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Should you hire a professional translator/interpreter, a student, or just someone who is bilingual?

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

As we say in translation: It all depends on the context.

Most certainly, a student taking on a translation or interpreting assignment will do so, among other things, with the intention of gaining experience and making himself/herself known to potential clients. For this reason, if the student is mentored by a professional, it could represent a great opportunity for all parties.

However, if the intention of hiring a novice interpreter/translator is only to cut expenses, this reflects a lack of commitment to the audience and to the international speaker on the part of the organizers, and the result can be disastrous.

How much do you save with a non-professional?

A young professional or advanced student should not charge less than 70% of the rate of a professional. However, remember that in the simultaneous interpreting booth, it is always recommended that at least one of the interpreters has sufficient experience. The first time we confront the booth, we are faced with an audience in front of us and that can be daunting. Not to mention the skills, the " know-how ", the experience that helps you to react in an instant and that allows you to command an interpretation booth. Being bilingual is not enough to interpret or translate, it is certainly a fundamental ingredient, but it also requires study, technical knowledge, practice, and ethics (deontology), among other things.

If you get someone to provide the service for less than that, there may be doubt as to the quality of their work or their ethics. They might not be up to what you need and in this case, I wonder: would you seek the services of a butcher for a surgery? Is it worth risking the success of an event after all the investment involved (logistics, food, transportation, fees, decoration, equipment, personnel, experts, etc.)? Suffice it to say that without ensuring effective communication of the message the potential for disaster is extremely high. A professional translator/interpreter is precisely the one in charge of ensuring that multilingual communication really transcends language, cultural and technical barriers so that the message successfully gets through to your audience.


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