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Ten things a translator needs – number 7

This seventh post in our series deals with patience.

A translator’s life sometimes has more than its fair share of frustration, so patience really is a virtue.

A common case in point is when the client sends late changes or additions to a job shortly before the deadline. This is particularly frustrating when there’s a stack of other work waiting. Obviously, no client will change a document just to annoy the translator, but it can be difficult to avoid muttering unkind words under one’s breath. The best coping strategy is to look at it as an opportunity to demonstrate responsiveness, calmness under pressure and good version management...

Patience is also important when dealing with unrealistic requests. We’ve all been there – the 30-page document needed for the next day, for example. Clients with little or no experience of translation often have no idea of what is feasible and what isn’t. And even if the deadline is reasonable, there may be additional requirements that are difficult or impossible to meet. A classic example would be insisting that a heading or slogan that consists of one word in the original document should only consist of one word in the translated version. It can be really difficult to persuade a client that what can be conveyed with one word in language A would need two or three words in language B.

Another situation that calls for patience – and often a bit of diplomacy – is being asked to proofread a translated document after it has been laid out by the client and finding that things like quotation marks have been “corrected” by a well-meaning DTP operator because they deviate from familiar usage. This kind of error will make a very poor impression on the target audience, so despite the frustration it’s good to have a chance to fix it.

Overall, patience is definitely an important life skill for any translator.

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