How not to drive your translator insane |

How not to drive your translator insane

Today, we are lucky to have a true language lover – Siskia Lagomarsino who has written a guest post for us! Siskia is a proud translator by trade and has been working with English, Spanish and Japanese for almost half of her life. She currently lives in Mexico City and keeps a language blog at The Polyglotist.

How not to drive your translator insane

We translators are a funny bunch. We come into this profession through a number of different paths and for various reasons, but so far I’ve met very few good translators that weren’t in love with their job. I mean it! It’s a profession made in heaven for the inquisitive and the geeky, and since we love it so much, we always strive to turn in the best final product we possibly can.

That is, until we have our toes stepped on. Then this normally cheerful bunch morphs into a hunched mass at the desk, moaning about how nobody understands the hardships a translator goes through.

Happy translators hand in the best and the speediest translations, and will be happy to work with you again as long as you know how to not to drive us mad! The following pointers may come in handy to help us stay sane and deliver fast, high-quality translations.


Nothing beats clarity

When do you need your translation delivered? In what format? Is the translator to use CAT tools? How much does he charge per translated page, and how many words to a page? How many pages/minutes/frames?

All these (and many other questions) are information your translator needs answered in order to provide you with the best service he or she can give. In paper they sound incredibly fundamental and not something a client that knows his business would do, but you’d be amazed at how many times this exchange takes place:

Translator: “When do you need this translation delivered?”

Client: “I don’t know… when can you deliver it?”

Some people think they’re being nice by asking this, and we appreciate the intended kindness, but most of the time translators ask this because your translation isn’t their only task at hand. Some have other clients, some others handle different tasks in their company. We’ll do our best to accommodate you… as long as you have a projected date of delivery.


Don’t haggle

Would you try to haggle the price of your frappe macchiato at Starbucks? If you wouldn’t, then don’t try to haggle the price of translation work.

In prior occasions, clients have asked me for a “buddy budget” (based on knowing me from outside work), been downright rude and threatened to take their business somewhere else if I didn’t lower a price that was already low, and even begged on the basis of being start-ups with almost no budget.

When trying to figure out the price of a commission, there are two things to keep in mind: the size of the translation project, and the frequency of a language pair. Figuring out the first one will help you figure out if your request qualifies as bulk to be delivered in one go (for which some translators charge less) or as a long term project to be delivered in several installments (for which other payment systems can be negotiated).

As for the second one: supply and demand, ladies and gents! There are about a million more English-Spanish translators than there are Italian-Hindi ones, and therefore their tariffs differ drastically. If you’re asking for a translation between rarer language pairs, expect for the price to be higher.


Mind the time difference

Speaking in general, modern translators are very open to working internationally and sticking to their client’s time zone when required. I personally always set a second clock to a client’s time zone when I’m working globally.

However, I’ve met more than one translator more than slightly miffed at the client’s tendency to contact them in the wee hours of the night.

As I said earlier on, be clear from the onset. Inquire about the translator’s business hours. Send an e-mail a few hours before calling. If it’s an emergency, be polite and don’t be surprised if your translator sounds as though he or she “isn’t all there”. After all, we need to get some rest to deliver the best possible final product to you, don’t we?

Whatever your needs may be, a good translator will always work their hardest to comply. However, you’d be surprised at how smooth your relationship with your translator or translation company will become if you follow this advice!