Recently, one of my very first clients came back to me after a break of several years. The work was as tricky and as interesting as ever but now I had a lot more confidence in my own abilities.
With one translation – a CV – I asked permission to omit sections that would be legally uncomfortable for both the end client and anyone reading the CV. They were also entirely unnecessary and irrelevant for the job. What did my client say?
“Of course, please take out the unnecessary parts to make it work.”
Make it work. That’s what our clients really need us to do. Making it work means being more than a walking or typing dictionary. It means knowing more than where to find the French for “spinneret” or the Spanish for “left-handed wedge sprocket”. It means caring about and knowing about the end result. It means understanding the processes that the document or meeting will be part of and making sure that your document of meeting will work for that purpose.
This is why accuracy matters – because without the right kind of accuracy, nothing will work.
This is why partnership and transparency is a much more useful set of concepts than “neutrality” or even “impartiality”. Interpreters and translators are always intimately linked with the work they produce. Our skills and personality and expertise shine through and we absolutely should care deeply that what we produce works for everyone involved. We are never truly neutral. We are always involved.
Make it work. It’s not a theory or a philosophy; it’s the basic standard of all real professional translation and interpreting.