If you’re a translator, is it ever OK to ask for translation help when you can’t figure something out?
It is always OK to ask someone else for help.
You have to remember that as a translator, your first duty is to provide your customer with a quality product. If you don’t know how to translate something, you better find a way to know.
Your client is counting on you.
You’re the translation expert, remember?
Why You Have to Ask for Translation Help
When I was just starting out as a freelance translator, I was confident in my abilities.
(Aren’t we all?)
I thought translators were walking encyclopedias with all the answers and that asking someone for some translation help was akin to advertising my inability to translate.
I was somehow led to believe that if you asked for help, not only would the person you asked for help from look down on you, but that you would be stigmatized by potential clients for the rest of your career.
I know it sounds pretty drastic but it’s not far from the truth of what I thought.
What a difference 10+ years have made!
More and more I’ve realized that a good translator isn’t necessarily someone who knows how to translate everything off the top of his or her head.
Instead it’s someone who knows his or her limitations and how to overcome those shortcomings by asking for help when it’s needed.
I need help all the time.
Sometimes I need advice on how to go about translating a specific grammatical structure.
Other times I need to run the English translation through a non-translator to make sure it sounds “native.”
At other times I’ve needed translation help when I maybe didn’t know the exact meaning of a Spanish word.
My point is that if you’re a translator who us just starting out, don’t get caught up in the mentality that you have to have the answer ready for every issue that you come across.
Especially with the Internet, there is no reason to not collaborate with other translation colleagues from across the globe.
It stands to reason that at least one other person out there has run across the problem you’ve encountered in your translation.
More likely than not, that person will be wiling to help you out, just like we should be willing to help other translators out with their translation issues.
Most important, it really is a sign of a mature translator to ask for language and translation help (and help others along the way).
P.S. One way to get help is by reading Translation Rules: 40 Tips and Tricks for Freelance Translators.