1. Native Speakers Preferred: Whether it is a norwegian translation of your website or a hebrew translation of ancient texts that you need, native speakers are typically preferred when it comes to professional translation. Native speakers have the advantage of completely natural, inborn fluency. It’s hard to beat someone who’s been intimate with a language since they overheard it in the womb.
2. Or close to Native… If the translator is not a native speaker, ask how closely their skills match the level of native speaking. They may have lived in the country-of-the-language-you-need for 34 years. Who knows, they could have such a talent with the language that they speak it with more finesse than most locals do, even. But be wary of any non-native translator who has lived in the country for less than 8-10 years. If their time was very limited, their exposure should have been intensive. In rare circumstances, you may find a translator with impeccable skills who lived in the country for only a handful of years, but underwent complete immersion and heavy coursework.
3. Professionals Only: Choose a professional translator or professional translation company that holds their translators to high standards. Ask the company how they evaluate the quality of translation. What software do they use? Since room for error in translating is huge, with hefty consequences, you need a service with a reliable system for detecting errors. If the translator is working independent from a company, ask them what measures they take to insure their translation is correct. The chances are, individual translators won’t have the funds for translation software or an editing team.
4. What is their Experience? How many years has the translator been working, and with what sort of translation? The translator may have experience in verbal translation like business meetings, rather than document or website translation. You want to know that the translator you hire has plenty of experience in the area that you need – whatever specialty area of translation your project involves.
5. Local Living is Important: Is your Japanese translator currently living in the Japan? If they are not, when was the last time they did spend extensive time there? Why is local living necessary? It takes everyday usage of a language, in a natural setting, to be fully accurate and up-to-date. Be wary of translators who “lived” in the country, but within an American community or household. If they were living in another country, they may have still been using English as their primary language.
6. What Are Others Saying: The fastest way to decide what to think is to find out what the masses think. Just find out what other companies are saying about them. If you are hiring a translation company, ask for their list of clients and quotes of recommendation from those clients. Once you see their list of clients, you’ll have a better idea of how you fit into the picture, or whom you might go to for opinions on the company.
7. Likeability may be important: Will the translator be needed in business meetings? If so, personal likeability and presentation may be of concern. How do they smell? Living in another country may have affected different cultural habits.
8. Test the Waters: Every translator should be presented with a small test before your actual project is handed over, especially if you will be working with them on a regular basis.