The Importance of Asking Questions

You do not have because you do not ask. James 4:2b English Standard Version

For the next few weeks, we will look at a topic that is outside normal translation and interpreting theory but is nonetheless vitally important for professionals: how to ask the right questions to the right people and get the right answers.

Why is this so important?

Well, let’s look at things that are regular occurrences in the lives of professional translators and interpreters. When we are starting out, we usually don’t have any clients. The only way to get clients is to ask people to give us work, via emails, CVs and phone calls. Once we get work, we often need to ask the client how they will use the document, who will read it or even when they will want it back. In the middle of a job, we need might need to ask experts, fellow professionals or the client again to help us with terms or phrases that seem difficult to understand. Once we return the job, we need to ask the client again to pay us, via an invoice and might need to ask them again if the payment is late.

Since I know that people outside of the translation industry read this blog, let’s look at some other examples. In my own life, I have asked people for funding, training, materials, time, a job or a chance to present ideas. I needed to ask my mother-in-law for her daughter’s hand in marriage and then, a little while later, I asked my then girlfriend to marry me. (She said yes.)

This week I am asking you to think for five or ten minutes about all the things you have asked for throughout your life. How many of them do you think you could have received if you didn’t ask? How much in life falls into your lap without any need for you to take the risk of asking someone for them?

Since asking is such a big part of life, surely we need to learn to ask correctly.

Next week, we will look at why we sometimes shy away from asking people and will examine ways of overcoming those issues. This week I would like to end with a challenge. For the next week, watch closely for the way you approach peoplewhen you are asking them to do something. Take note of what you were thinking about yourself, about them and about your request. Once you receive their reply, compare it with what you wrote earlier about your feelings. What patterns do you see?


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