Shopping for language translation services can be a daunting task. Let’s face it – we’ve all bought cars, clothing, trendy cell phones, flat screen TV’s and probably even iIPOD’s, but when it comes to translation services from a professional, most of us have no clue.

Of course, with cars, clothing, stereo equipment and other tangible items, you can drive it, try it on, test it out, show your friends or even take pictures of it with your new trendy cell phone and possibly send an MMS to your significant other to see if he/she likes it. Unfortunately, this is not the case with translations and/or translators.

So where to start, then? If the document has any value or importance whatsoever you should strongly consider locating and using a professional language translation service. Sure, there are websites that claim to do it for free. However the reality is you will receive a horrendous translation – believe it or not, it is just too difficult of a science for a computer or website to do. A highly skilled and experienced human translator is necessary.

You might think that having your bilingual friend help you out would be a better option. However, this could potentially lead to problems also.

“Translation is a learned skill, just like anything else. Just knowing two languages doesn’t mean you know how to bridge the linguistic divide between those two languages. That is what you need formal training for,” says Sandra Alboum, President of Alboum & Associates Language Services and an experienced translator herself.

“Languages have different syntaxes, grammars, cadences…and it takes a trained person to be able to know where these differences are, and how to apply them,” continues Alboum. “Translators are multilingual writers. They are trained to be sensitive to nuance and to faithfully render one text into another.”

Taking it one step further a good professional translator should bring additional skills and knowledge to the table. “They are often also specialized in a particular field – law, medicine, etc. – and have a better grasp on the terminology of the field than someone off the street,” says Alboum. “They’re also trained in reference work – we know where to look when we can’t find things.”

While as often is the case in today’s hustle and bustle corporate world, where things are always urgent and frequently done last minute, if at all possible adequate time should be allowed for the translation process. When dealing with technical or complex materials, it might take almost as long to translate the text as it was to originally write it.

Tone, style and intended target audience can also come into play relating to professional language translation services. “People ask a translation be done in a different tone than the original,” says Alboum. “We often have clients send us very technical documents and ask that we translate it for the common man. While we always try to cater our services to best meet a client’s needs, our job is to translate what we are given, as it is presented to us. If it needs to be understood by the common man in a foreign language, it needs to be written as such in the original language.”

A few other misnomers include the assumption that a great translator can translate anything. “Translators have specialties, just like everyone else. A legal translator is probably not going to be interested in or able to translate a text on rocket fuel,” explains Alboum.

Finally, one should be aware that purchasing professional translation services may not be as cheap as one may hope. “Translation is a highly-skilled professional service, just like hiring a consultant, lawyer, or accountant. The final product is often directly linked to the price you pay.”

Follow some of these rules and guidelines when shopping for your first translation and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Alboum & Associates is a provider of professional language translation services based in Arlington, Virginia. Visit to learn more.

Article from