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Ethics: criticising another translator's work...
Thread poster: Aurélie DANIEL

Aurélie DANIEL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:21
English to French
+ ...
Jan 2, 2005

I am checking/editing someone else's work, and I had never seen such a bad translation. This person clearly had no idea what the subject was about, and the document is full of completely nonsense mistranslations. The style is awkward and the consistency is very poor.

Apart from the fact that it is a pain to have to reformulate almost everything (I can't really complain because I quoted my rates and accepted the job before seeing the document), I wonder what others would do in this situation. I feel compelled to inform the customer of the situation. If the checking/editing was done inhouse, there surely would be some kind of feedback. And if I was the customer, I would like to know.

But I am not the customer. Plus, I also feel reluctant to criticise someone else's work, as you may well understand.

Have you ever been in this situation?

Thanks!


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xxx00000000
English to French
+ ...
Machine Translation? Jan 2, 2005

I suspect what you're seeing is translation done by a program.

Two different regular clients of mine have at some point discovered machine translation and thought they could save money by sending me the machine translation for editing instead of the original text for translation. Since I only do editing when paid by the hour, I was in a position to let them know that editing machine translation is more costly than translation. I have kept both clients and have never seen machine translation again.

Best,
Esther

[Edited at 2005-01-02 20:44]


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Aurélie DANIEL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:21
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No, human translation Jan 2, 2005

It was definitely translated by a human being! But I suspect it was someone either very young or very unexperienced (or someone in a real hurry!) with no knowledge of the subject (fairly technical).

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Desi_vdb
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:21
Dutch to English
+ ...
have had this experience yes Jan 2, 2005

I have had the same experience. I agreed a price for proofreading and found out I had to retranslate the entire document. I have done it for the agreed price, since the client is someone I work regularly with, but of course I told the client. Making mistakes is human, but not even understanding the subject of your translation is going too far.

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Pamela Brizzola  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:21
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
Tell you rclient Jan 2, 2005

You should definitely tell your client about the quality of the text you are editing and make a list of the worst errors.
Don't feel sorry about that. Your client deserves a fair service and telling the truth is part of that.
One of my client has included a condition in our agreement saying:
"In case the text you are proofreading/editing is very bad, stop and immediately inform us. We will istruct you on how to proceed".
If you feel that the time required will be much more than expected, inform the client accordingly.

[Edited at 2005-01-02 21:06]


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Alaa Zeineldine  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 03:21
Member (2002)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Two reasons Jan 2, 2005

You should tell the client, first because they have a right to know, but also because it is unlikely that your output will be as good is it would have been had you started from a reasonable translation, this should be understood by the client before your own work is judged.

What I suggest is to report the problem judiciously and objectively.

[Edited at 2005-01-02 21:21]


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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:21
English to Polish
+ ...
Unfortunately it might have been a human ... well ... translator Jan 2, 2005

Not long ago I was asked to proofread an English translation of a Polish technical text that was probably worse than a machine translation would be. Polish acronyms in the English version, no proper terminology, no proper grammar, nothing ... The proportion of useable translation was about 10% of the whole. I used the change-recording tool of MS Word to show the proof of poor quality to the agency and asked if I should continue in the same mode or do another translation. As they needed to prove the faults to the original translator, I was asked to continue and got paid for both proofreading and translation. What about doing the same?

[Edited at 2005-01-02 21:44]


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uFO  Identity Verified
South Korea
Local time: 22:21
Korean to English
+ ...
Inform the agency right away Jan 2, 2005

Advise the agency of the situation asap and don't feel bad about criticizing poorly done job-- the translator should feel bad for the poor quality of his or her translation and the agency should feel bad for not testing the translator properly, not you. I had such experience in the past and can understand your feelings, but there is not much you can do here. If you don't criticize, the agency might think that you are doing unnecessary corrections to inflate the price or to make the translator look bad.

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mónica alfonso  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
Definitely, inform your client. Jan 2, 2005

The agency is your client at this point. It would not be fair if you hide this kind of info to them.
Your editing job will probably take you longer than is supposed to, also. How would you support this fact?
Just find a clever and elegant way of stating clearly that the translation job was not good; sooner or later it will pay.
Regards, and Happy New Year!!!


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 18:21
English to French
+ ...
They will know anyway! Jan 2, 2005

when they see all your changes...
You should probably tell the PM right away that the translation is not up to par, then explain in more detail what was wrong in the body of your email when you send your work in. PMs like to have detailed lists with examples.
I think they expect proofreaders to give them a feedback on the quality of their translators. Don't feel too bad, you're not at fault here, and they will know the translation was bad when they see your final version anyway.

Sarah


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not necessarily Jan 3, 2005

Esther Pfeffer wrote:

I suspect what you're seeing is translation done by a program.

Esther

[Edited at 2005-01-02 20:44]


I see that the poster and myself have similar language combinations that include Spanish, and can confirm that this is a VERY normal problem in Spain.

I would be curious to know how frequent it was outside Spain for other language combinations.

It is not just a question of a mild-to-relatvely strong influence of source structures on the target text. In my experience of translation editing, my conclusions are:

1. the 'translator' generally knows the source language quite well but has absolutely NO notion of translation principles.
2. the 'translator' seems to be unaware that terminology should be checked and not invented, that there is a WWW out there containing billions of words in the EN language, plus many reputable glossaries and dictionaries
3. the 'translator' never seems to revise on paper, as the final text is simply gibberish EN, to a larger or lesser degree.

I am quite puzzled by it all, for 2 reasons:

a. a text that has to be radically rewritten, and usually within a 'resonable' to 'less-than-reasonable-considering-the-poor-translation quality' deadline, simply cannot result as good as a text translated from scratch
b. the cost (surely) of translation plus radical editing (surely) adds up to more than the cost of a good translation plus editing.

My only conclusion is that agencies in Spain farm out translation work cheap, negotiate a restricted deadline for editing, and overall make savings...otherwise they wouldn't do it.

If you are in doubt about 'criticising' the translator, think about the fact that someone who claims to be a 'translator' yet who evidently isn't is acting fraudulently and immorally (would you accept that the carpenter you employ lays your floors badly, or the electrician that you employ makes a faulty installation?). Also consider that anyone genuinely interested in being professional about their work would like to get feedback, whether positive or negative. Finally, consider the logical repercussions for your own profession and work; for example, the fact that such 'translators' give a bad name to the profession and to freelancers.



[Edited at 2005-01-03 05:53]

[Edited at 2005-01-03 05:55]


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
Inform your client but .......Spanish agencies???????? Jan 3, 2005

I do agree you should inform your client but unfortunately I do not think that agencies in Spain are worse than anywhere else in the world as Ailish states.
Kind regards,


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
It is very delicate... Jan 3, 2005

...to give advice or criticizes a translation here without seeing it.
You may be very subjective, defeating your own work.
An idea would be to talk to a colleague of yours, translator, there, who can also see the work. It is a difference between using unappropriate terms,so really technical errors and style errors (i.e that style is very different than yours and makes you unhappy).
Technical errors are really bad and dangerous, the other kind of errors are not bad.
Editing and proofreading someone-elses work is a delicate job.
Either you just do it with no feelings and care about your work and the client who gave you the job, or if you are a sensible person talk to the client, show him the work and the errors and perhaps talk to another colleague too. You can also ask to talk to the translator.In this case you can find out were the problem is and give him advice, so he/she really understands what he/she made wrong.The agency may accept your critics and dismiss the translator making him a lot of trouble.Now it's up to you if you want to help him/her. Otherwise he/she may continue with the same style and errors somewhere else and it would not help anyone.
Language and translation are a very subjective field, because it is not always: 1+1=2.
And it depends so much on the field of the translation(if technical or literar).
It also depends on the circumstances that translation have been made and the way the job has been offered (and the translator choosen).

Ruxi


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 18:21
English to French
+ ...
Sad truth Jan 3, 2005

Ailish Maher wrote:
I would be curious to know how frequent it was outside Spain for other language combinations.


Unfortunately, it's VERY common, and the more technical the subject, the more rubbish I see. I am especially shocked when I edit/proof a medical translation full of meaning errors, because these frauds, as you call them, could end up killing or maiming people.

All the more reason to give the client a heads-up.


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Fuad Yahya  Identity Verified
Arabic
+ ...
You have the option of re-negotiating the price and timeline once you have seen the translation Jan 3, 2005

Aurélie DANIEL wrote:
it is a pain to have to reformulate almost everything (I can't really complain because I quoted my rates and accepted the job before seeing the document
Thanks!


I will restrict my comment to the issue of "I can't complain," since my colleagues have addressed everyting else.

Once you have looked at the translation and determined its abysmal quality, you have the option to IMMEDIATELY tell the client:

"The translation is of uneditable quality. I can either translate the document from scratch, or else charge at the translation rate [or a compromise rate, if you so choose]. The timeline must also take the extra effort in consideration."

I have had frequent occasion to renegotiate editing jobs because of the trashy quality of the translation, and in every instance, the client accepted the terms.

My rate sheet contains the following precautionary footnote, which I have found very helpful:

"Bilingual editing rates will apply only if the translation is of editable quality. If the corrections called for are so extensive as to amount to a re-translation, then translation rates will apply. The quality of the original translation will be examined prior to work commencement."

http://www.arabicfreelance.com/rates.pdf

When invoking such a position, your action must be taken immediately upon seeing the translation, not after you have gotten bogged down in the editing.


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