Translation projects can at times be stressful. There is a lot of pressure on every person involved in a translation team –project managers, translators themselves, editors and proofreaders – to get a translation project completed on time. Time, in fact, is the eternal enemy when it comes to translation. A rushed translation project is not likely to be a huge success as it could contain errors. That doesn’t help anyone, client or translation agency. It all boils down to effective communication.

Keep the Communication River Flowing

Communication by the Client

Clients must understand that one of the limiting factors in their needs for translation is expecting too much, too soon. Well before a document or whole project is sent to the translator or translation agency there needs to be effective communication from the client about its needs. This includes:

  • Time limit for completion expected
  • Word count
  • Content type
  • Style guide
  • Glossary, if any
  • A description of who the translated material is intended for.

A failure to provide these details in advance could mean a delay in the whole project as the translator or translation team scrambles to elicit the details they need as they come across discrepancies in what they are try got work on.

The client can help the whole project in advance as well by submitting easily to manage and read material. That means proofreading what is sent for translation before it is sent. This may seem like doing the work of the translator in advance, but in reality, a well-prepared submission is likely to be cheaper overall.

Excess verbiage can be removed during an initial editing and proofreading exercise. Mistakes and repletion can be removed. Poor grammar and spelling just makes the translator’s task more difficult and in the long run this is going to wind up in a heftier bill.

Communication by the Translator/Translation Agency

A crucial mistake can be made by individual freelancers or translation agencies in an attempt to attract work and out-smart their competitors. The mistake is to promise what cannot be delivered, whether that is the language competency or fluency, content deliverables, estimates for how long a project can be completed by and quotations for overall cost.

A lot of this comes down to experience. A well-established translator/translation agency will know what its limits are. There is no point in taking on a complex legal translation project, for example, without the legal translators to do the translation. The results could be disastrous for the reputation for the translator/agency if it fails to complete a project satisfactorily. Business reputations are far more easily tarnished these days because of easy access to customer and client reviews.

Effective communication between translator/agency and client means that a well-prepared document or project has been assessed properly and costed. If the translator does not feel confident that he/ she has the skills to complete it then it is better to say s in advance rather than halfway through the delivery period.

Communication within a Translation Agency

Finally, a translation agency that has its own specialized team must have a good internal communication system. Most translation projects are managed by a project manager and it is incumbent on the project manager to be able to assess an incoming project and assign the various translation tasks carefully and keep abreast of what stage the project is up to make sure that the project is flowing on schedule. Translation is a process.

Once it has been accepted, it is normally the translator who does the bulk of the work, followed by the editor and finally by the proofreader. At any stage, complications must be relayed back to the project manager who needs to be kept abreast of what is happening and whether there needs to be clarification by the client. Like any chain system, the strength depends on the strength of the weakest link. If the editor is not doing his /her job properly, it doesn’t make any difference whether the translator or proofreader is doing a great job as the chain is broken.


Translation projects depend on effective communication. Clients, project managers, translators, editors and proofreaders all have a role to play in communicating well. When they do so, it means a translation project has the best chance of a satisfactory outcome for all.