous, non-native speakers who abuse dictionaries (“We are second-rate hotel situated in bowels of greenery...”), translations that were carried out without a second glance being taken at a dictionary (“The product must be delivered tempestu!”), or translations that, while technically correct, are very clumsy (“Hence, for example, the realisation of the modular products as per above corresponds to the functional needs expressed...”) - all these translations convey the same message: customers beware.

1. Look for accredited BDÜ or ATA translators

The German Federal Association for Translators and Interpreters (BDÜ) and the American Translator Association (ATA) attempt to set a standard in terms of quality and accuracy by providing tests in certain language combinations, which are then evaluated by experienced, ATA accredited translators who are authorised to grant the certification. On average, only 20% of entrants pass these tests.

2. Sample Translations

Why not ask for a sample translation? Ask the translator of your choice if he / she is willing to do a trial translation for you. Please be aware that test translations also have to be paid for as the translator has to spend his or her time working on them. Test translations of at least half a page to a full page make sense and can be a smart investment, especially for large assignments. Test translations can tell you a lot about a translator's skills and allow you to choose in advance which translator is right for you and your texts.

Select the right translator for your document Not all documents are translated in the same manner and no translator can translate all kinds of documents. Ask the translator about his or her area of expertise and experience. If the translator does not have any experience in translating legal documents, you should not be employing them to translate your delicate legal document. On the other hand, an expert in legal language would not always be the best choice for translating clever marketing texts.

The most commonly encountered misconception in translating is that performing a translation is purely a mechanical issue, whereby one word in one language is replaced by a word in another language. By understanding the complex difference between languages and cultures and the challenges involved in the writing of a text, you will be able to choose a translator who will produce a clean translation, which isn’t obviously of foreign origin.

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