What Does a Translator Need From a Client? Part 2

What Does a Translator Need From a Client? Part 2

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In the first part of this blog post, I wrote about a variety of things that can affect a translator’s workflow within a translation task, primarily focusing on factors that come into play within the actual translation itself. Here, I’ll concentrate a bit more on client input throughout the translation process, and what the client needs to do to ensure that they receive a high-quality translation.

More deadlines

As I wrote in the previous piece, sometimes a client will define the deadline as ‘tomorrow’. Now the issue here is that ‘tomorrow’ can be very broadly interpreted, and this can be problematic, especially for tasks that will take a minimum of a few hours. From the translator’s perspective, it is really helpful if a client is able to give a specific deadline in such a scenario – preferably a precise time, or at least a period of the day (e.g. ‘early afternoon’). As mentioned in a previous blog post, the time has to be taken into account within projects for contingencies – normally to clarify issues mentioned in the previous part of this blog, such as homonyms and abbreviations.

Spelling and grammar

To ensure a quality translation, the original piece sent to the translator needs to be of equally high quality. Spelling errors in the original document not only slow down the whole translation process, but can also lead to unintentional errors in the final product; either because the misspelling was interpreted incorrectly, or (even worse) because the original misspelling was autocorrected into a different word in the original document. Therefore, it’s best that clients carefully check their own work before sending it for translation, because any spelling errors can lead to greater problems down the line, and also the loss of valuable time.

Feedback & communication

As was already mentioned in the first part of this blog post, the Text United platform makes it easy for translators to add queries to individual segments as messages, and equally straightforward for clients to respond to these. Here, one simple rule applies: the more reactive a client is, the faster issues can be resolved.

This can often be critical to achieving a quality translation; sometimes one query will affect multiple segments, and if a client isn’t responsive, the translator will ‘skip’ these segments and return to them later, once the client has addressed the query. Although the segment will still be translated to the same standards, sometimes such an approach can affect the overall flow of a piece, especially if it isn’t double-checked by a native speaker as part of the proofreading process.

What should a client take from this?

Essentially, the key points elaborated over the two parts of this blog post can be summarized as follows:

  • A client should prepare a file for translation carefully, checking for spelling errors, and compiling a list of keywords, phrases, and abbreviations that appear in the document which require adding to the glossary or terminology database. It’s best if these are translated in-house before being added to the glossary at the project launch.
  • When a project is launched, it’s really helpful if a client adds any requests in a short note to the translator. Things that should be included are: precise deadline, any specific characteristics outside of the scope of the dialect norms for the target language (for instance UK dates in a document with US spelling), any word or character limits that the translator should or must stick to for particular segments, and any other information that the translator should know that can’t go directly into the glossary. Also, if at all possible, a copy of the source-language document should be included in its final formatted version, to enable the translator to see where text boxes, labels, figure captions and similar should go.
  • Additionally, a high level of availability and responsiveness of a client is critical to ensuring a quality translation. Ideally, issues should be remedied within 2-3 hours of being brought up by the translator. Sometimes this isn’t possible due to time differences (I often work with clients based in the USA, while I work in the CET time zone), and in such cases addressing these issues should be one of the first things a client does once they start their working day.


Author Bio:

Andrew Lawler is a professional translator based in Belgrade, Serbia. Born in Manchester, UK, he studied Archaeology & Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, before undertaking postgraduate studies in monument and landscape conservation at KU Leuven, Belgium, and then working in the field of architectural conservation. He has been working as a translator for Text United since early 2015. In his spare time, as well as spending time with his children, he devotes himself to mapping and recording Second World War memorials across the former Yugoslavia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina in particular. You can read some of this work here.


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