How to empathise with the customer

A few days ago we talked about translators’ other skills. Today we will focus on the first one in the list: empathy. It seems obvious, but actually we are not really always aware of its importance. Who doesn’t think he or she is empathetic? It’s the right thing to be, like being someone who donates to charity and likes sport.

Translation also arises from feelings, which are the basis of empathy. Tweet it!

Perhaps empathy is not much use when translating a KitchenAid manual or a scientific translation, but there is a greater or lesser degree of passion in most texts. Sorry, Google Translator – you have no idea what I’m talking about. Any artistic expression, such as translation, arises from feelings, which are the basis of empathy. In the case of texts, emotion should go beyond the paper or screen.

Empathising when translating is easy. First of all, you need to fully understand the text. This seems obvious, but it’s a basic step to provide a good translation service. In this respect, investigating the customer is a very good idea. Viewing the customer’s website or professional profile on social media can be very useful to find more about the source and purpose of the text. After conducting this investigation you can get on with the translation process. The last step is polishing the translation. You should never have any niggles about the work submitted. Here is where something as useful and sometimes overlooked as easy, productive communication with your customer comes in. It’s not about bothering your customer with tedious questions and clogging his inbox. Briefly skyping can sometimes answer many questions. In this way, your customer will be able to tell you what the text is meant to achieve – or avoid.