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The profession

Who has never torn their hair out at the translation of a technical manual or cheap product assembly instructions? Who has never revelled in a good novel translated con brio? Just as every text is different, so is every translation.  

Indeed, there is a world of difference between the funny but sometimes barely understandable translations of Google Translate and a translation done by an experienced professional translator who is a native speaker of the target language, is intimately acquainted with the subject and has taken the precaution of having the translation reread by an equally experienced colleague, native speaker of the language and possibly even an expert in the field in question.  

A top-notch translation requires the combined efforts of several people with specific professional profiles: 

  • a specialist in translation who is a native speaker of the target language with perfect mastery of the nuances of the source language, precise and punctual and ideally specialised or at least experienced in the field concerned (technical, scientific, legal, etc.); 
  • a person, likewise a native speaker of the target language, who is tasked with proofing their colleague’s output to catch the last typos and ensure the formal quality of the text; and 
  • in certain cases, an expert in the field in question who will review the translation in the target language. This expert will be aware of the practices and sensitivities of the people in the field and guarantee the impact of the text on your target group. 

To stack the odds in your favour and to get the best possible translation of the content of your manual, annual report, novel, scientific article, business contract, etc., remember 

  • to foresee a reasonable deadline to be able to respect the various production phases; 
  • to provide a legible, well-written original document; 
  • to communicate with your translator, who needs a myriad of information to work most effectively, to wit: 
    • your target audience’s profile (age bracket, regional specificities, language level, etc.); 
    • publication media foreseen (Internet site, scientific journal, magazine, corporate journal, advertising brochure, etc.); 
    • linguistic particularities (company’s in-house vocabulary, acronyms, terms to avoid, etc.); 
  • to provide all useful documents (similar previously translated documents, explanatory notes, blueprints, visuals, etc.) to ensure consistency with your other translations. 


well, having lived abroad several years or being a bookworm does not suffice. Here are a few criteria indicating a translator’s professionalism: 

  • a Master’s degree in translation or several years of extensive experience in translation; 
  • participation in continuing education and training events (advanced language classes, thematic seminars, training in translation tools, business skills development, etc.); 
  • membership of networks of peers active in sharing professional opinions, developing skills and creating partnerships; 
  • membership of trade associations that have strict membership criteria (e.g. CBTI/BKVT, SFT, NGTV, ITI, etc.), especially the observance of a code of professional ethics. 

The factors of quality

Each trade has its quality criteria. Translation is no exception. 

A translation must reconstitute the content of the original text with respect for its tone, language level and preciseness of the vocabulary used. A professional translator will always do their utmost to find the right word, judicious nuance and appropriate technical term so as to produce a text that is as natural as possible in the eyes of the target audience, a text that reads like an original. 

Language mastery (especially that of the mother tongue, into which one translates), rigour, patience, deep thought, collaboration, document searches, passion, a questioning attitude and curiosity about developments in the fields of specialisation are some of the essential ingredients for achieving the level of quality for which the best translators aim. 

The quality of a translation naturally also depends very strongly on that of the source text: you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! In addition, clearly defining the expectations and constraints on the job before and during the mission is of the utmost importance. That means knowing the type of content, context and medium of the publication, target audience, space restrictions, technical specifications, etc. 

If you want to know more about the factors of a quality translation, do not hesitate to check out the brochure Translation: Getting It Right (available in thirteen languages) and the things to which all CBTI/BKVT members are committed in the Code of professional ethics


Many trades that span broad fields of competence are broken down into subcategories or specialisations. Translation is one of them. Whilst certain texts cover general topics and present no special stylistic particularities, others, on the contrary, tackle much more specialised subjects (law, medicine, finance, arts, etc.) or take singular forms (poetry, subtitles, petitions to a judge, video games, etc.) and require the intervention of a professional who is skilled in the matter and masters the subject and the way it is presented. 

To help guide you in your choices and enable you to select the translator best suited to the job, the CBTI/BKVT provides a directory of its members, categorised by specialisation as well as language combination. You will find the list of specialisations and the corresponding translators in our directory

Making the right choices

The CBTI/BKVT has joined with SFT, ASTTI, ITI and UNAPL to publish a brochure entitled Translation – Getting It Right. A Guide to Buying Translations. This guide, which is available in thirteen languages, answers a number of the questions that those in search of commissioning a translation might ask in order to help them make the right choice. 

There are a thousand ways for a translation to go off track: ridiculously tight deadlines, ambiguities in the original text (which will remain in the translation unless the translator asks questions), the imperfections of unedited machine translations used as is, not having a native speaker proof the drafts, the naïveness of an inexperienced translator left to their fate, the absence of project follow-up (especially large projects), poor translations (whether cheap or over-priced), lack of client input, and so on. If you heed the recommendations in this brochure, you will increase your chances of getting an irreproachable translation considerably. 

Some of the questions covered: 

  • Must everything truly be translated? 
  • How much will it cost? 
  • How important is style? 
  • Tempted to do it yourself? 
  • What about computer-aided translation? 
  • Is the translator asking questions? That’s a good sign! 
  • Choosing your supplier. 

The brochure Translation – Getting it Right. A Guide to Buying Translations and available in thirteen different languages is downloadable for free. 

Market practices

For a service provider, working as a self-employed professional means, by definition, being free to set one’s own rates and fees. This freedom leads to great price variability in translation as in so many other sectors. 

Following the example of other national trade associations, the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters (CBTI/BKVT) wanted to paint a reliable picture of pricing on the Belgian translation and interpreting market. The aim? Both to inform the various players in the sector and to defend more effectively the rights and interests of the professions that it represents. So, if you click here you will find the Chamber’s market survey report published in 2018. It basically presents data on the prices in effect at the time combined with additional information such as membership of a trade association and the use of technological aids. The findings published in this report must be considered a simple snapshot of the translation and interpreting market in Belgium in January 2018 rather than a compendium of recommendations. They thus must be interpreted with all the usual precautions. 

How to find the right translator

To select your translation provider and be confident that you’ve made the right choice, you must first have a good idea of the type of work to be done. 

Before searching for your translator, set the key parameters of the job: 

  • language combination (original language, called the source language, and languages into which you want your text translated, called target languages);  
  • possible specialisation; 
  • file format and volume, if possible (words, pages, leaves, characters, etc.); 
  • elements likely to influence the price (urgency, technical nature, etc.); 
  • ideal delivery deadline; 
  • technical constraints; 
  • and so on. 

Once you’ve set these parameters, do not hesitate to consult our directory to flip through the different profiles. The search tool will enable you to find the best professionals in accordance with their working languages and specialisations.