Asking Questions: A Client's Perspective

Last year, we wrote a blog post about the sometimes challenging issue of knowing when it is appropriate to ask the client for clarification regarding any issue that arises during a translation project. Many new translators are quite afraid of asking the client, and prefer to ask questions on industry forums and listservs, which can be helpful. 

Ask and you might get the answer.
However, many times, the client might very well be the only one who has insight into something like, for instance, a company-internal acronym that no colleague in the world could possibly know. We think it's important to go straight to the source (read: client) in order to make the translation process efficient, but can certainly understand that translators -- both newcomers and experienced -- don't want to bug their clients too much. However, we do think that one fear is unfounded: that the client might think you don't know what you are doing if you ask a question. Quite the contrary. Asking questions (relevant ones, that is) can show the client that you really care about this project and that you are putting great thought and care into the translation. Here's what a dear client of ours told us a few days ago about this very issue. This client also happens to be a friend, and she mentioned what she likes about working with us, which made us very happy. Here's summary of what she said. We think it's quite important to hear the client perspective, so we are sharing it here: 

  • I like the fact that you sent me a few questions grouped in one e-mail that I could answer on my smartphone. I knew the answers right away and didn't have to do any research.
  • I was pleased that you identified some areas that were company-internal, and that you reached out to me for clarification. There was no way you could have known these terms, as we created them, and it showed me that you cared.
  • In terms of level of communication, I was happy because you didn't bombard me with e-mails but you didn't go completely silent either. I heard from you during the translation process and was able to keep my boss updated.
  • You made me look good, as the translation was spot-on and I felt involved in the process. After all, I am the one who convinced my boss to have this text translated.
Of course, for every great experience like the one we have described above, there might be others where you ask questions and the client simply doesn't answer, doesn't have the answer, or says she will research it, but you never hear back. 

What about you, dear friends and colleagues? Have you had good/bad experiences when reaching out to the client with any questions you had? We've love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 

Friday Challenge: Advertising Translations

As seen at the Athens airport.
This past week, we spent a glorious week in Greece with Judy's hubby and our dear translator friends Catherine Christaki and Christos Floros (more on that fantastic vacation in a future post) and we saw a lot of clumsy attempts at English -- think menus, flyers, ads, etc. 

We oftentimes ask Keith, our resident native English speaker (and a funny, sarcastic attorney with a very dry sense of humor) what he thinks about the ads that have been translated, mostly very poorly. It's interesting to hear his perspective. As a non-translator, he isn't immediately put off by bad language. Rather, he either just doesn't get the ad, ignores it, moves on, or decides he doesn't want the product (this recently happened with an Austrian Airlines ad, which had Keith shaking his head in disbelief). He doesn't speak another language, so he can't really deduce the message's meaning based on the source text. It's fascinating to pick his brain about language and its impact. In general, he thinks about language significantly less than we do, which isn't surprising.

When we showed him the ad that we've included above, he said he certainly understood what was being said, but that he also thought it was funny because it's missing a noun. Translating any sort of advertising is a very challenging undertaking, and we have many fantastic colleagues who tackle who are really good at it. We don't know if this is a translation or a clever (or not clever?) language experiment, but German company Jacobs is using the slogan "Experience the perfect." It's not terrible (and it's certainly different and attention-catching, which is the point of advertising) and one could  construe it as a clever attempt at molding and shaping the language into something new (after all, language changes and evolves). And of course, advertising language has been pushing the envelope for decades. Alternatively, it may just be a bad translation. Your opinion might depend on your perspective and perhaps on the languages you speak and your tolerance for new advertising speak. Another question is this: is the world ready for the nounification of adjectives? Perhaps? Are we ready for "the perfect"?

What about you, dear colleagues? What do you think? Would you have come up with something entirely different or stuck with the straight-up translation? We could not verify this on the Jacbos website, but perhaps the original German was "Erleben Sie Perfektion."Do you think the existing translation (assuming that it is) is mortifying or is it good enough? Does it communicate the message, which is the point of translation? Or do you think this was created from scratch in English and is meant to push the language envelope? OK, those are too many questions for a Friday afternoon (in Europe), but it's food for thought. We'd love to hear your opinions on this.  We find this topic very interesting, and we hope you do, too.

Video of the Week: Are Translators a Waste of Space?

Many thanks to the Norwegian Association of Literary Translators for creating this gem. It's only a few minutes long, and it's not what you think it is. Watch one of the most clever videos we have seen all year! In case you want to share it, here's the direct link to the YouTube video.

Business Cards: The Next Level

Very clever format.
During the fantastic V Conferência Brasileira de Tradutores do ProZ in Recife, Brazil, last month, Judy had the opportunity to spend some time and share some drinks with Portuguese translator Elenice Barbosa de Araujo. We'd both had the chance to meet her back in 2010 at the ATA Conference in Denver, Colorado, and we remember being very impressed by her creative business cards, which were actually a bookmark (brilliant, since she translates a lot of books). When Elenice saw Judy again in Recife, she gave her the new version of her business cards -- a very slender, slick, work of art that's in a much different format than we've ever seen before. Judy's quite standard cards pale in comparison. We have included two pictures of Elenice's card next to Judy's so you can see the difference in size -- and you can also see how much cooler they are.
The front of Elenice's card.

Elenice told us she ordered these cards from, and we've seen their work before and find it quite fabulous. She even has a cute card holder that's just the size of her business cards! I think it might be time for us to switch from good old Vistaprint to very cool Moo. 

What about you, dear colleagues? Who designs and prints your business cards? Is it time to up the ante? Dagy already has, and hired a designer to come up with her new business cards. We will blog about them soon!

How Not to Treat Your Customers

We really enjoy learning from other businesses -- or learning what not to do . We think it's important to occasionally look outside our own profession for customer service inspiration or marketing ideas, and once in a while, we get treated the way we wouldn't want to get treated, and we make a mental note. Here's a recent conversation (slightly changed to protect the innocent) that Judy had with a pest control company. It reminded us how important it is to explain one's product or service to the potential customer without sounding condescending.

Pest control place: (mumbling) Pest control.

Judy: Um, hello, is this XYZ pest control on Bugkiller Avenue?

Pest control place: Yes.

Judy (thinking: "I don't feel very welcome here"): Well, um, I have ants everywhere, can you come out and give me an estimate? How much would it cost to get rid of them? I feel bad for killing them, but I don't want them in my cereal....

Pest control place (cutting Judy off): We don't need to come out to give you an estimate. We can just tell you over the phone.

Judy (annoyed): Well, OK, do tell me, then.

Pest control place: I need more information.

Judy (annoyed): OK, what do you need to know?

Pest control place (annoyed): Well, you know, the basics.

Judy (annoyed): Basics? I don't know anything about your business, so I don't know what the basics are. You haven't told me how you charge, so I don't know which information you need from me. Just ask and I will tell you.

Pest control place (annoyed): Well, my dear, it's by square footage, so I need the square footage of your house.

Judy: OK, why didn't you tell me that sooner? It's 1,800 square foot with a big yard. I also have a 100-pound Labranard, her name is Luna, and she doesn't like the ants, either, but I am not sure that matters.

Pest control place: That would be $150.

Judy: $150 for what?

Pest control place: To spray for ants. Or did you say you had cockroaches?

Judy: I get that, but how many times? How long will it take? What kind of products do you use? Is it safe for my dog? Do I have to leave the house? You seem very reluctant to give me information here, and I don't understand that. I am trying to give you business here. Where do you spray the chemicals? On the wall?

Pest control place: Why would we spray the chemical on the wall?

Judy (exasperated): I have no idea where you spray it -- I am not in the pest control business. I am merely asking questions, but you are not answering them.

Pest control place: I am sorry, I am just not feeling very good today. I apologize if I've been grouchy.

Judy: I hope you feel better, but I really don't think this is going to work out. I feel like I've inconvenienced you terribly with this phone call, so I don't want to inconvenience you any further by giving you my business.

Pest control place: I am so sorry! Look, we use an all-natural spray that's safe for pets and children. You don't have to leave the house at all. It will take about 20 minutes and we spray the baseboards in the house and also in the backyard.

Judy: I appreciate that, but I don't think your company is a good fit for me.

Pest control place: Please give us another chance!

Judy: I will think about it. Have a lovely day!

We think it's a powerful lesson to remind ourselves that our customers -- the direct clients purchasing translation and interpreting services -- most likely don't know anything about translation and interpretation. That's where we come in. It's our job to explain to them what a source word is, why we bill by the word, etc. It doesn't make them uneducated not to know these details; rather, it's simply not their area of expertise, and as providers, we need to clearly explain the process to them. This is something linguists oftentimes forget, but instead of complaining about clients who are unfamiliar with our processes, we should see the situation as an opportunity for client education. 

We would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Job in Las Vegas: Hispanic Marketing

At a networking event  a few weeks ago, a colleague mentioned to us that her agency was looking for an Hispanic marketing expert to join her team. We volunteered to post this here in case this is just what you've been looking for! While this is not a translation position, it's in a closely related field, and it looks quite interesting. Please note that the job is located in Las Vegas, NV. BRAINtrust is a cleverly named and well-respected marketing and communications agency in Nevada with many high-profile clients, and from what we hear, it's a great place to work. 

To apply, please contact Gabriela Raguay, Senior Account Executive. 

This is the job posting that BRAINtrust sent us. We don't have any additional information beyond what's posted here, so if you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to the hiring manager. 

Account Executive with Hispanic Market Experience

BRAINtrust Marketing + Communications seeks a versatile and dynamic individual to join our growing Hispanic Marketing Division. The successful candidate will have solid knowledge and experience within the multicultural market. The candidate will develop campaigns in the areas of marketing, advertising, public relations and social media that are culturally relevant to the Hispanic Consumer Market. In addition, some account management duties will include the general market, as well.

Founded in 2006, BRAINtrust Marketing + Communications is a Las Vegas-­‐based full-­‐ service marketing agency that offers advertising, marketing, public relations and creative design services. (

The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and ability required. Applicants should also have experience in the essential duties outlined above.

  (2-­‐3 or 3-­‐5) years agency experience
  Ability to read, write and fluently communicate in English and Spanish is a must
  Good understanding of the U.S. Hispanic consumer market
  Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Public Relations, Marketing or some other related field
  An ability to work individually on a project or in a team environment
  Demonstrated ability to manage details, efficient work habits, and overall flexibility
  Outstanding organizational skills and the ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously while meeting deadlines
  Must be able to prioritize tasks in a fast-­‐paced environment along with the ability to accept interruptions as part of the routine
  Social media experience a plus

This is a challenging and rewarding full-­‐time position with a rapidly growing, stable, mar­keting agency that offers full benefits and competitive compensation packages.
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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