Use only translators that are native speakers of the target language. The same is true for editors and internal reviewers. Companies should not hire non-native speaking translators and interpreters for the same reason they should not hire non-native speaking copywriters or spokespersons.
Even a native speaker who has been living outside of his or her home country for an extended period may forget important nuances and may not be up to date on the latest terminology, which is why in-country translators are preferred. If this can happen to a native speaker, image how much more nuance and terminology may be mistranslated by a non-native speaker!
Disastrous Translations from Non-Native Speakers
This rule should be obvious to most people reading this tip. However, it is unfortunately not obvious to everyone, as evidenced by an endless list of disastrous translations produced by non-native speakers.
Some of these disastrous translations are only seen privately, such as when a company provides an LSP with suggested changes to a translation, and those changes would actually introduce errors because they were suggested by a non-native speaker of the target language.
Many other translation blunders by non-native speakers are much more public. Entire websites like Engrish.com are dedicated to exposing copy writing errors and translation errors by non-native speakers. You will also see many mistranslations by non-native speakers in our Weekly Translation Bloopers. For example, Hillary Clinton’s Russian “reset” button was mistranslated and checked by non-native speakers of Russian. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s interpreter that came across wrong in Polish was also a non-native speaker of Polish.
Partial Exceptions to the Native Speaker Rule
There are a few partial exceptions to this rule that native speakers of the target language must be used for translation.
A native speaker of the source language may occasionally be useful in the quality control process, just to check that all the meaning of the source document has been conveyed in a rather specialized subject. However, that linguist usually should not make the changes directly to the translated document, but instead should convey those suggested changes to an editor or translator who is a native speaker of the target language.
Also, when interpreting a two-way conversation and going back and forth between two languages, an interpreter will usually be forced to interpret back into his or her non-native language.
Contact Globalization Group for translation services that are always performed by native speakers of the target language.