When we are asked to translate useless materials.
April 25, 2012 § 2 Comments
We all have clients who at one time or another have asked us to translate materials that we know, or learn after reviewing them, are useless or irrelevant for our client’s objective.
One time I was asked to translate a Mexican court file that was close to forty thousand words. The client needed the translation to avoid that a client be prosecuted for crimes not included in the extradition order issued by the requested party. When I came on board to participate in the translation process, others had been involved for months (if not years) translating endless documents, international conventions, and case law. I must add that the American attorneys, although excellent and capable, were not very familiar with International Law. Because of my background as an attorney, from the time I joined the team, I was able to notice the uselessness of translating a bunch of documents that were not going to help the case at all. Instead of getting all frazzled with the legal terminology, I prepared a memo for the attorneys. It was in English, and had all the American legal terminology they would understand.
The result was amazing. The attorneys finally understood the case as it was processed in the requested country, realized what they had as far as documents, and were able to focus on the relevant materials. They were very grateful as I saved them a lot of time and money in needless translations, and I made them realize the importance of retaining a translator who knows the subject matter. Because of this experience, this law office is now my permanent and exclusive client, and my client agenda has exponentially increased. I have shared this experience with many of my colleagues who have a formal education in relevant fields such as engineering, medicine, chemistry, etc. Although many of them have had similar experiences as translators or interpreters, a significant number have expressed their frustration when they find themselves in situations like the one I just shared, stating that they do not dare to approach the client the way I did, or telling me that it is not our role as translators to tell the client what to translate. I would like to hear your opinion on this issue.