What Makes a Good Linguistic Professional?
Quality translation and localization largely depend on the professionals you work with. As you look to build content in a new language, you will likely need the service of a linguist—a person skilled in not just speaking foreign languages but in understanding the context of those languages.
However, naturally, as is the case with all professions, not every linguist is created equal. Trusting your brand’s communications in other countries to those you hire for translation services is only possible if you understand how their qualifications and skills align with your needs.
This guide will help you understand what makes a good linguistic professional, why using a professional with these qualities is so important, and how choosing the right multilingual partner can benefit not just individual translation efforts but your entire localization strategy.
The Six Qualities of a Good Linguist
Choosing the right linguist for your brand’s translation and localization efforts must be strategic and thoughtful. Keep these six typical qualities in mind as you look for the right professional partner.
1. Native-Level Language Skills
The first quality might be apparent, but it still bears mentioning. Anyone translating professional content into a different language needs to be proficient at an expert level in both the language they’re translating from and to.
Bilingual speakers often mention the moment they started genuinely thinking in their second language: when they began to think and dream in that language. That’s the level of comfort a linguist needs to have. They are so naturally connected to the languages that working within them becomes more natural and less active, rational work.
2. Current Cultural Context
Translators have an excellent grasp of their languages. Linguists go one step further. In addition to theory, they also know the cultural context in which the language in question exists for the audience they’re working towards.
In true localization, context is everything. In Northern Germany, a pinkel is either a smoked pork chop prepared in cabbage or the act of urination. Biscuits are famously different between the U.S. (a type of breakfast bread roll) and the U.K. (a cookie). Linguists who know that context by heart can speak to their audience as peers, not strangers trying to appear friendly.
3. Careful Attention to Detail
Cultural context also weaves its way into the care and detail linguists must take when working with multiple languages. Every word matters, and understanding how to give that word meaning in a different language can take care and work.
In oral translation and localization, many words sound similar. Grammar rules change based on local dialects and countries speaking that language. Close attention is vital to help linguists immediately and accurately grasp and convey these nuances.
4. A Sense of Lingual Curiosity
Of course, technical knowledge of a language and its details can only go so far. Actual linguists are also naturally curious about the languages they work in, including the deeper meanings and origins of all relevant words and vocabulary.
Linguists are not just translators because they’re profoundly and voluntarily enmeshed in the study of language or linguistics. That understanding, in turn, helps them work more intentionally and creatively in applying the correct translations in the proper contexts.
5. Relevant Areas of Specialization
In an academic context, linguists are inherently generalists who go deep into the language they study in all its forms. In a professional context, where applications tend to be more practical, most experts try to build a more specific and dedicated area of expertise.
For example, some linguists may focus on legal translation based on experience not just in the language but also in legal vocabulary and customs within that language. Others may concentrate on supply chain management, marketing, and other business areas. That specialization allows them to build in-depth expertise and knowledge of the relevant jargon, audience expectations, and more.
6. A Passion for Collaboration
Finally, professional linguists rarely (if ever) work in isolation. They place their work in context with others in the same language in academic and professional contexts. They take pride in their work, but they also know that only sharing that work can benefit the language they work in and others like them.
In a professional context, that translates to a passion for collaboration. The right linguist is always willing and ready to learn more and understand concepts better, and that forward drive keeps projects moving. Feedback becomes not a criticism but an opportunity to improve and drive the project and vision further.
The Benefits of Choosing Quality When Hiring a Language Professional
Translation comes down to a single cost-value spectrum, as with any other profession. At the cheapest end are free translation services like Google Translate that may be enough for tourists looking to find their way but cannot help a brand looking to build competitive messaging. Move up the spectrum, and you can work with gig workers to full-time language professionals who have studied the languages in question alongside the culture surrounding them. Other considerations are to work with linguistic professionals who are native speakers, often living in the location and experiencing firsthand the local cultural nuances.
The long-term benefits and ROI of going with this second option are almost certain to be significant. Everything you need in a foreign language, from internal supply chain communications to customer-facing language, can benefit your business. Hiring the right language professional can quite literally become the difference between a strong market entry and a fizzle.
That’s why quality matters so much in this process. Linguists who fit all of the above criteria will have a much higher chance of helping your business successfully communicate in other languages, paving the way for anything from market entry to establishing a market share stronghold.
How Hiring the Right Multilingual Professional Can Benefit Your Localization Strategy
Taking your brand global, or even expanding into a market speaking a different language, is no simple feat. While product delivery and supply chain strategies are undoubtedly important, so are how you communicate with your audience.
With very few exceptions, audiences expect familiarity. Even when exposed to international products and brands, they expect to be treated as a local product or brand would treat them. That’s the essence of localization: making a product in a new market feel like it belongs there as a local product would.
Working with multilingual professionals who understand what precisely that means results in communications that create that sense of familiarity. It can also prevent costly localization mistakes such as:
- Poor grammar that results in lost credibility among core audiences, like a sentence structure that’s unusual for the audience in question
- A failure to understand local customs and cultural nuances, like using white in China without understanding that it refers to death, not purity like in western culture
- Limited or wrong vocabulary, creating misunderstandings in the process
- A lack of industry knowledge, which results in a failure to use proper jargon and causes brands to stand out negatively among their industry competition
The above qualities present all of these and other past mistakes that many brands have made. Hiring a linguist is essential for any brand looking to localize its product and communicate in languages not native to them.
Are you ready to elevate your localization strategy with quality language professionals? Vistatec works with many of the world’s leading brands to do just that. Contact us to start the conversation.