By Marion Rhodes
English~German translator

Last week, I received the following email in my inbox:

“Top of the day to you,
I kindly need a tranlator for an article, Kindly get back to me if you’re interested.
Thank You.”

First things first – this is obviously a scam, given away by the bad grammar and spelling, lack of identification, and the random gmail address of the sender. However, scammers are not the only ones who don’t know how to approach a translator about potential services. Unfortunately, perfectly legitimate potential clients may be mistaken for scammers unless they know how to talk to a professional translator. Here are a few tips.

1. We cannot read minds

Translators have many skills, but being mind readers isn’t one of them. If you need a translation, it only makes sense to tell the translator which languages you had in mind. I know I am an English-German translator, but I cannot be sure that you know this as well. Would you like German into English, or English into German? So please, tell us what language combo you are looking for.

2. We like to know our clients

You don’t have to share your social security number or the name of your first-born child with us, but we translators like to know with whom we are dealing. That means you need to give us a little bit more than just your first name and your gmail address. Please do us a favor and introduce yourself in as much detail as possible, but certainly with your first and last name, the company you work for (if any), and where you are located.

3. We need information to provide information

If you are looking for a quote, we need as much information about the project as possible. How long is it? What type of text is it? What is the subject matter? What is the target audience and the purpose of this text? What file format can you provide and do you need in return? All of those pesky little details will ensure that you get an accurate estimate of what it will take to translate your document.

4. We appreciate cooperative efforts

Providing documents in file formats that are easy to work with (.doc or .odt comes to mind) goes a long way toward putting you in our good books. If you are able to provide some background information, a style guide, and (dare I say?!) a glossary, you might just be on the way to becoming our new favorite client. Sure, if all you need is a translation of your birth certificate, that’s probably a bit excessive, but when you’re looking to have your company website translated, those reference materials will be invaluable for us and ensure an even better translation for you.

5. We are not superhumans, and we have a life

It may sound hard to believe, but most quality translators actually have pretty full schedules with plenty of work. We are not just sitting around staring at our inbox and waiting for a client to send us an assignment. Therefore, we usually aren’t available to complete your translation at a moment’s notice either. Squeezing in a few hundred words here and there may not be out of the question, but generally, we appreciate having at least a few days before you need the translation back. If it is an extensive project, make that a few weeks.

There you go, some basic tips for communicating with translation professionals. Maybe my colleagues can pitch in with some more suggestions in the comments. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by, and happy translating!

About the author - Marion Rhodes


  • mariebrotnov

    April 25, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    All true! Sometimes I’m contacted by individuals who are not sure how to go about hiring a translator and I’m happy to guide them through the process, but if it’s a company there is really no excuse for a lack of professionalism or basic communication skills. And yes, often it’s a big red scammer flag!

  • Milica Acimovic | English Spanish Serbian translator

    May 13, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Quite true! I’ve been lucky to work with some really considerate clients, but there were those who simply treat translators as typing machines. Thanks for the lovely article. 🙂

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    July 28, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    […] defined target market Bad habits that hold freelancers back Marketing for translators – Mailing How Not to Approach a Translator Future of translation industry Specialising is for the Strong Keep Calm and Interpret Top tips for […]

  • Kaden

    September 15, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Good points all around. Truly apretciaped.

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