If you need a translation, perhaps even for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions on how the language business works. You may also need to clarify some widely-spread wrong ideas in order to obtain the best translation.
This is why today I have selected three main questions that you may be asking yourself right now.
1- “Why can’t I just use machine translation?”
Although Google Translate and other machine translation (MT) tools keep improving their algorithms, MT still cannot deliver quality, reliable texts. These could be revised by humans. However, in my experience, it is more difficult and tricky to post-edit a machine-translated text than doing the translation from scratch.
There are a few more downsides to MT. Machine-translated websites are penalized by Google ─ironically─, so MT would even affect the SEO of your online content. A human translator, on the other hand, can choose the right keywords to optimize your site.
Also, if the content you need to translate is confidential, MT should be ruled out completely.
“Imperfect translations may not simply confuse readers; they can also mislead or even offend readers.” Anne Merritt, How much can we rely on translation software?
2- “Should I hire a freelancer or a translation agency?”
It will depend entirely on your needs. If you have to translate your content into several languages, and/or need complex formatting solutions, then an agency is your best option.
If this is not the case, then a freelance professional translator would probably save you many costs. Working with only one translator has a few added benefits: it is easier to ensure coherence throughout the content and their productivity will improve once he or she gets used to your voice and type of content.
3- “Well, I’ll hire a freelance translator. Will anyone just do?”
There are two important points you need to consider here: native language and working fields. It is always better for translators to work into their mother tongue. For example, I translate mostly from English to Spanish. This is very important so that translations are not only accurate but also readable and flowing, so that the reader does not have to be struggling to figure out what the translator actually meant. As for the working fields, bear this in mind: the more the translator is experienced in the field, the more productive they will be.
These are just a few of the most important questions you may need to find an answer to when looking for translation services. You can also find useful information in the guide Getting it Right, by the American Translators Association.
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 In this article, you can find some interesting details about working with agencies vs. freelancers.