More Stuff We Should Probably Know, But Don’t

The last post in this series provided a nice list of questions that are still unanswered in translation and interpreting research. Admittedly, some of those questions were not of the kind that professionals might deal with each day. To counter this, here are a few questions that professionals will face. Once again, we are waiting on a final answer to any of them. If you have any thoughts, drop us a comment.
• Are “rush” translations always worse than translations with long deadlines?

It’s a common occurrence: that lovely client now wants 2,250 words done by the end of today and it is already 11am. It’s going to be pretty tight. Does this restriction mean that the translation will necessarily be worse than if the deadline had been 3 days or does it force translators to be more efficient? Will extra caffeine help or will it overstimulate you? Is it better to do the job with no breaks or to slip in some time to eat? How could you tell the difference? How would you answer this question anyway?
• What do clients really want?

They say they want great work for a great price but what is great work? If they had to choose between fast turnaround, excellent quality or cheap work, which would they want? Perhaps different clients want different things. If this is the case, how can you know for sure what your clients want? How do you align what they want with what you are able to give them? If you were set the task of discovering what a particular client wanted from their translators and interpreters, how would you go about it?

• What is the fairest way of charging?

Do interpreters really get a better deal if they charge per day and not per hour? Are translators better off charging per line, per page, per word, per hour or setting a single all-in-one price? Which do clients prefer? What does “fairest” mean in this context?

• Is it always better to translate or interpret into your native language?

This is truly controversial but people have taken it on. Typically, translators and interpreters are advised to only work into their native language. Is this actually a good idea? What does “native” mean anyway? Are there times when it is better to translate or interpret into your second or third language? What does all this mean for those who work in liaison interpreting, where they are permanently interpreting in both directions?

Each of these questions suggests another long list of questions that need an answer before the main question can be tackled. None of these questions has an easy or quick answer. In fact, however you answer these questions, your answer will stimulate another long list of questions. In research, you very rarely get a final answer but what you do get are ideas, theories and results that can be tested against real-world experience. Somewhere along the line, that small piece of work on, say, quality in rushed translations gets added to another piece of work and another until we grow to understand the world of translation in a fuller way. That is research and this is what we do here at Heriot-Watt
Jonathan Downie