Five tips for dealing with criticism or differences of opinion in translation

Thanks to Twitter, we can easily share and read good articles about our industry. Last week, I followed a link by Lingo Woman and discovered a very good article about how we can deal with different opinions on translation. As we all know, translation is not simply looking into dictionary and finding equivalents. It is the job of creating a new text in the target language. It is more complicated than most of the people think. As a result of this complexity, you can get different comments. Those people who may think differently may be your close friends, teachers or even your customers. Here is how you can manage these criticisms:  

Negative feedback or criticism can be tough to deal with. Translation is, by nature, subjective and it is inevitable that most translators will be faced with criticism or queries over translation or word choices from time to time throughout their careers. So what should we do when confronted with such criticism? Here are five simple tips to help you deal with this type of situation in a positiveprofessional andeffective manner:

1. Delay your response

Our first instinct when faced with criticism is to be defensive. It is important to take a deep breath, listen carefully to what is being said and take time to formulate your response. Spend some time assessing and trying to understand the criticism in order to decide whether or not it is justified.

2. Keep things professional

It is important not to retaliate, but instead to respond in a calm and professional manner. If the criticism is justified, own up to your mistake and discuss with your client the ways in which you plan to avoid a similar situation in the future. Likewise, if you feel the criticism is not justified, explain why and do not be afraid to communicate the reasoning behind the choices you have made.

3. Don’t take it personally

Try to keep things in perspective. Of course it hurts to be on the receiving end of criticism, but in the translation world, differences of opinion come with the territory. Try not to see it as a personal attack but rather as an opportunity to discuss the matter openly with the client, to offer explanations and to put forward possible solutions.

4. Turn it into a positive

If criticism is constructive it can serve as a valuable tool for self improvement. Use it as an opportunity to think about changes you can make to become more effective. Learn from your mistakes and make the necessary changes. If, for example, a client disagrees with your translation choice for a particular term, why not develop a client-specific glossary that includes the client’s preferred terms? Explain your course of action to the client, and take advantage of the situation to show them how much you value their custom and that you take their opinion seriously.

5. Believe in yourself

It is important to believe in the translation choices you make and tohave confidence in your ability as a translator. Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, whether justified or not. Be prepared to justify your translation choices when necessary. Similarly, if criticism is unfounded and has no constructive value, learn to brush it aside without losing your confidence.

Thank you Lingo Woman!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anne Hulme on April 22, 2011 at 14:28

    Thank you for this excellent advice. I’m writing to ask your permission to copy it and pass it on (with the web address for the article) to a group of people who are in the earlier stages of a freelance career.

    In my experience, a “hurt feelings” response is an easy way to lose a client, particularly at the beginning of a business relationship when it is so important to project a professional attitude.

    Kind regards,
    Anne Hulme


    • Hello Anne!
      Of course you can copy it; however, this article is by Lingo Woman. If you mention this in your review, there will be no problem 🙂
      Thanks for following our blog. With your comments and contributions, it will be better in time.
      Kind regards,


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