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9 Essential Qualities of Great Translators

Christopher Nguyen
Christopher Nguyen
Posted in Zoom Sep 7 · 7 Sep, 2022
9 Essential Qualities of Great Translators

When a client seeks translation services, they expect accuracy and quality. However, a translation is only as good as the one working on it. So, you need to ensure that you’re choosing from a pool of translators with excellent qualities.

Now, what are the qualities of a good translator? Would linguistic skills suffice? In this post, we’re going to discuss all the critical traits of excellent translators. This way, you can make an informed decision when hiring one.

1. Great Command of the Source and Target Language

Good translators are native speakers of more than one language. If not, they should, at the very least, come from a bilingual home. Even so, you’ll find qualified translators who are fluent enough to communicate and comprehend languages at an almost-native level.

Excellent linguistic skills include mastery of basic vocabulary, differences in intonation, and specialized terminology. Translators work hard to become knowledgeable in regional dialects, especially since they influence comprehension.

2. Keen Eye for Detail


In professional translation, even the smallest details are important. An accent change, letter, or word can change the entire context of a document. So, a professional translator has to be cautious, especially when handling previously translated materials. They must comply with glossaries to avoid discrepancies in processing certain technical terms.

What’s more, they should always consider the customer’s preferences when choosing their translation style. The result could be professional, modern, casual, or traditional, depending on the client’s request.

Also, it is the translator’s responsibility to review and double-check the finished document to ensure that every detail is accurate. They need to thoroughly go through the documents they translate. These professionals are responsible for ensuring the most accurate translations possible.

3. Dedication to Accuracy

Let’s go deeper into how translators define “accuracy”. For them, the ability to discern the right phrase or word is critical in achieving high-quality translation. A translator ensures that the final translation or target text conveys the same message as the source text. What’s more, they have to maintain the style, tone, and layout of the document. They ensure that there are no missing phrases, words, or sentences.

They adapt the rhymes and acronyms efficiently. As we’ve mentioned, they must have an excellent command of the source and target languages. What’s more, they take the time to become knowledgeable in their chosen niche. For example, if the translator is working on legal documents, they must have experience in the field to fulfill the task. Perhaps, they can be a paralegal or a law student. Moreover, they need to be a native speaker of at least one of the languages.

4. Authenticity

A general rule of thumb is the process document should not sound, look, or read like a translation. Instead, it should seem like the text was written in the target language originally.

So, translators should ensure that the target text is well written—to the point that it can be easily confused with the original document. Anyone reading the content should not see any traces that it was translated from another language.

However, it can be challenging to achieve such a translation. For one, there should be no errors like inappropriate tone or words that may cast doubt on the authenticity of the document.

For example, if you’re translating the German phrase “Ich verstehen nur Bahnhof,” you don’t do so literally. You won’t say, “I only understand train station.” Instead, you would identify an appropriate equivalent of the idiom in English. The phrase “I don’t understand a thing” or the idiom “It’s all Greek to me” would be great choices.

The translator needs to find the equivalent phrases and words in the target language to accomplish authenticity. Once they do this, the target audience will look at the text as an original work.

It’s worth noting that authenticity is critical in translating literary works. After all, people will read an excellently translated poem or book as an original work. It’s also the very reason why the University of Rochester inaugurated the Best Translated Book Award in 2008.

Needless to say, a good translator is linguistically adept in that they are able to bring the same feel from the original text to the target language. Consequently, they can bring the level of authenticity that the document requires.

5. Interest in Learning About Other Cultures

An excellent translator also takes the time to learn about other cultures, especially the ones that they need to represent in their work. They know that they are accountable for ensuring that there are no stigmas, misconceptions, and barriers that may prevent different groups from understanding each other. They believe that their purpose is to help others appreciate different languages and cultures.

As such, they must be aware of the traditions and behaviors that distinguish different cultures. They should also know that these are factors that ultimately influence the meaning of the translated text. They know that culture affects language and vice-versa. As such, they are able to generate translations that are accurate and authentic.

6. Adept in Handling the Right Tone


The attitude of the author determines the overt and covert tone of a text. In general, the style of the text is not always so evident. For example, you can expect a relatively neutral tone from legal documents. On the other hand, you will not sense the definite style of the author in editorial documents and literary texts.

So, the translator is responsible for processing the text as authentically as possible. They may even be required to provide some explanations to improve clarity. After all, if you translate some words literally, the target may find the tone of the source text to be offensive.

In this case, the translator needs to review the style guide. They need to add certain elements while complying with the guidelines to ensure that the audience will understand the text clearly.

Besides, the translator should also consider the relevant formal tone that the source text is emanating. They need to take into account the form of the text, its logical structure, and other factors.

When handling the right style and tone, the translator must also use the appropriate colloquial expressions, jargon, and idioms. Meanwhile, if they’re translating literary work like poems, they must maintain the piece’s rhythm or rhyme.

7. Specializes in a Specific Niche

Translators thrive in their careers because they’ve developed specialized knowledge that allows them to serve various types of clients. Here at GoTranscript, we provide translations that are 100% generated by humans. We recruit individuals with expertise in various industries to cover our diverse client base.

For instance, if we’re dealing with medical translations, we assign the tasks to one of our translators who has an experience in the medical field. After all, medical documents contain complicated concepts and extensive jargon. These texts require someone with industry expertise and a trained eye.

8. Consistent

It’s not enough that the translator knows how to use the appropriate tone and style. They also need to be consistent and coherent throughout the text. For example, if they’re translating a manual, they need to maintain the style and terms for all the sections. All the while, they must adhere to the requirements of the client.

9. Excellent Time Manager

Professional translations require tight deadlines. Sometimes, it makes all the difference when the documents are submitted even a minute late. If you need a translation for a high-stakes situation, you may even need the document in record time.

However, mistakes made because of rushing can also be costly. You’ll end up wasting time adjusting or correcting improperly translated texts. A good translator understands the importance of speed and accuracy.


The quality of a translation will always depend on the person working on it. As such, you need to hire a reliable translator to ensure that the output will be accurate, authentic, and culturally appropriate.

So, if you’re looking for the best translators in the industry, don’t hesitate to contact GoTranscript. All our translations are 100% generated by humans with specializations in specific fields.