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Food for thought

Keep in mind the premises and scenarios presented in my last post while you read more thoughts, examples, and parallels inspired in real-life situations involving the cost-time-quality triangle.

    • One of the forces behind the triangle is precisely the relation between the translators’ income, rates, and working hours. The less language professionals charge, the more they have to work to make ends meet and, most likely, the longer the hours, too. Let’s think of a simple analogy: would you go to a dentist who charges peanuts and have him/her work on your root canal treatment at 9pm knowing s/he has been working almost non-stop since 7am?

    • Translation is a mentally strenuous activity. Professionals who are pleased with what they earn and can afford to work just the right amount of time per day (before their brain starts pouring out of their ears) are more able to focus on their texts, do proper research, revise the material as many times as necessary… Needless to say, all these factors influence quality for the better.

    • In the book The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation, Dagmar and Judy Jenner draw an interesting parallel between selling cars and translations. They first describe the status quo of BMW:

“[T]he German carmaker BMW certainly does not compete on price. Quite the contrary: the prices are very high, but the world is largely in agreement that the company’s cars are worth the price tag because they are well-made luxury cars. The company’s defining characteristic is quality, not price. BMW has perfected the art of differentiating its products by creating the ultimate luxury vehicle. Potential buyers understand that high quality comes at a price, and know that a BMW costs more than a basic Toyota.”

The authors then conclude that a professional translator who has invested time and effort in education, experience, and professional development should strive to make clients understand and appreciate his/her services “for their top-notch quality rather than their price.”

    • Some translators won’t take on rush projects no matter how much you offer to pay. As most of us rely greatly on word-of-mouth marketing, some professionals are more concerned with the quality of their work and their reputation. After all, once a text is out there, very few people will remember—or even know—its production conditions. You might hire a translator saying: “I just need to get the gist of it by tomorrow morning. All I need is something readable.” That’s your need, fine. You pay X times the regular rate and have the translation delivered overnight. Just as any human being working long hours under pressure, translators are more subject to errors, and the text might not be very fluent or smooth. Fine again. However, your boss, business partner, or client might look at the translation, ignoring the conditions in which the text was produced, and think: “What a sloppy translator!” This might be enough to stain a professional’s name, even though s/he delivered the product just as you requested. But let’s not generalize: it doesn’t mean that every rush project is full of mistakes, or that all translators who accept working in these conditions don’t care about their image.

On a lighter note…

By Alejandro Moreno-Ramos

During and after the translation

“Most translators are not looking for glory. […] They simply want the ability to do the best job they can. They want to be proud of the difficult work they do. Giving them a closer relationship with the buyer facilitates that.”
– Nataly Kelly, Common Sense Advisory

This post is the continuation of what was discussed in “Resources and planning” and “The file to be translated.” If you haven’t read those, I’d suggest you start from there. The aim of this series of posts is to give you hints on how to achieve the best results by doing what you can to help the translator do his/her job faster and with greater accuracy. Below are some recommended actions you should take during the translation process itself and afterwards.

  • Respond to your translator’s questions

An inquiring mind usually makes a good language professional. Competent translators and revisers practically “dissect” the text throughout the project. As a result, more often than not they run into inconsistencies, ambiguities, cloudy areas, and the like. Their best shot at solving these puzzles is through the author, who supposedly knows everything the text intends to communicate. So, if you’re the author or have contact with him/her, you’d do well to let the translators know from the start that you can be contacted for clarification.

Here comes the most important piece of advice in this regard: make sure you or your team replies to the translator’s inquiries in a timely manner. Keep in mind that schedules are usually tight and that any unclear word or sentence might interfere in the understanding of the whole message. Sometimes a translator gets stuck and is only able to go on after that bit is clarified. So by responding to your translator’s questions right away, you can avoid delaying the process even more, which is of course in your own best interest. 

  • Send feedback and the revised version of a translation

Now suppose the project is done: you got your translation, read it, started using it… this is the end of your interaction with the language professional (at least until the next project), right? Not quite, unless you intend to use a new service provider every time you need a translation.

Nobody wants to be changing or correcting the same thing time and again. So, if you have someone in your team capable of revising the translation well, have this person go through the translated text (as I said in a previous post, this is a tricky situation I will discuss in the near future). Ideally use a word processor’s track change tool or highlight any alterations. Then make sure to send the revised version to your translator. An experienced professional will know how to analyze the modifications critically and incorporate the preferred styles, terms, words, expressions, or phrases into future texts.

Let’s not forget that most translators today work with translation memory tools (to have an idea of what this is, refer to my last post). Another advantage of this technology is the incorporated search tool: the professional can easily retrieve previously translated content to see how s/he translated words, terms or expressions and the context in which they were used. Needless to say, consistency is a key element in any well-written text and also among different texts of the same company. CAT tools can guarantee 100% consistency if handled appropriately by the translator and updated according to your revisions.

Since healthy relationships involve the exchange of constructive criticism, don’t be afraid of talking about mistakes with your service provider. Conversely, if your translator did an awesome job, go ahead and tell him/her. Committed professionals will be pleased to hear they’re on the right track and will always try to do better.

I started out intending to write a single post about this topic and ended up with a series of three (so far). This is a hint of how much there is to discuss about actions you might take in this regard. Interestingly, in writing these initial posts, I realized that a great deal of this blog will have to do with giving you the right tools to get the most for your money by collaborating with your translator.

I recognize that clients sometimes have no control over some situations. It’s enough that you might now be more aware of the best-case scenario and of the benefits you can get in return. If you decide to follow these recommendations the next time you get the chance, feel free to share the results with us.