Dealing with Translation Feedback
Getting feedback on your work is always a good thing, regardless of the field you are in. It gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve, and to know your level of expertise.
Positive feedback is always great to receive, but dealing with negative translation feedback can be a bit difficult.
In reality, if you can handle negative feedback well, you will be more successful at what you do; don’t fear it. Just stop thinking of it as something bad, and look at it as more of a necessity in your profession. Negative feedback can help you become a better translator. When you do receive criticism, remember:
- To first take a deep breath and look at it objectively, and without bias.
- It is not a blanket judgment of your ability or overall performance as a translator, merely about a particular piece of content you translated.
- If someone has taken the trouble to give you feedback, it is highly likely that they actually liked your work, and wants you to improve, so that they can continue working with you.
- Negative feedback should always be looked upon as an opportunity to learn and advance.
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Analysis of negative feedback
Once you’ve got all the above stuff cleared, you need to sit down and perform an objective analysis of the feedback – without any emotional upheaval. Also consider that the person who gave you the feedback may have been emotional at the time, and some of those emotions may have percolated into the feedback. Read the feedback carefully and peel away the emotional layers, and focus on the real feedback. Consider if the criticism is justified. Is the reviewer correct? Go through all the points mentioned and consider each one in its individual light, and ask yourself if you agree or disagree with those comments, and also note down your reasons for the same. In most instances, people hesitate to provide negative comments, and rarely do they do it to be malicious for the sake of it. Just as you like hearing words of praise when you do exemplary work, you should be prepared to take criticism when your work is less than excellent.
How will you respond to negative translation feedback?
This is the most crucial step! The right response will not only help you grow and improve as a translator, but will also help you build and maintain long-term relationships with clients. Regardless of whether you agree with everything that has been said or not, you have to acknowledge the feedback in a professional and objective manner, and inform the client that you will look into it.
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1) Delay your reply
Don’t jump the gun and start firing away! When you respond within a few minutes, your reply is bound to be less professional and more emotional, and will sound defensive and non-accepting. So take your time, and allow at least a couple of hours to pass; or, you could send a one-liner saying you’ve received their email, and will respond after you’ve been through it. Then, take a day or two, and write a detailed response.
2) Look at the Big Picture
Examine your relationship with your customer or the agency you work for: is it generally good, or are they always criticizing your efforts? Do you want to continue working with them, or don’t mind if you stop? Thinking about all these factors will give you a better perspective on how to draft your reply.
3) Think from your client’s point of view
Think about the person who sent you the feedback; they are in an awkward position, because nobody really wants to be the harbinger of bad news. Plus, there could be other issues, like they may be answerable to a higher-up who has given very specific instructions about the tone of the document, or localization, or the level of accuracy and so on. Especially when it comes to technical documents like transcripts translation, or translation of birth certificates, even a tiny mistake can create major problems for the client. They might themselves be under tremendous pressure to deliver the goods exactly as the management or senior authorities are expecting. Think about how you can respond to the feedback objectively, and explain why you chose certain words or phrases. If you’re working for an agency, they may have forwarded feedback from a displeased customer; think how you can help pacify the client – assure the agency that you are a team player, and will do your best to convince the customer, or make changes to meet their expectations. Do your best to convince them that you will work together to resolve the issue. Feedback is a two-way street; understanding that it is nothing personal will go a long way in making everyone’s job easier and finding a solution so that nobody loses, and everyone is happy. Use your mistakes or criticism of your work as a stepping stone to growth and further success.
4) Thank your reviewer
At the outset, make sure you acknowledge the feedback and tell them you’re thankful for taking the time to formulate and send you a review of your work. It’s a tiny step, but will showcase your professionalism.
5) Respond to the feedback
Then comes the important step of addressing the feedback. Ignore the emotional comments made by the client or reviewer and take a good hard look at each of the points raised by them. Analyze each one carefully, and in your reply, explain gently but in detail, why you disagree with certain points. Always maintain a tone of objectivity, courteousness and professionalism in your reply. After all, you would like to be treated just the same, would you not?
6) Learn from the feedback
Look at the points in the feedback you agreed with, or felt were justified. Look up the right way or the exact way your customer wants it done. Tell your customer that you will rectify this, and make sure that in future translations, it will not be repeated. Sometimes even if it’s not linguistically perfect, it may be the way the client wants it, and we have to take their preferences into account when we translate their documents.
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