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Aspects of translator reliability

Reliability with regard to the text

1 Attention to detail

The translator is meticulous in her attention to the contextual and collocational

nuances of each word and phrase she uses.

2 Sensitivity to the user's needs

The translator listens closely to the user's special instructions regarding the type of

translation desired, understands those instructions quickly and fully, and strives to

carry them out exactly and flexibly.

3 Research

The translator does not simply "work around" words she doesn't know, by using

a vague phrase that avoids the problem or leaving a question mark where the

word would go, but does careful research, in reference books and Internet

databases, and through phone calls, faxes, and e-mail inquiries.

4 Checking

The translator checks her work closely, and if there is any doubt (as when she

translates into a foreign language) has a translation checked by an experf before

delivery to the client. (The translator also knows when there is any doubt.)

Reliability with regard to the client

5 Versatility

The translator is versatile enough to translate texts outside her area of

specialization, out of languages she doesn't feel entirely competent in (always

having such work checked, of course), in manners she has never tried. (The

translator also knows when she can handle a novel task and when something is

simply beyond her abilities and needs to be politely refused.)

6 Promises

The translator knows her own abilities and schedule and working habits well

enough to make realistic promises to clients or agencies regarding delivery dates

and times, and then keeps those promises; or, if pressing circumstances make it

impossible to meet a deadline, calls the client or agency and renegotiates the time

frame or arranges for someone else to finish the job.

7 Friendliness

The translator is friendly and helpful on the phone or in person, is pleasant to speak

or be with, has a sense of humor, offers helpful advice (such as who to call for that

one page of Estonian or Urdu), doesn't offer unhelpful advice, etc.

8 Confidentiality

The translator will not disclose confidential matters learned through the process

of translation (or negotiation) to third parties.

Reliability with regard to technology

9 Hardware and software

The translator owns a late-model computer, a recent version of Microsoft Word,

an Internet connection (preferably high-speed/broadband), an e-mail address,

and a fax machine, and either owns and uses regularly, or is prepared to

purchase and learn how to use, translation memory software specified by the

client.

Clearly, however, the translator's reliability greatly exceeds the specific operations

performed on texts. Clients and agencies want freelancers who will produce reliable

texts, texts that they won't have to edit substantially after they arrive; but they also

want freelancers who will produce texts reliably, on time and otherwise as promised,

e-mailed if they were supposed to be e-mailed, camera-ready and express-mailed if

that was the plan, and so on. They want to work with people who are pleasant and

professional and helpful on the phone, asking competent, knowledgeable questions,

making quick and businesslike decisions, even making reasonable demands that cause

extra work for them, such as "fax me the whole thing, including illustrations, and

I'll call you within ten minutes to let you know whether I can do it." A freelancer

who can't take a job but can suggest someone else for the client or agency to call

will probably get another job from the same client or agency later; an abrupt,

impatient freelancer who treats the caller as an unwanted interruption and just

barely has time to say "No" before hanging up may not. Given a choice between two

producers of reliable texts in a given language combination, who would not rather

call someone pleasant than someone unpleasant?