Thursday, April 1, 2010

Client Education & Translation Processes

Yesterday I went to the Barnes & Nobles text book store on 5th Ave. and 18th Street in Manhattan (New York City). The store bills itself as "the largest bookstore in the world" on some of its windows facing 18th Street. Not finding any books on translation theory or practice in likely sections (Foreign Language, Linguistics, Reference), I asked a store clerk. After looking my request up on a computer, he announced that the store didn't carry a single book on translation.

In the March 2010 ATA Chronicle (the American Translators Association's magazine), Howard Clark calls the U.S. "an immigrant-based, yet largely language-ignorant society" in his opinion piece "Clients, Freelancers & Translation Agencies: Productive Partnership or Missed Opportunities?" It seems to me his assessment is spot-on. Mr. Clark then continues that, given this fact, "client education is critical".

Right again, but how do we, as translators, educate an end client whose identity we may not even know? This should be the translation agency's responsibility, but in my experience in the real world of short deadlines and tough competition for large projects that education is frequently given short shrift. If we work directly for end clients, our chances of explaining how translation works and what is required for a sucessful, high-quality product, are much better.

One resource for doing so is the American Translators Association's Client Outreach Kit. Another is a page on our workflow, either posted on our website or sent to prospective clients along with other promotional literature. The advantage of such a page (which agencies sometimes already have) is not only client education, but also a way for translators to learn best practices from each other. Maybe another translator has already found a solution to an issue I am still struggling with. If he/she has posted his/her translation process, I can profit from his/her experience, rather than having to re-invent the solution.

While each of us works a little differently, much of the process is likely the same -- or at least very similar -- for all of us. Through sharing our own workflows, we may be able to define a relatively standard process for non-agency projects. Such a standard process would, in turn, simplify client education. End clients would have a better idea what to expect when hiring a translator and may therefore be more likely to actually provide the resources and time we need to produce a high-quality translation.

Based on Linda L. Gaus's "Top 10 Pet Peeves of a Technical Translator" (ATA Chronicle, February 2009), here are some items to be incorporated in educating clients about translation processes:

  • Provide context
  • Provide reference materials
  • Provide specialized terminology
  • Have time for questions
  • Don't assume you speak the target language better than the translator
  • Proofread/edit the source documents
  • Finalize the text before translation begins
  • Provide diagrams/illustrations where appropriate
  • Empower one person to decide translation questions
  • Schedule sufficient time for the translation

Look for a future post on my own workflow and ideal translation process.


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