Five tips for dealing with criticism or differences of opinion in translation

Negative feedback or criticism can be tough to deal with. Translation is, by nature, subjective and it is inevitable that most translators will be faced with criticism or queries over translation or word choices from time to time throughout their careers. So what should we do when confronted with such criticism? Here are five simple tips to help you deal with this type of situation in a positive, professional and effective manner:

1. Delay your response
Our first instinct when faced with criticism is to be defensive. It is important to take a deep breath, listen carefully to what is being said and take time to formulate your response. Spend some time assessing and trying to understand the criticism in order to decide whether or not it is justified.

2. Keep things professional
It is important not to retaliate, but instead to respond in a calm and professional manner. If the criticism is justified, own up to your mistake and discuss with your client the ways in which you plan to avoid a similar situation in the future. Likewise, if you feel the criticism is not justified, explain why and do not be afraid to communicate the reasoning behind the choices you have made.

3. Don't take it personally
Try to keep things in perspective. Of course it hurts to be on the receiving end of criticism, but in the translation world, differences of opinion come with the territory. Try not to see it as a personal attack but rather as an opportunity to discuss the matter openly with the client, to offer explanations and to put forward possible solutions.

4. Turn it into a positive
If criticism is constructive it can serve as a valuable tool for self improvement. Use it as an opportunity to think about changes you can make to become more effective. Learn from your mistakes and make the necessary changes. If, for example, a client disagrees with your translation choice for a particular term, why not develop a client-specific glossary that includes the client's preferred terms? Explain your course of action to the client, and take advantage of the situation to show them how much you value their custom and that you take their opinion seriously.

5. Believe in yourself
It is important to believe in the translation choices you make and to have confidence in your ability as a translator. Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, whether justified or not. Be prepared to justify your translation choices when necessary. Similarly, if criticism is unfounded and has no constructive value, learn to brush it aside without losing your confidence.

Yours truly,
Lingo Woman


  1. Great advice - not just for translation, but life in general!

  2. Good article, can I also post it to my blog giving your reference?

  3. Great blog, Lingo Woman.


    How is the Portuguese challenge going? I am curious...

  4. Thanks!

    The Portuguese challenge is going well, although not quite as well as I had hoped. I haven't been able to dedicate as much time to it as I had wanted to, but I'm determined nonetheless! Just three weeks left now...

  5. @Muge - sure, post away! Not a problem as long as you credit me.

  6. Hello, good advice!! But I would add something, especially for translators. You can prevent overwelming emotional reactions to critics while translating. If you translate with a good degree of consciousness about every choice you make, especially style choices, and you "know" why you made these choices and between wich possible elements you have choosen, the moment you get the critics, you get less emotional reactions because most of the time the critics/corrections turn out to be simply one of the possible solutions you did "not" choose. This makes it easy to explain your own choice (because you can immediately say why you did not choose the other solution) and to leave open eventual modifications (because you are plainly aware about possible synonyms). You should be aware, at the end of a text, wich choices are'nt "choices" but "must be's". And aware about the reasons for these must be's, to be ready to state them. This kind of awareness is not easy to learn at the beginning, but along with the years it makes your confidence in your own skills growing.

  7. Good tips Lingo Woman! Most of them are quite common sense, but it is always positive to keep them in mind. And the most important of them, to do not keep things personally!

  8. Just stumbled upon this post-- excellent advice! I also love Frauke G. Joris's addition in the comments. So true!