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Poll: Which one of the following would most lead you to believe that a translator is qualified?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 09:18
SITE STAFF
Jan 15

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Which one of the following would most lead you to believe that a translator is qualified?".

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:18
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A good portfolio Jan 15

IMO, that would be the most direct way to assess a candidate's work. I don't trust short tests, and it's unusual to have the opportunity to test a person for several hours on a collection of different texts, as is done in the United Nations and some of the other international organizations.

Laurent Mercky
Michael Harris
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 17:18
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A good portfolio Jan 15

My website (www.bpt.com.pt ) has a list of my clients and a number of articles I’ve translated (obviously with the client's authorization), and some awards gained over the years.

 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:18
Member (2018)
French to English
. Jan 15

I tried to look at this from a client point of view. A good portfolio is obviously a brilliant indication. In itself it indicates that you must have experience. Diplomas, prestigious universities, work experience at benchmark firms: none of this can trump a good portfolio.

However, I think that the majority of clients prefer you to translate a sample text, simply because they have convinced themselves through and through that their products and positioning are unique. They are not
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I tried to look at this from a client point of view. A good portfolio is obviously a brilliant indication. In itself it indicates that you must have experience. Diplomas, prestigious universities, work experience at benchmark firms: none of this can trump a good portfolio.

However, I think that the majority of clients prefer you to translate a sample text, simply because they have convinced themselves through and through that their products and positioning are unique. They are not interested in how you have translated stuff for other firms in the same line of business, because they have a different approach and they want your translation to stand out.
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Liena Vijupe
Laura Bissio CT
Philippe Etienne
Michael Harris
Melanie Meyer
Clement Cheung
Jorge Payan
 

Liena Vijupe  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 19:18
Member (2014)
French to Latvian
+ ...
Not sure Jan 15

Kay Denney wrote:

However, I think that the majority of clients prefer you to translate a sample text, simply because they have convinced themselves through and through that their products and positioning are unique.


I agree, although they may not be familiar with the target language, the specific domain or translation in general (I've had terrible experience with clients who don't know my language, want everything to be translated back and then ask why is it not exactly the same as source or clients who think they know better because they've had some classes of English in school), so I'd probably go with credentials, years of experience and the like.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:18
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
Neck and neck Jan 15

ProZ.com Staff wrote:
"Which one of the following would most lead you to believe that a translator is qualified?"


It's neck and neck between "A good portfolio of previous work" and "Satisfactory completion of a sample text". In other words, the thing that I would trust most is if I can see the translator's actual work.

That said, "portfolio" sometimes means just a list of previous work, and that's worthless. Also, a portfolio may include work that has been edited, proofread, reviewed, etc. by other people who worked on the project, and if that's the case, then it's also worthless. If a portfolio doesn't show the actual work and shows what a translator's own capabilities are, then the "portfolio" is nothing more than a brag list.

Having "two satisfied clients" could be due to the translator's bedside manner (e.g. politeness, promptness, professionality). Having fewer than "three years of experience" would be clue in the opposite direction, but having three years or five years or ten years of experience simply means that the translator had so far avoided throwing in the towel. Most "tested credentials" are hit-and-miss affairs -- if you translate the way the examiner prefers it, you get the credential. A "university degree" is simply a mechanism to kick-start one's career (or give it a bit of a boost initially), but it doesn't say anything about how well you actually translate.


Rachel Waddington
Kaisa I
mughwI
Laura Kingdon
Vika Asriningrum
Philip Lees
Andrenise Aime
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:18
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
The portfolio of past work is not always verifiable Jan 15

Depending on the language pair and area of specialization, I believe a great-looking portfolio that mentions client names could be counterproductive.

None of my clients would want to see themselves listed in a portfolio of my work, which is why I anonymize descriptions of what I have done. Indeed, I have signed NDAs and SLAs with all my major clients, and those agreements commit me to not discussing the names of clients or work undertaken on their behalf. (As I come from a finance b
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Depending on the language pair and area of specialization, I believe a great-looking portfolio that mentions client names could be counterproductive.

None of my clients would want to see themselves listed in a portfolio of my work, which is why I anonymize descriptions of what I have done. Indeed, I have signed NDAs and SLAs with all my major clients, and those agreements commit me to not discussing the names of clients or work undertaken on their behalf. (As I come from a finance background in which confidentiality is crucial, not discussing clients is second nature anyway.)

That just leaves sample tests, which like portfolios can be gamed. Conclusion: there's no risk-free way for a client to assess a freelancer. Ultimately, if they're wise, clients will take a view based on the gestalt of all the information about the freelancer available to them. The more convincing and credible they find it, the better the freelancer's chances.

Regards,
Dan
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Rachel Waddington
Alexandre AVON
Laura Kingdon
Miranda Drew
Mario Freitas
 

Edith van der Have-Raats  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:18
Member (2016)
English to Dutch
+ ...
The test translation, definitely. Jan 15

It is quite astonishing how bad seasoned translators and how good newbies can be. Most of the times it is the other way around, but I've learned not to trust just credentials or even references. Portfolios and web texts do help, but especially for highly specialised projects, a (small) test is the best way to find a good match. Even fewer than 100 well-chosen words can reveal a lot.

[Edited at 2020-01-15 12:43 GMT]


The Misha
Chris S
Andrenise Aime
Mario Freitas
IrinaN
Alexandra Stephens
 

The Misha
Local time: 12:18
Russian to English
+ ...
Half a page of text... Jan 15

... translated or written by the translator in the target language. That's all I would need for an initial assessment. Naturally, if the translation is context-specific or in some particular subject matter, this half a page had better deal with something closely related.

Yet another important criteria that somehow no one bothered mentioning is how the translator comports himself or herself in the written exchange via email: how fast he or she responds, how well she writes, and how m
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... translated or written by the translator in the target language. That's all I would need for an initial assessment. Naturally, if the translation is context-specific or in some particular subject matter, this half a page had better deal with something closely related.

Yet another important criteria that somehow no one bothered mentioning is how the translator comports himself or herself in the written exchange via email: how fast he or she responds, how well she writes, and how many typos and such she makes and leaves unfixed. All of that goes to due diligence. Sometimes, that alone would be enough.

Credentials? Diplomas? Years of experience? Party membership? Pfft. Gimme a break.
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Philippe Etienne
Chris S
Laura Kingdon
ahartje
Andrenise Aime
IrinaN
 

Gitte Hovedskov
Denmark
Local time: 18:18
Member (2019)
English to Danish
+ ...
Credentials and degrees Jan 15

Mind you, my own expertise is based on experience, first from living in countries where my non-native languages are... ehh... the native languages..., and then 20 years as a professional translator.

But recognised credentials and formal linguistic education form an excellent basis for professional work as a translator...

[Edited at 2020-01-15 15:53 GMT]


Iwona Budzynska MCIL
Wilsonn Perez Reyes
 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:18
Member
English to French
Good portfolio Jan 15

I sometimes direct prospective translation agencies to relevant public web content in their field that I have translated. It does add credibility.
The Misha wrote:
...
Yet another important criteria that somehow no one bothered mentioning is how the translator comports himself or herself in the written exchange via email: how fast he or she responds, how well she writes, and how many typos and such she makes and leaves unfixed. All of that goes to due diligence. Sometimes, that alone would be enough...

I was about to make a similar comment. I spend a good deal of time introducing my services properly when I am approached by a potential client because I think it's essential.

Thinking about it, we may just have chosen the option that would have the best chance to make us, as translators, stand out. For instance, I didn't choose "translation qualifications" because I have none, and no experience assessing whether it's an asset for a prospect.

To avoid such bias, I'd ask actual translation buyers!

Philippe


Rachel Waddington
Dan Lucas
 

Laura Kingdon  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:18
Member (2015)
French to English
+ ...
Sample Jan 15

I would say portfolio, but it's impossible to tell how valid that work really is. The translator could just as well have copied it from somewhere. Then you have people like Dan and also me who are under NDA for the bulk of our work, which makes it really hard to come up with a portfolio in the first place. On the other hand, while it is still possible to fake a sample, it's much more difficult.

References are not that valuable in my opinion since there can be all kinds of reasons w
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I would say portfolio, but it's impossible to tell how valid that work really is. The translator could just as well have copied it from somewhere. Then you have people like Dan and also me who are under NDA for the bulk of our work, which makes it really hard to come up with a portfolio in the first place. On the other hand, while it is still possible to fake a sample, it's much more difficult.

References are not that valuable in my opinion since there can be all kinds of reasons why translators don't have them: dislike of asking, clients who can't be bothered, clients who don't use ProZ (like some of my best Korean clients), etc. It is also possible for a bad translator to produce work that looks good and get a recommendation based on that from a client or agency who isn't really qualified to make that judgement.

Qualifications matter much less than actual work performed in this industry. I took translation courses in university and learned a few things there, but really not much compared to what I've learned on the job.

Just because a person has been translating for a number of years doesn't mean they've been translating well for that number of years, so I wouldn't put much stock in work history. Of course, a longer work history does inspire more confidence, but it can't be the deciding factor.

All in all, the ideal translator has a mix of all of these things, but really I think the sample translation (along with, as other have mentioned, the translator's comportment and writing skill in their emails) is the best single way to judge competence.
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Khaldun Alqaisi
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:18
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
+1 Jan 15

The Misha wrote:
... translated or written by the translator in the target language.

The ability to write well in the target language is possibly the most underappreciated skill in the freelancer's quiver. If your writing skills aren't good enough to produce (say) a magazine article that can be published with only minimal editing, you have a problem.

After all, any good non-native translator can produce mediocre, stilted text in the target language. If you're not clearly better than that, why would a client hire you?

Dan


Giuliana Maltempo
Michele Fauble
Tom in London
 

Khaldun Alqaisi
United Arab Emirates
Local time: 21:18
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Sample Test of Translation Jan 16

I think a sample test of translation is a good tool to check whether a translator is qualified.

But other criteria also contribute to this end.

For me, my freelance work has been intermittent, I worked with various clients but since long they did not connect. I have new clients.

Clients, in general, want cheaper prices regardless of the translation quality.

Eventually, a Work portfolio and a sample test would do the job.

Thanks,... See more
I think a sample test of translation is a good tool to check whether a translator is qualified.

But other criteria also contribute to this end.

For me, my freelance work has been intermittent, I worked with various clients but since long they did not connect. I have new clients.

Clients, in general, want cheaper prices regardless of the translation quality.

Eventually, a Work portfolio and a sample test would do the job.

Thanks,
Khaldun
www.youtube.com/user/khalduna1
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:18
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Distinguish Jan 16

ProZ.com Staff wrote:

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Which one of the following would most lead you to believe that a translator is qualified?".

View the poll results »



You need to distinguish between a a translator who is qualified, i.e. holds academic and/or professional qualifications, and a translator whose track record qualifies them as such. So the question is meaningless.

[Edited at 2020-01-16 08:14 GMT]


Jennifer Forbes
expressisverbis
Rachel Waddington
Helen Shiner
Yvonne Gallagher
 
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