Poll: How would you describe the language used when talking with (most of) your clients?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 21:45
SITE STAFF
Mar 14, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How would you describe the language used when talking with (most of) your clients?".

This poll was originally submitted by Ma. Fernanda Blesa

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Chanda Danley  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends on the country Mar 14, 2007

I think it depends on the country. For example with my French clients...we are on 'vous' terms, but with my Spanish clients, we are on 'tú' terms.

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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Business is business Mar 14, 2007

Unless you're translating something for someone you truly consider a friend, there's always going to be that sometimes blurry line of translator/client relationship.
I've known all of my clients for some time and have a very cordial relationship with all of them. I joke with some of them on the phone, in person, etc. In the end though, business is business and clients really are our "bosses". I think it's best to keep that in mind.


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:45
English to Arabic
+ ...
Mostly informal, except for one.. Mar 14, 2007

I have one single German client who insists on on calling me Mrs... , refers to colleagues within their company as Mr. and Mrs., begins emails with "Sehr geehrte Frau..." (formal address), sends purchase orders by air mail and does not accept emailed invoices.

They are very cordial, but I sometimes want to give them a good shake and ask them to kindly loosen up a bit! Luckily they're in the minority though..

[Edited at 2007-03-14 15:05]


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
Culture, age, attitude.. Mar 14, 2007

Interesting poll!

I think there are many factors which influence the language I use when talking to clients.

When I speak to clients in Sweden, we're all on first names (as everybody in Sweden, apart from the Royal family), which would be Chanda's 'tú terms'. We don't use titles like Mr, Mrs or Miss (or Dr. and so on) in Sweden any longer.

Most of our German clients however insist on sticking to Mr, Mrs and so on, which is surely a cultural matter. There have been some changes in the last 10-15 yrs, first names being introduced but anyway still combined with the distanced "Sie" (like French 'vous').

Funny enough, when I speak to clients in the Netherlands, some of them in English and some of them in German, we either use the first names in English or titles and family name in German.

Then it's also a matter of age - is my business contact older or younger than I am? In a German context, a younger person would never ever suggest to an older person to swith from distanced "Sie" to informal "du" (only if the younger one is in a higher position in the hierarchy).

And it's the client's attitude: a client who keeps on coming with rush jobs with short deadlines, pays badly and never on time, and maybe thinks that we translators have nothing to do and are just waiting for their esteemed job - well, I could never get cordial with them.

I also think it's not only about using first names or titles or whatever, also the language itself, making short jokes with the client and some small talk on the phone for a minute before getting into the job.

Erik


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 06:45
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Friendly but formal Mar 14, 2007

However well I know my clients, I resist the temptation to criticise their writing (if the document is original) or to suggest that there are things to be improved/or that my translation is better than the original... And that temptation is VERY strong at times... I try to keep these conversations linguistically a little distant, although on the surface of it we are being v cordial (hence the tú form as mentioned by Chanda). The slightly more formal register reminds me to hold my tongue!

[Edited at 2007-03-14 16:01]


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:45
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I voted "extremely informal" Mar 14, 2007

I like to conclude contracts in the most informal way possible; in other words, I like working for established clients with whom I can conduct business in this way.

Now that the subject is mentioned, the forms of address are not informal. It is, however, simply normal to use surnames in Germany.

When I conclude a contract with a regular client, the e-mail exchange concluding the contract usually consists of one e-mail each way, namely, "Here is a translation to do, which we need by such-and-such a date.", and my answer, "Yes, it will be done by then.".

On the other hand, for unknown customers, based on past experience I have to increase the formalities, make them sign order forms, issue Terms and Conditions of Business, etc., but I find that so tedious and time-consuming, and the simple e-mail exchange described above is really a whole lot pleasanter - as well as time-saving and practical.

Luckily, I can conclude contracts on such an informal basis with quite a lot of clients by now, and therefore spend my time on translating, instead of on formalities and paperwork.

Astrid

[Edited at 2007-03-14 17:53]


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Ma. Fernanda Blesa  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Somewhat informal Mar 14, 2007

not many votes yet, but it's interesting to see a tendency towards lesser degrees of formality. I am a rather informal person (not meaning unprofessional, mind you); I do enjoy my work and everything around it more if I can crack a joke or comment on life or whatever with my customers. And at this moment in time I have a somewhat informal relationship with all of my customers, maybe except for one who is from... Germany! I wasn't aware of this tendency in Germany, but it does seem to fit!!

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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:45
Member
English to Turkish
Very informal Mar 14, 2007

And funnily enough, my most informal relationship is with a German client But then, they're my only client in Germany (so, won't give me sufficient basis for a counter-argument against what Nesrin and Erik wrote), only 1 of my 3 contacts there is a German (although he's the one with whom I am on most informal terms), and they're all young people.

Other than that I am on quite informal terms with all my clients, except for one French PM (hi Chanda!) who insists to address me as Mrs. (which I hate, btw, and is technically not correct in my case, either).


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:45
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Somewhat-to-very informal Mar 14, 2007

... most of my clients have been clients for years.

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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 05:45
fairly informal Mar 14, 2007

About 98% of my email correspondance is in English and it is usually along the lines of

Dear/Hi Orla,

[blah]

best/kind regards/rgds/thanks
Customer's name


I'm not keen on being called Miss Ryan, it makes me feel like a teacher.

We're quite informal here in Ireland. Using titles is not something that comes easily to us.

I often speak to my main client on MSN, so I guess we're on a very informal footing now.


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
German to English
+ ...
Friendly business relationships Mar 14, 2007

Parrot wrote:

... most of my clients have been clients for years.


Exactly.

I prefer to work with people I get on well with.

As I have often said, the telephone - or Skype - always work well.

Initially, one should of course observe conventions.

I can think of a few people in Germany/Austria/Switzerland who have a doctorate, but I don't call them Herr/Frau Doktor any more. I am possibly older/younger than them (who cares?) but what they want to do is business on an amicable basis.

Conversely, if new contacts call me from German-speaking countries and address me by my first name, I like the idea. It has happened. This is, after all, 2007.

We are - after all - in the business of communication, right?



[Edited at 2007-03-14 23:15]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:45
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Varies over the whole range Mar 15, 2007

I get clients calling from all sorts of places, and new ones usually do me the courtesy of speaking English. Well, most of them don't understand Danish and may not be sure what other languages I can speak.

Sometimes it is highly formal because they have learnt the basic phrases off by heart. I try to sound friendly, but keep it polite and avoid peculiar Brit idioms that might not be understood. If it's really difficult, we agree to mail!

Regular clients tend to mail me more than they ring, but we sometimes get quite informal if and when they do. Often they ring because it is urgent, so we do not have time for chit-chat, and then we deal with the matter fairly formally. But of course, this is Scandinavia, so we may just round off with an entirely flippant five-second comment just to lighten up before we ring off.

On other occasions regular clients take the time to put the world to rights, and we get right to the informal end of the scale. It's simply a necessity when we work together but only see each other very rarely.

I voted 'amicably formal' because that's where most calls fit.



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Jo Rourke  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Changes over course of relationship Mar 15, 2007

I always start off in a formal manner, friendly, but still quite formal, because I think there is nothing more off-putting than someone being overly familiar with you! Once I have a few replies from them, I take my cue from those and am as amicable or formal as they are to me.

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