When you’re a genealogical translator, you hear a lot about why people don’t want to hire you. Usually, it’s something about a) it’s too expensive or b) I can figure it out with the help of Google Translate… Occasionally, they’re right. But sometimes they’re wasting their time and money…
Here are three times when hiring a translator would have been a better idea:
1. You can’t read the handwriting. Can you read this couple’s names? I can’t – and I’ve been doing this a long time. Misreading their names could lead to researching the wrong tree and a waste of time and money.
2. The word doesn’t exist anymore.
New words get added to the language while others disappear. You need to know the words that existed in the period to be able to accurately read a record.
Ever heard of Pluviose? It’s actually a month in the French Republican Calendar. While you’ll probably be able to find this word using Google,
what about the rest of the language? In the best case, not recognizing a word will slow you down. In the worst case, you might misread the entire record.
3. Your document is from an area with a strong regional dialect. Have you ever entered a Luxembourgish document into Google Translate? Guess what – it doesn’t work. Online translating software doesn’t recognize that its own language and tries to read it as a mix of German and French, with a few “gibberish” words. Unless you’re very patient and very lucky, this time consuming method can easily throw you off track.
Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of hiring a translator as an unnecessary expense – and start thinking of it as a time and money saver.
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