As a translator myself, I always harbor a subconscious fear of finding silly mistakes in the texts that I write, or even worse, of receiving bad feedback from a client saying that the translation was not up to his/her standards. This is not a good thing; anxiety and stress are not going to solve anything. And even though I know that, I cannot help it. Probably because I know that I can do better. I expect more from myself. And, in my perception, others do as well.
Unfortunately, mistakes are common. And one of the wisest things that we can do about them is not only learn from them, but also learn how to cope with them. A mistake is not the end of the world. It is but a hurdle on your way to self improvement. It can turn into an advantage, if used correctly.
I was blessed with some enlightenment on this matter not long ago. I made quite a grave mistake in a text that I had worked on, the kind of mistake that can spark unwanted heat among the high spheres. When one of my bosses called me, asking for a chat on the subject, I felt my stomach turn. But contrary to what I was expecting, my boss didn’t yell at me. Turns out that in her youth – back when she was a greenhorn – the exact same thing happened to her. She got over it, learnt her lesson and came out stronger, more experienced and ready to face similar situations with her chin up high. And she encouraged me to do the same. Because we are humans.
What we do, what we write, what we translate, has a soul, a personality of its own, because it has been done by a human hand. A machine cannot create a document with a soul, no matter how technically correct it might be. It will not feel the same. If someone wants a job done with a certain degree of emotion and heart, it has to be done by a human, with its advantages and its flaws. And that means that there is a possibility that it might contain mistakes.
If you find a mistake in a text you have delivered, there are some things that might help you cope with it.
  • Don’t try to cover it up. Why should you? It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, deal with it with pride. You are human, and you are not perfect, but admitting your own mistakes makes you a better person.
  • Be humble. Adopting an attitude of arrogance is most probably not going to take you anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you are highly qualified, if you speak 40 languages or if you think that your expertise in the matter is far more superior to the client’s. A mistake is a mistake – make your peace with it, it is not going to undermine your worth as a professional.
  • You might feel like you need to explain why you have made that mistake, but be mindful that if others haven’t told you about the problems in their private life, they probably don’t expect you to do so. We all have our issues, and you don’t need to garner sympathy in order to come out of a situation like this unscathed. More often than not, people are implicitly understanding.
  • If the client hasn’t found out, don’t just wait and cross your fingers, hoping that he/she never will. Take the initiative and admit it – there is a part of the text that needs a change. That will make you shine asan honest, humble, hard-working person who will not settle for a mediocre job. Which, in fact, is true, and the sooner they realize, the better, right?
  • Learn from your mistakes, but don’t let them hold you back or turn you paranoid. You will try not to repeat your mistakes in the future, but if you do, it will not be the end of the world. In the field of translation nothing is set in stone, and texts can be corrected in a second nowadays.
  • And of course, leaving your texts in the hands of a trustworthy proofreader is always a good way to avoid typos, grammar and syntax mistakes. That does take a load off your shoulders, doesn’t it?