People at times ask me, why they should hire a professional translator. They (or their friend/aunt/colleague) know the language themselves, so why bother? In such moments, I cannot help thinking about the saying of friend of mine, Lynda: “Don’t take shortcuts if you are in a hurry”.


This saying goes back to the day when Lynda and her partner John were travelling to a wedding. They were on a tight schedule, so John suggested a shortcut. He hoped to shorten the route and save them some time. Long story short, they got lost and arrived just in time to join other guests waving as the happy couple was leaving the party in a car with a “just married” sign on it.


In a more general sense, attempts at cutting across a route do not necessarily lead to the desired result. Sometimes it pays off to take risks, but often it is actually much better to plan things down to the last detail. This also holds true for translating and the use of professional translator’s services.

Does translation really require some expertise?

When you are on a shoestring budget, instead of hiring a professional translator, you may be tempted to ask a friend, or a member of the personnel. Their linguistic skills should suffice to translate a text related to the company’s business operations. After all, how hard could translation be?


Well, let’s put it this way: each of us surely knows how to make an omelette. Still, it tastes and looks a lot better when prepared by a famous chef. In the same way, a professional translator is a specialist in their field, and translation is their area of expertise. Sometimes homemade is good, and sometimes you want to present something more refined.


In the following, we will present seven points which tip the balance of power into the direction of a professional translator – at least in a situation where you cannot afford to cut any corners.

1. Professional translator is quick and punctual

When an experienced professional translator sees a text, they can provide a reliable estimate on how long it will take to translate it, based on its content and length. If a person only has little or no previous translation experience, such an estimation is hard, if not impossible, to make.


Understandably, the translation work itself is also significantly quicker when performed by a professional compared to a layman. They have mastered the skills and knowledge required in translation work. They are also capable of translating more efficiently by utilising tools such as dictionaries, translation memories, and other methods to support the search for information. Of course, strong routine is a concept that has a negative ring to it. Yet, one cannot deny that the automation of certain repetitive activities provides efficiency to many types of work.

2. Professional translator has professional tools

Professional translators rarely work without utilising some type of translation software. And they do so for a reason. The use of translation tools, such as translation memories, facilitates and speeds up the actual translation work. Moreover, such tools improve the quality of translation by promoting the consistency of translation solutions.


Many translators also use special verification tools. In this way, they ensure that, for example, figures and numbers are repeated correctly in the translation. This way the risk of human error – unavoidable when relying exclusively on visual examination – can be eliminated.


Translation professionals are also technically skilled and accustomed to processing various file formats. This ensures that no time is wasted on performing unnecessary file conversions or spending time wondering what to do next.

3. Professional translator’s ethics protect customer

Many of the texts to be translated contain more or less confidential information. This is why it is important to be able to trust that no information will be disclosed to third parties by the translator, either on purpose or inadvertently.


It is an integral part of a professional translator’s ethics never to utilise any information received in connection with a translation assignment for their own or any other person’s advantage. In addition, in-house translators at a translation agency and freelance translators working as subcontractors for translation agencies usually sign a non-disclosure agreement. In such an agreement, they agree to keep any information related to their work tasks confidential and to ensure the data security of documents related to the translations.

4. Professional’s translation has facts in place

The majority of translators specialise in translating texts of a certain area of expertise. A seasoned translator will process terms and other subject matter with greater accuracy than a laymen, even those who have decent language and writing skills.


Sometimes one sees and hears comments where a certain detail in a translation is criticized heavily. Often those making the comments believe that they would be capable of making a more qualified translation themselves. This might be the case in some situations. Yet, one should remember that it is usually a question of larger issues as a whole. When attention is focused on some small detail – which usually lies closely within the sphere of the critic’s experience – all other parts of the text which have been translated well and competently are often left unnoticed.

5. Professional translation does not read like a translation

A translation is not always required to be absolutely fluent, but quite often this is essential. If one commissions a translation, they should learn to recognise fluency or a lack thereof. They should also know from whom to expect fluent translations.


Especially in the online context, one can encounter translated texts which may presumably have been translated by a native speaker of the target language. Nevertheless, the texts will contain very unnatural or clumsy language usage. Such impression is easily created when a text has been translated word by word without any deeper thought as to how the subject matter in the source text could have been expressed in a way that is characteristic of the target language conventions.


Examples of such literal translations are omnipresent. They can be found, for example, in texts which have been translated by way of crowdsourcing. This method involves ordinary people who rarely have any training or professional experience in translation performing translations of texts on a volunteer basis. This type of training or experience is also not something that many journalists have. If such journalists edit content from foreign languages for articles in online publications, their style is also similarly literal.


When a competent professional translator is commissioned a translation, the end result does not give away that the text is a translation. It also does not require hours and hours of editing to make it suitable for publication.

6. A professional also dares to evaluate the source text

Sometimes the texts that need to be translated have been written in a manner that makes it possible to interpret them in several different ways. At times – especially if the text is in a language other than the writer’s mother tongue – one must literally look past the choices of words or even grammar to arrive at the correct interpretation. The translator must master the source language in order to be able to evaluate when such measures are called for.


Questioning the source text demands a certain level of professional confidence from the translator. Otherwise, they will not end up taking the easy way out: using a word-to-word translation. The end result might not necessarily be functional. Experienced translators recognise potential stumbling blocks at their own discretion. Having done so, they make the translation solutions they see fit. Alternatively, they request additional information from the customer regarding the troubling bit of text.

7. Professional translator is also a linguistic expert

Texts on social media and blogs, as well as other informal text types, have perhaps made us accustomed to reading those that are not so refined in their linguistic form. Despite this – or precisely because of it – it is essential that important texts and documents are well polished. Not only their content, but also style, grammar, and spelling should be impeccable.


A translator’s training already includes studies in language maintenance of the target language. These language-maintenance skills are further enhanced during actual translation work. For example, a person translating into Finnish should know Finnish grammar and spelling to the last letter. They should also know where to look for information on relevant language-maintenance issues. The maintenance and further improvement of skills as well as knowledge of the Finnish language are an integral part of working as a Finnish translator.


The lessons learned in Finnish classes back in school days are not necessarily enough. The production of refined and carefully thought-out texts needed for business purposes takes much more. Not to mention the fact that attention most likely wandered from punctuation rules to more exciting things during those lessons way back then.