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Excessive English Translation Checks by some Japanese People
Thread poster: xxxAndrew Wille
xxxAndrew Wille
Local time: 22:06
Japanese to English
May 24, 2004

Hello all,

Nice to meet you!

For the past year I have worked at a translation agency handling both English proofreading and Japanese > English translation. One bizarre situation I keep coming across is the completely excessive English checks performed by our Japanese customers. By excessive I mean that they will take a translated document that is perfect... and then destroy it. That is, they will take all the natural English and pick at it, and molest it, and fuggle it, and rubble it... until its integrity as a natural English piece is compromised.

I encountered a similar situation when I submitted a research paper to a Japanese engineering journal (English). The reviewer said that the paper needed an English check. My professor finally paid for the check - and the result was the addition/removal of a couple of hyphens to/from words that within the field of specialization can be either hyphenated or not. They were some expensive hyphens!

But to this day, I have always bit my tongue. Smiled and politely suggested things aren't quite right...while inside this small chain of increasingly severe explosions occurs!

I was wondering if anyone else had experienced this in Japanese to English translations. How did you deal with the situation??

Also, does this situation exist with other language pairs?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2004-05-24 10:50]


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Mandy Williams  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:06
German to English
Afraid it's an "English thing" May 24, 2004

Hi Andrew,
This sometimes happens with German to English as well and I presume it happens with other languages too. I'm afraid there are just lots of non-native speakers who think they speak/write perfect English. If it's a client I'm interested in working with again or if we get on well, I normally say something. Ultimately, if they don't accept my suggestions (usually corrections of their "corrections"), that's up to them. But I agree, it is infuriating.
Perhaps we can set up a stress-management course for all those native speakers who feel the same way...

Andrew Willett wrote:

Hello all,

Nice to meet you!

For the past year I have worked at a translation agency handling both English proofreading and Japanese > English translation. One bizarre situation I keep coming across is the completely excessive English checks performed by our Japanese customers. By excessive I mean that they will take a translated document that is perfect... and then destroy it. That is, they will take all the natural English and pick at it, and molest it, and fuggle it, and rubble it... until its integrity as a natural English piece is compromised.

I encountered a similar situation when I submitted a research paper to a Japanese engineering journal (English). The reviewer said that the paper needed an English check. My professor finally paid for the check - and the result was the addition/removal of a couple of hyphens to/from words that within the field of specialization can be either hyphenated or not. They were some expensive hyphens!

But to this day, I have always bit my tongue. Smiled and politely suggested things aren't quite right...while inside this small chain of increasingly severe explosions occurs!

I was wondering if anyone else had experienced this in Japanese to English translations. How did you deal with the situation??

Also, does this situation exist with other language pairs?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2004-05-24 10:50]


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 05:06
English to French
+ ...
Your client will adjust your translation to the end-user May 24, 2004

Andrew Willett wrote:

Hello all,

Nice to meet you!

For the past year I have worked at a translation agency handling both English proofreading and Japanese > English translation. One bizarre situation I keep coming across is the completely excessive English checks performed by our Japanese customers. By excessive I mean that they will take a translated document that is perfect... and then destroy it. That is, they will take all the natural English and pick at it, and molest it, and fuggle it, and rubble it... until its integrity as a natural English piece is compromised.

I encountered a similar situation when I submitted a research paper to a Japanese engineering journal (English). The reviewer said that the paper needed an English check. My professor finally paid for the check - and the result was the addition/removal of a couple of hyphens to/from words that within the field of specialization can be either hyphenated or not. They were some expensive hyphens!

But to this day, I have always bit my tongue. Smiled and politely suggested things aren't quite right...while inside this small chain of increasingly severe explosions occurs!

I was wondering if anyone else had experienced this in Japanese to English translations. How did you deal with the situation??

Also, does this situation exist with other language pairs?

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2004-05-24 10:50]


I hate to break this to you, but even native speakers can destroy a perfect translation. Being a native does not always mean a good command of the language, good grammar, good spelling, etc. Every time a client destroys my translation, I try to remember that they probably represent the target audience.
That said, I fully sympathize, it IS infuriating.
Luck,
Sarah


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 15:06
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Hopefully I never have to see my translations again May 24, 2004

...but I remember one case, where I translated a video text for a commercial about parquet flooring products into German, as a rush job. The Finnish customer phoned later and said, my text was not parquetish enough. Then he mailed me a document, that he believed to contain a good example of German parquet terminology. When I looked at the text I couldn't believe my eyes, the text could have been typed by a monkey. Not a single word without typo, and quite incomprehensible words in every sentence.
In fact, as 20 percent of Finns had German at school, some customers really read my German texts and make remarks about it, but one has to keep a stiff upper lip. And there are Finns, mostly scientists, who have an excellent command of German and would pass in writing as natives.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:36
English to Tamil
+ ...
I had a similar experience May 24, 2004

For sometimes I worked for the French embassy in New Delhi as a freelance French-English translator being paid a monthly retainer fee. My contact officer was a Frenchman, who thought that his English was quite good. Once I hand over a translation to him, he will get it read by at least 10 people working under him in his office and ask them to give comments. You can expect the result. Each will have his own preference for terms and the copy would end up with 10 different colors of ink, some passages carrying more than one color. He will consider each suggestion as a mistake and grill me over that. He himself will correct sometimes. Examples: Indian student will become indian student, 5 good men will be corrected to 5 goods men! Fortunately for me I had my steady job elsewhere and was able to politely end the association after vain attempts at educating him.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-05-24 15:32]


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Sol  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
It happens with other languages too May 24, 2004

Andrew Willett wrote:
I was wondering if anyone else had experienced this in Japanese to English translations. How did you deal with the situation??


I have gotten my English to Spanish translations "corrected" by people whose second or third language is English, and who can't read a word of Spanish. Yes, it is true! I believe they use some type of translation tool that checks that each English word is consistently translated to the same word, which, of course, is impossible. So I find myself spending a lot of time explaining that in English, repetitions are often needed whereas in Spanish the same repetitions would be considered redundancy and therefore bad style. I also have to explain over an over that just because a word "looks" English, it doesn't mean I forgot to translate it, and that it could mean something different: "pan" does not mean "pan", "sea" does not mean "sea", "actual" doesn't necessarily mean "actual". And that there are words in every language with more than one meaning, so that, for example, "power" could be "potencia" in one sentence and "electricidad" in the next, and that "activado" and "encendido" both mean "on", but not in cases like "on time".

So I just recopy from my old emails the same explanations over and over, and when I've had enough, I remind them, as gently as possible, of why they hired me.


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spanish into English story May 24, 2004

Hi, Andrew,
Welcome to ProZ! I'll take this opportunity to "blow off steam" as I can see a lot of our colleagues are doing.

On several occasions, clients at one particular institution have waited until they are going into typeset. At that point, one of the monolingual Spanish-speaking office staff will look at the English text and decide that he or she sees a "typo" that I introduced. The person grabs the phone (sometimes late at night) and calls me long-distance to get my permission to make the "correction"!

This is not the best example but the one that comes to mind: In a sentence that discussed family relations, I tranlated something about "family ties" as "familial ties"(this was for a social-science abstract so the higher register was justified). The woman who called me kept insisting that it should be FAMILIAR ties!

My only solution to this is to be polite but VERY firm and to remind them (sweetly) that in the area of English, I'm the expert... Keep smiling!
Trish


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xxxAndrew Wille
Local time: 22:06
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all the great replies. May 24, 2004

Thanks for all the great replies.

While I am sympathetic ...it is also nice to see I am not alone in my frustration! *group hug*

I think the main thing for me is that I do encourage feedback. If something is wrong then I would much sooner know about it. I understand that above and beyond what would be natural English for me, some companies also have their own policy on word usage and style.

One of our clients will not let me use the word "jig" and insists that I use "tool". To me personally there is a clear and distinct difference between the two, and I had never considered the potential racist aspect of using the word "jig" in an engineering manual. But if that is their fixed policy, then I will happily do it their way. Having said that, I do feel that oversensitivity can have an adverse effect on accuracy. Out of interest, does anyone find the word jig offensive?

In any case, I don't feel that the above case is excessive. What I have more trouble with is the kind of situation Narasimhan Raghavan mentioned. Yes, this is the kind of thing that will vastly increase Rogaine sales.

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:

For sometimes I worked for the French embassy in New Delhi as a freelance French-English translator being paid a monthly retainer fee. My contact officer was a Frenchman, who thought that his English was quite good. Once I hand over a translation to him, he will get it read by at least 10 people working under him in his office and ask them to give comments. You can expect the result. Each will have his own preference for terms and the copy would end up with 10 different colors of ink, some passages carrying more than one color. He will consider each suggestion as a mistake and grill me over that. He himself will correct sometimes. Examples: Indian student will become indian student, 5 good men will be corrected to 5 goods men! Fortunately for me I had my steady job elsewhere and was able to politely end the association after vain attempts at educating him.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-05-24 15:32]


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:06
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ask before you edit... May 24, 2004

Hi there!

Very interesting thread. I had something happen not too long ago that also was along the same lines. I recently began working with an agency in Barcelona, and since day one, the PM and I have written back and forth in Catalan. So one day they sent me a text to translate from Spanish to English, and I did it. I thought it was a pretty good job -- but I got a note back from the agency saying that the client had rejected the translation, saying that it was clearly written by a non-native English speaker. The PM at the agency had indicated to the client that indeed, this was the case. So the agency wanted to reduce my rate because ... 1) My PM assumed I was a native Spanish/Catalan speaker ... 2) The PM didn't have enough knowledge to realize that my English translation was native-quality, and 3) the client didn't have enough knowledge to realize it, either.

Imagine their surprise when I wrote them back and I said, "Uh, hey guys, I was born in Nebraska and raised in Indiana!! If that isn't native, I don't know what is..."

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall...

I'm currently waiting to see all my "mistakes". I'm sure they're all on prepositions, as usual, that they think are wrong. *sigh*

P.S. Jig? Nope, not offensive to me...

[Edited at 2004-05-24 22:32]


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Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:06
German to English
+ ...
Know-it-all Customers May 24, 2004

I sympathise with everyone because this kind of thing happens way too often - I have been through it 3-4 times with my German customers and their arrogance just amazes me. It usually starts with the customer saying the translation is crap and not surprisingly this sends the translator (at least it does with me) into a panic. Then, when they actually send the corrected text my panic turns to annoyance and frustration as I end up spending an hour or so going through the whole damn text and writing an explanatory email as to why their corrections are utter b*****ks (of course I put it more tactfully, even though I am often seething inside). Now and again, they may pick up on a minor mistake like a typo, but that certainly doesn't justify the hours of work and the stress caused. I think it's a bloody cheek and it makes me wonder why they even bother paying an expert in the first place.

Colleagues of mine seem to have had this problem too - I mostly work for agencies and it generally tends to happen with those who pay badly and with long texts (often the customer is just trying it on in an attempt to get a discount).

As to how to react: It depends on the customer - if it's an important customer who you don't want to lose - like others said, you have to gently try and educate them and to some extent grin and bear it, but personally I would never give a discount unless you genuinely have done a bad job - in my experience, if you give them an inch they take a mile. If the customer still insists you insert the changes in your text despite your attempts to explain to him they're wrong, then you might be best off parting with him after all, because a relationship with a customer should be based on trust and you neither want nor need the stress of a customer who doesn't trust you to do a good job.

Good luck to all - unfortunately, it probably won't be the last time we're faced with such problems ...;-)

All the best,


Sarah


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R Farhat  Identity Verified
Lebanon
Local time: 15:06
Member (2004)
English to Arabic
+ ...
one more story May 26, 2004

hello all
very interesting and funny stories to share!

jig ? not offensive to me!

here's one more story:
Once, I had to translate and type an official request (from English to Arabic) to change the plate number (of a car) from regular to diplomatic.
Few days later, hell burst out! Phone was screaming in my office, staff hissing & whispering.. what happened?
the paper was sent back from traffic department for 'non proper' request!
so, my boss said: could you please read for us the "Arabic" paper and interpret into English?
I read and said it was phrased correctly: "...requesting to change the plate number into a dilpomatic one."
My boss said (as he was informed by the courier) that my paper read instead: "Please we want to sell the car"!
Just imagine, how could "change the plate" become "sell the car"?
They insisted they were right and asked me to point (with my finger) to the Arabic word which says "sell". I said there wasn't any!
I was choking, thinking this is really toooo muchhhh!
Forgot to mention.. My boss was a native Malay, the Courier a native Urdu! Few months later, I resigned. To this moment I never knew who suggested the alleged mistranslation of "selling the car"!

Cheers! Keep the morale high!


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
this one from way back... May 26, 2004

I worked for a few years as an in-house reviewer for a major translation agency. One of our high profile clients was a hair products company, and the agency had been translating materials for them for years. One day, just as I was ready to go home at the end of a long day, the department's supervisor rushed into my office in a panic because someone at the client's end was claiming that the word "cabello" (hair) meant "whore" in English, and how could we have been using this word all over the place!!! To this day I still don't know whether this was a prank, but it sent the agency into such a tizzy I swear I had to go to the dictionary and look up the word "cabello" in case I had missed something somewhere along my education... You'd think a long-established client would verify a non-linguist's claim, especially of this nature, before dumping this kind of bomb on the agency they have been trusting for years. Then again, there is always somebody's visiting sibling/nephew/neighbor/janitor/secretary/mother who might at some point glance at a translation project and feel entitled to an opinion. Yes, it is annoying...it also seems to come with the territory

In solidarity

Susana Galilea
Accredited Translator EUTI
sgalilea@ispwest.com
www.accentonspanish.com


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xxxDBH
Japanese to English
No, you're not alone May 28, 2004

I don't know about other languages, but I do get the feeling that the Japanese are especially bad for this kind of thing (having worked as an editor of J-E translations).

For example, the Japanese language would call something(literally) a "Planned Project Proposal Summary Draft Report Outline Submission Paper" or something like that (in kanji), and they'll frequently come down on you if you translate it as "Draft Proposal Summary" They'll claim you've missed out all the important stuff and obviously dont know what you're doing!

What to do? Grin through clenched teeth and nod, I suppose.

As for "jig" - is it racist? Is only one particular race allowed to do this dance? The Irish perhaps?







Andrew Willett wrote:

Thanks for all the great replies.

While I am sympathetic ...it is also nice to see I am not alone in my frustration! *group hug*

I think the main thing for me is that I do encourage feedback. If something is wrong then I would much sooner know about it. I understand that above and beyond what would be natural English for me, some companies also have their own policy on word usage and style.

One of our clients will not let me use the word "jig" and insists that I use "tool". To me personally there is a clear and distinct difference between the two, and I had never considered the potential racist aspect of using the word "jig" in an engineering manual. But if that is their fixed policy, then I will happily do it their way. Having said that, I do feel that oversensitivity can have an adverse effect on accuracy. Out of interest, does anyone find the word jig offensive?

In any case, I don't feel that the above case is excessive. What I have more trouble with is the kind of situation Narasimhan Raghavan mentioned. Yes, this is the kind of thing that will vastly increase Rogaine sales.

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:

For sometimes I worked for the French embassy in New Delhi as a freelance French-English translator being paid a monthly retainer fee. My contact officer was a Frenchman, who thought that his English was quite good. Once I hand over a translation to him, he will get it read by at least 10 people working under him in his office and ask them to give comments. You can expect the result. Each will have his own preference for terms and the copy would end up with 10 different colors of ink, some passages carrying more than one color. He will consider each suggestion as a mistake and grill me over that. He himself will correct sometimes. Examples: Indian student will become indian student, 5 good men will be corrected to 5 goods men! Fortunately for me I had my steady job elsewhere and was able to politely end the association after vain attempts at educating him.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-05-24 15:32]


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xxxAndrew Wille
Local time: 22:06
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
The mystery of the jig May 28, 2004

Yes! That is the exact kind of thing I am talking about. There are many redundant words used in Japanese.

As for jig - the first thing that sprang to my mind was dance. Scratching my head and wondering what was so bad about that, I grabbed the dictionary to check for other meanings.

This is what you can find at www.merriam-webster.com

Main Entry: 3jig
Function: noun
Etymology: short for jigaboo black person
usually offensive : BLACK 4

I had never heard of this meaning before. Seriously, I get the point that saying sentences like "Secure the jig to the machine..." could have a somewhat dangerous meaning. But nobody in engineering is surely going to turn to their black work mate and strap him to the machine instead of the jig. To be honest, I see more personal and immediate danger in using the word "tool".


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xxxblomguib  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:06
English to Flemish
+ ...
sometimes funny...usually infuriating... Jun 7, 2004

I know exactly what you are talking about; I mostly deal with hyper-specialized technical and scientific texts and sometimes, when a "corrected" text is being returned to me, I ask myself how arrogant a person has to be to have the audacity to change (not suggest, no....change!) parts of texts of which, apparently, that same person hasn't understood half a sentence...

As an anecdote: I translated a text on the composition of concrete mixtures that can be "projected" onto a surface, sometimes also called "shotcrete"...I got the text back with a lot of irrelevant remarks (made by the secretary, by the way...who is probably very good at what she or he does, but who most definitely doesn't hold an MSc in Eng.). One of the remarks was that it was "stupid to use the term SHOTCRETE" (also in the source; which means that the remark covered the source text as well), as everybody knew that it was impossible to shoot and kill concrete; a remark was therefore made that it was OBVIOUS that there was "some kind of error" in the source text!...and unfortunately: this is NOT a joke!

Advice: smile, nod, curse silently and laugh afterwards...those people aren't worth it...


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