Sometimes us project managers will have some questions regarding the work we are doing. Each client is different, and the situations and relationships with each one of them are unique. One of the issues we constantly face is whether we should ask the client about any questions we may have about the original text, formatting, the intended use of the translation, the audience that will read the text, etc.
No agency has fixed rules about this, but it is a good idea to try to resolve these issues before starting the project; this is the moment where we ask the customer questions such as where the translation will be published, what kind of audience are they targeting, or if they have any specific requirements (all of these questions can be asked during the quoting stage to avoid confusion in the future).
Some clients may not react the way we might hope they would, simply responding “I need to translate this document.” In those cases, that is, when communication and expectations are not clear, we must make sure to get as much information as possible, because we cannot meet expectations unless we know what those expectations are. Often times the best translations are achieved by collaborative efforts among everyone involved, and this includes the client; sometimes their participation is key to guarantee their desired result.
Once the project begins, and before going to the client, we can consult different sources of information should any questions arise; for example, we can investigate the issue in dictionaries or on websites, or consult with our colleagues who have probably done similar work at some point. There are also various translation forums and blogs where we can post our queries.
If the client does not provide an adequate response to our questions, we can also turn to professionals in the area we are translating (i.e. medicine, IT, or legal), as many times they can solve our questions given that they are in contact with that specific vocabulary on a daily basis. Often times the client who sends us files only works in the marketing department, for example, and has no idea who the person that wrote the original text is.
In many cases, clients are very grateful that we take the time to come to them to answer our questions instead of resorting to taking their translation lightly. To maintain good customer relations and to avoid bothersome communications, it is best to collect as many questions as possible and send them together in a single email to the client.
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