Updated: May 5
It is commonly accepted within the translation industry that using a translator who is a native speaker of the language into which you would like to translate your text (i.e. your target language) will give you the best results for your translation project, but why is this? And what questions should you be asking before you hire a translator?
Let’s start by answering the question ‘What questions should I ask a translator before I hire them?’
Here is a list of the most useful questions you should ask your translator:
Which languages are you fluent in and which language is your native tongue?
Please tell me about your relevant education/qualifications.
What experience do you have in the translation industry?
What are your main areas of specialisation?
Tell me about previous work you have carried out in my industry – both for translation and wider work experience.
What tools do you use for the translation process?
What is your proofreading procedure?
How do you price projects?
The question of pricing comes at the end because a translator’s rates are actually the last piece in a the puzzle. If a translator doesn’t have the qualities and experience that you are looking for, then they’re not the partner you need for your project, no matter how cheap they are. After all, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys!
So now let’s imagine for a minute that you have been working on a project, book, or business proposal for weeks on end and you have finally got to the point where you need your text to be translated into another language. Does it make sense to have your text translated by someone who is not a native speaker of your target language? In my view no, it almost always does not. While there are many exceptionally talented linguistics out there who speak more than one language, you are simply not going to get the linguistic flair, knowledge of idiom and perfect use of grammar with a non-native speaker, that you would with a native speaker. A native translator brings deep cultural understanding, a great command of linguistic features, and an in-depth knowledge of regional dialects and differences.
So, let’s be more precise – what benefits can a native translator bring to your project?
They can increase effectiveness of your campaign – using syntax that sounds familiar to your target audience and helps them identify with your brand, ensures that they feel a connection to your product. Using a native translator ensures you fully engage with your target audience.
Help you avoid potential embarrassment – Forbes magazine reported a terrible gaff which Pepsi made when they entered the Chinese market. Their chosen slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life”, unfortunately translated as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. As Michael Zakkour from Forbes pointed out, this wasn’t a brilliant “marketing strategy in a country where ancestor worship is an important part of the culture”.
Ensure your professional reputation is upheld – typos, poor grammar, or mistranslations can quickly erode a professional reputation. The last thing you want is for your brand to be associated with a very obvious cultural gaff, especially now that errors can be immortalised on the internet such as in the examples above.
Help you with regional keyword research – a good translator also has a sound understanding of the basics of SEO and keyword research. These days, if you’re creating content for a business or product that will be featured online (which let’s face it, is pretty much anything and everything!) then you need it to show up in search engine results. The keywords that might be perfect for the Russian market, will almost certainly have different English equivalents, so you need a translator who knows where to look and which keywords represent the most natural choice for a search entry.
Decrease the bounce rate of your website – one of the first things you look at when you analyse the performance of a website, is the bounce rate. According to SEO guru, Neil Patel “your bounce rate shows you the percentage of your visitors who bounce off of your site. By default, Google Analytics considers a visitor to have interacted with your site if they have visited at least one additional page.” If your website has clearly been translated by a non-native speaker and displays errors in grammar, punctuation and syntax, a user is extremely likely to click away from the site.
Recent research published in Real Business and conducted by Global Lingo, polled 1,029 UK adults and found some perhaps not so surprising statistics:
82% said they would not use a company that had not correctly translated its material into English.
59% would not use a company that had obvious grammatical of spelling mistakes on its website or marketing material.
74% said they noticed the quality of spelling or grammar on a company’s website.
59% said bad grammar or obvious spelling errors would stop them buying from a website and that they “wouldn’t trust” the company to provide a good quality service.
So, is it always the case that a native translator is the best choice for your translation project?
Well, there is one exception to the rule. If you require someone with a great deal of knowledge in a particular field of study, let’s say a set period in Russian history in this case. A translator would need to have a great deal of background knowledge and it is more likely that you would get this with a Russian translator, rather than an English translator. In addition, a Russian translator might be better placed to research the historical period using Russian translation databases and search tools that an English translator may not know about. In this case, I find there is a winning solution – you can use a non-native translator and couple them with a native proofreader/editor. That way you get the best of both worlds.
Who will you choose for your next project?
If you have questions about any of the above or you’d like to speak to a someone who can help you with translation (Russian, German, or Dutch), localisation, or you need a native English proofreader/copywriter, then please see my services here or get in touch today.
I promise to help you find the right solution for your project every time.
All you need is a native.
Marjolein, The Native Crowd
Russian, German, Dutch Translation
Cumbria, North West, UK