How to Hire a Translator

The following checklist was compiled with the assistance of the Client Education Committee of the Alexandria, Va.-based American Translators Association (

Sizing up Needs

  • What type of translation service, written, oral or a combination of both, is required for the meeting or event?
  • Into how many languages will the program be translated?
    Will translators be working on site?
  • Are on-site translation services provided by the venue? If so, is someone on the planning staff capable of judging translation quality?
  • Does the venue have a translation booth, or will the translators provide their own equipment?
  • Consider whether the event’s needs would be better served by a translation company (when multiple translations into different languages are required) or an independent translator (for single-language translations).
  • Evaluating Translation Companies

  • How does the company select and test its translators?
  • For how many languages does it provide translations?
  • Does the company specialize in a particular language?
  • If the meeting or event requires translation services in a language the company does not ordinarily offer, is it prepared to find a competent translator for that language? 
  • If the firm contracts with outside translators, will the translator bill you directly, or will the invoice go through the translation company? Do markup fees apply?
  • Is the translation company owned or operated by a professional who is certified by the American Translators Association (703-683-6100;
  • Does the company have its own editors and proofreaders to check printed material that has been translated?
  • What is the turnaround time for material to be translated?
  • How does the company charge (by the hour, by number of translated pages, etc.)? Do additional charges apply for on-site translation or overtime?
  • If a translator fails to show up, will backups be provided in a timely fashion?
    What related services does the translation company provide (i.e., updating glossaries, translating technical or medical data into several languages)?
  • Ask the translation provider for an estimate. Make sure cost estimates and deadlines for printed materials are included in a written contract.
  • Ask for references from recent clients with similar needs.
  • Evaluating Independent Translators

  • Is their promotional material well written?
  • Can they provide multiple copies of translated material?
  • Do they ask questions about the project at hand? Good translators will try to get an understanding of the field to which the meeting or event is geared.
  • Are they certified by the American Translators Association? Contact ATA to verify.
  • What are the translators’ special subject fields (i.e., are they adept at deciphering financial documents or medical texts)?
  • What experience do they have? Can they provide references from previous clients whose needs were similar to yours?
  • Are they skilled in the required languages?
  • Do they have access to resources for translating dialects and cultural nuances?
  • Do they have the necessary translation equipment?
  • What is the turnaround time for written translations?
  • In case of emergency, can they guarantee a reliable backup translator?
  • How do they charge for their services (hourly, per document, per page, etc.)? Ask for an estimate.
  • Ask for references from recent clients who had similar translation needs.