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How to Reply To a Negative Feedback About Your Translation

We are humans and we screw up many times!

And receiving a negative feedback about your translation work if one of them.

As translation professionals, we work daily with people from different cultures and backgrounds. So, it is quite important to keep a level of etiquette while we do our business communication.

Whatever your years of experience or your educational background, there are times when daily life affects our business badly. It is how we react to these situations what makes a big difference between professional translation service providers and those who are not.

I was lucky enough when I started my translation career back in 2004 to read about the “A Complaint Is a Gift” business book and receive my training by a true professional Arabic translator.

My colleague taught me the tactics of a professional’s reply to a negative feedback and the book mentions the bright side of receiving a complaint about your work. If the client does not like your work, he can just move to another translation provider. Sending a feedback, can be a sign that the client needs an explanation and is giving you another chance.

Today, I am disclosing how I reply to these negative feedbacks if I ever receive one.

Do not reply once you receive the translation feedback:

Receiving a negative feedback makes us uncomfortable, yes we are all that.

But in business, we should avoid making decisions when we are not comfortable. Usually, I do not reply in the same day of receiving the feedback. I take some time to check it carefully and reply the next day morning.

You need a fresh mind to reply professionally, which is usually the first hour in the morning.

However, I do send an e-mail confirmation to the client to convey that I am aware of the feedback and I consider it as a priority. Usually the receipt is within 30-60 seconds. 

Apologize for the inconvenience:

The client is not happy about the situation. You may not be the cause of this, but I prefer to show sympathy to the people I work with.

Tell them you are sorry about the situation. This will build up a personal relation with your client. 

Do not Take it Personal:

Your relation with your client is based on business grounds, mainly. You both need to succeed in your work.

Looking at the cases or comments sent in a feedback from a personal perspective, will make you biased. This may affect your mood badly. It may push you to reply violently to the feedback and ruin your relation with your client.

So, be calm and reply in a professional way. 

Watch Your Language

Do not be offending. Use a neutral language to avoid irritating the person who wrote the feedback. Both of you should be members of the same team, and are supposed to show respect to each other.

If you believe the suggestion of the reviewer is not accurate, avoid saying “This is wrong”. Instead, you can say “I do not agree with the suggestion”, and then support your opinion.

Support Your Reply with Evidence

If you do not agree to the feedback, support your opinion with evidence. This may be an approved translation memory used in this account, an URL that explains your opinion, a dictionary that supports your interpretation or an approved glossary.

Working as on Arabic translation services was my main specialization. Arabic is a language has some variants among Arab countries. When I ever received a feedback that is related some locale variants, I would send the client a proof from a newspaper.

Suggest a Corrective Action

If you made a mistake suggest a corrective action you will use in the future to avoid these mistakes. You may have accepted a task with a tight deadline and that is why you rushed the translation and made these mistakes.

Tell them you will ask for an extension if you need more time to provide a more professional translation work. May be the source text was not clear to you, so you mistranslated it. In this case, you can suggest you will get back to the client in case of ambiguous sentences in the source. Suggest a corrective action and stick to it in the future. 

Be Honest

We all make mistakes, because we are humans. If you make a mistake just be clear on that. Do not try to work around it. Be responsible for your actions and tell the client it is your mistake. 

Author Bio:
Sherif Abuzid is an account manager at He has 10-years’ experience in translation and localization for Arabic, Middle East and African languages. Sherif holds a MBA in International Business Administration from the Arab Academy for Science Technology & Maritime Transport (AASTMT).

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