Peak Translations

7 qualities to look for in a translation specialist

Before we look at what constitutes a translation ‘specialist’, let’s debunk the myth that translation is simply a like-for-like conversion of one language into another. Truly accurate translation will of course retain the meaning of the text as closely as possible; but also apply the subtleties and cultural context expected by the target audience.  Accuracy, in turn, leads to authenticity and credibility; and that’s what we all strive for in business.

Good translation demands a very unique set of skills. So how do you know when you’ve found the right specialist?

At Peak Translations, we normally recommend asking the following six questions of any prospective translator. In light of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, we’ve added a seventh to that list.

1. Are you an actual person?

It may seem an obvious question to ask but will your translation be undertaken by person, not by machine?

Osaka’s metro network may have had a warm Tokyo Olympics welcome in mind for its visitors when it translated its website into foreign languages.

However, as reported by the BBC last year, these foreign language sites were soon forced to close down following a string of translation errors caused by the use of a Microsoft translation programme.

When automatic translation software is relied upon, it’s unsurprising that the translation is very literal. It was certainly the case in this instance when the Sakaisuji line was referred to as the “Sakai muscle” on the English version of the site.

2. Are you a native speaker of my target language?

It is incredibly rare to find a speaker of a second language who understands its intricacies in the same way as a native speaker; even if she or he has lived in the target country for many years.

Consider this example of a golf course sign:



There’s certainly a hidden connotation that might only be apparent to native speakers!

3. What experience do you have of my sector?

Particularly if your translation involves legal, scientific or technical content, it’s important to work with a subject matter expert who understands the phraseology of your sector and who will have specialist dictionaries upon which to call.

A Health and Safety specialist would have been more appropriate in the following example:

mistranslation of fire extinguisher that says hand grenade

4. Can you provide previous examples of your work?

Whilst an individual may be entirely eloquent in conversing in your target language, it doesn’t always apply to their written skills.

Specialist translators are also expert copywriters, with aptitude for spelling, grammar and punctuation.

5. What proven track record or how many years’ experience do you have in translation services?

Are you able to provide client testimonials? Has work undertaken achieved the required business outcomes for your client?

6. Are you educated to degree level or do you hold a Diploma in Translation (DipTrans)?

7. What are your Covid-19 business continuity plans?

What provision do you have in place to work and access relevant databases remotely? Is your pool of translators and interpreters extensive enough to ensure projects are delivered on time, regardless of any significant illness levels?

At Peak Translations, we understand that these seven qualities should come as standard for any specialist translator. Beyond that, we also look for a keen attention to detail and the ability to work to challenging deadlines.

Our long-established database of translators allows us to find you the perfect match, guaranteeing your company is represented professionally, accurately and appropriately in your target marketplace.





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