Translators have inquisitive, curious minds. They delve into the depths of the texts in front of them with an eye for ambiguity, inconsistency, or potentially unclear, confounding passages. So, contrary to what might be popular belief, questions on behalf of a translator don't equate to incompetence. On the contrary, they show the amount of passion, dedication and competence with which the translator tackles the text they are tasked with translating. We’ve all been in situations (working through agencies), when in response to our questions we’ve heard the standard response “We don’t want to sound incompetent by asking the client; just translate literally.” There’s nothing worse and more limiting, for a translator who’s pouring their heart and soul in a translation, than being told to just ignore the ambiguities or potential issues they find. Not to mention that each and every one of such ambiguities and issues might represent an actual risk for the end-client, if not dealt with appropriately.
Competent, professional translators thoroughly analyze the text while they translate — it’s their second nature. It’s when they don’t, that one should worry. There have been countless instances in my decades of experience, for instance, when I've actually been able to question something that may have escaped the end-client's tech writer, and that in the end, as it turned out, needed to be rectified indeed, even in the source text. Finding and correcting or explaining an imperfection or ambiguity in the source text during translation will save enormous reprinting costs later and avoid potential problems, especially when several languages are involved. Within this type of workflow, an end-client’s cooperation and availability to answer any question and dispel any doubts the translator might have is absolutely key, and will make the process all the more efficient. Which is why both end-clients and translation agencies should be 100% on board with cooperating without constraints when it comes to any needed questions or clarifications.