Like many of my colleagues, I’ve experienced a very typical frustrating situation once or twice over the years: the client hires me for my creativity, but then stifles it with their own preferences.

Ultimately, whether they know it or not, they want an English translation that reads more like the original German.

So here’s a letter to all those prospects with similar ideas out there:

Dear prospective clients,

Don’t hire me if you’re looking for a literal translation.

Please. Don’t.

Neither of us will be happy, and you’ll end up overpaying for something anyone can do.

Yeah, I can rein it in. But it’s going to be a painful process. I’m going to politely push back, with calm but reasoned explanations and links to online dictionaries, Google Trends, and grammar sites.

Still, I won’t dismiss ideas without reason. Good and neutral ideas will be incorporated with delight – I do love to tweak and improve things.

I’ll also try to come up with an acceptable semantically and grammatically correct alternative if the suggestion is iffy, but I can figure out the source of the objection.

And “I didn’t get the joke” is a valid objection and useful feedback for a transcreator writing for international audiences.

Yet throughout all this, I’m always going to focus more on achieving proper, effective, and – where appropriate – persuasive English. It pains me to add things that sound non-native, that make it look like the translator made a mistake. If there’s a better or more usual way of saying things in English, that’s what I’m going to push for. I’m going to want the best for you, your text, and your business, even when my expert opinion is at odds with yours.

There are colleagues out there who will happily translate in a less “free” manner, incorporating Germglish phrases and diplomatically and silently integrating ungrammatical suggestions without pushback. They’re cheaper. After all, that’s the “standard” way of translating, practised by the majority.

Two of them will even work for free: their names are DeepL and Google Translate.

That’s free translation of a different kind.

So how do you get free translations, as in smooth, good English that doesn’t read like a translation?

Well, you hire me, of course!