That’s a great question to ask – you’re really appealing to my perfectionistic side! Here are a few free tips.
For one thing, please feel free to approach me personally for some advice. I have a large network and may already know the right person or people for your project. If that’s the case, I’ll forward their details to you. I don’t charge or otherwise gain anything from that, other than the satisfaction of having put you in touch with a good translator or two.
If you require translation into many languages or there’s a higher level of specialisation involved, it may be harder for me to recommend someone I know personally in every case. In my experience, the following general rules apply:
- You get what you pay for. But prices still vary a lot depending on language combination and specialisation.
- Good translators are rare, and hard to find …
- … And you’re much less likely to find them working for translation agencies. I explicitly do not work with translation agencies, and with good reason. The vast majority of translation agencies simply outsource to translators they don’t really know. The vast majority translation agencies compete largely on price. They usually don’t have any in-house resources to properly assess the quality of the translations they buy in, and such efforts are few and far between. That means price inevitably plays a big role in the way they select their translators and reviewers. The majority of my customers have worked with translation agencies in the past, to no avail. That’s why they’re now working with me.
- … And you won’t necessarily find them in professional associations. Membership of a professional association obviously looks impressive and will attract customers. But the membership itself isn’t a guarantee that someone will deliver good work. There are unfortunately bad and unprofessional translators even in the best professional associations.
- Lots of experience and qualifications don’t guarantee great quality. Even state- and court-certified translators can disappoint, especially where marketing texts are concerned. What really matters is how skilled the translator is in translating texts like yours.
- True specialisation is crucial. Good translators are always working on maintaining and updating their knowledge. They also know their limits. Specialised translators will also know to turn down certain jobs and recommend more suitable colleagues.
- Native speakers are preferred. This is especially important in the case of marketing texts.
- Professional revision by a similarly qualified translator is a must. Good translators don’t translate alone. They’re well connected and quality-focused. They recognise the importance of collaboration and know that almost every text can benefit from a second pair of expert eyes. They might even find the odd mistake – even the best translators are only human.
If I’m unable to recommend a translator for a particular project, language combination or specialisation, I usually refer people to freelancers who are members of professional associations. In Germany, the biggest and most well-established association is the BDÜ. You can search the BDÜ database (in English) here.
Please note that here, too, a good review is a must and you should specifically request this service. Unfortunately, many translators compete on price and external revision obviously adds to the cost. Some believe that customers like you would be unable or unwilling to invest a little more for substantially better quality.
And to finish, two more relatively simple but important rules:
- Don’t use Google Translate or DeepL!
- And don’t do it yourself!*
* Unless you happen to be an extraordinarily gifted translator in your own right, or really have no budget for a professional translation that meets the standards outlined above. In that case, doing it yourself is usually a better option than hiring a cheap agency or translator. You’re better off saving your money in that case.