These are questions you need to ask because you don’t want to discover the answer when it’s too late and you’ve already created a whole lot of unnecessary work for yourself.
When Translating, Which Language Variant Do I Use?
As we know, there’s no single universal version of any language, and your job is to make sure you know exactly which one your client expects. Let’s say you’re translating to English: should it be American English or British English, or another variety? If you’re translating into German, should it be for the Austrian, Swiss, or German market? This question also refers to tone and style: are you able to introduce some of the local dialect if your text is targeted to a specific but small geographical area, and how colloquial are you allowed to be? This is just another reason for knowing who your client’s target audience is, and emphasizes how important it is that issues like this be resolved before you start translating.
How Should I Handle Issues of Localization?
This is not a question so much about spelling, grammar, and other linguistic issues; it’s more about cultural and practical considerations. It may even mean that you need to work together with your client to find a balance between the expectations of both the target audience and your client, and of course, a translator is well-placed to do this. Because native speaking translators know their local market (probably better than anyone else) they’re very valuable in-as-much-as they understand its standards, its conventions, its peculiarities, and its current trends. This could well be your clients’ first time entering this market, so you may want to discuss how much they wish to adapt their current marketing strategy to meet this market. It could be that they only want to change their tone in order to display their awareness of the local market, or it may be that their unique selling point will be their foreign nature. Whichever way your client decides to go, this is a conversation you need to have.
Let’s say you have the perfect translation client and they’ve already provided a complete glossary and a comprehensive style manual for handling local terminology: you could still discover localization concerns like a stated date and time with no indication of time zone or prices quoted in an unexpected currency. Again, these are issues you need to discuss with your client.
Asking the Right Questions Is a Win-Win Situation for Everyone
During your career in translation, there are going to be many issues that come up from time-to-time, and you won’t be able to predict most of them before they arise. Good communication is key in any business dealing, so if you’re comfortable asking the right questions of your client you’ll generally find that they’re more than happy to answer them. It’s in their own best interests, after all! As a result of asking the right questions, the quality of your translation work can only improve, and that’s a win-win situation for everyone - for both you and your client, and for your bottom line!