Is regional always best?
There’s a huge difference between a mass-produced supermarket ice cream brand versus ice cream you can make at home with fruit growing in your garden. Pick your juicy, organically grown berries a few metres from your kitchen window, add a little sugar syrup and watch the ice-cream churn as you add the cream (or your favourite non-dairy alternative). Prepared with love and eaten fresh, homemade ice cream will win on taste and smugness.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a dairy farm with its own ice cream parlour you can still keep it regional and enjoy a choice of mouth-watering flavours with zero effort from you.
But there are times when regional won’t cut it. If you want ingredients such as pineapples or mangoes that don’t grow in your area. Or if we apply the same principle to your translation service.
Why you might be searching for a local English translator
Translators are all over the world so it can be hard to know where to start your search. The easiest way is to start with your local geographical area. That way you could potentially meet your translation partner, you’ll support a local business, use the same currency, speak the same language. You feel like you have a certain level of protection from your state chamber of commerce.
So you turn to your search engine. Entering “English translator Munich” or “German English translator Frankfurt” should bring up a list of translators who live in those areas. The problem with this is that you’ll end up with a list of qualified translators. Then you have to refine your options to find out which of these translators can help you with your specific documentation.
When this might not be a great option
If you want a translation from German into English, you need an English native speaker who is a professional translator. If you work with a German speaker who translates into English, check that they collaborate with an English colleague to get the best possible results.
Some English native speakers do live in Germany, and you might hit gold in your region to find someone who lives locally, has the qualifications, languages and specialist knowledge you need. But it’s more likely the people you need are based in their native country.
What many companies do
You might then give up and pick a local translation agency, which might be a godsend, except in certain industries, they might not have specialist translators in their database. You won’t know who is doing your translation, they may not understand your industry, and you’ll get a generalist service when you need a specialist.
You may have looked at the websites of national translation associations (the BDÜ or DVÜD in Germany), but the search function is complicated and the results take time to sift through. Plus, you haven’t got time to figure out what all the qualifications mean or how a person’s experience matches up to your sector.
How best to search
Longer search terms that are specific are going to give you more helpful results.
First, these longer search phrases ensure you are clear about the type of translator you need. Legal or financial, chemical or medical, sports or travel. Translators usually specialise in a couple of related fields and so combining your industry with the language pair for translation will get you relevant search results. For example, German to English chemical translator should bring up my website.
Don’t be afraid to search for highly specific phrases. Many people may search for a technical translator because they don’t expect to find translators that specialise in chemistry or cycling or infant healthcare. My advice would be to search first for your specific industry + language pair + translator.
If you’re not happy with the results, then go a little broader. Instead of e.g. “printing inks German English translator” try “scientific German English translator” or “technical translation German English”.
Searching this way will bring up the best translators for your specific industry, the language you need and save you time. It’s also likely to bring up translators in a different country.
But isn’t working with a translator in another country risky?
You might think so but actually there’s very little difference between working with someone, say in the UK, versus a business in the same town as you. You can speak your language, pay in your own currency, documents are delivered digitally, and you can speak on the telephone or via a video conference call to get to know the person better. When the opportunity arises, I love visiting my clients in person at events or their offices when I travel to Germany.
For extra reassurance when working with translators abroad, pick someone who belongs to a translation association because there’s a code of conduct that we follow. For English translators look for the ITI (Institute of Translation & Interpreting) logo or MITI (qualified member) as part of their signature. CIOL is another such organisation. I’ve added a list at the end of this article of various translation associations and their abbreviations.
The best ingredients for your translation are the right language and expertise
Go where the language grows – many native English speakers still live in English-speaking countries and nowadays, it isn’t any different in practical terms than working with a colleague in your hometown.
Wherever in the world they may be, searching by specialism negates the issue of geography entirely and means you can find the right person, no matter where they live.
It won’t harm your sustainability credentials or carbon footprint to break the ‘regional is best’ rule as your translator will work online and deliver your files electronically. And should you need a different language variant from further afield, that’s fine too. I typically translate into British English, I’m also happy to use American spelling as some of my clients prefer, while offering the advantage of being more or less in the same time zone as you.
The perfect translator for your next project
Go ahead and try searching for your specific field and the language you need from your translator. If you work in the chemical, paints and coatings or food manufacturing industries and need an English translation, I’m right here for you. If you need a different field or language, I’m happy to recommend one of my trusted colleagues or a reputable translation agency I know will look after you.
Then you can go and reward yourself with your favourite ice cream* for a job well done.
*My go-to flavour in Germany was always cherry, we just don’t get it much in the UK
Selection of translation associations for German and English-speaking professionals
Institute of Translation & Interpreting, ITI
Chartered Institute of Linguists, CIOL
BDÜ – Bundesverband Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer e.V.
DVÜD Deutscher Verband der freien Übersetzer und Dolmetscher e. V.
UNIVERSITAS Austria Berufsverband für Dolmetschen und Übersetzen
Schweizerischer Übersetzer-, Terminologen- und Dolmetscher-Verband
American Translators Association, ATA
Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators
New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters