While reading The Associate by Jonh Grisham, I came across a thought that resonated with some of my professional experiences as a translator. The main character, a young law school graduate who has just started at the bottom of a large law firm, works in the corporate office basement reviewing documents the entire day. He soon realizes that although the client is being billed $300 per hour, this work is completely meaningless and will never be used. He ends up thinking: “At that moment, his father was either in his office counseling a client through a problem or in a courtroom mixing it up with another lawyer. Regardless, he was with real people in real conversations, and life was anything but dull.”
Now, why does this situation resonate with me? Just as the main character, I sometimes wonder whether my work will be used at all and feel like there is little connection between what I do and the end users. Below are a few general translation industry observations explaining why I feel so occasionally:
- Clients sometimes view translation as a mandatory, but actually useless (zero ROI) investment rather than a marketing tool and a business asset. A great article on this has been written by Terena Bell. As a consumer, I am strongly opposed to this approach, because even though I understand English and German, I still prefer products that come with documentation and interface correctly translated into my native language. Let’s use popular HD media players as an example. With these players, all user interaction is typically happening through a graphic user interface (GUI) on a TV screen. If I buy a media player with a well-localized GUI or read a review that praises excellent translation, I will likely become a fan of this company, which makes me a potential buyer of their next generation products and a supporter who might recommend them to others. On the contrary, when I encounter a faulty GUI, I might lose the respect for the manufacturer and will certainly discourage from buying the product those people who don’t understand the original language and will have to use the localized version.
- Many translators rely on translation agencies as their main source of work and, as a result, don’t get to know or work with the end users of their translations. Also, most translation jobs are assigned and delivered over the Internet these days, taking the personal touch out of the equation. Because I love this personal touch, working with the end client directly is a completely different experience for me. When you meet the client in person and discuss why they need your services and what their expectations are, you feel that your work is important to them. Knowing exactly how the client will benefit from your services helps you feel more connected to the real world and “real people.”
- About 90% of our work doesn’t result in any feedback whatsoever from the end users. This sometimes makes me think that no one even reads those translations, increasing the feeling of being detached from the real world.
- Quite a few translations, in my experience, don’t make it to the end users because the project gets canceled halfway through. For example, a few websites Velior had translated in the past never made it to the web. In such cases, the translator’s work is again useless. The number one reason I guess is that clients are just unsure whether they need a translation in the first place, which makes them opt to cancel the project after a second thought, even if the translation is already at the review or desktop publishing step.
- Some request translations for reasons other than making them available to a target audience. For example, legal documents are often translated for compliance purposes only, not for reading. Just as Grisham’s character’ work assignment, they simply need to be done, but are of no practical use.
The good news, though, is that with most translations we do at Velior, I feel that our translation is important to the client and the effort we put into delivering high quality will be appreciated. That is one reason why I specialize in and enjoy medical translations such as medical device manuals: their users are always expected to read the documentation to make the best use of the products because other people’s lives might depend on this. Knowing that quality is important to them motivates me to improve continually and excel in what I do.
If you enjoy working with a translation vendor directly, just as we enjoy working with clients directly, chances are we are a great match, so contact us today to make sure you benefit from engaging the top Russian translators.