A good translation provider should ask them. From very generic ones before the project starts, such as asking you about the purpose and audience of your content, to more technical ones, such as preferred terminology or style, questions are a sign of a professional approach. This is the equivalent of the gathering of requirements in business analysis speak.
Have you ever sent a file to translate and you felt that it disappeared in a big black hole? This is indeed a dangerous situation. This may mean that your translation provider is making assumptions.
“Yes, but”, I hear some say, “you are asking your clients to do your job for you.”
“Isn’t searching for information part and parcel of translators’ or translation project managers’ job?”
If reference material exists and is easily available, translators should refrain from sending the client every single question that might come to mind. They should also read the WHOLE text you sent before asking about that ambiguous term on page 1.
But if your software is still WiP and it only exists in a demo version, a manual, a specification or access to that demo will provide invaluable insight to your internal terminology.
Questions can reveal errors or inconsistencies in your source files, and consequently help improve these documents.
Questions can save you legal issues in the target market. For instance, a translator may ask you whether you considered including relevant allergen information when they adapt a marketing copy for your food product.
Dealing with questions can be time-consuming. It can be frustrating, especially if you are swamped with them every hour. A good translator will batch them for you and communicate regularly.
Pertinent questions, transferred to a qualified person in your organisation, answered willingly, are crucial for a good end result. This communication flow will ensure that everyone gets the right information without wasting time and can meet the expected quality level.
What is your experience? Have you been frustrated by lack of communication or, on the contrary, lack of autonomy of your translation provider?
Fellow translators, what pertinent questions have made a real difference to your client and their project? Have you solved their pain points?