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Agencies and quality control
Thread poster: cami
cami
Spanish to English
Oct 8, 2003

I was wondering what kind of experience others have with agencies, who complain about a translation several days after you have done it, because their client has complained to them. Isn't it up to the agency to check the translation, or have it checked by another freelancer (and then complain before they send it to their client)? Is it normal for an agency just to send the translation to their client without looking at it? I am also wondering about this as the agency in question states on its website that they have a quality control dept. who check everything, but obviously that it just to make a good impression. Of course an agency can expect you to do good work but if you are a freelancer working alone you do not always see your own mistakes. Or should you be expected to provide a perfect translation every time?

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Uldis Liepkalns  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 01:37
Member (2003)
English to Latvian
+ ...
The end clients Oct 8, 2003

in our experience, often give the ready and already proofread translation to their own proofreaders on receiving it from agency, and, as we all know, in all languages there are many ways any longer sentence can be composed, none of them wrong.
Therefore in these cases the consequences are hard to predict. And you know 2 business rules:
1) The client is always right
2) when he isn't see point 1.

cami wrote:
Or should you be expected to provide a perfect translation every time?


Of course. You do expect perfect payment for your efforts every time, don't you?

Uldis


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Vladimir Shapovalov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:37
Member (2003)
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
there is no such thing as perfect something in this world :) Oct 8, 2003

We are all humans and we make mistakes. The idea is to do our best to minimize them.

Uldis Liepkalns wrote:

cami wrote:
Or should you be expected to provide a perfect translation every time?


Of course. You do expect perfect payment for your efforts every time, don't you?

Uldis


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:37
Dutch to English
+ ...
Perfection and Language Oct 8, 2003

Vladimir Shapovalov wrote:

We are all humans and we make mistakes. The idea is to do our best to minimize them.



Right on the ball Vladimir!

Since language is not perfect to start with, the end product cannot be perfect either. Payments, on the other hand, can be perfect and, therefore, should be.

We should aim at perfection and accept we (the translator, the proofreader, the agency and the client) will never attain it.

In an ideal world all agencies would proofread all translation work. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If there is a complaint, you should ask for a breakdown and inspect it. If it is a question of personal choice and style, then it is not really a valid complaint unless you had been given a terminology list and a style guide beforehand.

There should always be an acceptable margin of error (and I mean of the typo type, not meaning). Usually between 1 to 5%.


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invguy  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 01:37
English to Bulgarian
Different criteria Oct 8, 2003

When you translate, you always try to do your best - no matter whether it's classic poetry, a scientific article, an international treaty or a simple business letter.

When you evaluate someone else's translation, however, I believe you need to step off the 'how I would have translated it' soapbox, and judge usability. I.e. the main criterion should be whether the translated text can perform its function, or not.

Some time ago an agency sent me a small translation for quality assessment. The text was fairly simple - some kind of instruction or something. Frankly, it was definitely not the best that I've seen. If I was the translator, I would have avoided the roughness and rigidity of the translated text, which were obviously due to the unknown colleague's desire to follow the source text literally (which IMO was pointless in the specific case).

Anyway, there were no serious errors, apart from (AFAIR) a few questionnable punctuation instances. So my conclusion was that it was perfectly usable for the purpose it had to serve - hence, its quality was good. The guy from the agency seemed to sigh with relief, saying that they had received some negative comments, but suspected that those comments were unreasonable.


To sum up: I'd say that translating and doing quality assessment are two very different beasts. I have the impression that, unfortunately, many of those who do assessments do not realize that.


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sylver  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:37
English to French
Fully agree Oct 9, 2003

invguy wrote:

When you translate, you always try to do your best - no matter whether it's classic poetry, a scientific article, an international treaty or a simple business letter.

When you evaluate someone else's translation, however, I believe you need to step off the 'how I would have translated it' soapbox, and judge usability. I.e. the main criterion should be whether the translated text can perform its function, or not.

Some time ago an agency sent me a small translation for quality assessment. The text was fairly simple - some kind of instruction or something. Frankly, it was definitely not the best that I've seen. If I was the translator, I would have avoided the roughness and rigidity of the translated text, which were obviously due to the unknown colleague's desire to follow the source text literally (which IMO was pointless in the specific case).

Anyway, there were no serious errors, apart from (AFAIR) a few questionnable punctuation instances. So my conclusion was that it was perfectly usable for the purpose it had to serve - hence, its quality was good. The guy from the agency seemed to sigh with relief, saying that they had received some negative comments, but suspected that those comments were unreasonable.


To sum up: I'd say that translating and doing quality assessment are two very different beasts. I have the impression that, unfortunately, many of those who do assessments do not realize that.


A very interesting point to raise. "usability". "Can the translation be used for it's intended purpose?" is the key indicator. I have seen quite a few times when a translator changed slightly the meaning to make it nice -indeed nicer- and while this is great in marketing, it sure doesn't fly in a tech manual. And then, we all had our text corrected by someone with a different style.

When correcting, I, too, often end up changing a lot of things in the process to fit my taste, but as long as the original translation can decently be used for it's intended purpose, it's ok, and I make sure that my customer understand that "all that red" doesn't matter much.


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