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10 Qualities Only Professional Translators Can Add to Your Project

Guest post by Athumani Issa
10 Qualities Only Professional Translators Can Add to Your Project

Translation is thought of by many people as a field which anybody with bilingual or multilingual ability can handle. This is not a very accurate way of thinking about the profession, however.

This article is going to provide ten reasons why it’s beneficial to hire a professional translator, as opposed to simply hiring someone with multilingual abilities but perhaps lacking the rigorous training and education of a professional.

So the first question to answer is...

What is a professional translator?

Translation is a profession in which an individual receives specialized training at colleges, universities or within translation associations of a certain country in order to transform written text from one language to another.

What does that training really entail, though? A student of translation specialises in linguistics with two or more languages. This may be a native speaker of one language and trained in depth on that language and/or other languages in their rules, culture and uses in specific contexts. In addition to this study, they also receive training on how to best handle the translation process as well.

Therefore, translation offered by a professional is like any other admirable profession such as law, administration, engineering or any other.

The above discussion helps to define what a translator is, and the skills and training that go into becoming a professional translator, but there are ten characteristics that translators typically possess that make them stand out compared to a bilingual speaker.

The 10 Qualities of Professional Translators

Among other issues that professional or specialised translators may learn in her/his programme of study that a multilingual or bilingual speaker may not are as listed below:



Translators tend to be very passionate about their translation work. They use all their means and effort to deliver every project in excellent shape, as if it was their own baby.


Translation Skills.

A good translator must have a specific linguistic education. They should master not only the foreign language they work with, but also the skills of translation (as discussed in the previous section).



A translator is curious and motivated to keep on learning new words and expressions. The learning process of a translator is never-ending.


Rich Vocabulary.

A good translator must have a wide lexicon, not only in the foreign language but also in their mother tongue. This will make the translation process easier and the quality of the translation higher. Translators also acquire technical terms in specific fields, such as business, law, sciences, engineering, etc…



A good translator’s goal is to express the idea of the source text as clearly as possible, without ambiguity. They should avoid difficult structures when they can use simple ones.



Translators are humans after all, therefore it is normal for them to not know some expressions or words. Nevertheless they shouldn’t just skip it, but they should conduct research and note it down for future reference.


Humble Pride.

A good translator should always deliver a translation that they can be proud of, but at the same time be humble enough to accept possible corrections from the editor/proofreader. The most important thing in the end is always the quality of the translation.


Translation Quality.

Great translators are obsessed with quality.



In order to achieve the aforementioned quality, a good translator should use all available resources at their disposal.



A good translator should provide an exact transfer of information. Despite it being tempting sometimes, the translator should not correct the source text, trying to maintain its “spirit” instead.

Final thoughts and wrapping up

Apart from the above qualities that a professional or specialized translator should possess through effective learning and practice in their academic career, s/he may also have specific translation techniques depending on the client’s requirements. For example, some clients and documents need word by word translation, others literal, semantic or communicative. Thus the multilingual or bilingual speaker may lack the experience of knowing which techniques s/he should apply to the document.

Not only that, but translation has a specific process in which a translator needs to follow to make the translation work more effective; utilizing that process, the professional translator will take many considerations into account in order to make the translated document of the highest possible quality and free from any avoidable errors.

It is high time now for managers and people wishing to hire individuals for translation works to consider specialisations and professionalism as they do when hiring engineers, doctors, lawyers or any other career professional.

English to Swahili translator, proofreader and editor

About the Author

Athumani Issa

An English to Swahili translator, proofreader and editor.
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Comments (8)

sirajul Sirajul Islam
Posted over 5 years ago.

Good articulation with some good points. I’m with you, Athumani Issa.

Besides, I would like to add just another point: A good translator should be also an interpreter with in-built editing skill since translation means a well-interpretive original piece and well-edited to be used immediately by a user. So, a good translator should be an interpreter with in-built editing skill, resembling to an excellent designer, who incessantly using his or her secondary image to weigh up the correlation among textual components at the same time when engaged his or her mind on the dodgy and deceitful things that perhaps hang about in what first appeared to be a straight-forward document. A translator’s framing, proportion, balance, symmetry, and rhythm is similar to the list of elements that an editor must keep in mind to achieve a readable final text. Translators are successful when they have the instinct and eyes of an editor whose eye always go first. It’s an important factor to consider in the translation of any document and a crucial element to keep in mind when translating and editing scripts, transcripts, interviews, journal articles or literature. Part of a translator’s job is taking care of what we call it editing. It’s more the writer-reader relationship than anything else. If the end document isn’t understandable for its intended audience, the work has been done in vain and the client and original author have been poorly served. A well-translated piece is in fact a well-edited text that represents its original language, despite of the focus of the matter.

rainrzawadzki Rainer Zawadzki
United States
Posted over 5 years ago.

Yes to all 10 points!
I would like to recommend reading: Is that a Fish in your ear (Translation and the meaning of everything) by David Bellos, ISBN 978-0-86547-876-3. We need to remember: "It's not poetry but community that is lost in translation. The community-building role of actual language use is simply not part of what translation does. But translation does everything else, It is translation, more than speech itself, that provides incontrovertible evidence of that human capacity to think and to communicate thought. We should do more of it." The translation is an original in itself in the target language.

aniqua Anna Mika
Posted over 5 years ago.

A good translator is an expert only in a few areas not in everything.

jaclynmae Jaclyn Mae
Posted over 5 years ago.

Hi Athumani,

Thanks for sharing your article, it is very well-written with very good and valid points!

While I agree with most of the things you mentioned, I don't completely agree that a translator needs to have a degree in linguistics or translation to be qualified as a professional translator. True, a translator needs to have subject matter expertise to deliver excellent results, and these can be gained thru a degree in a field, continuous education, or experience. There are many well-known professional translators who don't have a translation or linguistics degree but have degrees in other fields. One person I can think of is Tess Whitty, and quite a number of the translators she interviewed in her podcast (marketingtipsfortranslators.com) don't necessarily have a translation or linguistics education. Many have continued on to improve their skills by taking short courses, attending seminars, etc. Of course, having a translation education is an advantage, and many translators have also chosen to pursue it after translating for some time, but not having it does not make one a less qualified professional.

Just my 2-cents worth. Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts! It's good to have other translators post articles about translation and/or interpretation.

mmbando Graham Maeda
Posted almost 5 years ago.

A good translator should also be updated to see how other translators in the same field of expertise are doing

alineamorim189490 Aline Amorim
Posted almost 2 years ago.

Translation is communication. It is the cornerstone of international business.
A good translator has always had a passion for languages and learning about different cultures.

fridaruggiero Frida Ruggiero
Posted almost 2 years ago.

That's a very informative article, I enjoyed reading it. I would like to add that really good translators should also have significant life and work experience in both cultures and languages they specialize in. It goes without saying, they should be experts in very few, selected areas and focus on them, basically. With this thought in mind, I personally prefer transcreation to traditional translating.

User Avatar Raquel
Posted about 1 year ago.


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