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  • Foto do escritorLaura Vuillemin

A Good Translator Asks Questions

As a client, are you annoyed when a translator has queries?

I’d suggest you think again.

Someone who cares about quality will ask questions when in doubt, and this has NOTHING to do with incompetence. On the contrary.

When a translator takes the time to make sure they understood your content properly, in order to provide the most accurate translation possible, you should see this as an indication of professionalism.

The worst reply you can give a translator (and which personally drives me crazy) is the following:

🔥 Translate as written. 🔥

Translation is everything but blindly calquing the source, unless you want to end up with an inelegant word-for-word rendering of the original text that will make little sense to your target audience.


- A linguist translates whole lists of random terms or worse, video scripts, without asking for visual context or for the source video?

- A linguist doesn’t ask for clarification when the gender of a variable is not clear in a software string (i.e., will it be replaced with a feminine or masculine term)?

- A linguist doesn’t double-check with you when words seem to be missing in the source and one sentence clearly goes against what has been said before?

Well… You should see this as a rather big red flag, and not think, “Oh, great, this translator never bothers me with questions.”

Obviously, I’m talking about RELEVANT questions here, and not things like the below:

▶️ Should “computre” read “computer”?

▶️ Should pounds be converted into grams?

[When the metric system is the norm since forever in the target country.]

As much as sharing queries is crucial, the translator has to first make sure that they are really unable to find the reply themselves by using their best judgment. Both our time and the client’s are precious, and we should respect that.

That being said:

When a translator asks questions, chances are they might actually help you improve your content. Not to mention your image. Nothing more embarrassing than publishing a copy riddled with mistakes and inconsistencies.

So keep that in mind the next time you receive an email whose subject header reads something like, “Questions about the project”!


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