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Mistranslation and samples for customers
Thread poster: Karina Garcia Pedroche

Karina Garcia Pedroche  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Aug 16, 2008

Many people still don't appreciate the importance of hiring a professional translator or agency to assure the quality of their business presentations in a foreign language, relying on amateurs. With what mistranslation samples would you prove your prospects that a professional background is important to effectively reach the foreign market?

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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:57
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
You will need to search the web, I think Aug 16, 2008

Once you find one or two web sites with hilarious examples of mistranslation you could write to the companies concerned, point out the mistakes, and offer your services.

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xxxUSER0059  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 13:57
English to Finnish
+ ...
"Getting it right", by ATA Aug 16, 2008

Karina Garcia Pedroche wrote:

Many people still don't appreciate the importance of hiring a professional translator or agency to assure the quality of their business presentations in a foreign language, relying on amateurs. With what mistranslation samples would you prove your prospects that a professional background is important to effectively reach the foreign market?


Maybe you would find http://www.atanet.org/docs/Getting_it_right.pdf useful.

Personally, I think pointing out the mistakes of other translators might seem a little opportunistic. However, the ATA probably knows what it is doing.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
May not work Aug 17, 2008

What you suggest, Astrid, may not work well at all. Experience tells us that when we call people stupid (even though they most definitely are), they become offended; and moreover, if they were stupid enough to post a bad translation in the first place, they will probably never see the light.

Besides, the person who receives the e-mail may well be the one who did the bad translation!


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Karina Garcia Pedroche  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No harm meant, no competition Aug 17, 2008

I don't mean to squeal on anybody. I mean common errors, like the translation from English to Spanish of "Adam's apple" for "manzana de Adam" , while in some countries it is said "nuez de Adam" (Adam's nut). Have I betrayed anybody by providing this example? There is no harm meant here.

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yeah, but Aug 17, 2008

Avoid "Adam's nut" for sure!

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Whole books of examples Aug 17, 2008

When I talk to school classes about translation, I usually cite a few examples from two sources: the "Onionskin" column which appears in several translation journals (including the ATA Chronicle) and from Charlie Croker's two books "Lost in Translation" and "Still Lost in Translation."

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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:57
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I do not understand you, Henry Aug 17, 2008

Henry Hinds wrote:

What you suggest, Astrid, may not work well at all. Experience tells us that when we call people stupid (even though they most definitely are), they become offended; and moreover, if they were stupid enough to post a bad translation in the first place, they will probably never see the light.

Besides, the person who receives the e-mail may well be the one who did the bad translation!


Karina raised the topic of amateur web sites not translated by translators, but by the web site owners themselves, secretaries, students (not necessarily of languages), etc. She asked for examples of translation howlers that might occur as a result.

The only effective way to "collect" such howlers and use them in your own advertising is to spend the time searching the web yourself and finding them. Taking examples that have been found and used previously by other translators or examples cited in published documents is not going to work in the same way, because those examples are old and have been cited before. (That is, quite apart from the fact that the time invested in collecting such howlers by others ought not to be taken advantage of by competitors. I translate about this kind of subject every day.)

Astrid


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:57
Member (2003)
French to English
Think positive Aug 17, 2008

Instead of bringing up the same old translation howlers, I think it's more effective (though certainly more time-consuming) to gather examples of companies who do get it right, precisely because they've used good translators.

Best,

Karen


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:57
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Add-on business Aug 17, 2008

In a number of cases while working for direct customers or doing a job for an agency I have referred to the end client's web site, only to find it has numerous problems with the English translations. When these are pointed out tactfully, a follow-up job for correction or re-translation has resulted often enough that I often just keep my mouth shut for fear of bringing on more work that we don't have time for.

So far I have never used bad web pages as a reason for initial cold contact with a prospect, but that's not because I don't consider it a valid approach. The success of this "tactic" within existing relationships is so high that it would likely work with a cold contact (though not quite as well without qualified contacts). In fact, I keep a folder of "favorites" in my browser which I intend to pursue when I have time....


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:57
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
This question constitutes unfair competition Aug 17, 2008

Karina Garcia Pedroche wrote:

Many people still don't appreciate the importance of hiring a professional translator or agency to assure the quality of their business presentations in a foreign language, relying on amateurs. With what mistranslation samples would you prove your prospects that a professional background is important to effectively reach the foreign market?


Unless posed in a marketing examination at school or university, this question constitutes an attempt at unfair competition. Money is earned by being creative, coming up with ideas. Those ideas, once published, constitute intellectual property. As intellectual property has a financial value (sometimes a large one), it is not fair to ask others to create intellectual property for you, without paying them to do so, nor is it fair to ask colleagues from where it might be possible to steal the intellectual property of others and use it for one's own financial gain.

[Edited at 2008-08-17 08:27]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:57
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Fair use Aug 17, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
Unless posed in a marketing examination at school or university, this question constitutes an attempt at unfair competition. Money is earned by being creative, coming up with ideas. Those ideas, once published, constitute intellectual property. As intellectual property has a financial value (sometimes a large one), it is not fair to ask others to create intellectual property for you, without paying them to do so, nor is it fair to ask colleagues from where it might be possible to steal the intellectual property of others and use it for one's own financial gain.


Not true. Here's one possible approach: write an article citing examples and post it on ProZ or elsewhere. If I'm not mistaken, the ProZ servers are based in the US and subject to US law, which includes the doctrine of fair use for a variety of purposes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use

The purpose of the article would be educational, and it could be referenced by anyone. Provide a link to the article in your correspondence with a prospect. Your status as the author will help to establish your "credentials" as an "expert" if it is well-written.

However, that "Getting It Right" tract that Thor cites would serve just as well or in addition, and it's from a "neutral" party. There are versions available in other languages too. (I've seen German; I presume there is a Spanish one.) On a few occasions I've passed this document on to clients in my efforts to persuade them that using their distributors to handle localization of their product literature can be a really bad idea.

[Edited at 2008-08-17 09:35]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Giving freely is not unfair Aug 17, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
As intellectual property has a financial value (sometimes a large one), it is not fair to ask others to create intellectual property for you, without paying them to do so...


There is nothing unfair about it. Anyone may ask to receive something for free, and those who hear the request, are free to give or not to give. Fairness (or rather, unfairness) is about being deserving of something and not receiving it.

Oh, and don't bother sending me an invoice for the portion of your post that I just quoted.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:57
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Request for free creation of marketing materials Aug 17, 2008

Kevin, Samuel,

If I am not mistaken, Karina was - in so many words - asking us to create free marketing materials for her! As I told her in my original one-line post, that is out of place and it is her job to create her own marketing materials.

Astrid


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 11:57
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
??? Aug 17, 2008

Astrid Elke Johnson wrote:
If I am not mistaken, Karina was - in so many words - asking us to create free marketing materials for her! As I told her in my original one-line post, that is out of place and it is her job to create her own marketing materials.


Although her English is a bit fractured, I think its meaning was fairly clear, and I certainly did not understand it to be a request to "create" any marketing materials for her. It's perfectly legitimate to ask for possible sources of material or approaches to the problem. If she had started a thread with the title "What's the most idiotic mistranslation you've seen on the Web this year?", I'm sure she would have been deluged with examples. (There are a few threads in this vein, though with somewhat more polite titles.)

And pointing her to useful sources as Thor has done is also perfectly legitimate help to a colleague.

However, I personally think the time invested in a *generic* approach to showing the possible consequences of non-professional translation would be better invested in a pitch adapted more specifically to the prospect, using deficient marketing materials from that company, for example. I just finished a very interesting brochure translation for a dynamic new company in the field of technical documentation and content management from which I derived some very useful ideas. (This was also one of the less pompous texts of this type which I have seen in ages, so I actually enjoyed translating it, and I found the company's whole approach very credible and professional, even if its web site betrays a profound lack of competence in English.) One of the services offered by this company is a documentation audit/review in which potential problems (particularly legal or regulatory ones) are identified. This idea could be adapted very nicely for our market, though obviously an agency or someone with very significant project management skills is called for if the amount of material is large or a number of languages and markets are involved. Nonetheless in specific cases, this might be a very useful approach ***if you know what you are talking about***. I find that translation is usually a lot more fun when a healthy dash of consulting is added to it.


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