End-client complains about quality
Thread poster: Heike Reagan

Heike Reagan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:05
Member (2004)
German to English
Jul 26, 2006

Hello all,
I've had some issues with an agency where the end client now complains about the quality of the translation. I have never had this occur before and would like to hear your opinions on this:

I had accepted a job (through ProZ, I believe) to translate a lawyer association's marketing text Ger>Eng, 4500 words in a ca. 32 hour deadline (2 working days). I translated, proofread and delivered it, the agency seemed happy, but did point out one error (we didn't know whether it would be for the US or UK market, so I delivered two versions: one with "attorney" one with "lawyer", when I did the replace, I forgot to change all the "an" to "a")

This happened on May 11. Last week the agency forwarded an email from the end client, they are very unhappy (seems they have asked several different people for their opinions) and would like the text reviewed. Which I did and off course I found some errors (which I admitted to the agency) and also some phrases that I reworked - I think it's normal that you want to rephrase things in a text when you review it 2 months after translating it.

In addition - because I wanted to be on the safe side - I went through the ProZ directory and gave the text to someone else to proofread as well. He also made some changes, I went through the finished document again and send it off.

Today - surprise,surprise - the end client send the document back after they revised it themselves and now tells the agency that only the errors they pointed out specifically were corrected, but not the whole document, if the agency does not correct everything immediately they will have another agency correct the doc and then charge the original agency for the cost....

I've compared both the end clients and my version and it just seems to by stylistic changes.

What should I do, how should I respond?
Any ideas are welcome!

PS: The agency paid me already, so that is not an issue - right now

[Edited at 2006-07-26 15:49]


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:05
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Difficult Jul 26, 2006

As you say it was a marketing text, it seems to me that if 10 people translate/proofread it, you'll get 10 different texts.

It does seem strange that you did not know if it was to be US or UK English, an oversight by the agency? Did you ask them?

This issue seems to have escalated quite a lot, but IMO it is really the agency that should mediate here - not you. The agency should have it reviewed by another translator before it was sent out to the end client! If they did not provide that service they should have asked you to organise a colleague to do the proofreading. Or take a risk, which is probably what happened.

The agency should consult with the end client and ask a third party to review the (how many by now? 4?) different versions and give feedback on whether the original/your reviewed version is an acceptable translation or not, pointing out the nature of the errors one by one - otherwise this will never end. It seems a lot of aggro about just 3000 words.....


My two cents,

Anjo


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:05
French to English
+ ...
Redrafting? Jul 26, 2006

As a lawyer who spent his formative years in large law firms, I can tell you that when a draft of a document is passed around a group of lawyers it gets so marked up by a red pen that it almost looks like it is bleeding. I suspect that, at least to some degree, the lawyers may just not be happy with the content of the underlying (original) document, and are in essence trying to get a substantively new version here.

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Heike Reagan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:05
Member (2004)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Anjo, Jul 27, 2006

[quote]Anjo Sterringa wrote:

It does seem strange that you did not know if it was to be US or UK English, an oversight by the agency? Did you ask them?



I did ask the agency, but they did not know for sure either, so I told them I will translate into AE as I do not know BE. The agency agreed.

Thanks for your help!


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Heike Reagan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:05
Member (2004)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jul 27, 2006

both for your opinion, this has never happened to me (not to this extent, anyway!). So I'm just not sure how to handle it.
I have asked the other proofreader also for another overview of this re-reviewed document and am waiting to hear back from him.


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
just a comment Jul 27, 2006

Heike Reagan wrote:
I did ask the agency, but they did not know for sure either, so I told them I will translate into AE as I do not know BE. The agency agreed.


What kind of agency doesn't know the specific audience the translation is targeted to, and fails to ascertain this information before giving the green light? This is a basic requirement, without which I would never accept to handle a project.

Best luck,

Susana


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Heike Reagan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:05
Member (2004)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
More things coming up... Jul 28, 2006

Ok, so yesterday I took the time to go through the re-revised doc. again. IMO they changed minor things ("the process" vs. "the action",etc.) By that time I had read through a few postings and thought that it would be a good idea to take a few terms that have been marked, and explain why my original choices were not wrong.
So that's what I did. With dictionary references.

Well, the agency REALLY did not like this.

"...I don't appreciate your trying to justify your poor work by blaming the
client and coming up with dictionary references as an excuse..."

(One explanation was that last week the client specifically asked to have one phrase changed to one way, but this week their correction is marked as an error).

Now the agency wants a COMPLETE re-translation of the job. To be done by me. REason: They have already paid me and now would loose money if they gave it to someone else.

It does not seem to make sense for me to re-do my own translation. If my quality was so bad, how would it be better on the next attempt?

Also: When I delivered the original file (back in May), the agency seemed very happy. So happy, that they offered me another job some weeks later (that didn't work out for other reasons).

Meanwhile I have to pay another translator for the second proofreading. I am thinking of giving the whole mess, plus the difference between what I owe my own proofreader and what the agency paid me back to the agency. In effect, the whole thing would have been done for free, but I am assuming that the agency never wants to hear my name again anyway, and I feel like this is the ethical thing to do.

Any suggestions?


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:05
German to English
+ ...
Proofreader qualified native speaker? Jul 28, 2006

Heike Reagan wrote:
...
In addition - because I wanted to be on the safe side - I went through the ProZ directory and gave the text to someone else to proofread as well. He also made some changes...


Regarding the proofreader you hired, I'd be interested in knowing:
1) Is he a native English speaker? By which I mean absolutely, positively native, not just someone who has been using the language for 15 years?
2) Is he an expert in law, like has he done more than just translate a few Terms and Conditions?
3) Is he an expert in marketing?
4) Did he check your translation against the original, or did he just edit your English?

The reason I ask is the following: I'm native in English, and feel pretty comfortable with marketing texts, but it would be useless for someone like me to proof your text because I have no idea about law. I could read it and miss any number of key turns of phrases. So the wrong proofreader would likely not pick up on a lot of problems IMO.

Let me make it clear: this is not an accusation, just a request for additional information, so I can hopefully better understand what happened.


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Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:05
German to French
+ ...
I am sorry things have gone so far for you Jul 28, 2006

I can't say more.

You, the agency and the end client have totally different views about how the translation should be written and I do not see the point in having you to correct it once more since it won't be again what the client wishes.

The agency has already understood that they lost the client, that's why they probably don't want to invest in another proofreader.

What you do then is up to you but will probably still be a headache for some time (with the risk of the agency not paying at all in the end).

I had once a translation checked by 3 (!) independant native proofreaders (after a claim of the client, translation had been proofed itself) who said the translation was OK. The client ended up saying that the translation was bad and they found themselves on their own somedody to improve it.

You can't always have it right but the confort is the other clients who are immediately thanking you for your job.


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Heike Reagan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:05
Member (2004)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Michele, Jul 28, 2006

Michele Johnson wrote:


Regarding the proofreader you hired, I'd be interested in knowing:
1) Is he a native English speaker? By which I mean absolutely, positively native, not just someone who has been using the language for 15 years?
2) Is he an expert in law, like has he done more than just translate a few Terms and Conditions?
3) Is he an expert in marketing?
4) Did he check your translation against the original, or did he just edit your English?

The reason I ask is the following: I'm native in English, and feel pretty comfortable with marketing texts, but it would be useless for someone like me to proof your text because I have no idea about law. I could read it and miss any number of key turns of phrases. So the wrong proofreader would likely not pick up on a lot of problems IMO.

Let me make it clear: this is not an accusation, just a request for additional information, so I can hopefully better understand what happened.


Hello Michele,
well, according to the profile, he is native US-English speaker, lives in the US and specializes in German commercial and tax law. He does not have a degree in law.

I send both, the original German version and my English translation to him for proofreading.

Thank you for your input
Heike


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Heike Reagan  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:05
Member (2004)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
What would be the ethical thing to do? Jul 28, 2006

I'm just not sure how to proceed from here on.

I believe that it will not help things if I re-translate the whole document. I would most likely select the same terminogoly and only do a few stylistic changes.

Should I re-outsource this to yet another proofreader and hope that they accept the re-re-rerevised version?

Should I just "call it quits", send an apology to the agency, because it seems that we can't resolve this issue to our mutual agreement? Refund them all that they have paid me?

(The agency did pay the full amount, right on time)


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:05
English to Dutch
+ ...
There's no argueing about style Jul 28, 2006

Language is not mathematics. You cannot argue about style. What you did, using dictionary references and grammar compendiums, to prove that at least the spelling and grammar in the translation were correct, was the right thing to do.

There are no set rules for style. Give a text to a hundred people and you will get a hundred different translations. Just like Richard, I believe the real problem here is not the translation, but the underlying original (if the approach in the original is bad they'll blame the translator anyway - because the translator always gets blamed).

Both the agency and the end client have no choice but to accept this fact... that there's just no accounting for tastes. If they want to prove that you are wrong, they will need to do just that: prove it. And they can only prove it with dictionary references and grammar compendiums. If they are too lazy to do that, they have no case (as lawyers they should understand that). If the dictionaries state something else, they have no case either.

So it's either take it or leave it. All they can do is try and find someone else who is more to their liking. What they can't do though is blame you for a poor translation.

When you critisize other translators, you should *always* stick to the facts and the facts alone, no matter how much you dislike a certain style. Why? Because you can't support your case with factual arguments. Anything else will result in this:

I like it.
I don't like it.
But I like it.
Well, I don't.
But I do.
Don't don't don't.
Do do do.

Do you see the pattern?

You provide a service, which is subjective and creative by nature. If this client hates your style so much, he/she should have asked for a short sample translation first. He/she didn't, so it's really his or her fault.

Of course it's possible that your translation follows the rules of all dictionaries in the world, and still has a terrible style. In that case, I pity the client, but he/she really should have asked for a sample translation first to prevent these kind of problems. Personally I hate Van Gogh's paintings, but that doesn't give me the right to state that he's a terrible painter. His style is just very different from Rembrandt's.

[Edited at 2006-07-28 23:53]


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:05
German to English
+ ...
3rd-party review Jul 29, 2006

Offer to have your translation reviewed by a professional association, such as the ATA. If the review finds it unfit for its intended purpose, have the text retranslated by a colleague.

Marc


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kringle  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:05
Italian to English
The agency's responsibility Feb 2, 2015

One thing that seems to have been ignored in all this "Like it/not", "translator/client" toing and froing is the agency's part. They received a translation from you, they, by sending it to the client, approved your text. The client has a problem with the agency, NOT with you. I fell out big time with an agency that I then discovered NEVER read anything I sent them, they just forwarded it to the client, despite emphasising their proof-reading and quality all over their website.

I stuck to my guns with them over an unhappy client, agreed to look at the client's "problems", added replies and justification where necessary, insisted on 100% payment from the agency and then stopped working for them. Agencies in theory earn their cut by matching clients to translators and the checking ALL the translations the latter send them before sending onto the end client. Once they approve the text (by sending it to the client) they in theory have no comeback with you, the translator.

If we're taking "sides" here, the agency should be on the translator's "side", as they tacitly approved the text sent to the client. Any problems with the translation should be thrashed out between agency and translator BEFORE the client gets a copy.

I realise that this dates back to a long time ago, but found this thread looking for something else and just had to have my say!


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Paweł Hamerski
Poland
Local time: 09:05
English to Polish
+ ...
Such marketing text should be given after translation Feb 2, 2015

by a specialized native to a PR company for polishing (or rather for embelishing it with unnecessary adornments) and published only then. A lot? of smaller (an bigger?) companies tries to save on such unnecessary expenses and then begin crying over spilt milk. I try to warn my customers in case of marketing texts that the translator is not paid enough to deliver embelished texts.

Resurrecting a 10-year old text still seems a waste of time.

[Edited at 2015-02-02 15:14 GMT]


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