The Importance of Good Briefs

Part 2

Last week, we looked at the importance of giving as much information as possible to the translators and interpreters you work with. This week, we will continue this theme with a little known fact:

  • The purpose of a service determines the best person to deliver it

Would you ever go to a lawyer and ask them to take your blood pressure? Would you ever ask a dentist to fly the space shuttle? Would you expect a mailroom assistant to be the best salesperson in a company? Why not?

We are used to the fact that different people have different skills. The skills required of lawyers are different to those required of ministers. Doctors go through different training than salespeople. The same rule applies to translators and interpreters – different language professionals are best suited to different jobs.

If you want someone to interpret at a conference on vacuum cleaners, it makes sense that you would want someone who a) is a trained conference interpreter b) is decently pleasant to listen to and c) knows something about vacuum cleaners and d) is willing to learn about the things they do not know yet.

If you want someone to translate a patent for a new drug, you will not want to call on the same person who interpreted at the vacuum cleaner conference. This time, you will want someone who a) has translated patents before and b) has a strong enough knowledge of drug terminology to be able to use it correctly.

For the sake of ensuring that the service you are paying for does the job that you want it to do, it pays to find the right person. Taking shortcuts by going for the cheapest provider will only end up costing more in the long run. Think of the malpractice suits and legal costs you would face if you call someone to interpret in a healthcare setting and they are not able to meet the required standard. Think of the lost sales you would have if your brochures are well presented but have badly written content. Think of the loss of impact if the person who interprets your sermon has no clue about anything to do with church

We have all seen laughable examples of translations that were obviously not done by paid professionals with the right skills but noone wants it to be their work in the spotlight. What damage would it do if it was your name above the poorly written slogan or your website with the unfortunate phrasing?

There is always a temptation to go for the cheaper option but it pays to go for the option that will produce a better, more suitable finished product. After all, the translation or interpreting you are paying for is there to serve a purpose. At some point, your current and future customers, colleagues or readers will need to use what you paid for. It makes sense to give them the best.

So there you go, if you want a translation that works, if you want interpreting that does the job, hire the right people and give them the right information. With that combination, you are on to a winner.

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About Jonathan Downie

I am a conference interpreter, public speaking coach, preacher and researcher.
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