Use of indecent language by clients
Thread poster: Jarnail Singh

Jarnail Singh  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:50
Member (2006)
English to Panjabi
+ ...
Jan 15, 2007

Hi all.... Two days ago while I was talking to a fellow translator, I came to know about very very indecent language used by some UK based clients. She told me that they said things she would never dare to tell me. And this all happened because there was a little mistake in the translated file submitted by her.

Technically the client may be right, but as all sensible people would admit that no one is perfect and since childhood we are hearing the proverbs like 'to error is human', little mistakes are bound to happen. And when they happen, do you think that use of indecent language is the only way to get the problems sorted out? What should be the best course to tackle such clients who often have prejudices against commenwealth countries arising out of their colonial mindset?


Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:20
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Don't take it personally Jan 15, 2007

I am working in a company and we have the same problem with one UK client. If he has a problem, he's calling us with the words: Your f*cking machine is out of order....
Unbelievable - but what can you do? I just think, that this is hin way to express himself and I always hope that his machine are running wellicon_wink.gif


ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:20
English to French
+ ...
Harassment laws Jan 15, 2007

In fact, the client may be right that an error was indeed made. However, not only is it unethical and insensitive on their part to use foul language, this kind of incident is actually covered by harassment laws in a number of countries.

I can only speak for what I know of Canadian law (similar laws surely exist in the UK). A long time ago, I was working in a call center, and part of our training was about harassment (when you work at customer service, you get many angry clients on the phone and it is not uncommon that they let themselves loose on representatives). We were taught that the country's anti-harassment laws proscribe any indecent language as well as agressive behaviour (threats, yelling, etc.) when communicating with clients, colleagues, superiors or employees. In your friend's case, it would be communicating with a client. What we were taught to do is to politely inform the "harassor" that such language will not be further tolerated, and to inform the client of the laws empowering us not to tolerate it. Our instructions were to hang up on any client who, despite such warnings, kept displaying a harassing behaviour.

I am unsure how this law would apply in your friend's case, if a law in his or her country would indeed apply. If there is such a law, I would inform the client of it. Furthermore, I would not be surprised that your friend would have the right not to communicate further with the client, whether the contract is completed or not - he or she would have to check this. If he or she has the right to invoke this law to stop further communicating with the client, he or she can choose to use this. However, as with all legal matters, proof is often required (in Canada, you can record a person without informing them if you are present during the recording - if it's a phone conversation being recorded, you have to take part in the conversation, and if it is through e-mail, your e-mail address should be in the To or Cc line), and once more, as in many cases, he or she may lose a client in the end. The question is: are there any ways to prevent such situations from repeating themselves with this client so that he or she will not have to lose the client? Is there a way to reason the client so they express regret and refrain from communicating in such manner in the future? If the client keeps being offensive, I would rather leave the client. I am willing to work hard, go the extra mile, be careful to provide the client with the best possible translation, but I would never put up with a client who uses foul language to make themselves understood. There are always civilized ways to get a message across. As many have said before me, it is always vain to resort to any kind of violence. Chances are, someone who buys translation services is civilized enough to be able to use other means to get themselves understood.

All the best to your friend!

P.S.: Personally, I would not bother with such a client. I would close the account and inform the client politely why I deleted them from my list of clients.

[Edited at 2007-01-15 07:01]


Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:20
English to Turkish
+ ...
Moved the topic... Jan 15, 2007 Business Issues.



Alan Johnson  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:20
German to English
Drop 'em Jan 15, 2007

Capesha wrote:

Unbelievable - but what can you do?

The thing I find unbelievable (apart from the original problem) is that somebody needs to ask this kind of question!

If I had to read this kind of thing from _any_ client, it would be the last time, finito, Schluss, Aus, Feierabend, goodbye. Don't stand for it. You cannot allow yourselves to become so reliant on one client that you need to suffer this treatment, mistakes or not.

jelly_gill, tell your lady friend to drop this client.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:20
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
A soft answer turns away wrath - is another proverb. Jan 15, 2007

Clients can get very frusrated when they find errors. They are human too.

When I worked in house for an agency, I had a colleague who was very good at calming clients down, and often he would get them to explain the problem, and he would find a solution.

He did not always accept the blame either. He would patiently explain that everything - almost - can be said in several ways, and then he would try to find the way the client liked best. Sometimes he explained why it was NOT a mistake, and the client learnt something new. Technical or legal language does sound odd now and then.

Even if the agency's translator had not directly made a mistake, sometimes he would make a small change, and then the client did not lose face.

Not everybody has that diplomatic gift, but I learnt a lot from that colleague.

However, if the client went on using bad language, or would not explain precisely what the problem was, then my colleague would quietly say: 'I'm sorry, I can't help you,' and put the phone down.

You cannot earn money working for people who are never sastisfied, and you cannot work well if you are always half afraid of an abusive client. Let them find someone who can meet their requirements, if such people exist.

*** *** ***
Quite another point: the old colonial mindset should be dead and buried long ago, and not everyone shared it.

My father's family worked and traded in India for four generations, and were always conscious that they were guests in your country, from the mid nineteenth century until 1962.

My father was invited back to India because his special expertise was needed, but he is now extremely proud to tell everyone that his students became greater experts in their own right. I knew some of them, and some of their children myself.

If you are not respected as business partners and colleagues on an equal footing by your clients, then find other clients. This is, after all, the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth!

Best wishes


Kemal Mustajbegovic  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:20
English to Croatian
+ ...
Alen is 100% right! Jan 15, 2007

No one is allowed to talk to me like that. If someone tries I just turn my back and walk away. Forever. No questions asked, no arguments. End of a story.


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:20
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
My standard reply to verbally abusive clients Jan 15, 2007

In an calm, friendly, concerned voice -- and without enough of a pause for them to speak -- I say: "You're obviously *very* upset. I'm going to hang up now, but I'm here till five o'clock, so whenever you feel calm enough to discuss this, please feel free to call back and we'll try to find a solution, okay? Bye-bye." Click.

If they phone back in less than 30 seconds, I let the call go to voicemail. Otherwise I pick it up.

If verbal abuse happens twice with the same client, I end the business relationship.

[Edited at 2007-01-15 15:10]


Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
abuse is unacceptable Jan 15, 2007

Kemal Mustajbegovic wrote:

No one is allowed to talk to me like that. If someone tries I just turn my back and walk away. Forever. No questions asked, no arguments. End of a story.

I agree with Kemal and with Steven. Stay calm, but be firm. There is no excuse for abuse and allowing it only let's continue.


Melina Kajander
English to Finnish
+ ...
"Colonial mindset"..? Jan 18, 2007

jelly_gill wrote:What should be the best course to tackle such clients who often have prejudices against commenwealth countries arising out of their colonial mindset?

Is it just me or did anyone else find this phrase quite offensive..?!
I'm not a Briton (even though I live in the UK), and of course no one should use indecent language in business relations, but this is really an insult - how can you tell whether someone's language usage is due to a "colonial mindset", just because the client is from UK?!

As for the original question, it is of course more or less rhetoric - we all know we shouldn't use indecent language, especially in business relations, there's no place for it there, so we all know what to think of such people, don't we...?

[Edited at 2007-01-18 10:59]

[Edited at 2007-01-18 11:00]


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