Top 10 Things that Make Translators Want to Scream

June 19, 2014
Top 10 Things that Make Translators Want to Scream

Working as a professional translator is generally a rewarding and fulfilling career, but as with any job there can be moments when work becomes frustrating.

Here we take a quick look at 10 of the most common things that frustrate translators, make sure you have a cold drink of water in a handy position. 

Linguistic frustrations

#1 Poor translation 

From shop signs to official documents, mistakes in translation are sure to irritate the professionals. After all, why pay to have a sign printed but not to translate it properly first?

#2 Ambiguous phrases

Translators who don’t know the ultimate purpose of the text they are translating may find ambiguous phrases become a frustrating time drain. For example, ‘hand washing advised’ could refer to the person handling and object or the object itself – without knowing the purpose of the target text it is impossible to say.

#3 Language evolution

Languages change and develop over time, but official changes to them can cause headaches for professional translators. For example, ongoing reforms of Portuguese orthography have seen a large number of words change from one spelling to another over recent years, which has confused school children and translators alike. 

Client frustrations

#4 Client delays

We’ve all had clients who are on the brink of needing a huge translation job undertaken, and then suddenly go silent for weeks on end. 

#5 Friends looking for freebies

There will always be someone who thinks that because you are a translator you would like to do them a favour and translate something for them for free. 

#6 Test translations

Many clients try to ‘test’ translators they haven’t worked with before by asking them to translate a sample of text for free. While one or two sentences may seem to be a reasonable request, some clients demand pages of translation in advance of hiring the translator – and all without payment. 

#7 Urgent jobs

Some clients always seem to leave their translation needs to the last minute, then pile pressure on the translator to produce a flawless text in an unrealistic timescale. 

Freelance frustrations

#8 Interruptions

Many translators work freelance, which prompts some friends to think that phoning or popping round is welcome at any time of day. Interruptions like this when you are working to a tight deadline or in the middle of translating a difficult text can be immensely irritating. 

#9 Work flow

Many freelance translators find that they are either really busy or really quiet, with work never seeming to flow evenly. 

#10 Projecting income

It can be frustrating and worrying for translators who don’t know precisely how much they will earn each month

Cooling Down

Hopefully you are not too worked up, but just in case you are - we are not about to leave you hanging! Check out our tailored advice on how to deal with each and every one of these 10 scream catalysts. 

What is your most frequent frustration as a professional translator? Let us know by using the comment box.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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