Let’s say you have bidding specifications in Spanish for that Chilean procurement contract you’d like to win, or an employee manual in English that your Vietnamese workers need to understand, or maybe a French real estate agreement from a property you bought in Martinique. How do you go about getting your written document translated into another language?
Your main options for sourcing a translation are translation agencies, individual professional translators, or academia. Let’s look at each one in turn, and then some less common options.
An agency is a good choice if you have something like an English instruction manual that needs to be translated into multiple languages for multiple markets. Agencies have contacts with freelance translators in many languages, as well as the capacity to coordinate large projects. Only the mega agencies (such as TransPerfect, SDL, Lionbridge) have in-house translators. A search for “translation agency” “[closest city]” will turn up pages and pages of results.
So how do you know which one to choose? I suggest a search for agencies in your area just to narrow things down and help the local economy. Almost any company will offer you a rush turnaround, so the differentiators are price, quality, and personal attention. Which are most important to your project? The large companies are best at offering lower prices and rapid turnarounds, while a smaller agency is more likely to be available for your questions and concerns and to build in editing and proofreading of your translation.
These are the pros, the translators who work for agencies as freelancers as well as working directly with clients. Professional translators work in combinations of two or several languages, and tend to specialize in specific areas, for example, medical texts or automotive texts. Their fees vary based on experience, project time frame, languages involved, and whether or not you require editing. Some advantages of professional translators are availability outside regular office hours, ability to communicate your needs directly with the translator, and knowing that the same person can translate any future documents to preserve consistency.
Determining whether an individual translator is right for you and is qualified for your job is the topic of a whole other article. For now, let’s look at how to find one.
American Translators Association Directory
The ATA is the only national association of translators and interpreters in the US. It has an online directory containing over 6,500 freelance translators and interpreters offering services in more than 570 language combinations; it also has a list of translation agencies. Members who have passed the ATA certification exam show this distinction on their listing. You can sort your translator search by language pair, subject matter, location, and more.
Local Translator Associations
The ATA has chapters, or subgroups of professional translators and interpreters, in some geographic areas. The ATA website lists these, as well as affiliated and “other” groups: https://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/index.php. You don’t have to work with a local translator since everything can be done online, but being in the same time zone and using the same currency can be helpful.
Editorial Freelancers Association
As the name implies, this group is mainly for editors, but also has some translator members. You can search their database by skill, subject matter, and location.
Colleges and Universities
Some professors in university foreign language departments also provide translations. They tend to specialize in literary translation and do not devote themselves to translation full-time. You would have to contact the school’s language department for the language you want your document translated into to ask about their faculty’s services.
Embassies and Consulates
Some embassies and consulates maintain lists of translators, but qualifications are not verified by anyone.
Courts and Hospitals
Interpreters who provide oral communication in other languages at courthouses and hospitals often also do translation work. Since they work directly for the court or hospital, you would need to find them elsewhere in order to hire them. If you need a legal translator, you can try the National Association of Judicial Interpreters and Translators at https://najit.org/member-directory/. For medical translators, there is the International Medical Interpreters Association. In their directory, filter the search with “Translation Services,” since the site is primarily for interpreters.
Online Job-Posting Sites
Many websites allow you to post your translation job opportunity for anyone to reply to. The two biggest sites are Proz.com and TranslatorsCafe.com. These do not take a percentage of the completed job, but others do. At most sites, credentials of site members are not verified. And you could always post your job on LinkedIn: Jobs>Post a free job.
- Translation Agency
Decide on quality needed, budget
Best for large, complex projects
- Professional Translator
Personal attention, usually lower price
- Mainly literary translation
- Other Sources
- Embassy, Consulate, Legal Website, Medical Website
- Post Job Online