How to achieve better translation through customer communication


It’s happened to all of us – one minute, you’re cruising along, translating a long passage, rhythmically hitting the keys as you move between the source and target texts. The next minute, you spot something in the source that makes you stumble. Losing your rhythm, you wonder what to do next – do you assume it’s an error and fix it in your translation? Should you contact the customer and clarify? What if they don’t reply before the job expires?

The answer lies with the comment section where you can reach out to the customer. All great translations start with a translator and customer working together. Only through this partnership can a translation satisfy the customer’s needs.

Communicating with the customer shouldn’t be seen as a chore, but an opportunity to build a better relationship and create the best possible translation together. Read on for your guide to communicating your way out of your next translation pickle!

1. Reach out and clarify with the customer

Make communicating with the customer a part of your everyday. When a piece of text can have multiple meanings depending on where it’s used — ask the customer for more context, specifically whether this will be seen on a website, made into a sign or be printed. If you see an error or inconsistency in the source — let the customer know and ask for clarification. As Kay-Victor, a Pro-level translator, writes, make it clear to the customer that a passage needs to be clarified because “your intent is to provide the best translation for the customers’ needs.” Customers will be sure to respond if they know answering your query will help them in the long run.

2. Be courteous, polite and professional

When writing a comment to the customer, always aim to be polite and professional. If you’re in a difficult situation where a customer is suggesting to use a translation you may disagree with, explain the reasons for your word choice and why you believe this is the best option. As Barry, a Pro Japanese to English translator, points out, “Providing the incorrect translation for this client will detriment them, even if they’re not aware of it right now.” Keep yourself in a customer-focused mindset and remember, even if the customer is being difficult, politeness always wins in the end!

3. Offer suggested translations

Customers may not be aware of aspects like politeness levels, different genders or words with multiple meanings. If you are up against one of these or a situation where multiple translations are equally correct, provide these options to the customer and include a brief explanation of the differences. Giving customers several well-explained choices will make it easier for them to provide an answer to your question.

4. Always polish and proofread your comments

Before submitting your comments, make sure they’re free of errors. Customers and anyone else reading your message will be more receptive to well-written, clear and concise questions.

Do always keep in mind that Gengo has supported and unsupported content as well as multiple tiers that customers can choose when ordering. If you believe the translation content is not supported or it was ordered at the wrong tier – please flag the job and contact the Support team.

Read our forums for more tips left by our translators and leave your own in the comments below!


Olga Kuchuk

The author

Olga Kuchuk

Olga leads all things Translation Quality at Gengo. Born in Latvia to a Russian family, she moved to Canada and now lives in Tokyo. Linguistics degree in hand, she became a certified Russian to English translator. When not studying to become native in Japanese, you can find her climbing walls or traveling to see the hidden beauty of Japan.

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