12 July 2022

The qualities of a professional translator

Categoria: Translation

Translation of a complex document, like financial statements, a legal opinion or medical/scientific articles should only be assigned to a professional translator with a specific set of qualities.

A person with knowledge of languages but without specific training as a professional translator is far from ideal for a company looking to enhance its reputation. Circulating subpar translations associated with your brand is a mistake to be avoided at all costs.

This is why it is important to turn to professional translators only, and to know how to sort the wheat from the chaff. Let’s take a look at the characteristics an expert of the trade must have in order to deliver a professional translation.

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Language skills

A professional translator’s first set of skills is of course language-based.

passion for languages is a must, as the profession requires lengthy study, dedication, knowledge and a lot of experience. Those who are not motivated by an authentic, profound interest simply won’t be interested in putting in the necessary time and energy to improve their capabilities.

Those with a strong passion for the trade will be much more willing to tackle the challenges that arise with each new translation project, including urgent translation requests.

The second essential quality is precision. A professional translator stands out from everyone else by virtue of their attention to every single word without altering the original meaning. Attention to detail is crucial, every single aspect of the text requires scrupulous consideration. The ultimate aim is a faithful, excellent, fluent translation that is a pleasure to read. It goes without saying that it should be free of linguistic and cultural errors.

The third and last element is inquisitiveness. A good translator is always curious, even in their professional sphere. We live in a world of relentless change, which can be seen in the lexicon and in specialized terminology. Translation techniques have evolved and continuously embrace new technological tools in the language industry. Professional translators continue to study and acquire knowledge along what can only be described as a lifelong learning path, in order to keep pace and systematically improve the quality of their work.

Industry expertise

A second skill set that a translator must possess relates to industry expertise.

First, they must have a perfect command of vocabulary in the working languages, i.e., a wide range of specialized terminology pertaining to the field of specialization in the source and target languages. Native speaker-level knowledge is necessary, but not sufficient to qualify as a professional translator. Many other factors come into play. Above all, they include possessing a broad specialized vocabulary, as well as an awareness of the cultural nuances underlying each language.

Naturally, translators can consult glossaries and terminology databases, however having broad lexical knowledge and a solid academic background enables them to make an informed assessment regarding the most authoritative sources of information available, while developing greater capacity and speed for critical investigation and accumulation of specialized knowledge.

As for the cultural factor, knowledge of customs and habits of the target country where the working language is spoken is also an important consideration that affects the quality of the result. When translating, professionals take into account the effect that their mediating words will have on the target audience and its sensibilities, which are peculiar to the culture in question, so they will do everything possible to convey the original message in a clear, understandable and contextualized way, even if this sometimes means changing the structure of a sentence or swapping a foreign analogy for a familiar one.

Specialized  training is another indispensable attribute of a professional translator. Documents that most frequently require translation relate to very specific sectors, such as financial, legal and medical/scientific. Professional translators are not fazed by this specificity since they typically have specialist knowledge in their areas of expertise, including both conceptual understanding of the subject matter and familiarity with using relevant technical terminology. The greater the specialization, the better the quality of the translation.

Last but not least, an important part of a professional translator’s skill set is knowledge and use of digital tools. Most translations are now done with the help of software in order to both shorten translation time and improve quality. Advanced use of these tools requires continuous training and updating, a matter of course for professional translators, who instinctively consider themselves endless learners.

Before outsourcing your translations to a third party, it is important to check that all the conditions discussed above are met, ensuring a professionally translated text that does justice to your company’s communication and branding.

The process required to complete this evaluation can be long and complex to manage, so it is a good solution to turn to a translation agency like ours.

At Way2Global, we work with qualified professional translators based all over the world. Many have developed alongside us over the course of years of collaboration in the field, while others only join our network after stringent assessment of the aforementioned skills, guaranteeing first-rate customer service at all times.


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    Laura Gori is the Founder and CEO of Way2Global, a women-led translation agency startup with a Benefit ethos. After 30 years at the helm of a small multinational localization company, Laura decided to make a fresh start and founded Way2Global to conduct business in a way that benefits society and the environment, while promoting corporate growth. A fervent advocate of Benefit Corporations and women’s empowerment, Laura takes every opportunity to spread awareness on these issues and contribute to a fairer, more egalitarian and sustainable economy for all.
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