Translation agency vs bilingual

Is being bilingual enough to deliver a quality translation? We outline four reasons to avail oneself of the services of a translation agency.

In this era of globalization, learning other languages has become critical. Indeed, our shrinking globe is erasing borders and driving a large number of both industrial and social sectors to face outward to the rest of the world. Today, employees are expected to be open to the outside world, speak several languages, and to perform different functions which sometimes exceed their area of expertise.

So, is a bilingual person able to take on the job of translator within a company? Is speaking several languages, combined with computer translation tools, sufficient to create high quality translations that are adapted to a target audience? Laurent Nicaise, assistant professor of languages at the Free University of Brussels, gives four reasons to use the services of a translation agency.

Two heads are better than one

A translation agency works with a extensive network of translators skilled in specific fields. A project manager can assign, for example, a medical translation to a linguistic expert specializing in that field. But it doesn’t stop there. In order to ensure high quality results, once the translation is done, it passes under the scrutiny of one—and sometimes several—proofreaders and a corrector.

High quality work

When translating technical documents, a bilingual person can quickly find themselves out of their depth and faced with a number of obstacles. In terms of writing skill, a translator, thanks to their training, will have perfect command of the subtleties of their mother tongue. And while a bilingual person is often easy prey for translation “traps”, a translator has been trained to spot these “false friends”. As such, the target text will both reflect the world of the source’s author and be suited to the target audience the client wishes to address. Furthermore, a translation agency has at its disposal expensive computer tools which only professional translators are familiar with. These impact the speed and quality of the work.

The responsibility of the translator

A misunderstanding by the reader, or an error by the translator, can have serious consequences. Gontran Botte, a freelance translator, explains that “when translating safety instructions or operating instructions, a bad translation can go so far as to put someone’s life in danger”.
The same applies when the translator must interpret an author’s intentions. The former takes great care not to distort the latter’s words. This is one of the habits of the translation profession, one which a bilingual speaker, lacking the specific training and experience, will not necessarily have acquired.

Saving time and money

At first glance, handing a translation job to a bilingual employee in-house might appear to be the cheapest solution. Think again! It will take that person longer to do the job than a professional translator, and generally speaking, the quality will be lower. A translator has not only the experience but also the necessary professional translation tools needed to complete a project effectively. Laurent Nicaise further concludes that “Time is money! You therefore lose the advantage that you hoped to gain by not calling on a professional translator.”

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This article has been written by Lara

Lara studied photojournalism at IHECS in Liège (Belgium). After travelling in Asia and New-Zealand she now lives in Buenos Aires and works at Cultures Connection.