Let's do the maths. How many hours have you lost waiting for the right answer to complete a certified translation project? You send a good batch of comments and queries that you need to solve as soon as possible and you don't receive half the solutions you expected. You know perfectly well that can only mean one thing: more workload. It's not that you have to send fewer queries to the client so that this doesn't happen. They've been insisting for as long as you’ve been working with them on the importance of promoting this type of communication. Although perhaps it is not a question of asking many questions, but of asking the right questions. We can see that all learning begins with a good question, even many of the greatest discoveries in history were triggered that way. You don't have to be Albert Einstein to start taking advantage of this in your work. Whether you are a translation project manager or part of a certified translation team, you probably want to make your colleagues and clients a little happier in order to work better. And to give you a hand, today we're going to talk about how to deal with questions during a certified translation project. Let’s get going
Why is it so important to ask the right questions?
Translation project management is a very complex field that requires a lot of preparation. Sometimes we talk about productivity, tools, techniques, etc. However, something as basic as the certified translator's questions that often arise during a project tends to attract little attention.
Some statistics show that project managers spend at least 90% of their time communicating with either project team members or their clients. Queries and questions inevitably arise throughout this process, but then two things usually happen.
The first is that the necessary questions are not asked.
The second is that the right questions are not asked.
The first comes from the idea that asking makes us seem inexperienced, without thinking about the image we convey when we take something for granted with the risk of making a mistake. The quality of your work depends on this and that is something we should not be willing to risk.
The second scenario comes into play here and that is that we can't ask all the questions we can think of either. Imagine what it would be like to work with someone who needs to consult you on every term in a text. Irritating, isn't it? The main way to combat this is to learn to ask the right questions. Want to see some tips?
How to ask the right questions in a translation project?
The whole process of managing certified translation projects is a chain of work (translators, proofreaders, layout artists, clients, etc.). For that chain to work properly, all the parts of the gears have to fit together perfectly. This means that the queries that arise during the translation process can save the proofreaders or your project manager time. It also happens the other way around.
Therefore, asking the right questions is not the sole responsibility of the certified translator or proofreader. Rather, it's a matter of knowing your responsibilities and limitations so that the machinery continues to operate like a Swiss watch. If you are a certified translator or proofreader:
• Review all project material from start to finish. It is very likely that you will find all the information you need in the project documents or the instructions of the client and your PM (Project Manager).
• Try to group your questions whenever possible. If you see something that repeats itself or follows a specific rule, try to formulate your question in a way that encompasses those factors and resolves your doubts. There is something called a Query Sheet which is a document in Excel in which all your questions can be grouped and well organised. This document can be sent by the company itself (it is usually available to all translators) or you can create it yourself.
• Write your questions in a language that everyone involved in the project understands (usually English), because the manager may share it with other translators. This seems obvious, but sometimes we overlook it.
• Adapt the linguistic level of your messages. Avoids technicalities and specialized language. Try to simplify your questions as much as possible so that you still understand everything you need to know.
• Be explicit. Avoid open-ended or abstract questions. If you can reduce the number of answers to one, so be it.
• Take the context into account. Remember that whoever gets your questions might not know what you are referring to. Provide some context for others to understand your query without having to go through all the project documents.
If you're a project manager:
• Review your team's questions before sending them to the client. You may get repeated questions because several people have had the same queries.
• Try to answer as many questions as you can and reduce the number of questions for the customer.
• Set a pace and spread out the questions. Give your team a little time to review all the materials and locate their biggest queries so that they can be sent to the client without having to write to them every day.
• Make sure all questions are resolved to ensure that the project goes ahead smoothly.
• Check all questions and comments before submitting. Sometimes, some queries can be too direct and can be a bit abrupt for your customers. Try to make all questions professional and polite and don't be afraid to edit your team's messages to achieve this.
It's simpler than it looks, isn’t it? You just need to pay attention to the details.
Remember that you don't need 10 years of experience to be a professional and that's what you value most in teamwork. Whether you're a certified translator, proofreader, project manager or have any other role within the certified translation process, try putting these tips into practice and you'll start saving hours of work and endless emails.
Do you have any other recommendations that you found useful? Leave them in the comments!