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  • Michelle Lebowe

URGENT TRANSLATIONS – REALITY OR A PRODUCT OF IMAGINATION?




DISCLAIMER

The rollercoaster ride described hereinafter does not – I REPEAT – DOES NOT – apply to the heart-warming experiences we share with our top-notch, beloved good clients. Yes, you, the golden souls who actually understand the true meaning of "urgent," who respect deadlines as if they were written in stone, who see our quotes and don't blink an eye, and who trust our translation without question. If you're nodding along, feeling slightly out of place, fret not—this saga isn't about you. From us, you will receive nothing but awe and applause. Please accept our apologies if any part of this narrative seemed confusing or, heaven forbid, about you.  You are unicorns… magical creatures every translator believes in and wishes to encounter but is rarely has the opportunity to meet. This little note is our way of saying, "Oops, our bad if you felt caught in the crossfire." Thanks for being the calm in our storm.

 

NOW WE CAN MOVE ON TO TODAY’S FUNNY TALE


Ah, the enigma that keeps me up at night, pondering over a lukewarm cup of coffee – the infamous “urgent translation.” What, after all, makes a translation urgent? Is it the whim of the client? Or perhaps our unavailability (ironically, these urgent translations pop up from the abyss exactly when we're swamped with work)?


Let's dive into the unique ecosystem of urgent translations, a world that ignores the notion of ISO standards and best practices. These projects are like wild mustangs, refusing to be tamed by conventional workflow.


The typical project journey goes a little something like this:

RECEIVE REQUEST – ANALYZE FILES – PREPARE BUDGET – RESPOND TO CLIENT



But the path of an urgent translation? Oh, it's more twisted than a pretzel at a state fair. It's a rollercoaster ride from nowhere to oblivion:


RECEIVE REQUEST – ANALYZE FILE – PREPARE BUDGET – RESPOND TO CLIENT – RECEIVE FEEDBACK – READJUST/RESPOND – AGAIN WITH THE FEEDBACK – READJUST/RESPOND – AND THEN, POOF!





The client vanishes into thin air, only to reappear a month later (if you're lucky. In my seasoned experience, it's often longer) with classics like "Your budget is too high," “How can we negotiate these rates, ” “Yes, I still need this by tomorrow, just like last time,” “That’s how much a translation with a 30-minute deadline costs?” To which we usually answer: "Sorry, that's my rate," and, in turn, more times than not, receive the ever-popular "I'll find someone cheaper."


Fast forward two months: "Hey, remember me? Turns out my cheap translation is garbage." Cue eye roll. Now, you're caught in the dance of assessing whether working miracles on their mess is going to at least provide you enough for the heavy medications you’ll need moving forward. In other words: is it worth your sanity?


To assess the actual toll on your mental health, you dive in, dissect the disaster, and prepare a new budget. All too often, you’re greeted with "You didn't lower your price! Why not, if you're simply fixing what's already there?" Right after you get back to the client. Or a few hours or days (or more) later. Let’s not forget. THIS IS AN URGENT TRANSLATION. Translation: it will probably take at least a year to negotiate.


Let's break down the comedic acts of urgent translations, shall we?


1. THE DISAPPEARING ACT: You send your quote for the urgent job, and suddenly, the client becomes a master of invisibility. If only they'd put as much effort into their project timelines as they do into their Houdini impressions.


2. THE TIME TRAVELER: The client accepts your quote, vanishes into a temporal vortex, and reemerges a long, long, long, long, loooooooooooooong time later. A time that, OF COURSE, surpasses the initial deadline that the client themselves established as the day they needed that translation. And get this! They are still expecting you to drop everything. Apparently, "urgent" in their book includes a footnote for time travel.


3. THE PATCHWORK ARTISAN: First, the document is final. Then, it's not. They have edits, and new versions (1, no 2. Wait, we meant 10), and oh, can we adjust the deadline and budget too? It’s like being asked to make a patchwork quilt with no needle or thread… or even the patches.


And through it all, you're left wondering: is this an urgent translation or an elaborate test of my patience and will to live? Because, at some point, both will go down the drain.


In the mad circus of freelance translating, "urgent" projects are killer clowns. Entertaining at first sight until you realize what they are and what they do. Clients disguising their documents as important tasks, just murdering your carefully structured schedule.


Every so often, you encounter that rare gem of a client who truly stands by their word. When they say urgent, they mean it—no shifting deadlines, no fussing over your rates, and complete trust in your work. We're deeply grateful for these clients. They are cherished and highly valued.


So, to the other dear clients, when you say "urgent," please know that on this side of the screen, a seasoned translator is trying not to spit out their coffee from laughing too hard.


Urgent, sure – but at what cost? Let's navigate these waters with a bit more clarity, attention to detail, and, dare I say, realistic response timelines.


Otherwise, you might find your "urgent" project taking a stroll through the park of “sorry, I’m not available,” hand in hand with every other "priority" on my desk.


On our side, we will continue to provide realistic budgets, and our top-notch services, meet our deadlines, and be your language gurus, as always.


With love,


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