What to consider when buying a French translation

If you are new to commissioning translations, you may well feel you don’t know where to start.

A good place to start is by considering that French translation involves turning a document in English or Spanish into a new, well-written document in French. So a qualified professional translator is also a writer. Does the translator you have in mind meet these criteria? I can gladly demonstrate how I constantly hone my own writing skills.

There are many other questions you might want to ask, for example:

  • How much will a French translation cost?
  • Couldn’t I just use machine translation?
  • My friend is a French teacher – shouldn’t I just get her to translate my document into French?
  • How will a qualified professional translator handle pictures, graphs, plans and other architectural images?
  • What will my French translator do with jokes and cultural references?
  • How will a qualified professional translator handle architectural and technical references?
  • I’ve heard that translators should only translate into their mother tongue – why is that?
  • Is it true that punctuation is different in French?
  • Is the French language spoken in Canada different from that spoken in France?
  • The translator I’m using has just sent me a list of questions – is that normal?
  • The translator I’m using doesn’t ask me any questions – is that normal?

I can answer many of these questions for you. For further guidance, and reassurance that you are on the right track, I strongly recommend downloading Translation – Getting it right – A guide to buying translation. A French version is also available, here.

The more effort you put into choosing the right translator and briefing him or her, the more likely you are to get what you need. “With translation, the fastest way to blunder is to wash your hands of the whole process.” (Translation – Getting it right – A guide to buying translation, Chris Durban, American Translators Association, 2011)