Why a legal translator should not translate Tennis instructions

Why a legal translator should not translate Tennis instructions

I will admit it right away that the legal translator I am referring to in the headline is indeed “moi”.

Now you might ask yourself, why on earth would Tim consider translating Tennis instructions in the first place? That is a fair question. After all, I always promote specialized translation services.

Here is what happened:

I was browsing translator job boards when I spotted a job for an English to German Tennis App translation. This caught my attention because a) this kind of translation is a rather rare job, and b) I had recently seen the Wimbledon Women’s Final. I was immediately in all late 80s early 90s Steffi Graf and Boom Boom Becker mood (that was the time when Tennis was almost as popular as Soccer in Germany) and decided to pitch for the project.

Well, I got a 1 page PDF describing specific Tennis movements, and I struggled to even comprehend the English source text. I ended up getting my Tennis racket out and tried to follow the provided instructions. I surfed various Tennis Pro websites to double check if the moves I was translating were indeed the right moves. I finally submitted the 1 page translation – with a somewhat queasy feeling – to the client. The client wanted to review the 1st page before sending me the subsequent documents. After submitting the document, however, doubts crept in as to if I was the right translator for this project at all. This is exactly what should never happen if a client seeks the help of a professional translator. So my overdue decision was clear: notify the client of my difficulties with the translation, and suggest they complete the project with a better matched translator for this job. I also did not forget to mention to the client that I was not charging anything for the translated page.

The client wrote back that this was not a problem and that he indeed appreciated my honesty. Needless to say, I was relieved that things turned this way.

What is the lesson learned from this?

I will strictly stick to my legal and HR translations. A 20 page International Share Transfer Agreement or Articles of Incorporation might sound dreadful for some translators, but for me this is my “home turf” and I feel comfortable at all times to provide my clients with a quality translation, and thus a peace of mind for me and my clients.


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