Your translator is asking questions? That’s a good sign*

Let’s start with the good news: rest assured, a translator who asks questions is usually a good one. He or she cares about your image and wants to make sure you get your message across. Translators don’t generally have questions about a text because they are unfamiliar with the text’s language or topic. Sometimes, an author may use a word that has several meanings (polysemy) … or assigns the wrong meaning to a word! A good translator will check with you to find out what you’re really trying to say.

Sometimes, an entire sentence is nebulous: should it be made clearer? Or do you want it to remain ambiguous? An author may sometimes wish to leave the text somewhat vague, allowing the reader to “read between the lines.” The translator will have to do likewise. Occasionally, the opposite is true: authors may think they’ve expressed themselves clearly, but that is not being communicated to the reader. In such cases, your translator is your first reader, and his or her questions can confirm whether or not your text is achieving its goal.

Finally, the client’s text may simply contain an error, something that happens fairly frequently. A good translator will not simply correct the error in the translation or target language; he or she informs the client so that the original text can also be corrected.

You don’t write your texts like an automaton, without thinking about them … Would you want a translator who translates mechanically, like a soulless machine? A translator who is asking questions is a vigilant translator who has your interests at heart.

*Text translated by Alison Newall