>< Translations for Progress
For Organizations: Choosing and Working with Your Volunteer Translator

As an organization registered with Translations for Progress, you have an opportunity to choose from a large pool of volunteer translators. Selecting the right volunteer may not be an easy task, but we suggest you take a little extra time to help ensure that you get the best volunteer for the job. The following guidelines are meant to assist you in your search for a volunteer translator:

  1. Please remember, many of our translators are students, not professional translators. Some are limited in their capabilities, but can provide very valuable services depending on the text in question. They may, however, need more guidance than professionals.
  2. Don’t be shy about asking a potential volunteer to provide a sample translation of your text. You may also want to inquire about translation experience if none is indicated on the volunteer’s resume or request references. Remember, there is little difference between taking on a volunteer and taking on a new employee. They are both working for you and will have an impact on how well your organization operates.
  3. For highly technical or specialized texts, look for translators familiar with the material or willing to learn. Some types of translation require specific terminology, which the average native speaker may not be familiar with or be able to translate properly without specialized dictionaries or familiarity with the subject matter.
  4. Express your willingness to answer questions or clarify particularly difficult sections of text. Your translator may have questions about the material at hand, and you are likely the best person to answer them.
  5. When do you need the translation done? If materials are time sensitive (grant applications, publications, etc.), give the translator as much lead time as possible and give them a solid deadline. You should also give yourself a “cushion” to make sure that time sensitive materials will be ready in time, even if there is a small delay.
  6. Consider the importance of accuracy for the text you need translated before choosing a translator and giving them the task. If accuracy is crucial (examples are medical and legal documents, or commercial contracts), you may want to chose a more experienced translator or see that the text is reviewed by a bilingual editor before use.
  7. With the points five and six in mind, please discuss the importance of accuracy (and possible need for an editor), deadlines, and general use of the materials you need translated. It is extremely important that you both understand what needs to be done, by when, and what steps are advisable to ensure necessary quality.
  8. For important documents and time sensitive materials, we recommend cultivating a long-term relationship with one or two translators. Remember, any time you are entering a business transaction, paid or unpaid, you are taking a risk that your partner may not do their job. If you have no experience working with someone, even if that person is a volunteer, it may not be a good idea to give him or her a critical assignment.
  9. If you decide the translation should be reviewed for accuracy, try finding a bilingual editor locally, ask your volunteer to look locally as well, or ask another translator on the site who has identified themselves as an “editor.”
  10. Thank your translator! If they have done a great job, let them know. Providing public recognition of their contributions on your website or in published materials that have been translated can be very rewarding for volunteers. Likewise, not receiving any gratitude for a job well done can be very discouraging.

Serviceleader.org also provides an excellent collection of materials on working with and managing virtual volunteers. If you are working with a virtual volunteer for the first time and have more questions about best practices, you may want to have a look at their site at: www.serviceleader.org/virtual

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