team players work together

Being a Team Player Doesn’t Always Look the Same

Team players support one anotherI pride myself on being a team player. I look at each client as a partner. After all, if I do not help them shine, I have a problem! In this specific case, I was asked to translate a brief manual and I was ecstatic to get a second assignment from a new client. An international manufacturer of computers and parts. Perfect! And the subject was sales and marketing. Even better. Or so I thought.

When language is not the only barrier

There was no issue with the document. It was simply a set of instructions. Easy and simple. The issue was with its intended audience: they would not be able to follow those instructions. The main problem had to do with technological development – or lack thereof – in their client’s country. I asked myself how was it possible that the manufacturing giant was unaware of the situation. There was only one answer: there was no one in the department who spoke their customer’s language. And, apparently, their counterpart did not speak enough English.

What is one to do?

Being a good team player, I spoke with my client and explained the situation. I also explained that there was no point in translating material that could not be used immediately. Furthermore, I pointed out that by the time their customer was able to use those instructions, they may be outdated. My suggestion was that it would make more sense to wait until their customer reached the right level of technology and to translate the updated instructions instead. The client agreed and we worked together for many years until the company was acquired by another giant in the same market. By then, it was 1995.

Being a team player doesn’t always mean the same thing

Why did they stay with me?  Because I proved to be a team player. I helped them to save money and realize that their strategy was lacking a precious element: understanding their clients. It is difficult to have an international business with a local vision. The company understood the need to expand beyond their country’s borders, but it failed to grasp all that step encompassed. It took a translator with the proper cultural background and knowledge to set them straight. And get a loyal client in the process.

Have you ever helped a client but not doing what you were asked to do? Please share your experience in the comments below.


Feature photo by Kumiko SHIMIZU on Unsplash; text photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash


woman with grey hair, in a red dress

Brazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester, Co-Chair of NAJIT’s PR Committee, started her career in translation and interpreting in 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with. In 2009, she co-founded the Florida ATA Chapter (ATIF), served as its first elected president (2011-2012), and later as president of its interim board.

As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more. Gio has been a contributor to The NAJIT Observer since its inception in 2011, and its Editor since 2016. In 2017 she was appointed Chair of the Miami Dade College Translation and Interpretation Advisory Committee, which she had been a member of since 2014.

In 2018, Gio was elected to the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Association of Translators and Interpreters,  Abrates, as its General Secretary. You can follow her on Twitter (@cariobana), learn more about Gio on her website, and she can also be reached at gio@giolester.com. Click here to read other posts by Gio.

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