5 Responsibility Factors That Can Affect Translator Performance

The motivation level of translators can vary significantly depending on their sense of responsibility and this can have a positive or negative impact on their performance. All parties involved in a translation project can take into account these 5 factors to ensure that the outcome of the project is positive for everyone. This includes the translator, any intermediaries and the end user of the translation.

So here are 5 factors I have noticed affect my own sense of responsibility and motivation:

  1. Fees
  2. Recurring work
  3. Recognition
  4. Transparency
  5. Helpfulness

It should be noted that any or all of the other factors besides fees being used as justification for offering disproportionately low fees is generally frowned upon. Recurring work is one used quite frequently for that purpose.

  1. Fees

If the fee is low in proportion to the amount of work required, the translator may start to think “I’m not getting paid enough to spend any more time researching this term”. On the other hand, if the fee is high in proportion to the amount of work required, the translator feels motivated to go above and beyond the call of duty to find the best wording.

To find the right fee, it is important that the translator be given all information necessary to be able to accurately estimate how much work the project will involve. It is also important that all parties have the same expectations in terms of the level of service required (e.g. revised vs. unrevised, or for publication vs. for information).

Translators can measure and compare the profitability of different projects by tracking the time they spend and dividing the total fee by the total number of hours spent on the project. I have found that there are often huge differences even when the same word rate is used as the basis. This can help you figure out when you aren’t charging enough for certain jobs to be worthwhile and which types of projects are more lucrative and should be prioritized over others.

  1. Recurring work

Any experienced translator knows that recurring projects for the same client tend to be more efficient than one-time jobs, given that they get used to the client’s specific terminology over time and everything seems to fall into place. This also makes it easier to accurately estimate how long a project will take.

As a result, translators tend to feel a greater sense of responsibility and loyalty when it comes to recurring clients. This sense of responsibility can be enhanced when a translation agency makes the translator a preferred supplier for the respective end client or when an end client signs a contract for services with a translator in anticipation of recurring work.

  1. Recognition

People are naturally motivated to continue delivering good work when praised for it, and translators are no exception. All parties shouldn’t hesitate to show their appreciation in the wake of a successful project. Translators can also request testimonials. You feel motivated to keep serving a client well who has written something that helps you boost your business for your website. You also feel a greater sense of responsibility for making sure the client is as successful as possible, because this makes their testimonial for you more impactful.

  1. Transparency

One thing that can send a translator’s sense of responsibility to new heights is signing translations, as advocated by Chris Durban. Nothing makes you more careful about only doing your absolute best work than knowing your name will be on it and your own reputation is fully on the line.

End clients may be able to boost responsibility through transparency by asking any intermediaries to facilitate some form of contact with the translators. Intermediaries can also be extra transparent with the translator and the client when they don’t have a policy preventing them from doing so. For example, when I agree to project manage on a small scale for clients who need other languages, I try to be as transparent as possible so that the translator feels almost as if it were his or her own client and we are in serving this client together as a team.

  1. Helpfulness

It is only natural that you are more motivated to ask questions when you get prompt, helpful responses to them. Translators are encouraged to ask more questions when the client responds to them promptly and helpfully, whereas if they ask questions or leave comments/notes with a translation and don’t receive any reply, they might assume the client is not interested in them and not bother next time.

Reference materials, terminology preferences and style preferences can also be communicated in a way that is more or less helpful and this can affect the translator’s motivation and sense of responsibility. For example, short, concise glossaries of highly specialized and technical terms are usually considered helpful, while glossaries with obvious words or words that can have several meanings can be counterproductive.

If the reference materials take more time to memorize and check than the time they save for the translator, that can have a negative impact on motivation and responsibility as well. Joint involvement of the translator and the client in terminology decisions is another very good way to raise responsibility.

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