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Definition of "English language"
Thread poster: shabda

shabda  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 01:37
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
Feb 5, 2006

Hari Om and Namaste!

Dear professionals,

If in your job description it is written "translates from and into English"
how wrong does a text have to be in order to be declared non-English and ground a refusal to translate it?

Thank you!
Glory be to Vishnu!


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 00:37
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
I have only ever tried this once Feb 5, 2006

I had to stop translating and tell the client that I would not go on.

What made me do this was this:
In some parts the English text was completely incomprehensible -it was a number of different words put together to form a sentence, only it didn't form anything!
In other parts, I could just about guess what the "translator" had been meaning to say, but I don't think it's fair to anyone that I try to guess my way through the text, because chances are that I'm guessing wrong!

Because the entire text was actually incomprehensible, I had to tell the client that asking for clarification of all these sentences would take me about as long as it would have taken me to translate the text itself, had it been written in at least comprehensible English, where you may deduct the meaning without guessing directly, and therefore I had to refuse to translate the text entirely.

This is only my experience.


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:37
German to English
+ ...
What's the difference between an orange? Feb 5, 2006

Bad English is still English (IMHO).

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

[...]

"When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll


I'm not sure I understand your question though.


[Edited at 2006-02-05 15:57]


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:37
German to English
+ ...
how long is a string? Feb 5, 2006

IMO it's up to you -- you can always refuse any job.

Assuming you are referring to the quality of the written text (compliance with grammatical rules, spelling, semantics, etc.). Obviously, translating something you cannot understand will be difficult at best and perhaps impossible.



[Edited at 2006-02-05 16:15]


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shabda  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 01:37
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Full-time employment Feb 5, 2006

Kenneth Cox wrote:

IMO it's up to you -- you can always refuse any job.

Assuming you are referring to the quality of the written text (compliance with grammatical rules, spelling, semantics, etc.). Obviously, translating something you cannot understand will be difficult at best and perhaps impossible.



[Edited at 2006-02-05 16:15]


Hari Om, Kenneth,

I am not talking of receiving an order from a client. I am talking of refusing to do s.th. that is in the job description of a full-time job. If I do it, the employer is entitled to dismiss me. However, as you agree, sometimes it may be impossible to comprehend the text owing to bad quality.
The question is how bad is grounds for refusal.


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 00:37
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Depends, but... Feb 5, 2006

I would say if the text is incomprehensible throughout most parts or all of the text, this should make your employer want to stop the translation him/herself in order not to get a reputation of delivering flawed translations.

But, perhaps you should not start by telling your boss that you refuse to do this translation. You could start by informing him/her about the incomprehensibility of the text and explain that a translation of this would be purely guesswork. You know, sometimes bosses are human too, or at least care about the reputation of their company.

Good luck.


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shabda  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 01:37
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
May that have been regulated in some EU directive? Feb 5, 2006

PCovs wrote:

I would say if the text is incomprehensible throughout most parts or all of the text, this should make your employer want to stop the translation him/herself in order not to get a reputation of delivering flawed translations.

But, perhaps you should not start by telling your boss that you refuse to do this translation. You could start by informing him/her about the incomprehensibility of the text and explain that a translation of this would be purely guesswork. You know, sometimes bosses are human too, or at least care about the reputation of their company.

Good luck.



Hari Om, PCovs,

Thank you for your answers.
Could there be some EU regulation on that?


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:37
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
What to clarify Feb 5, 2006

I assume the problem is with the "from" part, not the "to" part.

I can see some reasons one might need to translate non-standard (and close to incomprehensible) English into some other language.

a. Perhaps someone is writing in English (not his/her native language) because he/she doesn't know Bulgarian at all and doesn't want to try.

b. Perhaps the intent is to determine whether the writer speaks Englsh.

c. Perhaps you have a bunch of cryptic notes from someone that mean something to this person but not to anyone else.

In all these cases, you should be able to say that it's not standard English and be able to deal with it. In case a, perhaps you can send back a message about "your message apparently got garbled" and suggesting a way to handle it (e.g., we have German speakers on staff. Perhaps it won't be garbled if you send it in German.) In case b, you can tell the powers that be that the person doesn't speak English. In case c, you can say that big pieces of the sentences are missing. But if it isn't understandable English, you should be able to say so.


shabda wrote:


Hari Om and Namaste!

Dear professionals,

If in your job description it is written "translates from and into English"
how wrong does a text have to be in order to be declared non-English and ground a refusal to translate it?

Thank you!
Glory be to Vishnu!


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:37
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Who defines "English"? Feb 5, 2006

I don't know about an EU Directive, but since you're the English translator, why can't you define "English"? I know one time I used Babelfish to translate a bunch of words, some of which were in German and some of which weren't, and certainly weren't in any sort of a sentence structure into "Babelfish English". I think I made my point.

shabda wrote:

PCovs wrote:

I would say if the text is incomprehensible throughout most parts or all of the text, this should make your employer want to stop the translation him/herself in order not to get a reputation of delivering flawed translations.

But, perhaps you should not start by telling your boss that you refuse to do this translation. You could start by informing him/her about the incomprehensibility of the text and explain that a translation of this would be purely guesswork. You know, sometimes bosses are human too, or at least care about the reputation of their company.

Good luck.



Hari Om, PCovs,

Thank you for your answers.
Could there be some EU regulation on that?


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:37
German to English
+ ...
now I understand better Feb 6, 2006

As other Prozians have remarked, there are various situations in which a text can be nominally English but more or less incomprehensible, and each one has to be dealt with on its own merits. Paul Merriam's comments in this regard are all good.

IMO there's no point in looking for an objective test of whether something is or is not English, because there isn't any (just ask yourself how you would decide whether a text 'is' Bulgarian). The issue is not whether a text 'is' English, but instead whether it is comprehensible.

If you have a particular text that you consider to be incomprehensible (for whatever reason), one way to prove your point (or at least check your assessment) would be to post a representative sample on Proz as a job, with an explanation of your situation and a request for comments. It will cost you something, but as a result you will either have an outside opinion that backs up your position or a response you can learn from.



[Edited at 2006-02-06 10:05]


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:37
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
I don't find that funny... Feb 9, 2006

shabda wrote:

Could there be some EU regulation on that?


But I'll quote the memorable words of John McEnroe:

You cannot be serious!


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 00:37
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Not that far fetched, actually. Feb 9, 2006

juvera wrote:

shabda wrote:

Could there be some EU regulation on that?


But I'll quote the memorable words of John McEnroe:

You cannot be serious!


Why not?

There is something in the EU regulations talking about 'impossibility of performance', although I can only find this in connection with goods and not services, but I believe the point is the same here.

If a text is e.g. illegible for some reason, a translator should be able to get out of translating it without getting into trouble because of 'impossibility of performance', no matter how this translator came by being bound to do this job (in-house translator or freelance having agreed to do a job).

So yes, I do think Shabda is serious!


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:37
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Of course, but... Feb 10, 2006

PCovs wrote:

If a text is e.g. illegible for some reason, a translator should be able to get out of translating it without getting into trouble because of 'impossibility of performance', no matter how this translator came by being bound to do this job (in-house translator or freelance having agreed to do a job).

So yes, I do think Shabda is serious!


Of course, the translator should be able to send back such a job. But why should s/he be in trouble? Can't the matter be discusssed in a reasonable way? Also, there is always the possibility of asking for a second opinion on the text.

Do you need legistlation to sort out everything in life?

In any case, would you want to work with a client or agency if they cause you trouble about such a thing?

What I am against is to tie everything in red tape, make sure people don't use their own head, or as little as possible, don't let them develop initiative or loose it if they have any.
Pretend to give crutches to everybody whether they want it or not, demand that they use it, and make them dependent on it.
And make sure, they are grateful for it.

I think I better stop, and sorry, if it was a bit strong.

[Edited at 2006-02-10 00:43]


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 00:37
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
I agree. Feb 10, 2006

juvera wrote:

Of course, the translator should be able to send back such a job. But why should s/he be in trouble? Can't the matter be discusssed in a reasonable way? Also, there is always the possibility of asking for a second opinion on the text.

Do you need legistlation to sort out everything in life?

[Edited at 2006-02-10 00:43]


I fully agree with you.

As I have also suggested in one of my previous messages in this topic, I believe the translator should have a serious conversation with the employer and explain the situation. I find it hard to believe that any employer would force an employee to go ahead with an impossible task, and if refused the employee would get sacked!? ;-/

Oh, and the part about the second opinion - this would be perfect to have a second opinion already when speaking with the boss about the text.

I prefer dialogue to sort out problems - as I am sure most Danes do these days.


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shabda  Identity Verified
Bulgaria
Local time: 01:37
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dear pros Feb 14, 2006

Hari Om and Namaste!

Dear pros,

Today I had to translate s.th. that I branded machine translation. Have look at the text below. It is from a specification for building a barge.

Quote

Access to fore compartments Port and Std, through 800x800 mm in the light secured booby hatches at 500 from main deck.
Access to after and fore peak through 600x600 mm in the light secured booby hatches at 500 from main deck.
Access for ballast through 400x600 in cargo hold longitudinal bulkhead. 2 on each ballast between 1st and 2nd hold side longitudinal

Unquote

I conjectured that "in the light secured" comes from the German "ins Licht gesichert" and fed it into Systran and it returned it exactly.
I told my boss that this is an arrant machine translation. He saw it and suggested a random interpretation. I told him that it is mete that he asks them to write proper English and does not guess wildly. He did not answer. I also told him that it is beyond my job descriprtion to translate such texts. No answer.

I hope you will agree with me that translating correctly written text can sometimes be nerve-racking. Translating such garbage is always nerve-racking. Is a translator supposed to rack their nerves and that for the same salary?


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