Professional translation – What is that?



A friend of mine translates small texts (up to 1000 words), but since translation is not her main source of income, she says she is not a professional. What does it mean to be a professional?


When I first started it took me sometime to realise the importance of what I was doing. Fortunately, I was working in house in a team with editors, so my work was being checked, and I received constant feedback. With time (and feedback), I started acknowledging my responsibility – translating clinical trial materials, can you imagine how big this is?


It is rather dangerous to think of yourself as not a professional, simply because this is not your main income source, or maybe because you just started. If you’re not a professional, then you have no obligation to your work. When there’s no obligation, there’s no commitment to quality or research, you just change the words in the document and voilá, done.


It doesn’t matter if you’re translating clinical trial texts, divorce papers or a novel, your reader is counting on the veracity of your words. Often, your reader is not a speaker of the source language, so they have no way to check if you did a good work, they just rely on you.


Professional translation means accepting the responsibility for your work, acknowledging the need of your reader and doing your best with all tools at hand to deliver the best translation possible. A professional translator seeks constant development, because they know there’s much more to learn. A professional translator makes their work understandable in the target language and makes it possible for this text to fulfill its purpose – excellent communication.

  1. Roman Mironov

    I might add that an opposite of a professional translator is sometimes called a hobby translator. The friend who you mentioned is probably a hobby translator.

    I think many translation buyers use hobby translators without realizing the results they’ll get is probably not what they expect. This is especially true with my language combination (English to Russian translation) where people often make their buying decisions based solely on the price tag.

    As a translation buyer, it is important to remember that you need to be able to distinguish between a professional and a hobby translator. If you need high-quality translation, remember to do your homework. A good start is reading a professional translator’s blog like the one by Michelle.

    5 years ago

    Reply
    • Michele Santiago

      Hi, Roman. It’s always better to compare both – professionals and hobby workers – to undertand the difference. If translation buyers would do their homework, the world would be a better place, don’t you think? 🙂

      Your input is much appreciated!
      Hope to see you around.

      5 years ago

      Reply
  2. LanaJoseph@Interpreting Services

    Not only the aspects that you have mentioned would define professional translation. The educational background of the person who’s doing the translation should also be considered.

    5 years ago

    Reply
  3. Michele Santiago

    Hi Lana, thank you for stopping by and giving us your input.

    When you mention the education background, do you mean if the person has a formal education on Translation, or any subject?

    5 years ago

    Reply
  4. English to Russian translation

    Hi, Thanks for sharing such a wonderful piece of information. I must say that while reading your post I found my thoughts in agreement with the topic that you have discussed, which happens very rare.

    English to Russian translation

    5 years ago

    Reply
    • Michele Santiago

      Hello! Glad to know you agree, but now I am curious – why is it rare? What other topics do we disagree? I always find disagreements very fruitful 🙂

      Thank you!

      5 years ago

      Reply

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