One-Way Translations or Both Directions?

One of the most important decisions every freelance translator has to make is that of whether to offer their services both ways, or in one direction.  If for example you are an English native speaker, you may specialise in Spanish to English translations, Italian to English and so on. But what about translating documents from English into an international target language?

For many freelancers, the decision is something of a no-brainer.  Given the way in which they clearly believe they have a strong grasp of both languages, there is every likelihood that they will consider themselves capable of translating in both directions.  However, what’s important to bear in mind is the way in which there is very big difference between having a strong grasp of a language and translating at full native speaker level.

If you intend to provide only the most outstanding services possible, the latter of the two really is the only standard you should be delivering.

Ambition Vs Reality

As far as leading linguists and academics are concerned, the basic rule of thumb is to only ever translate into your native language.  Even if presented with a project that is relatively simple, you run the risk of producing the kind of work that could dilute your reputation.  One of the reasons you are able to carry out such outstanding translations into your own native language is the way in which you also have familiarity with the country, its culture and the important hidden nuances of the language.

When it comes to any second or third language you are proficient in, this may not be the case at all.

Ambition is one thing, but for the sake of keeping your CV and reputation as spotless as possible, you need to be as careful and realistic as you can when it comes to the services you offer.  Of course there’s always the option of studying and practicing until you reach native speaker level.  However, until you are as proficient has a native speaker in any given language, you need to think very carefully about accepting any work in the other direction.