Translators and Credibility

After I read this article , I decided to share my humble experience with you. Credibility from the perspective of a novice translator.

When I first started out in translation business, I was desperate to prove myself as a good translator to those who questioned my skills. In my quest for a job, I did my best to satisfy the needs of my clients, especially in Arabic<>English translations (my hobby-horse). After that, I worked for a renowned translator who spent his entire life translating business and legal documents. On the first day of the job, he told me this “before you start, remember that if you have to seek something at this stage it must be to establish your credibility; losing money is never an issue but losing credibility is”.

Last week, I visited a translator who subcontracted to me from time to time to get more work. I found a renowned translator with him, and we had an interesting discussion. It was about credibility and competence. They told me that the market today is saturated with incompetent translators; the issue is not in finding clients but the shortage of competence. They told me some stories about catastrophic translations done even by “so-called professional translators”, I did not know whether to laugh or cry, stories about mistranslations that make one cringe.

They mentioned to me a story about a translator who took an assignment from a company and produced a translation that he described as “crap”, which led to a bad ending for a translator: he lost his credibility- and the word was spread about that story because it affected the interests of the client. The guest translator asked me a question that got me thinking: “would you take it slow and learn the right way to establish yourself as a reference for potential clients or burn steps and crush your future reputation?

I realized that I should invest more time developing my language skills and master the art of idiomatic translation to differentiate myself from others. The translator himself assured me that if I get this part right, there comes a day when I wouldn’t have time to scratch my head because of the flood of assignments I will receive. He mentioned that before he became one of the best translators in Casablanca, he spent a whole year with dictionaries and doing a lot of practice even for lower rates: it was worth it. The result is he is the reference for potential clients; he charges the rates that meet his excellent skills.

Capitalizing on language skills matters more than marketing when we start out; it should be the central focus of beginners. I happened once to translate a contract; I didn’t have a clue how to get it done right, but when I received the correction from my mentor, I felt ashamed. I can tell you that I mistranslated a handful of sentences, and I felt very frustrated because I hate mediocrity. That held me back from endeavoring to provide services at this stage unless it falls within my field of expertise. Please note, I thought I did the terminology research right, background reading right, but I fell in the trap of “Anglicism”.

May I share with you a sad story in my country, Morocco does business in French, and most of the work received from companies involves two languages: French and English. I spent two years translating mainly Arabic and English, but I had to adapt rather than complain; it was not my field of expertise. Solution, one has to fix the issue not complain about it. I have issues with French, let’s take care of it.

As a novice translator, I aspire to being a translator with solid credibility, but it won’t happen overnight –I’m willing to remain on the track of learning until I feel confident enough to deliver the quality that will bring me potential clients.

Once you make sure you are apt to translate without mistakes, check out the business lessons for translators suggested by the lovely translator, Marta.

To close this post, I tell you this, if I learned anything at this stage after about a year, it is to set a roadmap about my learning process. Not having access to potential clients should not be an “invitation” to stagnation. Remember, you learn, you improve your skills, trust me, someday it will certainly pay off. Be avid learners, please. If you find yourself with less work, there is some work you need to take care of: you are good, but try to be better. Here are a few things that I do currently:

  • Background reading: 1. To understand the subject field 2. Extract terms and expressions 3. Strengthen your language skills by paying attention to collocations.
  • Noting down your development in a Word file, a way among others to self-assessment.

Good luck!


P.S: corrected a handful of mistakes; proofread, triple-check!


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