The Translator Requests a Clarification: Tracking the conversation

Translators and interpreters face a common problem: lack of clarity in the source message. Interpreters have a standard formula for addressing this: “the interpreter requests clarification”. Although translators deal with the same issue, a standard formula is missing. We deal with acronyms that are company-specific, missing terms, etc. and clarify them with clients over email. In the middle of email chains, however, it is easy to lose track of the changes and of our role. We need a better, more rigorous, method of recording these conversations.

When translating a document such as a contract, a patient handout, or a website, it is important to record conversations about changes to the source text. To do this effectively, I began keeping a change log to serve as a record. I have used this type of table very effectively with my clients on a number of occasions, and an example is shown below. Please note, however, that some text has been changed to protect client confidentiality.

Source textTranslator's commentClient's comment
In the next twelve we will celebrate all employees' birthdays.In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees' birthdays. [The client must have meant "months". We must say that.]
Email sent to client February 30, 2016
Please modify source text as follows:
In the next twelve months we will celebrate all employees' birthdays.
Response received February 31, 2016
Client request: Please include all these changes in the source document. Thank you for your attention to detail.
Please mark them with track changes for me to accept them. This will help us with future clients.

As shown in this change log, these changes are often accepted as permanent improvements to the source text. In this way, the client gets two services in one: a copy editor of the source text and a translator, while keeping the roles transparent.

A translation, after all, is the client’s message in a new language, and changes need to be implemented with transparency and thoughtfulness, mindful of both linguacultures. At Gaucha Translations, we follow a process outlined in this document, and clients know that we treat their message with the utmost respect and advocate for the target audience to be able to understand their message clearly, at a glance, if at all possible.