Even if you’re fluent in Dutch and are a native English speaker, translating texts from Dutch into English isn’t particularly easy. This is equally true of all ability levels in Dutch – the fact is, your level of Dutch - whether you're a beginner, intermediate or even advanced Dutch speaker, is not always a good indication of how good you’ll be at translating something from Dutch into English.

This is because translation, just like interpreting, requires a particular skill set that often only comes with specific training and practice. As a result, translating a Dutch text into quality, understandable English can be a real art form. There are a number of reasons why translation can be tricky, including the fact that:

  • It can be difficult to reflect common Dutch grammar and expressions and sayings into English without diluting or losing their meaning; and
  • It’s often not enough to directly translate every word of Dutch into its English equivalent – translations completed this way can look “clunky” and may even be difficult for an English speaker to fully understand.

If it wasn’t frustrating enough that translating Dutch into English can be difficult, there’s the added risk that having a poor translation of a source text can mean that the reader in the target language won’t be able to really understand any of the translation – or may take away a completely different meaning from the translated text from what was intended in the original.

As a result, it’s little surprise that there is a real need out there for good quality translators. The fact that relatively few people are able to translate other languages directly into English without help is also part of the reason why tools such as online translators have become increasingly popular.

With that in mind, this article examines the different ways in which you can find good translations online, as well as the steps that you can take to improve the quality of your own translation work if you do any translating from Dutch into English.

The word "Quality" with a tick mark used as part of the letter "Q." Finding a good quality Dutch-English translation can be difficult.
It's important to know where to find someone that can undertake a good quality Dutch-English translation. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, geralt, Pixabay)

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The Difficulty Of Getting Dutch To English Translation Right

There might be a number of reasons why you need a translator, whether that’s translating a text from Dutch into English, or from English into Dutch:

  • You are reading a particularly difficult Dutch novel or text, and want to understand what the passages mean in English;
  • You’re a relatively new learner of Dutch, and would like to have English translations of Dutch texts nearby so you can read the passages in both languages side by side; or
  • A friend or family member has asked if you can translate something from English into Dutch for them, or vice versa.

Regardless of why you may want to have a text translated, there are a few things you should be aware of to ensure you’re getting a good quality translation as the end product.

Ordinarily, when it comes to translation, the general rule of thumb is that translators tend to only translate texts into their own native language.

As an example, if a Dutch text was the original source text, and you wanted that translated into English as the target language, then you would look to find someone who is a native English speaker that is either a Dutch native speaker as well, or is suitably well-versed in Dutch to be able to undertake the translation.

The reason why native speakers are generally preferred when it comes to translating into a target language is due to the fact that a native speaker should understand how to translate the source text in a way that reads well in the target language, and in a way that also conveys the meaning of the original text.

As a caveat, this doesn’t mean to say that someone who is not a native English speaker should not undertake Dutch – English translations – the above is only a general guideline, and the right translator for the job may not always fit the above mould.

Equally, if you’re looking at hiring someone to translate a text for you – whether that’s from Dutch into English or English into Dutch – it’s always worthwhile asking that person what experience they have in translation, and whether they have any relevant professional qualifications or university degrees to support their claim that they are capable of carrying out the translation.

Or you could take Dutch classes London and dispense of the need for a translator altogether!

An image of a laptop with paper and pen next to it, along with a pen holder. Machine translators can undertake Dutch to English translation.
Online translators can perform Dutch to English translation. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, markusspiske, Pixabay)

Where To Find Good Dutch Translation Into English

Essentially there are three different options you can pursue to get Dutch to English translations, although the level of their quality does vary:

  • Find an online translator to translate the Dutch text into English;
  • Hire a translation agency or freelance translator to translate the text; or
  • Do the translation yourself.

Let’s consider each of these options in turn.

Option 1 – Use An Online Translator

Machine translators have come a long way from even ten years ago, when almost regardless of what sentence you put into the translator, gobbledygook would follow.

Now, there are a number of online machine translators that claim to produce good quality translations across a number of different languages.

Perhaps the most famous example of an online, machine translation tool is Google’s own translator, Google Translate, which has the ability to translate between huge numbers of different languages.

One of the benefits of these translation services is that they are more often than not free, which is great for those who need fast translations and don’t necessarily have the budget to pay for a quality translation.

While this is certainly an attractive offer, the main thing to be aware of when using machine translation is that there is no-one who can verify or dispute that what’s being translated is accurate and true to the source text. As a result, there is still the risk of errors appearing in the translation.

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What’s more, the chances of errors occurring using machine translators tend to increase when:

  • The source text itself contains highly specialised or technical language – for example, a legal or scientific document;
  • The source text itself is very long and uses a variety of complex sentences and words; and
  • The source text contains less common words or phrases.

If 100% accuracy is not of huge concern to you, and you need a translation quickly, then it can still be worthwhile to use a tool such as Google Translate, or another online machine translation provider, such as Collins Dictionary Free Online Translator.

An image of a keyboard with a blue "translate" button on it. The art of translation, including Dutch to English translation, can take time to master.
Learning the ins and outs of Dutch to English translation can take time. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, geralt, Pixabay)

Option 2 – Hire A Translation Agency / Freelance Translator

Another option is hiring someone to translate a text for you from Dutch into English. The benefit of using a translation agency is that often an agency will only work with qualified translation professionals that have sufficient experience and exposure translating documents from the source and target languages you specify.

There may also be a review process to check the quality of the work, which should, in theory, lead to a higher quality translation, particularly compared to machine translated texts.

However, it’s rare to have someone translate a document for you for free, so this route will more than likely involve you having to pay someone for their time to translate the text into English for you.

As a result, try to have a budget in mind when looking for a translator, and make sure to look at different agencies and see which one’s services and prices work best for you.

Option 3 – Do The Translation Yourself

The final way you can look at getting a Dutch text translated into English is to simply do the translation yourself.

This method is probably best reserved for those who already have a very good grasp of Dutch, and who are likely sitting in the high intermediate to advanced range in terms of their mastery of the language.

However, even if you are a beginner, practising Dutch to English translation can be an incredibly effective learning tool, as translating different texts can expose you a wide range of new vocabulary, and can also help improve your Dutch reading and comprehension skills.

If you are looking for some Dutch to English translation exercises, then you may want to look at hiring a tutor from Superprof. A Dutch Superprof tutor can help provide you with tailored translation exercises that should be both manageable in terms of your ability level yet challenging enough for you to learn something new after having completed the exercises.

With enough practice, translation can become easier as a skill, although it does take time and a good level of understanding of both the source and target language. If you enter your postcode into the Superprof site and indicate that you'd like to find a Dutch tutor, you'll be shown Dutch tutors that are available either within your local area for in-person tuition sessions or tutors that are happy to provide Dutch lessons remotely.

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