Top 4 Qualities a Client Looks For in a Translator

November 17, 2014
Top 4 Qualities a Client Looks For in a Translator

There are a number of different characteristics that individuals look for when hunting for potential translators – after all, when someone’s spent ages painstakingly producing an important document, they want to make sure that the quality of their work is accurately conveyed in the translated version too. 

This post will examine four of the most important characteristics that clients want translators (including you!) to have.

1. Native-speaking ability

Many people claim to be able to speak or write in two or more languages, but if you’re working as a translator, then you’ll need to have more than just a competency in your second language. 

Clients will expect their translator to have a native-speaking ability in the target language. Whilst this doesn’t mean that you have to be a native of the target language’s country, you’ll certainly need to know the language as well as, if not better than, that country’s residents. 

Possessing a native-speaking ability is no small order, but it is without doubt the most important characteristic that you’ll need to have to win clients.

2. Cultural awareness

Whilst native-speaking ability is the foremost characteristic that clients want their translators to have, possessing cultural awareness is a close second. 

For most types of translation jobs, you’ll be expected to have an awareness of the cultural particularities and idioms of both the original language and the target language. 

For example, the phrase “across the pond” refers to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to both British and American people, but it wouldn’t make much sense to a Burmese reader if translated into Burmese literally. 

Your client will want you to translate this sort of material into understandable text for the target language, and will thus expect you to have an awareness of cultural factors that can impact the final translation.

3. A meticulous nature

Scrutinising a screen of black and white text for hours can be off-putting to some people, and inevitably their attention begins to wane and minor mistakes are made. 

A client will expect their translator to maintain a high-level of awareness when working on a document, as the nature of translating necessitates a meticulous approach to the text.  

Obviously, the translation itself will need to be perfect, but you should also take time to check for any spelling errors in your promotional material or email correspondence too, as this will signal to clients that you’re not meticulous enough to translate their manuscript without error.

4. Punctuality

Clients will often have very important documents that require translating by a certain deadline, and your punctuality will be a key factor as to whether you’re given the job or not.

When negotiating a contract for these types of manuscripts, clients will not only pay attention to your proven translation ability and past experience, but will also be looking at how punctually you deliver completed work to your clients, or even how quickly you reply to their enquiry emails.  

When clients are working to tight deadlines, the last thing they need is unexpected delays to their work. And by replying to emails in a timely manner, as well as providing client testimonials that mention your punctuality, you can show clients that you’re a punctual person as well as a skilled translator.

What do you think? Are there any more important characteristics that you feel clients want you to have? Feel free to share you thoughts and experiences below.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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