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What's up with these questions from the client..?
Thread poster: Taija Hyvönen

Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 10:04
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Jan 6, 2009

I do some translation work for an agency, which has files to be translated into multiple languages, around 10-20. Sometimes finished files come back for the translators to correct mistakes. Everyone involved gets all the comments regarding all languages, not just your pair. Apart from project management also comments from the client may come to translators.

Now some of these mistakes really make me go "hmmm", as in wondering who are the people that deliver something like this.

However, also the clients can make you go "hmmm". They wanted corrections on the translations of some terms, which were not identical to those that were translated some time ago with a different version of the file. I know several of these languages enough to, having taken a look, be able to say many of these were not mistakes at all, only a different way of saying the same thing.

I'm still a bit new in the business... is it common that clients compare translations in languages they don't know and come back with an impossible question "which one is wrong"? How do you deal with this? Politely break the news that there may be more than one correct way of saying something?

Of course I see the point of consistency with terms throughout the whole document. But if parts of the translation are done by different translators who don't have access to the other version... how could you know which one was used... hmmm.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 09:04
English to Hungarian
+ ...
answers Jan 6, 2009

Taija Salo wrote:

Of course I see the point of consistency with terms throughout the whole document. But if parts of the translation are done by different translators who don't have access to the other version... how could you know which one was used... hmmm.


That's what exchanging translation memories is for.

I have a simple answer to your question:
- If the terms in question are technical terms, marketing keywords etc, then it is entirely normal that the client wants them translated exactly the same way every time for consistency.
- If they aren't, then I'd suggest what you wrote: "Politely break the news that there may be more than one correct way of saying something." Even then, we are in the service industry: the client gets what they wish. Even if it doesn't make much sense. It's their text, their company image and their money. All we do is make suggestions and comments, but it's ultimately their call. In a restaurant, I want my steak prepared the way I like it, even if the chef is convinced that he knows better.


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Be firm about your language Jan 6, 2009

Taija Salo wrote:
I'm still a bit new in the business... is it common that clients compare translations in languages they don't know and come back with an impossible question "which one is wrong"? How do you deal with this? Politely break the news that there may be more than one correct way of saying something?


Hmmmm.... Yes, we have that too with some customers. It happens though that the customers who compare languages that way get to learn a lot from us translators and get to appreciate the explanations if we are firm about the reasons we went one way and not the other.

Be firm about your translation decisions and offer solid sources of reference (respected online dictionaries, official sources of grammar or spelling in your language, respected sources from University or author websites...) to document your decision, and you will make happier, better informed customers. Customers usually love it when you can explain your translation decisions in simple words!


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:04
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Don't get me started... Jan 6, 2009

This particular problem is the bane of my existence as a translator. One company in particular that I work for will send complaints from a client, and when I ask to see them it's always the following:

1) Words with identical meanings, but the client liked his/her choice better.
2) The client "corrected" my "mistake" by putting in some word that is completely wrong or doesn't even exist in English.
3) The client will add words that were not in the original.
4) These clients are always non-native "speakers" of English who think they know more than I do.

Sorry to sound pissy, but this is one problem that really irritates me because I have to waste time explaining, point by silly point, why the client is WRONG. Arrghhhh!


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Roberto Cavalcanti  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:04
English to Portuguese
My first client Jan 6, 2009

My first client is an agency, one of their clients has a proofreader that, believe it or not, don't know Portuguese grammar and probably is out of Brazil for a long time.
I imagine he/she is an old person without computer knowledege because the files always return to me in pdf format with manuscripts. His/Her handwriting is almost illegible. Can you figure out how much work is needed to reply?


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 10:04
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, Amy and Roberto: sounds extremely annoying! Jan 6, 2009

If they know better, why don't they just do it themselves...

But if someone has high hopes of their language skills, that's at least somehow understandable. What confused me here was the fact that the comments were based on not knowing these languages at all. Just comparing two places where they thought there would have to be a similar-looking set of characters, finding something else and asking which one is a mistake. I would have no problem replacing a word to make it consistent with other parts of the document once I got to see them, but I don't know what to make of this...

Or have I just studied too much and lost sight of the fact that there is one right word for every word in other languages and that is the right translation, because the meaning is the same and that's it, that's why anyone who speaks the two languages can translate


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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:04
English to Polish
+ ...
Not necessarily Jan 6, 2009

Taija Salo wrote:
What confused me here was the fact that the comments were based on not knowing these languages at all. Just comparing two places where they thought there would have to be a similar-looking set of characters, finding something else and asking which one is a mistake.

I have also seen more positive scenarios, with customers well aware of their lack of linguistic knowledge and at the same time aware they will need to translate similar texts in the future.
Therefore, on the first occasion of such a translation being ordered, they trust the selected agency and ask them to deliver a glossary along with the translation - for future needs.
And on the next occasion they simply use the glossary in an attempt to superficially check for consistency. Where any discrepancy is spotted, they ask what to a non-linguist seems a simple question - which version is correct? Their thinking is set to a binary mode - right or wrong?
While at the other end there is you, left with the task to provide the usually not-so-simple answers.


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Hallelujah Jan 7, 2009

Amy Duncan wrote:
This particular problem is the bane of my existence as a translator. One company in particular that I work for will send complaints from a client, and when I ask to see them it's always the following:

1) Words with identical meanings, but the client liked his/her choice better.
2) The client "corrected" my "mistake" by putting in some word that is completely wrong or doesn't even exist in English.
3) The client will add words that were not in the original.
4) These clients are always non-native "speakers" of English who think they know more than I do.

Sorry to sound pissy, but this is one problem that really irritates me because I have to waste time explaining, point by silly point, why the client is WRONG. Arrghhhh!


and AMEN!


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Mohammed Shakir  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:04
English to Arabic
+ ...
Most clients are right Jan 7, 2009

Most of them are right

Most of clients are right, because they are specialized in their fields of working and they used to have specific terms in their specialties. Client asking for translating file in law does not mean that he is a farmer. May be he is a judge or a lawyer or someone dealing with laws. So it is ok to hear from him and that could be of great importance for the translator to choose the right equivalents not only for the job in question but also for the coming ones.

Regards,

Mohammed Shakir


[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-01-07 14:50 GMT]


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 10:04
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'm not questioning anyone's expertise. Jan 7, 2009

Mohammed Shakir wrote:

Most of them are right


What I was saying here is that they are commenting on language they don't know and have no idea what is written there...

It would be great to be provided some reference material or a translation memory to get the terminology right from the start. Unfortunately we don't always have that, instead we have clients looking at files that are imcomprehensible to them and making bizarre questions.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:04
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Oh really? Jan 7, 2009

Mohammed Shakir wrote:
Most of them are right
Most of clients are right, because they are specialized in their fields of working and they used to have specific terms in their specialties.


This is not my experience at all. In those rare instances where I get objections to the terms I use in a translation, these tend to fall into the following categories:

1. With native speakers of the target language, usually ignorant of the source language, clients want to add information that was neither contained in nor in any way implied by the original. In some cases this has even included technical data! Rather than bitch at the translator or agency over such matters, these critics need to have a word with their partners/colleagues who wrote the original text. Sometimes the differences reflect different needs due to local statutory requirements, etc. Texts often require adaptation, and in many cases this is not the job of the translator, though I generally do consider it part of my job to point out where this may be necessary (such as where long passages about German laws or issues are left in a text intended for use by users in other countries).

2. Native speakers of the source language very often overestimate their skill in the target language, not only with regard to basic subject terminology but also grammar, spelling, capitalization, etc. Not long ago I had an end client (whom I suspect to be Czech) with patent abstracts in German. The man could barely read English but insisted my capitalization in the titles was completely wrong and that the work was deficient. I kindly provided him with copies of the relevant sections of the Chicago Manual of Style, but his English wasn't good enough to understand them. Of course he changed the work so he ended up looking like a fool with the final result

I don't mind questions about terms or constructions I use, even if they are rather basic; a certain amount of "education" is part of my work as I understand it, and the favor is often returned when I have questions about subtleties in my source language. It seems like the most silly, simple questions often come from clients with the best skills in the target language, but I appreciate the fact that they care about perfecting their skills and polishing their texts, and I don't mind at all. However, it's the ignorant twits who figure that a few weeks of vacation in Miami Beach makes them experts on US English that are usually the most insistent in their complaints, and they often reject explanations no matter how patiently they are delivered or how thoroughly they are documented, because they have already crowed about the office what a terrible translation was delivered and how they have "fixed it". I ignore them. These things tend to catch up with them sooner or later, and I have neither the need nor the desire to deal with fools like that.


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