The Biggest Translation Mistake You Can Make

Communication is key. This is a somewhat trite statement, but is almost always a true one. While there are many translation mistakes that can be made, some of the biggest mistakes relate to improper communication with clients. Luckily, these mistakes are also some of the easiest to avoid. To ensure quality during the translation process, and in the final product, achieving accuracy and properly capturing the intended effect of the text are of the utmost importance. Consider taking these steps to avoid the biggest translation mistake you can make: miscommunication.

Don’t Rely on Translation Memory

Translation memories (TMs) store text that was previously translated in a database format. The text can include specific words or longer fragments of text such as sentences and paragraphs. Clients occasionally provide their TMs to the translator which can be helpful. However, it’s worth noting that a translator should not prioritize a TM as a resource over a glossary or style guide. This is because TMs can contain mistakes, whereas glossaries list already approved terminology that the client themselves has vetted. A glossary can help clear up any confusion a translator encounters regarding word choice. However, if a translator doesn’t agree with a translation or believes it to be incorrect, speaking with the client about the issue and coming to an agreement about how best to move forward is a wise course of action. 

Discuss the Details

A strong attention to detail is a valuable skill to have in any field of work, but especially so in the translation industry. In translation projects, there may be areas of text that are ambiguous or even incorrect. If a translator is unsure about certain aspects of text they are translating or if they are using the ideal word choice, it can be worthwhile to discuss those details with the client. Trickier aspects of translation such as acronyms or areas of text that require transcreation are worth making note of so that everybody is on the same page. 

Request Client Feedback

Asking for client feedback is a strong communication tool that can help the translator learn more about the client’s expectations. It also allows for an opportunity to learn from mistakes made. This feedback is particularly important after taking a translation test. Even if you’ve passed a translation test, you can learn from asking about what you did right. Ask the client questions about what areas of the test they liked or if there are any terms or phrases they would like to be different moving forward. Keep an open mind and learn from their feedback to make your next project even more successful.

Ask The Right Questions

One of the best steps a translator can take to avoid the mistake of miscommunication, is to ask questions. Before, during, and upon finishing a project, it is of the utmost importance to ask the right questions. One area of the work worth clarifying is knowing what a client needs in order to provide an accurate translation. In some cases this may include providing certain context, references, visuals, or guidelines. In other cases, you may need to know if you should prioritize TMs over a glossary, or if you should reference previous published translations.

Never take anything for granted. Throughout the translation process, asking questions can help avoid mistakes and ensure quality. Communicating openly with the client to avoid making unnecessary mistakes will result in a better experience for both parties.

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