For non-linguists, the process of buying translation and interpreting services can often be difficult to negotiate. This section aims to help you find your way.
Congratulations! You have already identified your need for translation or interpreting services and have decided you need the help of a professional – you have taken the first and possibly most important step on your path to achieving your objective! While some people seem to think that Google Translate and French GCSE are all that they need, you have recognized the importance of getting support from a professional human translator or interpreter. By following the next steps below, you can find the right person for your job.
We also have two publications produced by ACTA and its partners - "Translation - Getting it Right" and "Translation - Buying a Non-Commodity" - which provide the low-down on planning and working on translation projects.
The Getting it Right Guide: A buyer's guide to sourcing and using translation services.
These booklets are available below as a PDF in a variety of languages, including English, US English, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.
There are hundreds of ways a translation project can go off track: ridiculous deadlines, ambiguities in source text amplified by the translator not asking questions, misapplied MT (machine translation), no proofreading of typeset text by a native speaker, blissful unawareness of an over-confident translator operating in a vacuum, poor coordination of large projects, poor cheap freelance translator, poor expensive freelance translator, poor cheap translation company, poor expensive translation company, no client input, and on and on.
By applying even half the tips in this guide, you will improve your chances of getting a translation solution that works.
Certification or sworn translations
As a professional association that assesses the quality of its members, ACTA maintain a directory of qualified members with suitable language skills and technical expertise. ACTA can hold its members to account in the event of complaints. In the same vein, it has taken steps to establish itself as a body whose members can certify translations.
Many translation buyers believe that a professional translator has to be “certified” or “sworn” to do the job. However, we do not have the "sworn translator" concept that exists in civil law countries. Even so, translations sometimes have to be "sworn" or certified for various purposes, such as when providing official translations for public authorities. In the US, certifying or swearing has no bearing on the quality of a translation. It serves instead to identify the translator and his qualifications, so that he is accountable.
When a translation is sworn before a solicitor, the legal professional does not verify the quality of the translation but merely satisfies himself as to the translator's identity. Certification does, however, lend weight to a translation: if, for example, a document is willfully mistranslated or carelessly translated, the translator could be charged with contempt of court, perjury or negligence. ACTA provide its Members with special seals, or stickers that can be attached to a translation to add confirmation of the translator’s membership.
ACTA corporate members can use ACTA Qualified members as “suppliers” to certify translations on their behalf. Please refer to the ACTA Directory of members. Please note, not all members have agreed to be listed in the Directory.
Acceptability of ACTA certification to the authorities.
The legal advice ACTA has taken is that ‘a certificate is acceptable if it is accepted’ and that ACTA members should certify translations and wait to see whether a certificate is challenged and, if so, by whom. ACTA ’s advisers feel that such a challenge is unlikely, or that by the time a challenge does rise, a firm precedent will have been set.
If the end user of the translation insists on a higher grade of certification, they should be pointed in the direction of notarization and referred to notaries (where practicable, those firms whose members are ACTA members).