Translation errors: 7 tips on how to deal with negative comments

Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum… All professional translators make errors; the best ones learn from their mistakes and tend not to lose their cool over these. 7 tips on how to handle negative comments :

1. Always respond to comments…

Even if you feel frustrated, hurt, offended or feel you have been unfairly treated, take a few minutes to answer. It’s always advisable to stay on good terms with the customer. Especially because, often, an intelligent response from a smart and professional standpoint is likely to impress the customer favourably.

 2. …but don’t be stubborn

You need to know the difference between an answer and an endless (and pointless) debate. Thank your interlocutor for their feedback, justify your work and the decisions you took, if necessary, and voilà! The more you spin things out the more important it becomes.

 3. Don’t make it personal

You move in a professional field, you are a professional translator, therefore, it’s a professional matter. It’s not you who is the target of criticism but what you produced, your work, your translation service. Maybe you were having a bad day? It happens to all of us. At all events, try not to let your pride get in the way as it is a bad counselor.

 4. Put things in perspective

It’s the syndrome of the pebble in the shoe, or the mosquito in the room: it’s a tiny little thing with the potential to ruin your life. Negative comments about a translation can have a similar effect. Don’t let it get that far! Give the event the importance it deserves: a limited one. This is a small part of a translation that is only a small part of your job, which is merely a part of your life!

 5. Be grateful

We agree that this may be a tall order given the nature of certain criticisms. But it’s all a question of attitude: try to imagine adversity as if it were a teacher who is teaching you what you need to know. Or, more prosaically, try to ensure that this vexing situation doesn’t happen again.

 6. Don’t overreact

The last thing you need is to add to your error (supposing it exists) and the respective negative comments, a total loss of control, which will inevitably cause you to lose sight of your objective, skidding out of control to crash against the harsh reality of a business conflict. Just keep calm. Breathe. Don’t react on the spur of the moment. Let some time go by.

 7. Bear in mind who made the comment

This is another way of taking your distance from things. Who is the client making the criticism? What authority do they have? Is this person an expert in a specific field (such as legal or technical translation) telling you that, in their jargon, something is said in a special or specific way? Or, conversely, is this person a manager with little authority who is just looking to assert themselves and score points off you by showing you that he knows better than you how to do your job? Measure your response in terms of your interlocutor. In the first case, show gratitude. In the second case, also be careful to show your appreciation, but assert your authority as a professional translator and calmly explain and justify your choice of vocabulary.

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