Guest post: Feedback

And… we’re back with our guest series! Did you miss it? I missed all the engagement you always provide in our posts!
So let’s get back to business! Today’s guest is Cesar Faria, a fellow translator and dear friend who has also studied at the same university as I did. He’ll talk about feedback – in my opinion, a pretty important topic for all translators.
Welcome, Cesar!

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Feedback: Good Even When Bad

It was a warm Friday, 4 p.m., and I had just shut my laptop down after a quite busy week splitting my days into my two careers at that time – English teacher and translator on my first steps. I just wanted some time to relax and take a quick rest to charge batteries for the night to come, but then my cell phone rings…

To my surprise, it was the QA coordinator of the only agency I used to provide services to at that time. I had her as a contact on Skype, but never really had the opportunity to talk to her. Well, once she identified herself, my blood went cold, a rabble of insane butterflies invaded my stomach and I knew that I could not expect anything exciting from it.

And I was right. She introduced herself very kindly and asked me to open my Skype so we could talk about a file I had translated some two months before. It was a big and complex .ppt file about investment funds to be translated overnight, so they offered me a very good rush fee. I had started working as a translator no more than six months before that, but I felt I could do the job properly, since my productivity was fine at that time. I was deadly wrong. Deadline was almost not met, a lot of mistakes were pointed out, the main client returned the file with lots of complaints and a discount penalty was applied.

I couldn’t feel any more frustrated with such unpleasant situation. However, the QA coordinator was quite nice and empathetic, and told me very gently that I could learn from that experience and use it to improve my skills and attention. By then, I had never had any kind of feedback and, mainly because it was a negative one, it served to put me in a very attentive and cautious state before, during and after any translation job. I can sure say that my concerns regarding quality started being built and developed by such traumatic event.

Time has passed, and now a great deal of my jobs consists on project coordination and editing/reviewing, and for most of them I have to provide feedback for the translators involved. As I always remember the extremely polite manner my former QA coordinator handled the aforementioned situation – and since that made me grow professionally as well – I would like to share some hints for translators, especially beginners, on how to deal with feedback:

  • Read all corrections and suggestions, and create a separate file with them. I always keep a feedback file per client and a master file with all the feedback I received. This can help you learn from specialists or clients from very specific fields, and you will always have that ace up your sleeves if a terminology/consistency problem occurs in a future project for the same client.
  • If you don’t agree with something, question it. Naturally, if you think you are right, you are going to do some further research to prove your point of view. Do it politely and don’t forget to include good sources. In our profession, there is no room for arrogance. Everybody knows time is critical and short, and – as human beings – mistakes can happen, even from those who are supposed to correct them.
  • After receiving, reading and agreeing on what was written about your job, do not just turn your back, forget about it and go back to your translations. It is always a good idea to reply to the message. Preparing lists of mistakes, indicating corrections, suggesting ways to improve style, among other things, is very time-consuming and stressful. Particularly, I am not very fond of being responsible for giving someone a negative feedback, but when I have to do it, it is good to know from the person evaluated that everything was understood and next time will be better.

Finally, we all know that translation is an activity that requires continuous learning; we will never know everything; and we should learn from our mistakes. And I am also completely aware that last sentence was a total cliché, but I do believe that all those thoughts are essential to make us more careful and responsible when a job is assigned to us.

Thanks Carol for the opportunity, and I will be tremendously happy to read comments and other stories related to this topic. Feel free to email me as well:

Thank you, Cesar, for accepting my invitation! I really appreciate your taking the time to write something for our blog. Your advice is great, and I hope our followers also enjoy it.

So what do you say? What’s your opinion on feedfback?

About the author
I graduated in Translation in 2004, but started working as an English teacher during and after graduation. In 2009, I quit the job and traveled to Canada to have some fun. There, I played the bass in a heavy metal band in an almost coast-to-coast tour, started dating my wife and working as a translator. When I got back to Brazil in late 2010, I decided that I wanted to be a freelance translator and that is what I am since then.

15 thoughts on “Guest post: Feedback

  1. Having also majored in Translation at Unesp, I enjoy witnessing the so-called `well-deserved success` of people I happened to know. I just read Cesar Farias’s piece, which is brimming over with passion. I wholeheartedly agree with everything that was written. It’s worth saying that Caroline Alberoni’s blog virtually made me want to become a translator (again)… Truth is English teaching and vocabulary studies have taken me to a different walk of life.

    I feel obliged to commend you two for your high level of English!


    • Wow! Now I’m flattered!
      I’m happy my blog helped you feel you want to become a translator, Eduardo! If you do follow it through and need any kind of help at all, please don’t hesitate to ask me for help, ok?
      I also appreciate your compliment on my English! That’s really kind of you.
      If you want to start getting back on your feet with the translation world, feel free to follow my Facebook page (Alberoni Translations). I always post interesting and helpful stuff.


    • Eduardo, all I have to say is thanks for your nice words and don’t hesitate to become a translator! Many people complain about sitting in front a computer screen working many hours straight, and I have to tell you I used to think this way. But now I can’t imagine myself doing any other thing in my life. It’s a challenging but extremely rewarding job!


  2. An excellent post, Cesar (and Caroline). While I have been lucky not to receive any negative feedback, I can imagine how frustrating and nerve-wrecking it must be, this is why I have always tried to be as gentle as possible when giving feedback. For example, when proofreading, I’d never change a perfectly good translation even if I had translated it differently (I know this is an area many translators complain about – their translations being ‘butchered’ by proofreaders). I may suggest an alternative, but that’s it. I will point out mistakes, but also provide explanations so that the translator can learn something from it. Like you say, Cesar, and like Caroline wrote in her previous post, we can always learn from bad experiences.


    • In my opinion, it’s actually frustrating when the proofreader doesn’t know how to approach or makes preferential/wrong/unnecessary corrections. Otherwise, if I just get a feedback pointing out my mistakes or the client’s preferences, I actually love it! That’s how I know if I’m on the right track or not.
      And you’re right, Alina, explanations are essential. I have already questioned some proofreaders and the answer I got was: “It doesn’t sound good”. Really???
      I’ve learned *a lot* with well-provided feedback!
      Thanks a lot for your comment, Alina! 🙂


    • Thanks Alina! You know, I felt devastated when I received that feedback. I think nobody likes any kind of negative criticism, right? Since then, I try to avoid such situation from happening again.


  3. Cesar, I agree with every single word you said!! Personally, I hate giving feedback (whether good or bad). Being responsible for providing someone with feedback at work involves so many things and so much responsibility. You have to take so much into consideration in order to give your feedback in a way that it can actually be constructive and helpful (otherwise, the risk of falling into plain flattery or blunt criticism is really high). It is demaning and time consuming, you’re so right about that. I believe that’s why I like to be given feedback better than I like to give it. I also liked how you didn’t let us forget about the fact that feedback is a two-way road: whether you give it or receive it, you gotta be actively involved involved in the process! Great post!

    Off-topic: long time no see, man!! Hope you’re doing alright! 🙂


    • Thanks, Mariana! So nice to have your feedback about my post :)! You are right and I have to agree with you that giving someone feedback is very hard. I try to think a lot before writing and this takes some precious time. However, work must be done, right?

      I hope to see you again and attending Carol’s lecture in Semana do Tradutor UNESP/IBILCE will be a great opportunity, don’t you think?


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