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How to Give and Receive Feedback Effectively in the Translation Industry

“Any feedback will be more than welcome” is an expression we usually hear from first-time translators.

Regardless of how honest this statement of willingness is, the fact is that few translators actually show a proactive approach towards feedback when they receive it.

In fact, they either feel upset and become defensive trying to justify even irreconcilable mistakes, or they reply that will read it carefully to avoid repeating those mistakes in the next project, something that rarely happens.
Actually, statistics show that, if they do review their previous feedback, they probably don’t put too much attention on it.

One way or the other, we keep on receiving projects with the same kind of mistakes from the same translators over and over again.

So, how can companies give collaborators more effective feedback? And, how can translators seize feedback to achieve better outcomes?
You’ll find out in this article. But first things first.

What is Feedback and why is it Important in the Translation Industry?

According to Merriam-Webster, feedback is “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.”

In the translation industry, this basically means evaluating work and asking collaborators to improve it or tell them they’ve done a great job, and specifying the reasons.

When done well, feedback is one of the most valuable tools we have for getting quality work and achieving effective overall performance.

In addition, feedback makes people feel included in organizations and engaged with their work. According to a publication by Harvard Business Review, what leaders say makes up to 70% of how an employee feels regarding their work and the company.

So, next, you’ll find actionable insights on how to give and receive feedback effectively in the translation industry.

How to Receive Feedback Well (and Make the Most of it)

Translators will often find themselves in a position where they receive feedback on their work. It could be either positive or negative.
Here are some ways to make the most of it.

1. Don’t Take it Personally

Many translators tend to perceive feedback as a negative aspect of their work. But perfection doesn’t exist, so it’s more than likely that you receive some corrections after you delivered the final work.
And even if it’s not some, but many things to revise, see it as an opportunity to learn instead of a threat to your ego.

2. Categorize Mistakes

There’s a tendency for collaborators to panic when they receive their work back with corrections.

Well, that’ll only make you immerse yourself in chaos. Instead, classify errors or changes into categories like:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Mistranslations
  • Omissions
  • Preferential changes

These, among other categories you may think appropriate. Create your own chart and keep a log of how many mistakes you made in each category in a given project.

3. Take Some Time to Study

Try to internalize as much as possible all changes or mistakes that have to do with rules or standards; for example, capitalization or punctuation rules, prepositional patterns, or client’s preferences.

4. Read the Client’s Style Guide

Go carefully through the client’s guidelines and try to fix as much content as possible at the start of the project in order to reduce research and reading time during the translation. Pay special attention to items you might have missed before.

5. Review Previous Projects Feedback from That Client

If at all possible, before starting a new project, keep the feedback from previous projects at hand, so, in your final proofreading, you can check you didn’t make the same mistakes.

6. Bookmark Relevant Websites for Consultation

Create the habit of frequently consulting relevant websites such as Fundeu, RAE, reliable language forums, plus the end client website, if there is one.

7. Develop a Critical Attitude

Skills add up, but attitude multiplies, they say. And it’s true.

So set your mind to question your automatic use of language and rooted expressions, terms, or structures. Language is dynamic and unlimited, there’s always something new to learn and to unlearn.

8. Ask Beforehand

This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind before you do the job. If there’s something that’s not clear to you in the client’s instructions, make sure to ask about it right away.

Don’t try to figure it out by yourself, and don’t assume the answer. Make the question. Most clients will be happier with anticipated questions than with bad deliveries or translation jobs that just don’t match their expectations.

And that means you need to read any reference material as soon as possible. If you leave it for the last minute, it may be too late to clear doubts.

These are important items to keep in mind when receiving feedback.

But, as we said before, sometimes collaborators make the same mistakes over and over again, despite the client giving them feedback regularly.

So…, how can clients or reviewers give feedback to translators to help them improve their work?

How to Give Feedback to Translators (and Get Effective Results)

There are some practices that can help companies to develop translators’ linguistic skills in the long run.

1. Provide Error-Categorized Feedback Regularly

There’s a difference between simple corrections and well-structured feedback.

Categorizing errors regularly will help them become more conscious of their strengths and weaknesses.

How regularly do you have to give feedback?

In the case of newly incorporated linguists, ideally, try to give feedback during or after every single project they work in, at least after the first 4 or 5 projects. That will give you an idea of the candidate’s potential., In the case of long-time translators who still need to improve, give feedback as much as necessary.

2. Make a Quality Check

In rolling deliveries, have your QA Specialist or proofreader scan the delivered file immediately after receiving it.

This way they can spot mistakes or potential improvements that can be seen with the naked eye early enough.

If time allows, ask the translator to send the file again with these changes/improvements made. Don’t correct those mistakes yourself. The fact that the translator has to correct their own mistakes allows them to become reflective on their choices and more aware of their client’s expectations.

3. Organize Video Calls to Give Feedback

Don’t do it by email.

The effect is not the same. In a video call, you have the chance to set your expectations and quality standards clearly, you can establish rapport with your linguists and you can even ask the linguist to correct mistakes live.

That way, you’ll be able to see if you’re really on the same page, and if the mistakes they made are due to lack of linguistic knowledge, distraction, not understanding the scope of work, etc.

4. Bring Previous Feedback to the Table

Show translators that the mistakes they made have been communicated in previous feedback.

Also, show them where the issue is mentioned within the reference material they have. For example, your style guide. That’s great for building accountability. Next time they will make sure they read or use the reference material more effectively!

To Sum Up

If you want to achieve excellence and quality results, feedback is crucial. But not every feedback works. As we’ve seen, sometimes collaborators keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Feedback needs to be well-structured and addressed. In this article, we went through the main aspects to keep in mind to make the most of your feedback and achieve great results.

Our experience has shown us that no matter how talented and professional a translator is, there’s an onboarding process of adaptation and understanding the expectations and quality standards of the company for which they work.

At Interaction Translation Services, feedback is about that. It’s the benefit of gradual training that we give to certain translators that demonstrate the potential, the attitude, and the desire to stay and be part of a professional, demanding, and thoughtful company.

If you need translation services from a dedicated team, let’s talk.

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