When you have a document that deals with a specialized topic, such as law, finance, or medicine, you naturally want to make sure that you get a technically accurate translation, because any errors could make a huge difference to your legal status, money matters, or health. It is relatively common in the translation industry these days to provide marketing materials stating that an agency only uses lawyers, doctors, etc., as translators of the appropriate documents, and another set of equally qualified specialists to review each document. In cases in which this claim is strictly true, it is fairly obvious that it is an expensive approach, given how much specialists of this type are normally paid. It also tends to be a less productive method of obtaining an accurate translation than the hybrid technique used by Apex and other leading translation firms. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.
First, what is this “hybrid approach” to selecting translators for a project?
Apex looks for two distinct sets of qualifications during our initial hiring of a translator for a specialty subject:
- Subject matter expertise. The translator might have an advanced degree in the subject, or they may have acquired their knowledge in some other way, such as having worked in the field for a number of years.
- Linguistic skills and experience. This same translator must be a professional linguist with a minimum of five years’ experience. The majority of Apex’s linguists met this requirement many years ago.
Over the years, Apex has found that hiring translators based on subject matter knowledge alone is inefficient. Many people who have solid knowledge of a subject lack the linguistic training to express it correctly in the target language. While we have seen some excellent translations from doctors, lawyers, and other specialists over the years, we have also run into a good many that have serious issues with accuracy, terminology, consistency throughout documents, grammar, and so on. In the latter case, it would be unproductive to hire such a specialist to do a translation just for the sake of stating that a specialist has done the translation: the cost of the specialist’s services in addition to the price of turning that specialist’s work into a usable translation would be prohibitive, and the time expenditure would be considerable.
Another issue with trying to hire translators who are extremely specialized is one of logistics. Like Apex, most translation providers offer services for a wide range of subjects and language pairs. While we do have translators on staff who have advanced degrees in various types of medicine, for instance, it is simply not realistic for any general translation company to have two linguists (a translator and reviewer) with advanced degrees on staff for each medical specialty (such as podiatry, gynecology, or dermatology) in each language pair. For many language pairs, it may be difficult or impossible to find a medical specialist of any type with an advanced degree at all. That is one area where Apex’s network of linguists with other, non-degree experience in the subject matter can be of great help: not only do these linguists have an excellent reserve of subject matter knowledge to draw on, but they have the ability to synthesize it in a way that make sense to the target audience.
When selecting a team of linguists for each project, Apex must first look at the personnel available in the necessary language pairs. We then take the following criteria into account for each individual linguist:
- Advanced degree and other subject-specific education
- Linguistic education and experience
- Publishing record and other, related qualifications
- Past performance at Apex
For most projects, this means that some of the team members will be linguists with specialty knowledge, and some will be subject matter specialists with a background in linguistics. These two types of linguists will reinforce each other’s strengths and provide valuable insights into the best ways to render difficult concepts clearly and accurately.
Many new clients are anxious to see for themselves that our hybrid method works before they commit to hiring us for a project. We understand! That is exactly why Apex offers free sample translations of 150–200 words from your own texts, using the same linguists who will be used on the full translation. In the unlikely event that you don’t like what you see, we are happy to find other linguists and resources for you and provide another sample for your review. We are committed to working with you every step of the way to ensure that you are comfortable with our process and pleased with the finished product. If you would like to take advantage of this free service, simply contact us using this form, and mention that you would like a sample translation.