Click on the questions below for more information about professional translation and interpretation.
What is the difference between a translator and an interpreter?
Translators work with written materials while interpreters deal with the spoken language. Translators take a document written in one language and rewrite it in another language. Interpreters listen to spoken words in one language and repeat the same message in another language.
Should I pick an individual translator or a translation company?
You should choose depending on your circumstances. If your project concerns a single language and subject and you have the time and ability to manage the project, a relationship with an individual might be the right solution. Working with an individual translator will be more economical, and will better ensure consistency if you have other projects of a similar nature, especially if the individual has and uses a translation memory tool and/or builds personalized glossaries for his/her clients.
On the other hand, if your project has many documents, if you need to have one or more documents translated into several languages, or if you want someone to manage the project for you, a translation and/or interpretation company might be the better bet. In addition to managing multilingual projects and offering editing, proofreading, and desktop publishing, these companies often provide other services such as software and website localization, terminology management, or simultaneous-interpreting equipment rental.
How do I pick the right translator or interpreter?
Unlike some countries, the United States has no examinations for certified or sworn translators. To ensure that you are dealing with a competent professional, look for indicators such as years of experience, formal education in translation, and accreditation from organizations such as the American Translators Association. Court interpreters for certain languages can be certified by taking examinations available at the federal level, and in some areas at the state level.
The American Translators Association offers two booklets: Translation: Getting It Right and Interpretation: Getting It Right, which describe the qualities to consider when hiring language professionals and give selection guidelines. You can purchase these booklets online or download a PDF version from the ATA website. Just click on the Publications link under the Resources tab.
The New York Circle of Translators maintains an online membership directory that is searchable by last name, languages in which the member works, services offered, and areas of specialization. Click on the “Membership” tab on the tool bar to search for the translator or interpreter you need.
How much will a translation or interpretation cost?
Rates vary depending upon the type of service offered. Interpreters charge by the hour or sometimes by the day. Rates are usually higher for conference and simultaneous interpreting. The total price may include reimbursement for travel, parking, and other expenses. Inquire in each case.
Text length and complexity are the determining factors for translation charges. In the U.S., translators usually charge by the word. Services such as extensive formatting, desktop publishing, or editing usually incur additional charges, sometimes at hourly or flat rates. For an accurate comparison, request a total dollar estimate, and make sure the services offered are the same (translation, editing, proofreading, by one or several linguists). Individuals and translation and/or interpretation companies are usually willing to provide free estimates.
What is a certified translation?
In the United States, a certified translation consists of a statement signed by the translator and notarized by a notary public, attesting that the translator believes the translation to be accurate and complete. This should be attached to the original document and translation. Sometimes this statement is called a “Certificate of Accuracy.”
I want to become a translator/interpreter. How should I go about it?
The American Translators Association offers a booklet entitled Getting Started: A Newcomer’s Guide to Translation and Interpretation. This compilation of articles from ATA publications is a straightforward guide for newcomers to these professions. It is available for $25 from the ATA website. Just click on the Publications link under the Resources tab.
In addition, Corinne McKay’s book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator gives a great overview of starting your translation business. It includes sections on finding your first clients and training programs for translators and intepreters. Click here for a list of ATA-recognized translation and interpretation programs.
How much should I charge?
NYCT does not provide information on rates. Like in any business in a free market, what you charge is negotiated between you and your client. Do your research and adjust your rates over time based on your workload and experience level. The more in demand you are, the more you should charge. Freelancers’ profiles in databases such as www.proz.com and www.translatorscafe.com often display rates. You can also speak informally with colleagues in your language pair(s) and subject area(s) about their range of per-word and hourly rates for specific services.
The American Translators Association provides a free spreadsheet that allows you to calculate a per-word rate based on your target income and business expenses. You can download it here.
Before starting a job, you should sign some type of a contract with your client. Whether it is a formally prepared contract, a company purchase order or a letter of commitment, it should set out the terms of your agreement including services agreed upon, delivery date, delivery mode, price and payment terms, and a method for resolving any conflicts. For a sample service agreement, click here.
I want to become certified. How do I find out more about certification?
The American Translators Association runs a certification program consisting of written examinations in more than 20 language pairs. Candidates must provide proof of a combination of education and work experience in order to qualify. To learn more about the certification program, visit the ATA website. A free webinar about the ATA Certification Exam is available here.
Exams are held every year in New York City and many other cities in and outside the United States. The ATA website lists the full exam schedule, but if you have questions about upcoming sittings, please email the Circle Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.