Choosing the Right Translator for the Right Project

Understand the qualifications required to be a professional technical translator

Who is the best translator? Is it the person who studied four years of a foreign language or the one who was raised in a bilingual household? Is it the expatriate living in-country for 20 years or the self-taught academic who applied his knowledge of one Romance language to learn another? Surprisingly, this question does not have a simply definable answer. The best translator could be all, any one, or none of the above. As Indopak Translation’s vendor manager, I am in charge of not only selecting the best translators for our overall resource pool, but also ensuring that the best translator is selected by our project managers for your individual projects.

At a community event a few weeks ago, a new acquaintance, upon learning of my profession, said, “I speak Spanish, how can I become a translator?” I quickly told her that being a translator is not only about being able to read and write in another language, but is also about being an expert in a specific area and subject matter. As a translator, you must be able to fully understand the foreign source text so that you may translate it into your native language. How many of us can understand a semiconductor patent or a genetic mapping article that has been written in our own native language let alone a foreign one? Vendor management and selection is the constant quest for the perfect balance between the right language skills coupled with the right level of technical expertise.

Here at Indopak Translation, we receive hundreds, if not thousands of vendor solicitations per year. How do we select new resources with whom we would like to work? To begin, we select possible resources to contact from either our internal database of prospective resources or various online websites for translator recruiting. First, we look for translators who are native speakers of the target language. They must submit a resume that details their practical subject matter expertise. They must have at least five years of experience translating and submit three references. Having an American Translator’s Association certification or being referred by one of our current preferred vendors is a huge plus. After completing our internal paperwork, we check references and send the prospective translator a short document as a test. This test is then evaluated by an editor who is a subject matter expert. Upon successful completion, the translator will become a provisional resource whose work will undergo additional quality assurance measures and evaluation for a certain number of projects before becoming a regular resource.

Now, imagine an office full of project managers, each one with a multitude of projects that need to be assigned to a translator. How does a project manager select the translator for your project from our pool of qualified regular resources who has, as mentioned before, the right language skills coupled with the right level of technical expertise? With experience, the project manager may have knowledge of a translator’s expertise, but logistically speaking, it is not practical to rely on memory. Indopak Translation uses Plunet BusinessManager to assist project managers with translator assignment. Each translator has a profile in BusinessManager which includes not only basic contact information and languages translated, but also their subject matter expertise and an availability calendar. Using this information, BusinessManager preselects a short list of potential resources for your project. The project manager then easily chooses the right translator based on your project history, the translator’s subject matter expertise, the project turn time, and the translator’s capacity and availability.

Translator selection may appear to be an easy task; however, due to constantly changing variables, it is more like a moving target. Because Indopak Translation has a vendor management office that is dedicated to vendor recruitment and selection, you can rest assured that the best translator is chosen for your project every time.

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