Business Translation Center

Key skills to look for in translators and interpreters

by OFER TIROSH 28/08/2019

Are you preparing for an international project and looking for some assistance with communicating with those overseas? If so, which skills do you need from your language professionals? 

International trade is a core component of many countries’ economic success. As this article on international trade from Investopedia points out, everything from our morning coffee to our evening glass of wine comes to us thanks to international trade. 

If your business plans to trade internationally, there’s a lot at stake, so it’s important to get your language services right.  

Translation and interpretation are two familiar yet distinctly different linguistic disciplines. While both services deal with the conversion of one language into another, there are key differences between having to translate ‘on the fly’ as interpreters do and being able to take the time to sit and consider how the translation is developing as you proceed, revisiting earlier parts of it as required. 

As such, if you’re looking to use professional translation or interpretation services, it’s time to consider the skills that you need from the linguists that can help you achieve your international aims. Let’s dive in and take a look at the different skill sets that translators and interpreters need!

Translation professionals 

Clearly, you need your translators (and your interpreters) to possess superb language skills. But what else should you be on the lookout for when it comes to hiring the perfect translator? 

Well, along with being great with words, your translator also needs to be a punctuation pro. Ensuring that every speech mark, comma and semi-colon are in the right place is an important element of translation. After all, even the most well-worded document can lose its edge if poor punctuation repeatedly distracts the reader’s attention away from the message that the coy is delivering. 

Key to this is strong attention to detail. You know those friends or colleagues that you view as pernickety and never able to let the little things go? Those are the kind of people you want translating your documents!  

Sector-specific skills

Does your business sector use specialist terminology? Do you deal with complex ideas that an ‘outsider’ might struggle to grasp easily? If so, hiring a translator with sector-specific skills can make all the difference. Someone who is already familiar with the key concepts and phrases that pepper your industry will have a clear head-start over someone who doesn’t. 

Using a professional translation agency can be a great help here. The agency will have access to a network of translators with a wide-ranging skillset. You can specify the particular sector or discipline that you need your translator to specialise in and the agency will ensure that you have the perfect person to meet your needs. 

Additional skills for translators

When you’re working with written language, it’s also possible that your translator will need other skills. Do you have glossy marketing brochures? Impressive presentations? If you want them recreated in another language without them losing their visual edge, it’s worth hiring a translator with strong desktop publishing skills. 

Or do you work with lots of audio or video content? In that case, it’s worth looking for a translator who offers transcription skills. Video translation requires its own specialist skills. It’s a growing area of work for many translation companies, meaning that you should be able to find the perfect video translator with ease, if that’s what you need.  

Professional interpretation services

Do you need someone to help you communicate during business meetings or at an event that you’re planning? If so, it’s an interpreter that you need, rather than a translator. 

There are two main kinds of interpretation services. Simultaneous interpretation is the kind that you hear at conferences, where the interpreter delivers the speaker’s words while they are making their speech. Consecutive interpretation, meanwhile, is where the interpreter waits until the speaker has delivered a phrase, then repeats it while the conversation pauses. 

If you’re holding business meetings with those who don’t speak your language, then it’s consecutive interpretation that you need. 

Interpreters’ skills 

Do you ever meet people that you gel with straight away? Those people who make you feel at ease as soon as you start chatting to them? Those are precisely the kind of people that you want to be your interpreters. 

Part of being a successful interpreter is the ability to get on with people. A personable interpreter can ensure that everyone in the meeting feels comfortable with the way that the language barrier is being addressed – something that’s not always easy when the conversation has to keep pausing for the translation of the speech to be delivered. 

Your interpreter also needs to be a good orator, as well as a very quick thinker. Translating a person’s speech is not a literal art. The interpreter needs to convey the intended message and facts while also allowing for regional differences of expression, idioms that won’t translate and other linguistic peculiarities. They need to be quick-witted enough to do this while also speaking clearly and with confidence – something that is a real art form! 

Coping with pressure

Interpreters also need to be good at coping with pressure. (Translators do too, but in their case the pressure tends to arise from looming deadlines, rather than instantaneous demands.)

Do you have a sensitive topic to discuss? Or plans to play hardball over a negotiation? For these kinds of situations, it’s essential that your translator is able to remain calm and collected, even if the discussion around them becomes heated. They need to be unphased by the emotion of the meeting and simply deliver the words that each participant wants to get across. Where multiple speakers chip in at once, the interpreter also needs to ensure that each person has their say. The ability to multitask is certainly key! 

Final thoughts 

Do you now feel fully equipped with the knowledge you need to hire the perfect translator or interpreter? If so, excellent! If not, why not take more of a look around our blog to discover further insightful articles on using professional translation and interpretation services?