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Client introducing errors into my translation ...
Thread poster: Patricia Rosas

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 1, 2006

I'm considering quitting on a long-term project (it breaks my heart) and hope that some of you can give me advice.

The project is a series of archaeology books, and I've only translated one so far. Near the delivery date, I raised some terminology issues, but the suggestions that members of the publishing team made were ridiculous. I presented the research I'd done to choose the terms I was using -- and it was very solid (papers translated in both languages by archaeologists, plus diagrams in English books, etc).

Now they've sent a diagram that they've labeled, and among other things, they are calling the base of the pyramid "the basement" and the steps (or terraces), the "basement's stories". They tell me that they've made changes throughout the text (last month, they sent figure captions where "whether" was spelled "weather" and "were" was "where"--and for all I know they've made that sort of change in the body of the book as well.

I have already explained to them once that "basement" is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Is there anything I can do to ensure that they won't print this book with these errors? I cannot afford to have my name on a book that is filled with mistakes...

Looking forward to hearing from you!


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Dusica Cook  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 00:38
English to Bosnian
+ ...
hm... Feb 1, 2006

from what you wrote, it seams that you have done all that you could do in the given situation and you proved your case. it is them now to see or not what you are aiming to!

if the job is far to important for you, than maybe consider accepting their corrections but ask for your name to be omitted in the impressum. on the other hand, if you do not agree with their request for corrections, you can refer them to check with another translator. if your future does not depend on this job, you can always quit it.

i believe you are aware of the above options yourself, but ... i often like when someone confirms what i am thinking of.

i hope this helped a bit.


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Amy Williams  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:38
Italian to English
+ ...
Client introducing errors into my translation Feb 1, 2006

Patricia Rosas wrote:

I have already explained to them once that "basement" is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Is there anything I can do to ensure that they won't print this book with these errors? I cannot afford to have my name on a book that is filled with mistakes...


Hi Patricia,
Sorry to hear about this - how awful. Couple of questions:

Have you sent them a detailed list of all their errors - with reasons/dictionary defs, etc.? I'd start with that. Then at least you've covered yourself.

What did they say to you when you told them "basement" was wrong?

Did you agree beforehand that your name would be in it?


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Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:38
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Quit while you still can Feb 1, 2006

My initial reaction was to tell you that the customer is entitled to make changes. However, all the examples you gave are a painful reminder to me of my involvement in a large project, when I ignored signs that all was not well to my peril.
If they are so little professional about basic terms, ignoring your references, it is a clear sign of trouble and you should go with your gut-instinct.
They may not be very professional about settling your invoice, either. Or they may insist at a later stage that you proofread the final version to remove the mistakes they inserted in the first place. I would document the exchange of communication you have with them to prepare your case when it all ends in tears.


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
money in hand ... Feb 1, 2006

Thanks for sharing your thoughts... Yes, it does help to have others confirm what I've already been thinking. I've been paid (and actually charged more than we had agreed to because of delays and other issues at their end). So that part is settled.

They promised to include my name. Being able to hand potential clients a book with my name on it was definitely a reason for taking this job. I also saw advantages to doing a series--all very similar books.

Interestingly, they often don't respond to messages where I point out problems. Many things, however, did get fixed (for example, errors that I caught in the Spanish original). I liked the idea of listing everything. So, I'll try that this morning, adding an explanation that of course, it is to their benefit not have a book filled with errors. Then, if they don't respond, I guess I'll have to quit.


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xxxElena Sgarbo  Identity Verified
Italian to English
+ ...
Sometimes you just have to let go Feb 1, 2006

Hi, Patricia,
I’m sorry to hear about your dilemma.
Patricia Rosas wrote: I liked the idea of listing everything.

I agree. I hope they do listen to you!

Then, if they don't respond, I guess I'll have to quit.

Agree there, too. You probably feel that after having invested so much time, serious research, and enthusiasm into this project you’re owed not only the agreed compensation but also proper recognition. You’d be missing out on that due recognition if you decide to distance yourself from your client and from a product that apparently was not received as it should have. For you, leaving the project at this stage will also mean, if I understand correctly, that no more archaeology books will be submitted to you from this client, which you would regret.

Your client, however, seems to be under the assumption that (s)he is in a position to competently judge your work. Yet if that client / party trying to impose an opinion is not as competent as you are, (s)he will never know it. This has been well studied. In standardized tests, people who score poorly in an array of skills are also much more likely to overestimate their skills. These people’s logical reasoning skills for example are around the 10th-12th percentile (i.e., the remaining 88%-90% of the population scores higher than them). When these poor performers are asked how well they think they’ve performed in the logical reasoning tests, however, they place themselves above the 60th percentile. This happens also for the English grammar tests. (*). That is, incompetent people grossly overestimate their competence in reasoning and language.

What’s more hopeless, Patricia, is that incompetent individuals are often unable to recognize competence in others.

Do you see the problem? People without enough competence will be inherently unable to give competent people recognition. This also stems from the fact that they can’t conceive that aside from knowledge, every project involves time-consuming research. Skilled research.

So if the client is unresponsive, as painful as it may be, in the end it might be healthier for you to part ways with the idea of being recognized.

This may be tough. Once we feel that we have provided a good to excellent product (be it in a recent delivery, over past years, or both), we tend to get attached to both that project and its surrounding circumstances (including the pertinent client or parties who have benefited or will benefit from it). The more time and professional dedication we’ve invested in a project and with a client / party, the more we get attached to the project and to the other party. This feeling of investment is very human and justifiable. Yet it can play against us. It makes us hold on to a thing or a person - too hard.

The truth is that in situations like yours with this client, the quality of your work, the extent of your professionalism and any number of perks you may be generously providing may keep going over the other person’s head. Forever.

The bottom line, IMHO: if you feel that your professionalism would be on the line by signing a poorly edited translation, don’t sign it. Don’t dwell on the time and energy already invested. If the client / person dismissing [part of] your work is not as competent as you are, (s)he will never know it. This is pivotal to factor in for your final decision because it will affect all your future work with that person. And the time ahead is all we have.

.... Still hope everything works out. Best wishes, Patricia!

Elena

* Source: Dunning & Kruger, University of Cornell, NY.

[Edited at 2006-02-01 18:54]


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
slightly off-topic... Feb 1, 2006

Elena Sgarbossa wrote:
Then, if they don't respond, I guess I'll have to quit.

Agree there, too. You probably feel that after having invested so much time, serious research, and enthusiasm into this project you’re owed not only the agreed compensation but also proper recognition. You’d be missing out on that due recognition if you decide to distance yourself from your client and from a product that apparently was not received as it should have. For you, leaving the project at this stage will also mean, if I understand correctly, that no more archaeology books will be submitted to you from this client, which you would regret.

Your client, however, seems to be under the assumption that (s)he is in a position to competently judge your work. Yet if that client / party trying to impose an opinion is not as competent as you are, (s)he will never know it. This has been well studied. In standardized tests, people who score poorly in an array of skills are also much more likely to overestimate their skills. These people’s logical reasoning skills for example are around the 10th-12th percentile (i.e., the remaining 88%-90% of the population scores higher than them). When these poor performers are asked how well they think they’ve performed in the logical reasoning tests, however, they place themselves above the 60th percentile. This happens also for the English grammar tests. (*). That is, incompetent people grossly overestimate their competence in reasoning and language.

What’s more hopeless, Patricia, is that incompetent individuals are often unable to recognize competence in others.

Do you see the problem? People without enough competence will be inherently unable to give competent people recognition. This also stems from the fact that they can’t conceive that aside from knowledge, every project involves time-consuming research. Skilled research.

So if the client is unresponsive, as painful as it may be, in the end it might be healthier for you to part ways with the idea of being recognized.

This may be tough. Once we feel that we have provided a good to excellent product (be it in a recent delivery, over past years, or both), we tend to get attached to both that project and its surrounding circumstances (including the pertinent client or parties who have benefited or will benefit from it). The more time and professional dedication we’ve invested in a project and with a client / party, the more we get attached to the project and to the other party. This feeling of investment is very human and justifiable. Yet it can play against us. It makes us hold on to a thing or a person - too hard.

The truth is that in situations like yours with this client, the quality of your work, the extent of your professionalism and any number of perks you may be generously providing may keep going over the other person’s head. Forever.

The bottom line, IMHO: if you feel that your professionalism would be on the line by signing a poorly edited translation, don’t sign it. Don’t dwell on the time and energy already invested. If the client / person dismissing [part of] your work is not as competent as you are, (s)he will never know it. This is pivotal to factor in for your final decision because it will affect all your future work with that person. And the time ahead is all we have.

.... Still hope everything works out. Best wishes, Patricia!

Elena

* Source: Dunning & Kruger, University of Cornell, NY.

[Edited at 2006-02-01 18:54]



Pardon me, Dr. Sgarbossa, but do you know just how overwhelmingly beautiful this contribution of yours is?

Patricia, there is some wonderful advice in this whole thread, best luck with your decision

Susana

[Edited at 2006-02-01 19:21]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
a crying shame Feb 1, 2006

Patricia Rosas wrote:

I'm considering quitting on a long-term project (it breaks my heart) and hope that some of you can give me advice.

The project is a series of archaeology books, and I've only translated one so far. Near the delivery date, I raised some terminology issues, but the suggestions that members of the publishing team made were ridiculous. I presented the research I'd done to choose the terms I was using -- and it was very solid (papers translated in both languages by archaeologists, plus diagrams in English books, etc).

Now they've sent a diagram that they've labeled, and among other things, they are calling the base of the pyramid "the basement" and the steps (or terraces), the "basement's stories". They tell me that they've made changes throughout the text (last month, they sent figure captions where "whether" was spelled "weather" and "were" was "where"--and for all I know they've made that sort of change in the body of the book as well.

I have already explained to them once that "basement" is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Is there anything I can do to ensure that they won't print this book with these errors? I cannot afford to have my name on a book that is filled with mistakes...

Looking forward to hearing from you!


I understand your frustration, being faced with losing a beautiful project AND seeing your target language/a language corrupted....what a shame there isn't a kind of lingusitic tribunal where you can 'sue' to show up bad writing, whether original or in translation!

I know that I, in your shoes, would really try to 'teach' these people, so best of luck, I hope that you do manage to persuade them.... although I don't hold out much for your chances...

all in all, a crying shame:-(


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Atenea Acevedo  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
an option... Feb 1, 2006

Hi, Patricia,

I, too, am very sorry to read about what originally seemed a wonderful translation project. I agree with everything that has been said by other peers (and with Susana's observation about Elena's thoughtful posting), just wanted to add a brief note on the following: is the English version (your translation, however manipulated it may turn out in the end) to be published in the US or in a Latin American country/Spain for distribution in Latin American countries/Spain? The reason I ask is because, if the publishers are Latin American or Spanish you could decide to stop working with these people in the future, yet save your reputation without losing the due credit and recognition for your work in this first volume. In the Spanish world of publishing houses, and in Spanish books, credit is usually given both to the translator(s) and the editor(s) with a formula that reads something like this:

Traducción: XXXXXXXX
Cuidado de la edición: XXXXXXXXX

I wonder if there could be some way for them to include this in the English version; then the end responsibility for the book is not all in your hands.

Cheers,
Atenea


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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
It would be funny if it weren't so sad Feb 1, 2006

When clients dodge the tough questions, it might be because whoever is insisting on having those awful changes made does not want to lose face. He/she is always right, regardless.

Something similar happened to me once: a highly technical mega-project with country-specific terminology. The translation agency in charge put together a very qualified group of expert engineer/translators to ensure consistency and quality.

So far, so good. Except, who had the last word on the text? A high-ranking staff member on the client's end, who had only spent a few months in the target country, and spoke a very unique type of Spanglish (his English was kind of funky too).

Trying our best to educate the client, everyone involved spent many billable hours painstakingly documenting the why's and the why not's of our choices; all to no avail. The "clent" was happy to pay for the extra work, but didn't budge one bit.

Nothing to do in those cases, really. I suggest either to bow out, or bill for/make the changes, take the money, and forget about it.

--
Dyran

Translation team: "Manageabilidád" is a non-existing word in Spanish.
Clent(*): Our technical expert says that if it doesn't exist, it should.


(*) Clent = clueless client
(first used with this meaning on the Lantra list, circa 1999)


[Edited at 2006-02-01 23:25]


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
DRAE-R-us Feb 1, 2006

Dyran Altenburg wrote:
Translation team: "Manageabilidád" is a non-existing word in Spanish.
Client: Our technical expert says that if it doesn't exist, it should.



It would be precious if it weren't so appalling

Susana


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks, all! Feb 2, 2006

I can't express how much it meant to hear from all of you -- the sad and the funny experiences you've had and all the good advice. What a difference ProZ makes in my life on days like this!

Part of the problem is exactly what Dyran describes, a large team with a power structure in place and just enough knowledge of English to make the team members dangerous!

I created a short list today to address the most current batch of concerns with one member of the team. But tomorrow, I'm writing to the "higher ups," and I will present a list of the "incorrect terms" (and a brief lecture on the value of accuracy) and ask for a response; if they don't respond, then I'll threaten to quit. I am, of course, hoping I can resolve this!

Again, thanks everyone for all the great help!
Patricia


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Ines Garcia Botana  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:38
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
How come? Feb 2, 2006

Susana Galilea wrote:

Dyran Altenburg wrote:
Translation team: "Manageabilidád" is a non-existing word in Spanish.
Client: Our technical expert says that if it doesn't exist, it should.



It would be precious if it weren't so appalling

Susana


How can someone in his right mind say something so unprofessional as Manageabilidád is? I cannot believe this is accepted or happening.

Susana: your postings are incomparable!

Cheers!

Inés


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
I stand corrected Feb 2, 2006

Dyran Altenburg wrote:
(*) Clent = clueless client
(first used with this meaning on the Lantra list, circa 1999)


My apologies, Dyran, I "corrected" the word when I quoted you assuming it was a typo. I had never come across the "Clent = clueless client" concept before, surely it will come in handy

I stand (incomparably) corrected

Susana


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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
A translator, a project manager, and a clent walk into a bar... Feb 2, 2006

Ines Garcia Botana wrote:
How can someone in his right mind say something so unprofessional as Manageabilidád is? I cannot believe this is accepted or happening.


Believe it. I couldn't make this up. I'm not *that* good.

Here are a couple more (come to think of it, I should post this on my weblog):

(Clent sends me a document to be translated into English from a supposedly Mexican produce export company. After looking at the first few pages, I realize that the company is Chilean.)

Me: I will probably need more time to finish the translation, since the text is not from Mexico and I will need to double-check the terminology, just to be sure.
Clent: But, you said you were an expert in Mexican Spanish.
Me: I am. If you look at the header on each page, it clearly says "Chile".
Clent: Well, chiles come from Mexico, don't they?

...

(Interpretation session at a local lawyer's office. The lawyer, who specializes in corporate law, looks at an original birth certificate from Mexico with a puzzled look, and calls me aside.)

Clent: I think this document might be false. What do you think?
Me: It looks ok to me. I am not a forgery expert, but everything seems to be in order. Is something wrong?
Clent: Well, the words are all in Spanish, I think. But they left the numbers in English.

--
Dyran


[Edited at 2006-02-02 04:10]


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