New England Translators Association
NETA Exhibition and Conference held on April 29, 2000

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Directory of NETA Translators

Note: The following explanation of translation definitions and services seems to be a particularly good one. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of its author, William M. Park, and the Carolina Association of Translators and Interpreters (CATI).


An Introduction for Clients

Finding a good translator or interpreter is much like finding any other kind of professional: the more you know about the services offered the better you can make your selection. The following definitions of common terms are intended to help you in your search. As with any other field of business, the elements of trust, reliability and performance are of major importance. By establishing a relationship with proven individuals or translation companies, rather than by trying to find the cheapest service every time you need work done, you can look forward to a long-term partnership.

Translation is the transference of meaning from one written text to another; a translator must therefore be a good writer. Interpreting, on the other hand, is the transference of meaning from speech in one language to speech in another; an interpreter must be a good speaker. Language pair refers to the two languages used in any translating or interpreting: the source language, or original, and the target language, into which the meaning is transferred.

Language direction is very important in translating. A translator can produce accurate work more quickly and easily when translating into his/her native language. Some translators have lived in another country so long that they have achieved a high level in the new language and prefer to work into it; this language is called the dominant language.

Note that a person cannot have more than one dominant language, any more than he/she can have more than one native language. Some translators claim to be completely bilingual; that is, to have grown up with two equally-developed languages. Until proved in each case, it is well to be skeptical of such statements. However, bilingualism is often required in interpreting, where the interpreter must work into the foreign language, although it is naturally easier to work out of it. Conference interpreters (especially simultaneous interpreters ) prefer to work out of the foreign native language due to the high stress of their work.

The number of languages handled by a translator is generally irrelevant to the client, who usually needs material translated from one language into another. Even if you have a text to be translated from one language into several, you would most likely engage the services of a number of translators, each handling one language pair.

The number of specialties handled by translators is generally two or three because it is necessary to have a background knowledge of the field as well as a mastery of the special technical language involved. In addition, it is necessary to keep up with new terminology, which can cost a substantial amount of time and money. Note that translators will often handle material outside their field of specialization, with the understanding that the work may take longer. Also, many texts are in themselves very general and can be handled satisfactorily by almost any translator working with the particular language pair.

A translator's qualifications are sometimes difficult to assess, since there is no licensing examination at the federal, state or local levels. For over a decade now interpreters working in some language pairs (especially English/Spanish) must pass an examination to qualify for work in the Federal courts. Some foreign countries have examinations for certified or sworn translators; the US does not. Some universities in this country and elsewhere have degree or certificate programs in translating and/or interpreting, but such qualifications are still somewhat rare. The most usual background for translators and interpreters is a bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent) in either foreign languages or a science, engineering field, business, etc. Note, however, that in the absence of any licensing examination the term professional refers to any language specialist who receives payment for services rendered.

The American Translators Association (ATA) does administer accreditation examinations in most major language pairs for its members; this is the only examination of its type in this country for translators (conference interpreters have their own associations and proficiency examinations). Memberships in national and regional professional associations such as ATA, NETA, or CATI, while open to anyone, at least show that the translator is dedicated enough to the profession to give financial and volunteer support to it. Finally, references from previous clients or employers may also be useful in selecting a translator.

As for the finished product, you can judge it for yourself: a translation into English should sound as if written from scratch by a competent writer whose native language is English. If your text has been translated into a foreign language it can be checked by asking for feedback from business associates in the respective country.

mailbox.gif (319 bytes) Ken Kronenberg

57 Goodale Street
Marlboro, MA 01752