When looking into translation services it is important to consider several questions including; what criteria should you use for choosing a translator? What kinds of qualifications should the translator have? What important skills should the translator possess? The answers to these questions are vital to finding a good translator. Even if you work with a translation agency, you may be interested to know how the agencies evaluate the translators they work with. Here we will discuss a few of the most important characteristics a translator should possess, all of which allow them to deliver excellent translations.

Expertise in both Source and Target Languages

Professional level translation demands excellent and comprehensive knowledge of the source language (the language of the original text) as well as the target language (the language of the final text). Knowledge of both languages must be exhaustive and thorough. Just having the ability to speak a foreign language fluently or being bilingual is not enough. The level of expertise required for both source and target languages is commonly achieved through extensive formal education, often at university level.

Expert Writing Skills

Writing is the translator's principle undertaking. They must have the ability to write very well in their target language. A professional translator will have excellent grammar skills, a discerning vocabulary and be accomplished at maintaining the style of the text being translated.

Understanding of Source and Target Cultures

A good translator should always ensure that meaning is conveyed accurately. Accuracy of meaning is a key element in the delivery of high quality translations. This meaning is sometimes hidden between the lines of a text and only an experienced translator who has a comprehensive understanding of both the source and target cultures will be able to accurately convey the precise meaning of any unspoken messages. The translator must understand the complexities of how each culture communicates.

Specialised Subject Matter Knowledge and Good Research Skills

The document to be translated may be something run of the mill like a birth certificate or driver's license, or it may be an industry specific document only an expert could decipher. In the latter case, a translator with the relevant subject matter knowledge and experience is key to ensuring a quality translation. For example, a patient's medical history should be translated by a medical translator; End of financial year earnings reports should be translated by a financial translator. No one person, no matter how expert, can claim to know everything. It is for this reason that a professional translator must possess good researching skills, to help them fill in the gaps in their knowledge. For terminology or concepts that are unfamiliar, the translator must have access to and be able to use up to date dictionaries, glossaries and reference books.

Here we have listed but a few of the most important skills a professional translator should possess. Use it as a starting point for determining who is going to deliver the translation you require.