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When to warn the client of a poor translation
Thread poster: Burrell

Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:19
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Jun 1, 2005

This might be the wrong forum but hopefully I will be redirected.
I am proofreading a rather small - under 2000 words - text. The translation is not exactly wrong but rather wooden, the words do not flow, they are exact translation although the client gave specific instructions to translate in a way that sounds nice and readable in the target language. So far I have had to rewrite seven full sentences, correct every third. At the same time I only found one inconsistent term.
I am very reluctant to say bad things about other translators to the clients. I hate it when it is done to me and would not do it to others. But where do you draw a line, when do you have to consider telling your client how poor the translation is, if there are no real mistakes just poor style.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:19
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Being tactful about it Jun 1, 2005

If I see a good translation, I tell the client that it's high quality. If the quality is not so good, I ask if they would like my opinion

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:19
French to English
Why not tell the client exactly what you just told us? Jun 1, 2005

i.e. it seems to be translated OK (except for the one error you mentioned) in terms of meaning, but requires a fair bit of work to make it flow in English.
Stick to the facts as you see them, and let the client be the judge of whether to work with that translator again. Do as you would be done by, and all that


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Cristina Mazzucchelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 13:19
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Totally agree! Jun 1, 2005

I totally agree with Charlie! Just tell him exactly what you wrote on your thread: you won't be saying anything bad about the other translator, but just the truth about the translation itself. And you'll be saying it as a professional translator, not just for the sake of saying a bad thing about a colleague! I think your client will appreciate your honesty.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:19
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Honest, constructive criticism is helpful Jun 1, 2005

I reckon it's my duty to tell the client.

When I proofread, I always send two files back, one with the 'red corrections' visible (Word Proofreader function) and one I reckon is 'clean' and ready for delivery to the end client. Then the agency if any and the translator can see what I've done and 'reject' anything I may have misunderstood. It rarely happens, but they have the opportunity.

I usually send comments as well - or call the translator direct if it is someone I know, and talk it over - unless my corrections are very small and self-explanatory.

I try very hard to start off with some good points - I usually find plenty, but there are also sad exceptions. There are cool, objective ways of criticising, and we should all learn to accept them.

Admittedly, it is very uncomfortable when there is a lot of criticism, but it's all part of the job!

Either the translator can look for different kinds of jobs that he/she is better at, or at least the agency or client can look for a more suitable translator.

And we all have our off days. I don't get my work proof read often enough*, but I'm usually enormously grateful when someone does go through it. It may hurt at first, but I look at it this way: I'd rather have a proofreader work my text over than a dissatisfied client! I learn a lot from it too.

I agree with Mikhail and Charlie above. Tell the client, and best of luck!

*My work is in fact checked - the agencies proofread it - but I rarely get any feedback.

[Edited at 2005-06-01 15:52]


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Jana Teteris  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:19
Latvian to English
+ ...
'Correcting' style is always tricky Jun 1, 2005

Whilst I agree that you should tell the client exactly what you told us, I see this as somewhat of a grey area as the style of a text is always open to interpretation (and any stylistic changes often have to be substantiated more than changes in terminology).






[Edited at 2005-06-01 14:09]


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writeaway  Identity Verified

Local time: 13:19
Partial member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
maybe it's not a style to your liking but maybe it's ok Jun 1, 2005

Jana Teteris wrote:

Whilst I agree that you should tell the client exactly what you told us, I see this as somewhat of a grey area as the style of a text is always open to interpretation (and any stylistic changes often have to be substantiated more than changes in terminology).






[Edited at 2005-06-01 14:09]


if it's not broken don't fix it. Unless there are grammatical errors, I never interfer with someone else's style. Out of curiosity-are you proofreading a text into your native language(s) or into English?
Once you change the style here and there, then there is no longer a consistent style to the document. So it's sometimes better to leave it and just pass on your opinion to client.


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:19
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not understanding the meaning of the translated text Jun 1, 2005

Yes, Iam proofreading into my native language.
I quite agree with the style issue. Style is not a mistake. Except that in this case there was a request from the client not to hold on to the precise wording but to make it sound very readable in the target language.
I know there are different styles, but if I have to read a translation several times to understand what it is about, it has not got anything to do with my liking. Whereas when I switch to original, it is all very clear to me. You probalby know the level of translation I am talking about - precise wording sometimes completely looses the meaning. And after you have rewritten a few of these lost sentences you start loosing respect for the rest of the translator's work and just go through it with a spade.


[Edited at 2005-06-01 17:11]


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:19
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Well, in that case... Jun 1, 2005

In that case, you are having to re-do the translation. If you say nothing, you will accept that fact. For me the bigger issue would be the amount of work I have to do because of the low quality of the original translation.

By the way, it's great if you have a flare for style that few other translators do. That means you can make a great editor - IF you enjoy the work.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
tell the client, esp. if you work regularly for them Jun 1, 2005

Burrell wrote:

I am very reluctant to say bad things about other translators to the clients. I hate it when it is done to me and would not do it to others. But where do you draw a line, when do you have to consider telling your client how poor the translation is, if there are no real mistakes just poor style.


I did it today. The translator had not 1. spellchecked (the text was set for the source language); 2. had not bothered to read over the text on paper (or would have detected inconsistencies, spelling errors, and sensed the 'spanglishness' of the language).

The translator had just run it off and clearly did no kind of quality check. I told the client, who is someone I work regularly for, so I didn't really hesitate.

Such a translator is an amateur and lacks professionalism, so does not need to be defended, but slammed in fact. He/she is taking the bread and butter out of 'proper' translators' mouths, and long-term just gives us all a bad name....

Style is more difficult, but if it reads bad to you, it will surely read bad to others. And if it's essential for a text to read well (e.g. journalism) then he/she is not up to standard, although for other kinds of texts he/she might do a good job (e.g. he/she might be good at technical texts)

Finally, you are actually doing the translator a favour. In the case I mentioned above, it's a lack of attention to detail. Point it out to the client and the translator will pull up his/her socks. Feedback, positive and negative, is essential, over a translator's life, otherwise we take things for granted.

[Edited at 2005-06-01 17:27]


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Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:19
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Told the client the same Jun 1, 2005

Ailish Maher wrote:

And if it's essential for a text to read well (e.g. journalism) then he/she is not up to standard, although for other kinds of texts he/she might do a good job (e.g. he/she might be good at technical texts)



Yes, that is exactly what I thought today. Almost wrote this to the client, but in the end decided not to because that would mean going personal. But, thanks to all the good advice I foudn here, I did tell the client (who is not a regular one, yet) that I ended up spending a lot more time than it was expected because the text was not very easy to read. Which was true.

So thanks a lot for all the advice.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:19
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
An addition Jun 1, 2005

And if you do tell the client, you don't want to make it look like you are just complaining to haggle for the rates ("hey look how bad it was - you need to pay me more!") - so it's best to specify what exactly was wrong (imperfect) about the translation. IMHO

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Ziad Marzouka  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:19
English to Arabic
+ ...
Same story Jun 1, 2005

Well I was given a proofreading job today, a questionnaire less than 500 words in Arabic, and the agency told me that they wanted it back in less than an hour! I though it was going to be a short text with little mistakes if any, but it turned out to be a disaster! The translation was really bad it made me laugh! Can you imagine that the translator mistranslated the word "Please"??! Yes as simple as that! I made 14 adjustments on the text! 14 adjustments on a 500 word text! it's funny, isn't it? It took more than 2 hours!

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helen howard  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:19
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
track changes Jun 2, 2005

I tend to activate the track changes option, so that the client can see exactly what needed changing and what did not. I only ever change what is necessary (i.e. a mistake, inconsistency, stillted phrase) but would never just rephrase a sentence for the sake of it:-)

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PRAKAASH  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:49
Member (2007)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Poor Translations! Jun 2, 2005

Dear Prozians,
It's really a serious issue that amateurs are displacing the professional ones by quoting low rates and attracting the clients. It means that they are taking the pieces of bread from our mouth, the professional ones.

I never hesitate in telling the ultimate client, if the translation is very poor. Rather I asked to my outsourcer once, to transfer the same job as retranslation job because he is one of my regular outsourcer. And he did it as I never ask for sky-rocketed price as well and try my hands on my work to the best of my efforts. The clients have never sent the words of complaints. Rather, if I found a small mistake or so in translation, I notify the client quickly.

We, all professionals have to rethink and find a solution of this problem of poor and immature translations replacing the good translations nowadays.

WARM REGARDS!
PRAKASH SHARMA
FREELANCE TRANSLATOR OF NEPALI, HINDI, SANSKRIT AND ENGLISH TO FOUR OF THE SAME
+977 56 530738


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