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Thursday, June 02, 2005

How to Predict Translator Performance

We in the translation business know that it's virtually impossible to accurately predict the performance of a translator on a given job. Even the best translators cannot be experts in all fields, and we all have bad days from time to time. Yet translation buyers must select translators all the time, and it's not always possible to test the translator with the job at hand or a portion thereof.

Translator buyers therefore use translators' credentials to predict their performance. These credentials may include:
  1. a college degree in translation
  2. a college degree in the subject-matter field
  3. a professional certification
  4. a sample translation (not necessarily in the field in question)
  5. client references
  6. professional experience in a non-linguistic field
Which of these (or other) credentials are the best predictors of a translator's performance? Which ones can be faked, lied about, or dismissed as irrelevant?


Blogger Eve said...

The degree is the most important. Translation can be very underestimated. Here, everyone think they don't need a translator, since all in Lebanon are bilingual or trilingual. Much worse, one thinks if he had a degree in science, or geography, or any other field, then it would be enough. Now, translation is a science by itself, with its own theories, and whoever doesn't go there misses a great deal of the translation business.
Almost everything you mentioned can be faked; only a test or a sample translation can prove how good you are.
It's my first time in your blog, and it seems quite interesting. keep it up!

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the degree is everything, at least in my point of view. everything else can be and will be faked. at the end of the day your personal impression of the applicant will decide the stake.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Aladdin said...

I believe the degree [and] the experience are most vital. For example, I know a UN senior translator (actually my on-the-job trainer), who was specialised in Egyptology and he's at his best in translating such 'technical' material. You may need an engineer, for instance, to check your translation of an engineering text just for the 'techobabble'.

A sample is always tentative. I can forward samples of the material I can translate quite efficienty, but you need more than one sample (in different fields) for a better judgement.

2:28 PM  
Blogger yamishogun said...

The degree is mostly a signal. I know translators who have never taken once class and do excellent work for high pay.

While I do not like them, a test is a good way to judge quality --along with a track record.

11:16 PM  
Blogger kimi said...

I agree that a degree is important. However, I am very suspicious of its significance after enrolling translation MA programs in both Taiwan and Australia. I see some programs are well-managed and some are crapy. If I am a client, I will ask for a cerficate and a simple test.

1:27 AM  
Blogger oscar said...

A degree in translation can really set you apart from all the people who claim to speak in several languages.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Sonia-Catherine said...

I agree that a degree is important. However, I do not agree that it is the most important. I've just finished my Bachelor's (from French to English) and graduated with a bunch of students who still do not know French very well but who got by by knowing the teachers well and getting help on all their assignments.

I think that the whole package is necessary. A test, a portfolio/sample, a degree etc.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Hipyan said...

Language proficiency, translating experience, professional certification, and sample translation are helpful for potential clients to predict translator's performance. However, all of them are rather subjective because they are presented by translator him/herself. To have more objective evidence, potential clients had better ask for client references with complete contact details. Of course, the translator should refer them to his/her indirect clients rather than direct clients.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Oliver said...

I would rather bet on years of experience combined with proven professional references.Translation is not an exact science whereby 1+1 is equal 2 whether you accept or not.Remember that there are numerous great translators whose "self-learning skills" are considered impecable.I consider myself to be one of them.I have completed courses at University junior level,but since translation is my compassion I have read so extensively on the subject.I'm a Portuguese Speaker by the way and Portuguese Grammar has become my daily bible.I have developed so much interess in Portuguese Grammar that some academics consider me a schoolar.However, I do not neglect college education in the translation field..

4:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think it's a mix of education and experience. In this day and time you will go nowhere without a degree (regardless of the field). But I know an economist who failed to pass a translation test because of her grammar mistakes. In my opinion therefore, you need to have a degree to have some credibility and some strong background in your target language (besides just being native speaker) and knowledge of the subject.

2:26 PM  

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