Category Our insights
Blog post by Elvira

I was following, last week, a thread started, in a virtual translators’ and interpreters’ gathering place where we sometimes rant, and sometimes vent, and sometimes cry on each other’s shoulder over the challenges we face as freelancers, by a new member and future translator who loves translating but wonders if these challenges won’t be a burden larger than he’ll ever be prepared for.

So, I thought we should set some records straight, starting with the translator/project manager relationship.

While I’m no expert, and I sometimes live up to my grumpy introvert with quite a blunt approach reputation, I must admit I’ve learned a lot in the 20 years I’ve been in this business (full-time and part-time, in-house and freelance). Keep that in mind while reading the non-exhaustive list of what I’ve learned, and thought was worth sharing, because I am not good at sugar-coating things.

  • PMs are humans, too. Say hi, ask how they are doing and, especially in these challenging times, send them a warm thought, even if you’re not in the mood for it.
  • If you need clarifications on payment terms, terminology, preferred CAT-tool, etc., ask for them, preferably early in the process. In most cases, you’re not the only translator they are dealing with, especially in multiple language projects, and they have bosses to report to, too.
  • Don’t get defensive when they send you back your revised translation for comments. In the vast majority of cases, it will be an improved version or, later in your translatorial life, just an occasion to receive congratulations on a great job. If the reviewer did a good job (and most of them do, but we’ll get back to that in another blog post), your revised translation is a great learning opportunity.
  • Make an effort and, provided this is not the gazillionth time you’ve been asked the same question by the same person (my personal breaking point), do explain why your choice is better than the reviewer’s, why this or that change is preferential and does not improve the translation, and, when the reviewer did a poor job, why is that.
  • Even in large companies, the project managers will remember the translators/reviewers they’ve had a good relationship with and recommend them for new projects others manage.
  • Please refrain from ranting at them about their company’s policies. They rarely have the power to change anything and will be ranted at by their bosses, too, sometimes. You have plenty of options from not working with the company to writing to the big boss.

As I was saying, this is not an exhaustive list, and I am blunt whenever necessary, even with the nicest project managers.

Yes, I’ve lost my patience with one new project manager who thought I should train her on the project I was working on for two years already instead of asking her colleagues, and snapped at one who insisted (in over ten e-mails back and forth) on me avoiding certain errors in future projects when, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the errors the end-client complained about were inserted by the reviewer.

But, as grumpy as I might sometimes be, I refuse to bite project manager heads off for no valid reason. I hope you won’t either.

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