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Selecting a translator: how to make the right choice

 Sélection de traducteurs - Les critères

A good translation requires, above all, a good translator. So, how do you go about making the right choice when it comes to a translator? For a translation agency, what are the criteria and methods they use when selecting translators to join there team? How do they sort applicants? Here’s a view of the important criteria to keep in mind to ensure quality translations.

What is a good translation?

In order to choose the right translators, you must already have an understanding of what makes for a “good translation”. To evaluate the quality of a translation, we suggest you keep an eye out for the following points:

1. Fidelity to the original text:

  • The text from the source language and the entirety of the message are transcribed with fidelity in the target language.
  • Using their specific knowledge of the field, the translator knew how to properly integrate terms specific to the field.
  • The language used in the target is of an equivalent level as that of the source.

2. Mastery of linguistic rules:

  • Rules of grammar
  • Mastery of spelling
  • Mastery of the syntax

3. The page formatting of the documents:

  • The page formatting of the target adheres to that of the source document.

4. Scheduling:

  • Meets the lead time set out when the project was initially agreed to, in order to provide the translations to the client before the deadline.

With the CVs that a translation agency receives, how do they create their team of translators? What criteria do they look for when it comes to professional translators?

Let’s take a look at the criteria for selecting translators

There are multiple objective criteria that play a role when it comes to selecting translators. Among them are:

Native language:

The majority of translation agencies select exclusively translators who translate to their native language.

After which they translate towards their native language from other languages which they have mastered. They ensure that there is a perfect agreement, not only with the target language, but with the target culture as well.

Linguistic combinations:

In what pair of languages can the translator offer a professional translation service? It’s important to understand what source languages the translator has a mastery of which they can translate to their native language.

Example: Source languages mastered; French, Spanish (Castilian)
The translator is therefore able to translate French or Spanish texts towards his native language (English, for example).
Thus, the linguistic combination (pair of languages) are:
French => English
Spanish (Castilian) => English


Translators should have a Masters Degree in translating:

First validating their undergraduate license:

  • License of Foreign Language, literature and civilisation,
  • Or License of Applied Foreign Language

Then a masters or the foreign equivalent:

  • From a university (letters, AFL or Linguistic sciences)
  • Or from a translation school, among which, the most well known in France are: ESIT (public), ISIT (private), INALCO (Oriental languages) and ITIRI (international relations).

In order to add to their specialization in their translating field, they may even seek complementary diplomas to validate their expertise.

Fields of specialization:

For each specialized translation, it is important to choose a translator with knowledge of that speciality: legal, medical, political, financial, marketing, etc.

A translation agency must integrate into its team translators with dual competencies, both as translators and specialists in a particular activity or field.


  • Technical translators: often coming from a specific field (industrial, medical, legal, financial, marketing), they translate documents relating to their area of expertise.
  • Audiovisual translators work on the doubling or subtitles of movies, series or documentaries.
  • A localizer, specialized in information technologies or multimedia, translates content for software, video games or websites and adapts them for the country and culture for which they are destined. They are also trained in the constraints of website indexing.
  • Sworn translators are accredited by legal authorities to handle the legal translation of official documents which have some legal value (identity cards, civil acts, wedding certificate, birth certificates, etc.).
  • Etc.


Of course, the experience a translator has accrued is crucial because it shows the wide range of situations they have encountered, the projects they have taken on and the personal enrichment which comes from it.

Technical equipment:

In order to conform to certain page formatting requirements, it is imperative that they have a mastery of Office tools (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). Further knowledge in editing software (InDesign) can also be a plus.
Moreover, in order to optimize the efficacy of certain tasks or to ensure continuity in terminology, it is also important to master some of the primary CAT software (Computer-assisted translation).

Have you selected multiple profiles? Well, then it’s time to make your choice! So let’s look at the translation test and quality control.

A small translation test can be requested in order to validate the basic points of a translation and to ensure the quality of the provided text: fidelity to the source, editorial style, fluidity, coherence, terminology, etc.

During the first months of collaboration, it is important to check all of the work done by the translator to make sure it is in accordance with the agency’s quality guidelines. It’s also a good way to help a new employee or partner improve the quality of their translations.

Still not confident about selecting translators? As a last step, why not take a look at some of the opinions left by clients? Many opinions are generally worth more than just one!


3 rue Paul Lafargue
92800 Puteaux
Phone : +33 (0)1 47 78 02 30
Mail : sotratech@sotratech.com

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