Spanish Translation Free Guide: How to Choose an English-Spanish Translator
The Spanish Translation Free Guide series on choosing an English-Spanish Translator offers key tips to help you make the right decision. (Were you looking for a Spanish translation free online tool?)
What to look for in a freelance Spanish translator - Part 1
The translator should be a native speaker of the target language, in other words, the final language of the translation. That means if you are translating from English to Spanish, you should look for a native speaker of Spanish, not of English.
There are many native English speakers who have studied Spanish in school or spent time in a Spanish-speaking country. However, someone who speaks Spanish very well but is not a native will normally not be able to write exactly like a native speaker would. A native speaker would be able to tell the difference.
Be wary of translators who offer to translate into a language other than their native one. Even if they insist that they speak the language just like a native, that is very rarely the case. And the fact that they are making this claim may suggest a lack of professionalism.
In addition to native proficiency in the target language, your translator must know the source language, or original language, well enough to understand the text completely.
Location and culture
"I think sometimes if you don’t have a good enough grasp of the source language, you tend to stick to the original too much, which might be good for technical manuals, but for journalistic translations is, I think, a self-defeating way to work."
- Eva Obregon, English-Spanish Translator
Read more from Eva in the Spanish Translation Free Guide
Apart from a native speaker of the target language, you may need a translator who is native in a particular regional variant of that language.
This is more likely to be an issue if your translation is from English to Spanish. There are significant differences in the Spanish vocabulary used in different parts of the world. In Mexico, a computer is a "computadora," while in Spain, it is an "ordenador." And the verb that is used commonly in Spain to mean "to take" has a very offensive meaning in South America. Even within the U.S. Spanish-speaking population, there are regional differences -- the Spanish spoken in Texas tends to be of Mexican origin, while Cuban Spanish is more likely to be spoken in Florida.
If your translation is from Spanish to English, the variations in the English spoken in one country versus another may be less significant, although for a very colloquial text with a lot of slang or something like a legal contract, it can become important whether your translator is British, for example, or Canadian.
When possible, it is generally best to look for an English-Spanish translator who is from the same geographic area as your target reader. And you should always inform your translator about where the translation will be used. If your Mexican translator knows that the translation is specifically for Mexico, she might make different vocabulary choices than if the translation were for a wider audience.
If your translation is aimed at multiple countries, let the translator know. Although there is no such thing as a single "universal Spanish," the translator can try to be as neutral as possible, avoiding vocabulary that is only used in a specific area.
Thanks to the Internet, you don't need your English-Spanish translator to be living in your town. In most cases, you can use e-mail, Skype, and other online tools to communicate work remotely with translators who are living in the target country of your translation...
Go to Part 2 of this article: Subject Matter Specialization
Go to Part 3 of this article: Credentials, References, Tests
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