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Approaching badly translated websites?
Thread poster: Paul Betts
Paul Betts  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:39
French to English
May 19, 2007

Has anyone here ever approached a company through their website to let them them know their website translation isn't up to the job?

I approached diplomatically five websites, as a test (as I have 40+ to target). Four remained silent, and the one that was curious negociated for a while. In the end they decided they didn't want an English version nor business orders, and pulled it offline - I think my defining that they actually had 14,000 words in French rather than their alleged 5,000 was partly the cause...

If any one has any similar experiences, or even successful ones, I could do with some tips and pointers, and perhaps some stock arguments that could be used.

Many thanks.


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
a word of warning May 19, 2007

Your post brought to mind a passage from "Editorial Freelancing" by Trumbull Rogers (Aletheia Press):

"As a warning about the way you word your opus [i.e., resume and cover letter]: [one publisher received] a letter from potential freelancer. The writer said that the company's surprisingly low standard of editing [substitute, in your case, translation] had ruined her favorite author's most recent book. She enclosed a two-page analysis of the kinds of errors she meant, most of which on close examination proved not to be errors after all, but rather her misinterpretations of the relevant rules of grammar. Needless to say, her offer that she be hired a s a copyeditor was not accepted." (p. 72)

So, just be careful not to offend when you send out your message to the company's that have these poor web sites. I don't doubt that you've analyzed the errors correctly, but if the company has invested either cash or ego into creating the web page, you might only succeed in alienating a potential client.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:39
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Tried it May 19, 2007

I tried it a few times in a very positive way, not by criticising but by saying that an edited text would show their product/service to its best advantage and inspire more confidence in potential customers. I offered to do the editing at a very reasonable rate and even gave them an example of an edited paragraph. None responded - I think it is a waste of time. If they wanted a well-written text, they would/should have looked for a good translator in the first place.

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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:39
English to Spanish
+ ...
I would just not waste time May 19, 2007

Hello --

I've been working in IT for 10 years and, analysing my customer's profiles, this is one of the worst ideas I've heard of.

I did not mean to sound too harsh; the idea just made me laugh when I tried to figure out the reaction of any of my customers receiving such a proposal. Here comes why:

People do not usually translate a web site by accident. They do it, or better, perpetrate it deliberately. Only under very rare circumstances they don't know, and in even rarer circumstances (i.e. torture) they accept that they have a bad translation.

When you try to sell a web site project you find tons of issues to clear out before a customer finally decides to go or not. When you talk about "who is going to provide the content translation for the ZZZth version", they usually already got short of cash. Those who really care about their corporate image usually go for a professional translation and this means that the result is good. Others, decide that they will go for it "internally", and this means almost anything. The result is usually poor, if not bad. If they do not give a dime for their corporate image, they just pick a machine translator or someone in a remote country who swears that they work with only native translators for 0.001 USD/ word.

... I hope you can imagine the rest.

Best luck, in any case!!

Ruth @ MW


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 15:39
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Some people just don't care... May 19, 2007

Unfortunately, not everybody is "obsessed" with good grammar like we are

I haven't had the time to approach badly-written/translated websites myself, but we have received a couple of badly-written websites for our localization projects. Some were poor-quality originals that needed translation and others were horrible versions done by "someone from the Marketing Department," which are a real pain to proofread and edit. If the people in charge of putting a website content up are not writers, translators, text editors, etc., the original is not going to be a high-quality material at all, anyway.

A very professional colleague working with me on this kind of material once was very concerned with the poor original text we received and, after talking for a while, we realized that these clients are not that concerned with a properly-written website --they just want to sell their product or service. What we pretty much do in these cases is really look into the context and offer a concise translation, advertisement style. Most of them are pretty informal, but if we're translating from Spanish into English, for example, we have to cut down on the wordiness and go straight to the point, so that their English website will look professional (sometimes, more professional than the original one...)

Cultural background comes into play here, since Latin customers tend to enjoy reading very long sentences to feel they got as much information about the product/service as they needed. English readers may be a little more "impatient," so they need choppy, straightforward sentences to quickly get to the point.

Like I told my colleague, these clients are actually lucky they came across professional that actually do care about text quality, so their translated website is going to be far better than the original content. Their sales may go up due to a client base expansion or a more attractive text provided by the translation, but they're not really looking for quality; they just want to get the job done. It's the result, not the means, that really matter to them.

Some are actually so eager to have their content available in different languages to attract more costumers that they end up rewriting their website in a foreign language by themselves. In such cases, results are often a disaster and editing the badly-written content usually is considerably more expensive (rate/hour) than hiring a professional to translate it from scratch (rate/word.) After looking at a document full of corrections (Track Changes), they realize that next time they better hire someone qualified to do the job...

Anyway, of course we're talking about small companies here. Large corporations with sites worldwide have language teams providing contents to each country or have already hired translation companies to take care of the job. They're willing to invest in good quality and present themselves as a professional organization, 'cause reputation really counts in the international market. Smaller companies (usually web-based ones) are not that self-conscious.

Well, I'd say you should go for it if you have time to invest in the niche. You may send your resume and respective remarks to about 50 potential clients, before you find that one that is interested enough to hire your services. However, maybe this one client can really make it up for all the time you've spent researching their contents and offering a sample of your work.

Good luck!


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 17:39
English to Russian
+ ...
Today it's at least 40+ hundred in any given language May 19, 2007

Do you really feel like handling them? I have once contacted the website offering aluminum semi-condictive waffles. Turned out they are selling wafers. The site is still there...
Smbd from the Marketing Dept. should be considered a blessing in disguise - mostly it is Babelfish or Prompt...


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 17:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
I did get three May 19, 2007

I tried this when I was first starting out (around 8 years ago) and had time to spare to try different marketing strategies. I think I may have sent out around 25 to 35 queries, and I got three successes. I don't know whether I have any good advice to give; perhaps if my approach had been better, I would have got more results.

One pattern I think I can identify (which may or not be useful) is that two out of the three were small concerns where the top person was the only or almost the only person involved in the business. I think these may be easier to deal with when your "bait" does attract a "bite." In a larger company, it may be, for instance, that the webmaster is interested, but the department responsible for authorizing the expenditure isn't, but instead of telling you no, they keep you waiting and hoping for a long time, with no result at the end. In a one-man or small company, you communicate directly with the owner, and if they're interested, they'll deal with you directly, (whereas if they're not, they won't answer you in the first place). Of course, you can't always tell the size of the company from the website, so I don't know if that helps.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 00:39
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
In selling there's several barriers May 19, 2007

to a successful close. Here's some:

o no trust
o no need
o no hurry

(I forgot others but it's immaterial). In the case discussed the average score would be 3:

o why would anybody trust or care about unsolicited offers?
o why would one need or care to be reminded about ... er... minor deficiences?
o "oh yes, d*mn, right on target, but not right now...."


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Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:39
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
Different Approach May 19, 2007

I work with two different web developers who include my translation services in the packages they offer their clients. It's a lot less hassle, and I'm happier working with people I already know than wasting time on cold calls.


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Adam Podstawczynski  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:39
Polish to English
+ ...
focus on advertising your services to the public instead May 20, 2007

I have tried many times calling people from smaller, medium and large companies, offering them my services at competitive prices. I have also tried the tactics of approaching and pointing out errors in their earlier translations, in a very delicate and weighted way. All these to no avail. In all cases of my customer relations it was them who came to me, not the other way round.

Therefore, I would suggest focusing on advertising your services instead of looking for a prey. The effort and time may be the same, but the results seem to be much better.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:39
English to Portuguese
+ ...
What if... it's a translation agency web site??? May 20, 2007

There is a Brazilian saying that "at the blacksmith's home, barbecue skewers are made of wood". Okay, it's snappier in colloquial Portuguese: "Em casa de ferreiro, o espeto é de pau." Apparently in English (or translaled from German? - I'm not sure) the equivalent is "Shoemaker's kids walk barefoot."

When I visit translation agencies web sites, I see that many of them have pages in Portuguese.

[Note: there is a sharp difference between the Portuguese used in Brazil and in Portugal. A good explanation can be found at:
http://www.necco.ca/faq_what_clients_need_to_know.htm
As I am not an expert on the latter version, I'm writing this exclusively about pages in Brazilian or "unstated" Portuguese.]

So I sit tight and have a look. Some of them - unfortunately few - are good. Too many are written in a style that says "TRANSLATED!!!" in flashing letters all over. I wonder how many Brazilian-speaking prospects would like their texts sounding like that. And there is more than its share of outright bad translations.

I'm not (yet) into the business of translating web sites other than my own, but I think it's derogatory to the whole profession. The prospects will see - in their own language - what could be the possible level of service offered by translation agencies, and realize that they know some amateurs who could do it better.

I write these agencies a friendly warning, advising them to unplug these pages ASAP and get a GOOD proofreader to fix them. I often mention it looks like a chicken-or-egg situation: they don't invest in a decent translation into Brazilian Portuguese because they seldom have requests for this language; or they don't get any translation jobs into Brazilian Portuguese because their translated web page is such a strong deterrent on quality grounds. Which one is their case?

Very few got concerned so far. Sometimes I land on their sites months later, and they are exactly as they were.

I imagine that this happens with many other languages when the agency doesn't have skilled in-house people to do it. They often get the cheapest candidates to translate their own web site. All right, assuming there is a price-quality relationship, this will save them money on the short run. But really, what's the use of having the pages translated like this?



[Edited at 2007-05-20 12:59]


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Valery Kaminski  Identity Verified
Belarus
Local time: 01:39
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
And if they TEACH languages??? May 20, 2007

I once encountered a site offering "an absolutely new fantastic break-through system" of learning foreign languages. It had a Russian page with quite a few mistakes.
I tried to attract their attention to the fact that advertising themselves as language experts they should make every effort for their presentation materials to look impeccable. No reply...
I suspect the CREATOR of the SYSTEM made the translation himself.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:39
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Couldn't resist... May 20, 2007

Valery Kaminski wrote:
I once encountered a site offering "an absolutely new fantastic break-through system" of learning foreign languages. It had a Russian page with quite a few mistakes.
I suspect the CREATOR of the SYSTEM made the translation himself.


Valery, this "break-through" reminded me of the late comedian / musician Victor Borge, decades ago, telling about the the Japanese language course he had taken, in which he learned while asleep. Then a friend asked him if, after that, he could actually speak Japanese. "Only in my dreams" was his reply.
8-D


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:39
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Contact the correct person May 21, 2007

megane_wang wrote:
People do not usually translate a web site by accident. They do it, or better, perpetrate it deliberately. ... When you talk about "who is going to provide the content translation for the ZZZth version", they usually already got short of cash.


I think Megane has a point, but I'd like to take what she had said and cast it in a different light, namely... if you want any result, contact the correct person.

Who is the correct person? Certainly not the web master, certainly not the head of the marketing department, certainly not the public relations office... the correct person is someone who would feel personally affronted by the bad translation and who has the ability to make those below him rechannel funds into rectifying it (or has the ability to channel those funds himself).

These sites are designed at low budgets at high speed by people who have many other things to do as well. The only way to get to them, is from the top. But you must set your target very high, so that by the time the message reaches them, it is no longer personal and emotional (otherwise you end up working for people who are angry at you for making them work more).

If you want to target this sort of client, don't waste your time on mom-and-pop dotcoms. Go for large, public companies or organisations where public image is central to business. Do your homework, to find out who is the most likely person to respond positively, and don't expect your letter to move from the bottom upwards and onwards to the correct person -- contact your target directly or via an associate on the same level as he.

I see a lot of potential in this, but it will take time and resources to get it right. Not really something you can do alone.


[Edited at 2007-05-21 06:21]


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 00:39
French to Dutch
+ ...
What if.. May 21, 2007

What to do if you get the second or third part of a website? Do you point out errors in the first part(s)? I tried to do so, but the errors are still there, on the home page.

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