Clear Directions Lead to Clear Translation

A recent translation project took longer than expected due to a lack of communication from the client. They wanted a very short phrase translated that should have taken just a few minutes, but because the communication about the project was unclear from the beginning the project took days to complete. Has this ever happened to you?

My client sent a phrase via email for translation which consisted of three words. The email read, “Can you translate the official name of …………?” The dots being a chemical name of their product. In reading the email I translated the name and sent the translation back to the client. They returned saying, “Is this the official name of the product?” Which I replied yes. This went back and forth in an email string before someone finally said we need you to translate the part that says this is the “official name” as well. Ooohhhhh!

keyboard for translation

Once we realized what was required we had a good laugh but it does prove that even the easiest translation projects can have problems if the communication is not clear up front. The best way to avoid this is to create a format where the translation is not part of the communication of the email. I have put a sample below to illustrate what I mean.

Can you please translate the following sentence.

Thank you

Translation Required:

“The door needs closing.”

This way it is clear what is to be translated and the communication is clear.

We want to turn your translation project around in good time, but only if we know exactly what to do. You know what “assume” means?

About the Author

Carmen Outridge is the owner of Outridge Translation Services and has been translating documents between English and French for over 30 years. Carmen is from the Eastern Townships part of Quebec and understands the language and dialect of Quebec. To learn more about Outridge Translation Services or to get help with your next project visit

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