The Importance of Being Earnest – or always better to ask for a clarification

Of course, most of you will know the fantastic play by Oscar Wilde. I remember studying it in my English class, thinking how clever this man was. Inspirational.

And one more reason to give further credit to this great personality comes to mind when I think about the translation industry.

One of the first thing your clients shall do is being earnest. Or to use a tiny bit more modern word, simply… clear. Since the beginning.

I reckon misunderstandings are one of the many problems in the client-translator interaction, especially when on tight deadlines – for which most professionals have now developed black belt skills to tackle.

How many e-mails containing clear sentences like ‘Please refer to the PDF for useful terms’ or again ‘Please make sure the translation is consistent with the existing copy’ have you received so far? Thousands!  And you think: wow, thoughtful client, s/he sent the previous work!

And then, zac! It’s just there, it’s there where you are proved wrong. The trick? It’s that the previous work is what it was said it was: (just) reference. So most of the time you get puzzled clients’ e-mails saying that ‘the translation doesn’t match the original‘. And there you go, thinking: ‘Wasn’t I supposed to get “inspiration from the existing copy” to maintain the consistency?’. Bah.

Both you and your client are basically right, so no worries: no major problems here.

But the purpose of this short story is reminding all of us of one of this industry’s golden rules – but I’m sure it does apply to many others these days – ie. to always ask. Ask twice. Ask for a clarification. Get tired asking!

Ask your client whether s/he mean X or Y because even though you are afraid you’ll come across as very pedantic, trust me: it’s for the (your) best!

Till the next one,







About Val

London-based Rainy London Translations is offering a full range of top quality interpreting, localisation, translation, consultancy and voice-overservices for both businesses and individuals. Need something else? Just ask! It may sound like a cliché, but just get in touch: what you need can be done, at a reasonable price. Valeria is also offering a 'branding' clinic service, to help freelancers find their perfect business name or polish the existing identity by finding a logo, a tagline with sound creative consultancy. Based in the City of Westminster area, the heart of London, UK, since August 2011.

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