General principles

Using a language practitioner

A client has the right to expect a good product from a language practitioner. To accomplish this, a language practitioner needs certain things from the client. Your relationship with your language practitioner will be much smoother if you look at the information on these pages first. You might also like to consult the Guide for users of language workers in the Publications section of this Website.

 

Who should I approach?

Your first step is to decide whether you need a translator, interpreter or editor.

  • A translator works with the written word.
  • An interpreter works with the spoken word.
  • An editor works with written material in one language only.

Consult the SATI database on this Website to find a professional to assist you.

 

If you need translations into several languages or have complex jobs that require a large amount of coordination, you may wish to approach an agency rather than individual translators. The agency will take responsibility for the entire job and save you the administration and hassle.

 

How long will it take?

Translation or editing is not simply a matter of sitting down and retyping a text. It takes time and you should factor this into your planning. Line up your language practitioner early on and talk to them about how long they need to do a good job. In particular, tell them if something is urgent – they will try to accommodate you, but you may need to pay more.

 

What will it cost?

Language work involves concentrated effort and requires commensurate remuneration. There are no set prices for this type of work in South Africa and prices can vary considerably, depending on location, language, type of text and timeframes. Price should not be your only consideration. Competence, experience and professionalism are also important.

 

Get quotes from different language practitioners and consider the professionalism of each person you approach. Someone charging far below the norm is probably not going to put in the same effort as someone who is being properly recompensed, and you may end up paying the price in the form of a product that you cannot use or that damages your reputation.

 

Do I need a specialist?

A translator need not be an expert in the field to which your document relates. You will generally get a better, say, chemical translation by using a professional translator without a background in chemistry than a bilingual chemist. Good translators will find out about the correct terminology and textual conventions in chemistry far more quickly than the chemist will become a good translator. You should, however, always be willing to answer any questions your language practitioner may have, and if possible provide background material that explains processes and concepts. This will help them give you the best possible end product.

 

Must I use an accredited language practitioner?

Accreditation is voluntary, which means that there are some very good language practitioners around who have not felt a need to become accredited. However, it is often difficult for a client to determine whether a language practitioner is competent or not, and accreditation is one independent measure of this. It may therefore be a good idea to use an accredited language practitioner if possible, but bear in mind that non-accredited practitioners may also be able to give you a good job and that there may not be anyone accredited in your particular language combination or discipline.

 

Build relationships

Every time you use a language practitioner, you invest in their knowledge. If you assist them with terminology and to become familiar with your particular field, you will in time have an expert able to assist you far more proficiently. You will maximise your investment by using the same language practitioner(s) over time and building up good relationships with them.


    

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