Friday, December 6, 2013

The importance of following instructions

I have decided to write this post in English as this is a particularly important matter to me and my hope is that it will reach many.

We all want to believe our way of doing things is the best, especially when it comes to our work. We are translators, terminologists, interpreters, and language service providers. We know our industry, subject matters, and resources. We have spent years learning our languages and have lived in the countries they are spoken. When someone questions the way we work or gives us simple instructions on how to do it, we get defensive: we are above it, we have our pride. We are THE experts.

However, when we put our walls up and our emotions before our work, we stop being objective and cooperative and start making mistakes, working against our own advantage and the client's best interest. Hence, the importance to keep cool and follow instructions.

Working mainly with translation agencies, I usually get a set of instructions with every job. These might concern the format of the file to be delivered, the glossaries, translation memories and/or reference material to use during my work, and so on. The clients has usually good reasons to ask me that I follow their guidelines, such as consistency with previous work, official terminology, company policy or simple preference. It is my job to follow these instructions to the best of my abilities.

In my opinion, instructions make my work easier. I don't feel less of a translator just because my client prefers one term over another, or wants a file delivered in Word 1995 even if we live in 2013 (almost 2014!). On the contrary, I feel like I am being more efficient and saving future trouble both for me and my client. By following reasonable instructions I am showing I am able to listen, understand the client's needs and can bring a solution.

Even though it might seem tedious and time consuming to "switch off" your creativity and "copy" from client's old documents, doing as you're told makes you reliable and trustworthy. People realize they can count on you to make their life easier and this is ultimately the translator's job: to step in and provide solutions to the client's needs.

Unfortunately, while editing other people's work a lot of times I come across a lot of translations that overlook reference material, re-translate official translations or ignore glossaries. The cost of not following instructions is way higher than taking a few more minutes to do extra research and comply with a list of guidelines. By not following instructions we are showing we don't care to do a good job as well as not caring for those who have to fix our mistakes. In other instances consequences might be even more serious, for example when re-translating EU official documents.

That's why I strongly suggest to always read carefully the instructions you are given and keep them handy while you are working, to be reminded at all times of the steps you are asked to take. The client will notice and will come back to you. The editor will notice and will appreciate your professionalism. And in the end you will be remembered as someone who takes a serious interest in doing an excellent job.

So the question is: do you follow instructions?

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