When should I hire a professional translator?

A well known idiom says: “You get what you pay for”. Google Translate gives an accurate translation from English to Hebrew, both syntactically and grammatically. One could do with that and be quite satisfied with it but on the other hand , it misses the irony or the nuance, which is manifest both in English and in Hebrew alike. There is a way to say this in Hebrew, which only a human translator is capable of. Accuracy (or rather, literal translation) won’t convey the message here. Automated translation tools don’t do the good job with the language nuances. In the worst case, you get a meaningless mix up (or rather, you get what you pay for…) Conclusion: It needs a human translator to do a translation.

Beyond the nuances, a professional translator is doing a good job only by carefully reading, understanding and put the message in the right words and style in the target language. This is more than true when it comes to technical translation or marketing translation. There is a whole world of terms and concepts in one language that is not similar to its counterpart in the target language.

You have probably experienced the following situation: A translated text written in your mother tongue which means nothing at all? The sentences structure is sloppy and the words don’t make sense? Assuming that it’s not the fault of an automated translation tool, probably the translator made a literal, word by word translation. Since the syntax and structure in is different in different languages, one must do some processing rather than going literal. To make it more frustrating, suppose the source text is English, but it was written by someone whose mother tongue is not English. This takes some kind of “mind reading”, getting the idea and only then writing it clearly in the target language. A good command in English is a must, but it’s not enough. In other words: Translation is a profession, far beyond speaking two languages. Good working knowledge in the subject matter is another must.

There is more to translation as a profession. Today the availability of computers and the Internet makes it easy to make up a translation home office, practicing translation as a side job. However, the professional translator takes it seriously: Purchases literature and gets legal copies of software tools, developing relations with other translators, and doing it full time. As such, he or she is organized, runs a legitimate business, paying taxes, and can maintain a certain project even after several years. It’s better to work with someone who is dedicated to translation rather than doing it as a moonlight job.

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