Vijayalaxmi Hegde

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What Indian Translation Companies Look for in A Translator

Translation is an emerging profession in India. It has a lot going for it in terms of the potential to grow, but at the same time, there are many teething troubles as well. One of their troubles is to do with finding good translators.

Indian translation companies are often in a double bind, caught between their fast growth and the acute shortage of trained resources.

In this month’s newsletter, we look at the top five qualities Indian translation companies look for in a translator:

1. A sound knowledge of both the source and target languages. This should seem like an obvious quality to look for a translator, but it bears repetition. Multilingualism is common in a country like India. Many people speak more than one language. However, that doesn’t automatically qualify one to be a translator.

A translator has to be a good reader and an even better writer. You need to be able to quickly understand the source text and accurately convey the meaning in the target language. This is not something that every casual speaker of a language can do.

To acquire a sound knowledge of both the source and target languages, aspiring translators must read diverse texts in both the languages such as newspapers, advertisements, literary books, textbooks, and so on.

2. Research skills. Yes, a translator also needs to be a good researcher. Here’s how Tanmayee Khire, CEO of BITS, puts it, “The capability of a translator to carry out proper, in-depth research about the subject matter of a text is very important. Especially in a country like India, where most formal translation courses do not provide the option of specializing in a particular domain.”

Often, in India, translators have to learn about a subject on the job. Hence, their research skills become nearly as important as their linguistic skills.

3. A curiosity about other cultures. A translator essentially serves as a bridge between two cultures. It’s not merely words that are being conveyed across languages, but the spirit of the words. Often, this is easier said than done, as equivalent words are hard to find. It’s only our knowledge of the two cultures that then enables us to understand the meaning and then convey it in words that make sense in the target language.

For instance, a particular gesture, a way of speaking, or a food may be intrinsic to a culture and it does contain words for it. But the other culture simply doesn’t have this mannerism or food, and hence lacks the words for it. A translator then has to figure out how they can convey the meaning, using perhaps very different words. It’s a brain-racking exercise, but one that translators routinely encounter.

An openness and a healthy respect towards another culture lets us learn many a new thing. Foster a sense of curiosity for other cultures – it is part of the job profile of a translator. 

4. Knowledge of CAT tools. Khire reckons this is highly important as CAT tools are now widely used in the industry. In her words again, “The translator must be well-versed with at least one CAT tool and have a basic knowledge of a couple of others. It always proves to be an advantage when onboarding them.”

Tech tools are now the allies of translators. To cope with the increasing volumes and ever-shortening turnaround times, translators must work with tools such as translation memory and machine translation (MT).

5. Good communication and project management skills. In the end, a translator stands in the middle of marketing, sales, and content projects that involve working with many people in an organization. The translator has to be able to communicate efficiently and on time if they need any clarifications or if they ned to flag some issue. Else, it can affect timelines and cause undue delays.

Clients usually remember the experience of working with a translator more than anything else. When there is clear communication at every step, clients feel assured by the transparency. They feel in control of the project rather than when they only know about an issue towards the end of the project.

A good translator combines all of these qualities we have listed so far. But above all, Indian companies are looking for translators who are open to learning, adapting, and growing with the company.