Yesterday I did something I had never done before: I met clients in the flesh, as well as other freelance translators (Italian, Spanish and German) who have been working for them. It is very odd to think that in four and a half years, I have done translations for a lot of people, but I’ve never met any of them.
It was a really interesting and positive experience; we talked about their aims as a company and the way our translations could help them achieve them. I was curious as to why they had chosen to hire freelancers instead of using a translation agency to manage their project, as it required translation in ten languages. They told me that they are keen to build links within the local community (they are based in Hove) and think it will be easier to have a long-term relationship with individual translators rather than with an agency, as they feel this is necessary to develop a coherent house-style.
We had very interesting exchanges about several issues encountered in the work we had already done for them, including the tone of the text, which I found particularly interesting. It is an English language school Website aimed at potential students and their parents, so getting the right tone was quite tricky; it had to be modern and warm while remaining serious and professional. Interestingly enough, the Italian and Spanish translators chose to use the informal way of addressing someone whereas the German translator and I chose the formal way. I felt that using the "tu" form might sound condescending and slightly too familiar, whereas "vous" is quite safe, and if you jazz up the rest of your text, it is easy to retain a modern, approachable tone. In Italian and Spanish, their equivalent of "vous" would have created too much of a distance between the students and the school, as relationships in the classroom seem to be more informal. It was interesting to see that it was possible to keep a similar "feel" to the site in several languages while making different linguistic choices.
I really feel I have a clearer idea of what they expect from me and that now, I have all the information I need to do a good job for them. Besides, they were lovely and they had bought enough biscuits to feed a small continent, which is always a good foundation for a long-term working relationship.