25 Things Translators Should Never Do
Thread poster: Suzan Hamer

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:45
English
+ ...
May 6, 2011

I just came across this list on a blog (link below).


25 Things Translators Should Never Do

...Despite the title, many of the don’ts apply more to agencies and their staff. Some to individual translators. And some to any service related job.

1. Never forget to thank the client for requesting a quote (even if you don’t get the assignment).

2. Never assume a new client has used translation services before, or the converse. Some custom
... See more
I just came across this list on a blog (link below).


25 Things Translators Should Never Do

...Despite the title, many of the don’ts apply more to agencies and their staff. Some to individual translators. And some to any service related job.

1. Never forget to thank the client for requesting a quote (even if you don’t get the assignment).

2. Never assume a new client has used translation services before, or the converse. Some customers are new to the experience, and some are savvier than you’d imagine.

3. Never leave a request for information without a response. If you were on vacation/your computer crashed/you’re thinking of a career change, respond to all inquiries no matter how late. “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I hope everything worked out alright,” confirms your reputation as a professional.

4. Never try to impress a client by using industry jargon or acronyms. TRADOS often means little to those in the outside world. In emails and conversations, always use the full explanation of a term the first time it is mentioned.

5. Never tell a client, “That turnaround time is not possible.” Instead try, “Here’s what I can do in that time,” or offer to start delivering parts of the project within the deadline. Chances are good that your client’s deadline isn’t wholly within their control. Instead of relaying to their manager that you said the deadline isn’t possible, they will pick up the phone and call another provider.

6. On the other hand, never promise a deadline you know you can’t meet. You wouldn’t want a plumber promising to fix your only toilet within a few hours knowing he can’t do it until three days later.

7. If a deadline seems tight, do not forget to inquire why it is so. If your client needs to quickly review a document for content, you may be able to deliver a translation “For Informational Purposes Only” by their deadline, and follow up with an edited version shortly after.

8. Never respond to a request for services with an emphasis on how busy you already are with other assignments. You might succeed in showing how in demand you are, but you will likely make them think twice about calling again. Thank the caller for their consideration and drop them a note when your workload lightens up.

9. Never hesitate to be truthful when necessary. “You may need to use another vendor for that assignment,” shows sincere concern for your client’s project and will encourage them to contact you again. This applies to individual translators — who are more accustomed to the practice of referring colleagues — and to agencies too. Offer a lead if you are able.

10. Never let your client hear you denigrate other translators or agencies. Although it is important to get today’s assignment, it is vital to leave a positive impression if you want the client to recommend your services to others.

11. Never miss the chance to show respect for your client’s knowledge of their industry. Focusing primarily on your knowledge of translation may indirectly belittle their input.

12. Never assume you already know everything you need to know about your language pair(s) or specialty(ies). Translation is one of those professions where you can continue to learn and grow if you remain open-minded.

13. Never make excuses for your rate; you are offering a professional service. Do the homework to make sure your rates are within industry standards.

14. Never increase your rate based solely on your perception of the client’s wealth or budget. Their budget is subject to change from month to month, and you might unwittingly price yourself out of a long-term relationship.

15. Don’t be too rigid about turnaround times or pricing. After an initial quote, there are often ways to negotiate your services to save the client money. Ask the client to prioritize price, schedule, and quality, and offer to work around those priorities.

16. Never offer a firm quote without looking at the WHOLE source text.

17. Never forget to ask a client for a style preference or style sheet on especially long or ongoing assignments. It is your job to know that these exist.

18. Never wait to look at the source text. Examine it as soon as possible even if you are in the middle of another assignment. Two hours before the deadline is too late to ask for a more legible copy.

19. Never assume your client has thoroughly examined the source text. You may discover text already in the target language, which is good news; or you may discover text in a third language, which is not.


20. Never contact the client the first time you come across a discrepancy in the source file. The answer you seek may lie somewhere later on in the file.

21. Never barrage your client with petty questions, like “Which do you prefer, “AM” or “A.M.”? Have your own default in-house style guide. If you want to check the client’s preference for small stylistic issues, send a note with the finished translation leaving the client the option of not responding. For example, “I used ‘AM’ in the translation. Let me know if you’d like me to change it.” Although you may be finished with the project, it’s probable that your client is not and does not have time to discuss such matters.


22. Never let the client intimidate you into changing a translation you know is correct. Offer to consult a colleague regarding the proposed changes.

23. As a translator, never charge for reviewing your own translation. It’s a given. As an agency, be clear about what your price includes in terms of editing, proofreading and other QC procedures.

24. Never forget to ask the client to confirm receipt of the delivered translation.

25. Never forget that human translation is an organic product. Be open to reviewing completed translations, be willing to admit mistakes, and be prepared to defend yourself with solid resources beyond, “I’ve been doing this a long time.” You may have been doing it wrong for a long time.

http://yndigotranslations.com/blog/2009/11/12/25-things-translators-should-never-do/

[Edited at 2011-05-06 09:02 GMT]
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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 00:45
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Great! May 6, 2011

Great! These should be our Codes of Conduct and included in our (as freelancers who live on Internet based international clients) quality management processes.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:45
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Some criticism May 6, 2011

Thank you for sharing, Susan. It is pretty obviously written from an agency's point of view, and while many items are useful and spot on for a translator, I disagree with a couple of them.

Suzan Hamer wrote:
3. Never leave a request for information without a response. If you were on vacation/your computer crashed/you’re thinking of a career change, respond to all inquiries no matter how late. “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I hope everything worked out alright,” confirms your reputation as a professional.


It depends on what you mean by "request for information". If a translator is contacted with a potential job offer, and the outsourcer includes a ridiculous rate, why should the translator feel obliged to get back?


5. Never tell a client, “That turnaround time is not possible.” Instead try, “Here’s what I can do in that time,” or offer to start delivering parts of the project within the deadline.


Disagree. With long-standing clients you can obviously be frank. "Sorry, I am fully booked until next Tuesday; I can tackle this translation after that and deliver on Thursday." - is a perfectly acceptable approach. Of course, if you have a new potential client, you may feel that you may pave the way to a long-term relationship better if you do not risk proposing an alternative deadline that may not fit into their schedule. But if your schedule is already so tight that it is impossible to squeeze the new project (or even a part of it) into it, then there is nothing wrong with saying it clearly. Unless you are desperate to get that client. If you are not, your negotiation position is much better.

Chances are good that your client’s deadline isn’t wholly within their control. Instead of relaying to their manager that you said the deadline isn’t possible, they will pick up the phone and call another provider.


This is exactly what I mean by "it is pretty obviously written from an agency's point of view".

7. If a deadline seems tight, do not forget to inquire why it is so. If your client needs to quickly review a document for content, you may be able to deliver a translation “For Informational Purposes Only” by their deadline, and follow up with an edited version shortly after.


Big disagree. If you deliver an unedited version, chances are way too high that there will be some conflict on quality issues. "The client was very unhappy with the first version: not only there were misspellings but the meaning was incorrectly conveyed in two sentences, etc." Or do you plan to attach a disclaimer: "the preliminary version is delivered "as is" and the translator is not liable for any mistakes, misunderstandings, omissions, incorrect interpretations, etc. until the final version is sent". Taking responsibility for your work is an unmovable pillar of professionalism.

10. Never let your client hear you denigrate other translators or agencies.


I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite clients in person and chatting for over 3 hours, sharing a couple of beers. We spoke about some of their competitors - like partners. But OK, that was a long-term business relationship, with a long-standing respect. Perhaps the write of this advice did not mean such a situation.

11. Never miss the chance to show respect for your client’s knowledge of their industry. Focusing primarily on your knowledge of translation may indirectly belittle their input.


This is exactly what I mean by "it is pretty obviously written from an agency's point of view". Translator, be humble!

13. Never make excuses for your rate; you are offering a professional service. Do the homework to make sure your rates are within industry standards.


Agree with the first part only. As for the second part: it is rather vague. In many cases "industry standards" have not been established; in a field where only a handful specialists work they are the ones who set these standards.

15. Don’t be too rigid about turnaround times or pricing. After an initial quote, there are often ways to negotiate your services to save the client money.


I love this "to save the client money!" It definitely sounds better than "to earn less".

20. Never contact the client the first time you come across a discrepancy in the source file. The answer you seek may lie somewhere later on in the file.

21. Never barrage your client with petty questions, like “Which do you prefer, “AM” or “A.M.”? Have your own default in-house style guide. If you want to check the client’s preference for small stylistic issues, send a note with the finished translation leaving the client the option of not responding. For example, “I used ‘AM’ in the translation. Let me know if you’d like me to change it.” Although you may be finished with the project, it’s probable that your client is not and does not have time to discuss such matters.


While these items make good sense, I badly miss a recommendation on raising the flag every time you come across problematic parts in the source text that you cannot resolve. This is something that is very strongly encouraged by quality-oriented clients, who do not consider dealing with such queries as a loss of time but as a commitment to quality. In sweatshops where PMs have little time and attention to devote to projects (and where recommendation #19, "Never assume your client has thoroughly examined the source text" is based on everyday experience), translator queries may not be welcome. You will get answers like "No unresolved terminology, please".

Best,
Attila


 

Cecile Andrade
United States
Local time: 13:45
Member (2010)
Portuguese to French
+ ...
We are tying our hands to the translation cies. May 6, 2011

Although I agree in general with most of these dos and don'ts, however as critical thinkers only our own judgment is to guide us in our individual business practices. That's the reason why we established ourselves as freelancers in the first place. Third parties should not define us per their standards, otherwise we are putting the future of our profession into their hands. They decide the tools we should use, the prices, the payment terms, what should be returned to them together with their tr... See more
Although I agree in general with most of these dos and don'ts, however as critical thinkers only our own judgment is to guide us in our individual business practices. That's the reason why we established ourselves as freelancers in the first place. Third parties should not define us per their standards, otherwise we are putting the future of our profession into their hands. They decide the tools we should use, the prices, the payment terms, what should be returned to them together with their translations, when we should respond, where, what, how... and what else. I am a professional not a puppet (or a slave) of my customers, and I intend to have an equal relationship. They're getting a fair return with the job I am providing...Collapse


 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:45
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree, Cécile. I work with my clients, May 6, 2011

not for them.


Cécile Andrade wrote:
I am a professional not a puppet (or a slave) of my customers, and I intend to have an equal relationship. They're getting a fair return with the job I am providing...


(But I must also say I agree with this from Gandhi:

"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.")



[Edited at 2011-05-06 13:37 GMT]


 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 19:45
English to Russian
+ ...
Another disagree May 6, 2011

If your client needs to quickly review a document for content, you may be able to deliver a translation “For Informational Purposes Only” by their deadline, and follow up with an edited version shortly after.

In this case, deliver either a brief summary, or a finished translation of a few key fragments (whichever the client prefers), but not an unedited translation. Never, ever show the client a job half done - it's a recipe for disaster.


 

Teressa Weaver  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Discrepancies May 6, 2011

It seems to me that it is not necessary to take an all or nothing view to the problem of discrepancies in the source material and to style questions.

Make notes as you go along. After you see that the discrepancy is not going to be resolved in the next paragraph or two, jot it down. When you have collected several of these (or have finished the document) contact your client for clarification. I would contact them by e-mail if they are responsive. It is much less intrusive on eve
... See more
It seems to me that it is not necessary to take an all or nothing view to the problem of discrepancies in the source material and to style questions.

Make notes as you go along. After you see that the discrepancy is not going to be resolved in the next paragraph or two, jot it down. When you have collected several of these (or have finished the document) contact your client for clarification. I would contact them by e-mail if they are responsive. It is much less intrusive on everyone's time.

The same goes for style questions. Ask for a style sheet as suggested. Then, for matters not covered, make another list -- AM or A.M.? May 6, 2011 or 6 May 2011? Send these to the client and note the response. If I hoped to make this a long-term relationship, I would establish a file of preferences.

Also, I love the quote from Ghandi.
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:45
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Conflict? May 6, 2011

Suzan Hamer wrote:
5. Never tell a client, “That turnaround time is not possible.”

9. Never hesitate to be truthful when necessary.


Something of a conflict between these two, I think.

Sometimes, a deadline is not possible because of other commitments. However, far too often it is impossible, full stop. If the client wants 5000 words done in less than 24 hours, that's impossible (at least, it is for me, a mere mortal who needs to eat, sleep and come up for air from time to time). I would prefer to try to educate a client than have him think that someone can click their fingers and hey presto! it's done. Of course, my words may fall on deaf ears, but that's life!



[Edited at 2011-05-06 18:56 GMT]


 

mediamatrix (X)
Local time: 14:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
9. Never hesitate to be truthful when necessary. May 7, 2011

100% bad.

9. Never hesitate to be truthful period

MediaMatrix


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:45
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Such lists are good reminders, but... May 7, 2011

Suzan Hamer wrote:
I just came across this list on a blog (link below).


I think one has to do more than that when it comes to fairness in attribution. To set things straight: the blog article was originally written by Glenn Cain.

1. Never forget to thank the client for requesting a quote (even if you don’t get the assignment).


Yes, it comes down to frequent communication. If you want repeat business, you need to make sure the client thinks about you more than he thinks about the other translators, and using any legitimate reason to send him an e-mail is always a good idea. A good rule of thumb is that you should always have the last word, so to speak. If the client tells you that you didn't get the job, write back and say "feel free to use me next time". If the client confirms you for safe receipt of a translation you sent them, write back and say "it was a pleasure doing it". If a client sends an extra reference file in the middle of a job, write back to confirm receipt, even if the file is useless.

What I want to know (this is off-topic) is why it is normal in English to write "Never forget to thank him" instead of just "Always thank him" (or, since this is a list of don'ts, "Don't neglect to thank him"). Using "never" is soooo dramatic, and if the word is overused, then it won't have the right impact when it really matters, and then it will have to be propped up by extra words, like "never, never ever" or "whatever you do, never" or suchlike.

3. Never leave a request for information without a response. If you were on vacation/your computer crashed/you’re thinking of a career change, respond to all inquiries no matter how late.


Set an out-of-office reply whenever you'll be out of the office for more than an hour during office hours (some translators also set an out-of-office reply overnight, because not all potential clients know about time zones). When you get back to the computer, promptly reply to everyone that you've had a mail from, even if it is clear that they did receive your out-of-office reply. This helps maintain that personal relationship which is so vital to our business.

2. Never assume a new client has used translation services before, or the converse. Some customers are new to the experience, and some are savvier than you’d imagine.


The way I do this, to prevent it looking like I'm talking down at the client, is to ask pertinent questions about the job, in such a way that the client doesn't feel stupid if he doesn't know the answers, and so that the client can learn what type of information is necessary when trying to get a translation done.

7. ... you may be able to deliver a translation “For Informational Purposes Only” by their deadline, and follow up with an edited version shortly after.


Translators fresh out of college often think that they should offer a "gist translation" service along with their regular "high quality transaltion" service, but that really doesn't work. If you deliver a gist translation, the client will never use you again because he will judge you by your errors.

8. Never respond to a request for services with an emphasis on how busy you already are with other assignments. ... Thank the caller for their consideration and drop them a note when your workload lightens up.


Yes... and no. I'd rather tell a client that I'm too busy this week and may be available next week, than to tell him simply "no, can't do it" without any further cushioning of the blow. Writing such a mail and then returning to the client a week or two later would make it look like you're desperate.

9. ...Offer a lead if you are able.
10. Never let your client hear you denigrate other translators or agencies.


Yes, be kind to fellow-translators. When editing, be careful not to comment on the translator, but focus instead on commenting on the translation. Also, if the client sends your comments to the translator, he'll take less offense and may be more willing to admit his mistakes if your comments are about his work and not about him personally.

17. Never forget to ask a client for a style preference or style sheet on especially long or ongoing assignments. It is your job to know that these exist.
21. Never barrage your client with petty questions, like “Which do you prefer, “AM” or “A.M.”?


These are two sides of the same coin, but both are important.

18. Never wait to look at the source text. Examine it as soon as possible even if you are in the middle of another assignment.
19. Never assume your client has thoroughly examined the source text.


Very good points.

22. Never let the client intimidate you into changing a translation you know is correct. Offer to consult a colleague regarding the proposed changes.


No, I disagree -- the client is always right, even if he is wrong. If the client wants you to make changes that you know are incorrect, make sure the client is fully aware that you believe them to be wrong. Alternatively, offer to change things to a middle-ground alternative that is less than ideal but which is less wrong too.

And don't bother colleagues with things that you know are correct -- you may just get a different answer, and then the client ends up trusting your judgment even less.


[Edited at 2011-05-07 09:37 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:45
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Atilla May 7, 2011

Attila Piróth wrote:
Suzan Hamer wrote:
3. Never leave a request for information without a response.

If a translator is contacted with a potential job offer, and the outsourcer includes a ridiculous rate, why should the translator feel obliged to get back?


If it is a broadcast mail, then no. But if the mail is addressed to me personally (and I'm fairly certain that it isn't just a mail merge job), then I would respond with a polite e-mail in which I explain what my usual rates are.

10. Never let your client hear you denigrate other translators or agencies.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite clients in person and chatting for over 3 hours, sharing a couple of beers. We spoke about some of their competitors - like partners.


I think the important point is that if you meet someone in a business context (e.g. over the phone, or at their office (or yours)) you should not diss other translators, but it may be okay to do so in a generalised way in a social situation. Never in writing, though (even if the context is social).

21. Never barrage your client with petty questions...

While these items make good sense, I badly miss a recommendation on raising the flag every time you come across problematic parts in the source text that you cannot resolve. This is something that is very strongly encouraged by quality-oriented clients, who do not consider dealing with such queries as a loss of time but as a commitment to quality.


I agree. If you know that your client is the end-client, or is capable of returning a useful answer in good time, don't hesitate to ask questions about the text.

But if the client is a middleman type of agency, try to resolve problems independently, and remember to tell the client if you had any unresolved issues when you deliver the file.

If the job is long (say, more than a week), send the client all your queries in a single daily e-mail, in a single Excel or Word file, even if your client is a middleman agency -- it shows that you respect the client's time and that you care about quality. It also helps ensure that the PM don't forget to forward a query (if he has to forward several queries over the course of a day).


 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:45
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, Thank you, Samuel. I did not write the article. May 7, 2011

Samuel Murray wrote:

Suzan Hamer wrote:
I just came across this list on a blog (link below).


I think one has to do more than that when it comes to fairness in attribution. To set things straight: the blog article was originally written by Glenn Cain.


I am dismayed that many of the comments start with "Suzan Hamer wrote:". (How's that for punctuation?)

I should have given the author's name. I wanted only to share the article FWIW, and am glad it has stimulated a good discussion.



[Edited at 2011-05-07 11:24 GMT]


 

Sarah Swift  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:45
German to English
No. 15 - tweaking the negotiation triangle May 8, 2011

Anton Konashenok wrote:
Never, ever show the client a job half done - it's a recipe for disaster.

This is true, I think. Even one small error in a rough version, something like the word "not" being typed twice, could seriously distort the meaning of a text and make it utterly unfit for purpose - even if that purpose is not publication. Even punctuation errors can utterly distort the meaning of a sentence.

This is why I would tweak number 15 (while going along with practically everything else in Glenn's original post):

15. Don’t be too rigid about turnaround times or pricing. After an initial quote, there are often ways to negotiate your services to save the client money. Ask the client to prioritize price, schedule, and quality, and offer to work around those priorities.

The triangle for me is not price, schedule and quality - I'm too nervous I might fall into a bottomless abyss if I offer to drop the quality of my output by, say, a measured 10% or 20%. I might be willing to send a client a text with unrevised formatting, but not an unrevised translation.
My negotiating triangle is price, schedule, and payment terms. If the client's payment terms are 60 days from the end of the month in which my invoice is issued plus nine working days, then that client will pay more for the same translation than a client who accepts my standard payment terms of 30 days from the date my invoice is issued.


 


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