Do you expect/ask for a brief from clients for your assignments?
Thread poster: Niraja Nanjundan (X)

Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:17
German to English
May 19, 2009

Following a not too pleasant experience I had with a client today, I realised that the specific problem that arose could have been avoided if the client (a direct client) had briefed me properly on what exactly they expected.

In his excellent book "Revising and Editing for Translators," Brian Mossop explains the importance of the brief as follows:

"The work of both translator and reviser is governed by a brief from the client. The brief is a set of specifications, mainly concerning the users (who will be reading the translation) and the use (why they will be reading it). The brief may also include instructions about preferred terminology, page layout, and other matters.

The various parts of the brief may be obtained in three ways:

- They are explicit: the client states them orally or in writing when the request for translation is made.

- They are unstated but already known from previous similar jobs.

- They are elicited by the translation service, which takes the initiative of inquiring about this or that aspect of the brief.

The brief needs to be known in order to decide on the appropriate translation strategy. Many clients simply "want a translation." The idea that there may be several ways of carrying out this task does not occur to them. Or they may think that the nature of the text implies the brief. As a result, they fail to specify who will be using the translation and why."

Source: Brian Mossop "Revising and Editing for Translators" (St.Jerome Publishing)

Many clients don't actually send a brief as described by Mossop in the above passage, but I think it's an essential part of the preliminary stages of an assignment, especially for longer assignments and projects.

Have any of you ever had problems because of not being briefed properly before starting an assignment? Do you have anything to add to the above?

Thanks in advance for any comments.

Niraja


 

Emma Hradecka (X)  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:47
English to Czech
+ ...
Job sheet May 19, 2009

Dear Niraja,
Even though I haven't had an upleasant experience yet, I know exactly what you mean. I, too, often feel that I don't get enough information (especially from agencies). With my direct clients I use a "Job sheet" where I specify all the dates and deadlines, languages (often the client doesn't realise you have more than one working language and doesn't specify them), payment method (and sometimes I add cancellation fees), etc. I also ask for the TYPE OF TEXT and PURPOSE of the translation (just for info, for company's internal use, to be published etc.). Usually, this information together with the text is enough. But if necessary I give the client further questions.

HTH

Emma


 

Alessandra Martelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 10:47
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
What I usually do May 19, 2009

Hello Niraja!

Actually since now - crossing fingersicon_smile.gif - I didn't have any problems related to the purpose of translation jobs, but to avoid them anyway I usually send a brief containing all the relevant details of the PO (including pricing, deadline, specialty area of the project, layout, delivery format and so) asking the client to kindly check it and notify if there is anything wrong.

This little trick has been really useful to me and is part of my routine when accepting jobs. I know it can be a little boring, but really helps avoiding misunderstanding and other unpleasant matters.


 

Rebekka Groß (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:47
English to German
not quite as formal but as the translator I take the lead in asking for more information May 19, 2009

I have been lucky that the large agencies I work for usually send out detailed information as part of or within the PO as well as style guides for specific projects/clients which are often accompanied by project-specific instructions.

Occasionally, I get requests for a translation of x words by a deadline of y without more specific instructions and I usually just send an e-mail asking for clarification. I don't use forms like other colleagues who've responded here but I do feel that it is part of my job to ensure I have everything I need to get the translation right.

Here are some examples:
1. I may ask to have a look at the text first before I commit.

2. If I've accepted the job, I usually send a number of questions by e-mail asking:
- who the audience is - though that seems to be info I generally received
- if there is reference material, i.e. source in PDF etc.
- if there are previous translations that might help
- links to websites (if it's a website translation)
- if there is a style guide/other instructions
- if there are TMs/glossaries from previous translations

3. I may ask for a formal PO or confirmation that the e-mail and my acceptance of the job are sufficient to go ahead.

etc.

I think asking all the right questions also comes with experience. Nowadays, I know exactly what to ask for to enable me to do a good jobicon_wink.gif


 

Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:17
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Asking questions is very important May 19, 2009

Rebekka Gross wrote:
I think asking all the right questions also comes with experience.


I agree - I think asking lots of questions and really making sure everything is clear is very important. Sometimes, in my enthusiasm to actually get going on the translation, I miss asking about something and have to suffer the consequences later, even after almost seventeen years as a translator!


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:47
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Educating the client is part of our mission May 19, 2009

The client often needs it translated, but doesn't know other details. We've seen translations finished over and over again, so we can offer them guidance, and thus avoid haggling over a discount when the job has to be redone from scratch.

A few recurring examples, though some are specific to my case:

- No single translation will serve both PT-PT and PT-BR markets.,
- If you need a sworn translation of an agreement, get it fully signed, signatures notarized if required, first!
- There is no need to transcribe the script of a video before translating it.
- If you want a video translated, specify if it's for dubbing, subtitling, re-shooting, etc.
- Microsoft Word is not a desktop publishing application.
- Any program capable of printing may generate a PDF file, while converting a PDF file into anything else may be troublesome.
- Though a translator may specialize in some areas of human knowledge, not every translator is able to properly translate anything in their language pair.
- If a translator gives you a generous discount right away, at your first and meekest request, s/he was trying to steal money from you with their previous estimate.
- Translation is a service-providing business like any other. Translators also have bills to pay, and they (usually) work as such for a living.
- Merely owning Trados does not imply doing a perfect translation in no time.
- A translation deals with text. Everything else - e.g. DTP, HTML, VO - is extra, not necessarily done by a translator.
- ...

The list goes on and on, different for each translator and their clientele, however we cannot take for granted that a client knows all that.


 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:47
English to French
+ ...
Quote May 19, 2009

I simply send the client a quotation. This document outlines what tasks I will be performing (and sometimes also mentions what I will not be doing, as appropriate) and what means I will be using to accomplish them. This gives the client an idea of what exactly I will be doing, so they can spot any problems before I even start translating/reviewing away, but it also helps the client appreciate the work I do for them - we all know some clients think they are being generous while our work is supposedly a piece of cake.

I send the quotation upon initial contact, before I even get a PO. That way, the PO is more or less a reply to the quote (written with the quote in mind), and it is much less likely that I have to ask the client to edit the PO. Above all, the client and I both have a clear picture of our dealings and there are no surprises.


 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:47
English to French
+ ...
Yup May 19, 2009

José wrote:

- Microsoft Word is not a desktop publishing application.

- Translation is a service-providing business like any other. Translators also have bills to pay, and they (usually) work as such for a living.

- Merely owning Trados does not imply doing a perfect translation in no time.

- A translation deals with text. Everything else - e.g. DTP, HTML, VO - is extra, not necessarily done by a translator.


I'd say you should draft a manifesto and include these in it. The other ones are all true as well, but these are the ones that caught my eye. In the second item quoted, the word 'usually' between brackets is an eyesore to me - in an ideal word, it wouldn't be there...


 

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:47
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
A brief would be nice... May 21, 2009

It would be lovely if we could all get one of these briefs from our clients for every job.

However, it hardly ever works that way.

So far (*knock on wood*) I have not had any problems due to not having enough information.

If it is a new client, I make sure I check the following before working with them:
1. Blue board rating on ProZ
2. The company's website
3. Project manager's first and last name
4. Address, phone number, and email address of the agency
5. Anything that looks suspicious... for example, if the project manager only identifies himself as "Joe" and the email address is from a hotmail account
6. The agency's payment terms (X days after invoice date)
7. The agency's payment method for paying translators in my country (check, bank transfer, PayPal, etc.)
8. If it's bank transfer, if any fees are taken out of the invoice amount on the agency's side

Then before I start any job, I make sure that at the minimum I have the following information:
1. The word count of the source document (or estimated target word count)
2. The agreed-upon rate in source or target words, and what currency it is
2. The payment method
4. A purchase order number, job number, or other reference number to start the job
5. Contact information for the project manager (cell phone, etc.)
6. What the formatting requirements are, and agreement from the client about what I will charge

It is usually easy to get the information above, and I don't start any job without it.

However, it's the other more subjective information that is harder to get.

Most of my clients don't tell me who the end client is, or who will be reading the document, or what the purpose of the document is. Sometimes they do tell me, but most of the time they don't. I think sometimes the agencies go overboard with trying to protect confidentiality... We could provide better translations if we had a little more information.

I would like to know who the audience is for my translations, and what the purpose is, yes. But sometimes, the client doesn't even know the answer to this. *Sigh*

If something arises in the translation that means that I need to have that information or cannot translate the document/the translation will be compromised, I ask.

[Edited at 2009-05-21 16:11 GMT]


 

Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:17
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Target readership is often implicit in the source text May 21, 2009

conejo wrote:
I would like to know who the audience is for my translations, and what the purpose is, yes. But sometimes, the client doesn't even know the answer to this. *Sigh*


Even if the client doesn't inform the translator who the target readership is going to be, the translator can often deduce this from the source text itself, and, in fact, there are cases when it can be quite obvious. If you are translating operating instructions for kitchen appliances, for example, obviously your target readership is housewives and families. You would then adapt the language and style you use accordingly.

That said, I still think informing the translator of who is going to be reading the final translation should still be part of the preliminary briefing before actually starting work on the text.


 

Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:47
French to English
+ ...
Disagree! May 22, 2009

Niraja Nanjundan wrote:


Even if the client doesn't inform the translator who the target readership is going to be, the translator can often deduce this from the source text itself, and, in fact, there are cases when it can be quite obvious.


I could not disagree more. Assuming a translation's target audience from source text content is a frequent cause of project failure. One of the first things I ask a client is: what is the purpose of this translation and who does it target?

Imagine a scientific document written by specialists in language A whose translation in language B is for John Q. Public?

Cheers,

Patricia


 

Niraja Nanjundan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:17
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Absolutely... May 22, 2009

Patricia Lane wrote:
Imagine a scientific document written by specialists in language A whose translation in language B is for John Q. Public?


....in this case I would ask the client who the target readership is too. However, if you read my previous post carefully, I was referring to things like operating instructions for kitchen appliances, which I feel is something quite different altogether. I also said, that even in this case, I would prefer to be briefed by the client before making assumptions myself.


 

Natalia Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:47
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Wrongly briefed May 22, 2009

I always get either an oral or written brief of the translation to be done.

But on one occasion, they gave me the wrong instructions for a text that was to be published in a Playbill catalogue.
The guy in charge of the thing blacklisted me and told his team never to work with me again... why? Because I was briefed to translate a rather hoity-toity French to a more accessible English that could be easily understood by foreigners who don't speak French but also don't master English. These instructions were in line with the establishment's main policy to make the arts more accessible to the masses.

Unfortunately, this guy disagreed, but instead of asking me to rewrite it in the new language, he hired someone else....and get this, the new translator was a friend of his.
I thought the whole situation was extremely unfair, because it tarnished my professional reputation and didn't give me the opportunity to prove myself. In fact, I think he just manipulated the situation to get his friend in the door.

Ah, office politics, I don't miss it.


 


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