English to French Translator: 5 Questions to Help You Select the Perfect One

select an english to french translator

When comes the time to select an English to French translator, there is more to consider than just the price. Here are 5 questions to ask to potential translators to help you choose the best professional according to your needs.

1. What is your mother tongue?

Translators are always best at translating into their first language, the one they learned as children. Even after having learned a second language later in life, our mother tongue is the one we are most comfortable in. Radio-Canada published an article (in French) reporting that according to a study of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), when we learn a second language, “it is almost impossible to reach a level that is comparable to a mother tongue if we begin to learn it after 10 years old”.

That being said, you can find good translators who translate into a second or a third language. In that case, I recommend that you pay particular attention to the next questions to make sure they will deliver a work of high quality.

2. What are your areas of expertise?

To provide a great translation, translators must have a deep understanding of the original text. This is why we usually specialize in particular fields of expertise. Here are some common areas of specialization:

  • Life Sciences/Medical
  • Finances
  • Administration
  • Marketing and transcreation
  • Technical
  • Legal
  • Environment
  • Information Technology/Computer Sciences

Some texts do not relate to any of these categories and may be qualified as general: websites, résumés, letters of intent…

If your business operates in a very specific field, technical or not, you should work with a translator who has expertise in your area.

3. Are you certified?

Translators don’t need a certification to work, but being certified by a serious association offers some kind of guarantee to our clients. When you choose a certified translator from the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes du Québec (OTTIAQ, the professional corporation of the province of Quebec in Canada), you know that:

certified english to french translator
  • His skills are acknowledged by the professional corporation;
  • The certified translator masters his target language;
  • You are protected in the event of a fault;
  • Your documents will be kept confidential;
  • The translator is subject to a professional inspection to ensure he continuously meets the standards.

I published in a previous article a short list of the main associations in North America where you can find a reliable translator.

4. Do you work with an editor?

One way to ensure the translation is spotless is to have it reviewed by a second translator or an external editor. In translation agencies, there are editors whose only job is to review translations before they are delivered to the client. Freelance translators may also work in small teams or send the work to a colleague for review. This is part of the best practices and it is definitely something you should seek when selecting your translator.

5. What are your rates?

rates of an english to french translator

THE question, you might say! I made this question the last one because even if it is important, I believe that it should not be prioritized over the previous criteria. If you base your selection of a translator solely on the price, you might end up paying low fees, but receiving a bad translation… that you need to send to another translator for review or retranslation. Or worst, you might not notice the translation is bad, publish your document and damage your reputation — even risk a lawsuit. If you want to know how much a translation usually costs, I suggest you read my article on this topic.

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