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Finding a Translator
First, translators work from written to written, or from document to document. Interpreters work from spoken to spoken, or from speech to speech.
The following applies specifically to translators and translation, not necessarily to interpreters and interpretation.
Translators or Translation Companies
Translators are individuals who offer translation in one or a few language pairs, usually only into their mother tongue, and often only in a few special fields. The translator will normally do a word processor spell-check of the text and then edit it to pick up any mis-spellings missed by the computer and any missing text, as well as to improve wording. Translators work directly with the end users of translations, or with translation companies.
Translation companies are organizations which market translation services. They may have the work done by staff translators or, more commonly, by subcontracting with individual translators whom they have located and checked. Most of them add another layer of editing. That is often desirable because someone seeing the text for the first time may find things missed by the translator. (I find that I can edit a translation much more effectively two or three weeks after writing it; but most clients prefer not to wait that long.)
If your work is in one or a few special fields (e. g., pharmaceutical patents), consider one or a few individual specialized translators. You can work directly with the translator. It is relatively easy to establish your own preferred formats and wordings. Questions and answers are easily exchanged.
If your work is widely varied (advertising copy, magazine articles, legal documents, instruction sheets, and annual reports, for instance); if the volume of work is great (hundreds or thousands of pages at a time); or probably if it is multilingual, you will need the resources of a competent translation company. Those extra services are not free, of course, but are partially compensated because translators give translation companies discounts in recognition of their marketing services.
Various computer programs are available at prices ranging from zero to very high. They are sometimes offered as a means of getting the general idea (gist) of a document. I recommend caution, as computer programs do not understand what they are processing and can easily go wrong. [How would a computer translate "independent as a hog on ice" into German?] As a general rule, you may find computer translation useful in a narrow field where each word in one language has one and only one meaning in the other language. Such situations are rare. If you believe you may have such a situation, consider comparing a computer translation with one or more human translations.
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