15 Things You Should Never Say to a Translator

Oct 1, 2014 | Funny

Things You Should Never SayTo a Translator

(And Which They Unfortunately Hear Way Too Often)

Here are some of the comments I have heard firsthand from potential customers, over my many years working in the field of translation. I think that all translators have heard these at some point …

Shooting translator

1 – You say you’re a translator, but you can only speak three languages???

Or:  You’re a translator, but you don’t know how to say “Best Regards” in Chinese?

2 – I have about 45 pages to get a rush translation on by tomorrow, can you give me a discount?


3 – The document I have enclosed is a PDF created with InDesign. I absolutely need the formatting to be maintained.

4 – US$300 to translate 3000 words? I am not prepared to pay that much. My nephew studied one month in France, he can handle this translation perfectly well for US$50


5 – You are a thief! I know a translator, and he only gets a few cents per word, and you want US$400 to translate 5000 words!!!

6 – My secretary is bilingual and read your translation into Spanish. She thought it was absolutely terrible.

7 – Can you translate “Revenge is a dish best served cold” into one single Chinese character? It’s for a tattoo…


8 – I need my website www.domain.com translated. Part of it is Flash and the remaining part is dynamic content managed via a database. Please look at the website and send me a detailed quote.

9 – What does “XXX” mean (word taken out of context)? If you are a real translator, you should know!

10 – What did you study in order to become a translator? Literature?
Or: Translation isn’t a real job.
Or the ever popular: You spend your life sitting at home, working at your computer in your pajamas, and you earn your living doing that?


11 – The document to be translated is confidential, and I can’t send it to you, but I need to know how much you are going to charge for it to be translated!

12 – Why are you charging so much when there are free software programs that do machine translations?

13 – Why do you need dictionaries?  Aren’t you a professional translator?


14 – There’s no way that could take so long. This text is only about 20 pages long and that shouldn’t take you any more than two days to translate!

15 – Please provide me with a rush translation of this 10-page contract. My customer is waiting in my office to get the document in his language.