;   Medical Translation Insight: What's so difficult about providing context? - ForeignExchange Translations

What's so difficult about providing context?

What's so difficult about providing context?ForeignExchange recently had the opportunity to bid on work for a mid-size medical device manufacturer. The first project was going to be a test, to see how we do.

We had no problem with doing a test translation - that makes sense, and we said "sure, please send us the editable source file plus reference materials".

As it turns out, the client didn't want to provide any context or reference materials, fearing that this would dilute the accuracy of the test translation. Now, I understand that in principle. Ideally, you'd like potential suppliers to provide clean, unbiased test translations.

In practice, however, there are several challenges with this approach:

  1. First and foremost, it doesn't mirror real-world situations. If this is supposed to be a real project (see #2), then clients should want to get a sense of how we perform in that situation. Getting reference materials and contextual information is not a silver bullet - it's difficult to start working with a new client.
  2. This approach is less than ideal for a real, "live" project. Again, it's understandable that clients want to get a "two-fer": a test project that ideally can also double as a usable translation. The challenge is that there are different requirements for success, depending on what you're looking to achieve.
  3. This approach can only result in failure for this type of text (a corporate image brochure) - for both the client and the translation supplier. At a glance, the brochure presented dozens of questions regarding what text gets translated, images to be localized, corporate terminology that is in place. Without meaningful input from the end-client, translators are simply stabbing in the dark.
  4. Google is your friend - sort of. We can spend the time doing research instead of getting information from the client, but why? We won't know if the materials we found are viewed as good or bad, and we won't know that we found the right reference materials. More stabbing in the dark...
The company's reluctance to share information with us also raised other important questions:
  • Do they even have good reference materials?
  • Is HQ seeing eye-to-eye with overseas reviewers? The origin of their contact was that Asian offices are unhappy with the translations. It was unclear, though, what exactly caused these complaints? Mistranslations, style, branding/imaging, layout, turnaround times, something else?
  • Do they view the context as obvious? This may be true in some cases, but in most cases it is just obvious to the client because her mind is "in the text".
  • How engaged will they be as a client? Are they open to receiving questions, or are they the "throw it over the wall" type?
In the end, we decided to pass on this opportunity. That's too bad because the company is squarely in our target market, and I believe that we could have added real value to their international efforts. But, the power of having a tight focus and specialization is the ability to say "no, thank you" to non-ideal clients.

It's a fine line - I wonder if we came down on the right side?

ForeignExchange is fanatical about customer service. 99% of our medical translation clients say that they would recommend us to others - find out why drug and device companies rave about ForeignExchange.

1 Comment:

  1. Corina Diaz said...
    Sometimes clients don't really understand what "context" refers to, or they consider different devices to belong in totally unconnected realms.

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