Frances, how long have you worked at Supertext and what exactly does your position entail?
I’ve been working as an English language manager at Supertext for one and a half years. I manage orders that need to be translated into English or copywritten in English. I provide another level of quality assurance, since I always check whether the translators and proofreaders have done the best possible job. It’s a position that doesn’t exist at many other translation agencies, where texts frequently aren’t checked at all or orders are distributed by project managers that aren’t native English speakers.
You’re a translator yourself – what do you think are the advantages of working with a translation agency from the client’s perspective?
In my opinion, there are two major advantages. The first is the quality assurance I mentioned earlier. Our language managers, who are all native speakers, recruit specialized, experienced translators, which saves the customer a ton of time. All potential translators need to do a test translation, and to be honest, that’s where we lose most of them. It’s extremely difficult to find good translators, especially since the professional title of “translator” isn’t protected. Even people with a good educational background don’t necessarily have the required creativity or specialized knowledge.
The second biggest advantage of an agency is availability. If you just work with one or two freelancers, you can only translate so much each day – and even that depends on whether the translator has time and understands the topic well. We have a huge network, meaning we always have capacity and can find the right specialized translator for specific topics – even for express orders.
What fields does Supertext’s English team cover?
Supertext specializes in creative translations for marketing and advertising. But at this point, we cover basically every industry and text type, from medical to legal all the way to simple translations like CVs.
What are the most important criteria you look for when recruiting a good translator?
I start off by looking for people who have completed a degree in translation or have a lot of experience. At Supertext, we frequently recruit directly from organizations like the ATA (American Translators Association) or ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting) to ensure the translators are qualified. A good tip: look for translators that are specialized in a certain area. As the head of the English team, Kathryn Moser, says, “A translator that does everything is like a restaurant that offers everything – nothing they serve is going to be particularly good.”
How do you stay in touch with translators?
For day-to-day communication, we usually write each other emails or communicate via the Supertext platform. But I really prefer to talk to translators on the phone so I can get to know them. I was recently at a reading by one of our freelancers who just started his own publishing company and does literary translation. We like inviting the freelancers into the office for a coffee now and then and see them every year at our freelancer event in Zurich.
What’s your opinion on translators that are native speakers in their target language – is that required for a good translation?
Absolutely! I’ve corrected translations by non-native speakers for other translation agencies, so I can say that with full confidence. Even if a translator speaks amazing English, you always have to change a lot afterwards to make the target text sound natural. If you work with native speakers from the beginning, it’ll save you a lot of work.
How do you deal with feedback on copywriting and translation jobs?
We have a very thorough feedback process. We always document everything so that we can remember individual clients’ preferences. Translators and proofreaders also see this feedback. Our goal is to not only translate a text correctly, but also ensure that it corresponds to our clients’ expectations. That’s why a revision is always included in the price.
And finally, you’ve been living in Berlin for five and a half years. Do you have any insider tips for Americans moving to the capital?
It may seem difficult, but honestly: learn German! It might be super easy to get around Berlin with English, but if you want to understand the wonderful Berliner sense of humor, you’ll need to speak a bit of German ;) Check out unique, hidden gems with a relaxed Berliner charm like the Piano Salon Christophori. If you’re feeling homesick, head to Nalu Diner in Prenzlauer Berg or the store American Lifestyle in Tempelhof – not far from the Supertext office!
Cover image via Supertext