Recent research has revealed that a whopping 70% of British SMEs agree that future executives will need foreign language skills. Unfortunately the UK’s lack of foreign language learning is not so much reflecting this need as it is holding us back.

A professional translator can offer your business all the perks that go with foreign language skills without you having to invest the same amount of time and money that it would take to train your existing staff, or to hire someone new full time. But how do you pick the right translator or interpreter for your business?

Check their accreditations

The translation industry is unregulated, so unfortunately anyone can market themselves as a translator no matter their skill level. That’s why it’s important for you to check their references thoroughly.

The translation agency London Translations recommends that businesses look for those translators who who are members of translation associations, because associations will vet their candidates. Highly regarded associations include the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, and the Chartered Institute of Linguists, which has existed for over 100 years. You can also browse a larger list of UK based translation and interpretation associations on Wikipedia.


Industry specific knowledge and experience

Experience relevant to your industry and an overall contextual knowledge of your field will be a significant help to any work you need to do with a corporate translator or interpreter.

For instance, a linguist who is used to working in the media industry might find it difficult to follow what is being said when translating for a financial business. And vice versa. Knowledge of industry specific jargon alone would make contextual knowledge worthwhile, but a translator who has worked in your field previously can also advise you on cross-cultural business etiquette and how it applies in your field, so that you can make the very best possible impression. In fact, according to Liz Elting, CEO of TransPerfect, the most important thing to do when hiring a translator is to check their industry experience and specialisation. As she puts it, “even the best linguists in the world can’t be everything to everyone.”

Particularly in industries where the stakes are higher than others, such as the medical or pharmaceutical industries, it’s vital that translators have an in-depth knowledge of what they are discussing, so that no information is misunderstood. The Language Factory goes so far as to say that a translator or interpreter working in the medical field needs to have knowledge of how the human body works and of how pharmaceuticals work to be able to provide a good quality translation.

In a similar vein, translating different types of written text also often requires a different set of experience. For example, the skills it would take to translate creative content for a website will differ vastly from the skills it would take to translate corporate documentation. Therefore, in addition to the relevant industry experience, your translator should also have experience producing work for the specific platforms/formats that your business would require.

Try a test translation

As part of the interview process, you should ask your prospective translator or interpreter if they are willing to do a trial run for your business, or provide you with samples of their old work before you take them on. You’d be well within your rights to do so, and what better way is there to test their skills, their industry knowledge and their cultural fit within your company?


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