Things you should never say to a translator

Posté le 30-09-2015 dans : Non classé

One of the special characteristics of translators is that they are very moody due to the high pressure they are subject to. So you would never want to drive a translator crazy because you cannot expect his reaction. Here are few things you’d better avoid saying to a translator in order to keep his smile.


  1. Can you translate this document in two hours? It’s too short

Who has already fallen into this trap? Sometimes, a client, a friend or a colleague (definitely a non-translator) asks you to do him/her a favour and translate a very small document which wouldn’t take so much time and he/she needs it NOW.

Very happy to do a favour for someone, with a big smile, you accept. Then, you go back to your laptop and discover that the supposedly small document is an Excel document of 59 cells full of technical terms and unknown acronyms.

Generally, it is not due to bad intentions, but non-translators have no idea about the huge effort required to translate some documents. A translator, no matter how excellent he is, must sometimes do research to understand the concepts, grasp the nuances, and get the long expression of an acronym, etc.

Moreover, certain document formats require a little more time, such as Excel or PowerPoint files where sometimes you have to adjust the size of text boxes, for example.

Therefore, it would be great if you give more details about your document such as its format, its size and its field and ask your translator how much time he/she does need to translate it. Do not judge yourself!

  1. It’s only 200 words. Can you do it for free?

In fact, translation is not a hobby. Translators spend long years studying, learning languages, sitting for exams, struggling to gain experience, working in difficult conditions, being underpaid and becoming experts in their field, so it would be unfair to ask him/her to translate a document for free no matter how small is this document. Otherwise, a client can break down his/her 2,000-word-document into 10 smaller documents and expect translators to translate them for him gladly.

  1. Why don’t you give bulk discounts?

Translating is not trading. We are not going to increase our profits when translating in bulk. Translation is time and time is money. The longer your document is, the more time we will need to translate it. Besides, it takes pretty much the same time to translate one 20,000 word document as 4 5,000 word documents.

  1. Your job is so easy!

Some think that translating a text into another language is an easy and stress-free task. In fact, translation is not the mere transfer of a text from one language into another. It is a much more complicated task. It consists of the transmission of meanings, images and most importantly cultures. So it cannot be done efficiently by someone without experience and without the required qualifications and skills. Others think that translation is the most comfortable job and translators enjoy the luxury of sitting at home with pyjamas and typing some words on their laptop. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, as translators, we would argue that our job is the most stressful job at times! Therefore, it is very offensive to tell a translator how easy you think his/her job is.

  1. What does (word) mean in (language)?

It is true that a translator must have an excellent knowledge of the languages he/she translates from and into. However, it doesn’t mean that translators speak all of the world’s languages fluently. If you don’t understand something, we will definitely refuse to translate anything without having the whole context. You may simply get an answer from us if we are in a good mood. Yet, if you see pale faces and a dozen of empty coffee cups on our desk – don’t even try to ask!