How to find a good translator
This page should probably be called “how to identify a bad translator”. Because some translators don’t really think about or fully understand the meaning of their source material. They produce texts that are at best confusing and hard to follow. And at worst, full of potentially costly mistakes.
Each language combination will have its own set of frequent mistakes. Italian-English translators often get simple words like come, infatti, anche, informazioni and even viceversa wrong. Mistranslations like these are a warning sign: if your translator frequently makes these or similar mistakes, then you've got trouble. To find out why, read on.
English: in fact
Why it might be wrong: Infatti, when used for emphasis, should be translated as indeed or actually
Why it might be wrong: When it means persino, anche should be translated as even
Why it might be wrong: Come should sometimes be translated as like
Italian: ll, la, les, gli
Why it might be wrong: English sometimes includes the definite article where Italian omits it, and vice versa.
Why it's wrong: In English it should be two words: vice versa.
Why it's wrong: Information is singular in English. Always.
Why it might be wrong: The Italian conveniente translates as suitable, reasonable or good value. The English convenient means comodo or vicino.
Why it might be wrong: Eventuale refers to something that may possibly happen. Eventual refers to future time.
Why it might be wrong: Attuale translates as current or present. The English actual means real or true (apart from specialist financial texts, where it may indeed mean current)
Why it might be wrong: Paragone translates as comparison or example. The English paragon means a model of excellence or perfection
Why it might be wrong: possibilmente should sometimes be translated as if possible.
Italian: un numero speciale di «Architettura»
English: a special edition of «Architettura»
Why it's wrong: Punctuation needs to be translated too. The correct English version would be: a special edition of “Architettura”. With smart, not straight, quotes!
Similarly, Italian often uses long sentences and paragraphs. English generally uses shorter sentences and paragraphs than Italian. Translators should "translate" sentence and paragraph length by adapting them to their destination language.
Italian also uses long "list" sentences with items separated by commas or semi-colons. The English version should have bullet points, because bulleted lists make information much easier to read. They're common in English and (in our opinion) under-used in Italian.
If your translator always translates like this, then you're in trouble. They aren’t doing a professional job and they’re making you look unprofessional too. If you’d like some advice on the quality of your translated material, please contact us for a “translation health-check”.
A word of advice
Selecting your translation company through test translations – and even tenders, unless they’re carefully designed and worded – is no guarantee of quality. Many agencies hire skilled professionals for test translations. Then, if they win the contract, they sub-contract to second-rate or inexperienced translators who make the sort of mistakes described above. Be warned!