I will start my post today by telling you a story.
At AZ World, we used to translate for a training/coaching company. Working with the material was entertaining, fun and enriching for all of us, and this was ongoing for a couple of years. At some point, we became so accustomed to the client that they could send their material at the last minute and we would try to accommodate their translations. Usually, I would receive a call late in the afternoon asking if we could translate for first thing the next morning and we always tried to fit them, but at some point, we stopped hearing from them….
I called our main contact and was told that the quality was no longer there, that they had found words mistranslated…
The first thing I did was to apologize to the client and then I asked a few questions:
Did you find spelling mistakes? No
- Did you find typographic or formatting mistakes? No
- Did you find mistakes in the translations? Once, they found one mistake…one sentence was a negative and was translated into a positive.
- What do you mean by mistranslated words? Some words that you used were not known by the people who used the material. Some other words could have been better.
I apologized again and I was sad for a while…I liked the client and their material but after a few days of analyzing the conversation, I thought:
We provided translations without spelling, typographic or formatting mistakes, in short notice. The client was aware that we could not accommodate a proofreader.
- We mistranslated one sentence in over 70,000 words…. that was done in a document that was sent at 8AM and was requested before 2PM
- About the mistranslated words… we had asked the client after every document we sent to let us know if there were comments, feedback or something we could do better in order for us to change and improve the translation memory… We never heard from the client until we were told that our work was not “that” good…
- More than a year has gone by and the client is still using our material with very few changes…
From this experience I reconfirmed that we translators are not mind readers and that we cannot assume that because a company is in the communications business they will communicate with their suppliers too.
To summarize my point today, your material needs to be checked if:
The original material was carefully and thoughtfully prepared for accuracy, consistency, grammar and style.
- It will be circulated or published.
- The accuracy might endanger lives/money.
It deserves the same attention when it is translated because you want your company and your name to look professional, and the document deserves the same attention after it has been translated.