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.