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Unprofessional editing of your translation
Thread poster: Ara Mkrtchyan
Ara Mkrtchyan  Identity Verified
Armenia
Local time: 12:15
English to Armenian
+ ...
Dec 14, 2006

Dear colleagues,

I would appreciate your opinions on the following unpleasant situation: I was asked to do a financial translation without proof-reading, I took the job, did it within the deadline and sent it back to the client. Two days later I get the client's response stating in particular that their expert has 'corrected' my translation and attached are his comments. When I studied the comments, I could hardly refrain my frustration. Most of the comments were simply ridiculous, inconsistent, lack of financial terminology and native-language thinking of the 'editor' were acutely felt thoughout the text. I do not claim to be the best, never, but financial translations are not new to me. I was greatly upset by this kind of ignorant remarks by a "professional-like" embodiment of ignorance, whose only concern, to the nest of my belief, was winning a client by fault-finding in their current translator's work. And that is another problem I see here: an outsourcer that does not speak the target language can easily be convinced of the "faults" of a translation, esp when you provide a lot of red lines, exclamation marks, stupid comments that seem so professional.
I do not have anything against the outsourcer. I told them that their 'expert' has quite a long way to go yet. The thing that makes me angry is that normal, professional translations (sorry for not being very humble) are sometimes checked, so to speak, by ignorant unprofessionals who pretend to be very experienced in that particular area of translation.

Rgrds,
Ara

[Edited at 2006-12-14 15:18]


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Fred Lessing
English to Portuguese
Don't worry unless... Dec 14, 2006

...your payment gets affected. For now, provide your client with an answer to each comment. If it happens again, a generic comment should do.

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lexical  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:15
Portuguese to English
we all know what it's like Dec 14, 2006

...because I suspect every translator experiences this from time to time. Fortunately, it doesn't happen very often - if it does, perhaps it's time to stop working for that outsourcer. It's worse when - as in your case - it's the outsourcer's proofreader who's making the mistakes. More often, I find, one's translations are "corrected" by end clients who have studied the target language a little and overestimate their competence in it, changing the text to something more like the structure of the source language that they are familiar with.
Sometimes it's just something you have to accept, even if it offends your professionalism, when the client absolutely insists. Probably the best thing to do then is to talk to another translator and have a good laugh about it over a drink - then forget it.


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:15
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I hate it when this happens Dec 14, 2006

Hi Ara.

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. Although it is unethical to speak badly of another in order to curry favor for oneself, this is a common enough occurence in our profession.

As an outsourcer I have been in this situation before - a translator and a proofreader talking badly of one another. My job is to sort out who was being malicious. Upon deciding, one or both of them get the ax. I might be wrong but the final say is mine.


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Ara Mkrtchyan  Identity Verified
Armenia
Local time: 12:15
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reason for concern, anyway Dec 14, 2006

Fred, it should be a reason for concern, I think, because if your client is persuaded that your services are below the average, then you are unlikely to get other jobs from them. I do not mean to say I cling to every job, fortunately not, but it damages my reputation of a professional translator which I have been building carefully and patiently. The disstasifies outsourcer might "not recommend you" to another colleague of theirs.
Lexical, the thing is that the outsourcer is not sure herself about the matter, and does not insisto the changes to be made.
Thank you,

Ara


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Ara Mkrtchyan  Identity Verified
Armenia
Local time: 12:15
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Exactly Dec 14, 2006

lexical wrote:

More often, I find, one's translations are "corrected" by end clients who have studied the target language a little and overestimate their competence in it, changing the text to something more like the structure of the source language that they are familiar with.


Couldn't agree more!


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Ara Mkrtchyan  Identity Verified
Armenia
Local time: 12:15
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What are the criteria? Dec 14, 2006

Edward Potter wrote:

Upon deciding, one or both of them get the ax. I might be wrong but the final say is mine.


Hi Edward,

What criteria, if not a secret, do you usually use for that purpose?

Ara


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:15
German to English
+ ...
What languages were involved? Dec 14, 2006

Ara, I commiserate if you were unfairly treated. Sometimes editors do get out of hand. That said, I see you translate to/from a number of languages. Could you please tell us what the source and target languages were for this translation? I could not begin to evaluate without this information.

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Ara Mkrtchyan  Identity Verified
Armenia
Local time: 12:15
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Language is Armenian Dec 14, 2006

Michele Johnson wrote:

Ara, I commiserate if you were unfairly treated. Sometimes editors do get out of hand. That said, I see you translate to/from a number of languages. Could you please tell us what the source and target languages were for this translation? I could not begin to evaluate without this information.


Hi Michele,

The target language was Armenian.

Ara


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Nadejda Vega Cespedes  Identity Verified

Local time: 09:15
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
It's a two-way street actually Dec 14, 2006

Sometimes an agency asks to proofread a translation, then they discover the text had to be rewritten in its entirety, and they are shocked because they've been buying the person's services for months or maybe years without knowing it was BS. I find it hard to believe that in such situations, translators happily admit they are really incompetent and they simply lied about their qualifications. They most probably get defensive, and I'm not sure agencies have an obvious way to find out whom to believe. So the question is not how to fight proofreaders but how to help PMs make out if they are being deceived.

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Terry Gilman  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:15
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Blind peer review? Dec 14, 2006

Dear Ara,

I've just been reading The Geneva Papers (an insurance industry publication), hence the academic idea - GP, like other such publications, has articles reviewed by two people. It's not a perfect system, but has endured for good reason.

I suppose agencies wouldn't like it because it looks like an extra cost, but, good heavens, there has to be some quality control beyond taking one person's word/opinion over another's. And asking the final paying customer, who presumably reads the target language or has staff and customers who do, wouldn't hurt. Although I realize it's true, it is still hard to understand how an agency could work with someone and sell the end product for years before discovering problems.

At a more practical level, here at Proz, with the teams that people set up to trade capacity, it might also be possible to obtain a second or third opinion, though it wouldn't be blind or entirely objective. But it would be a way to produce corroborating evidence that the editing was unprofessional. If the material is confidential, I'd ask first and offer to remove/disguise details and select the most harmless sections (from the perspective of client confidentiality). I realize that this suggestion is difficult to implement when your language is under-represented here; just an idea. Certainly, what you experienced is not uncommon and helping to deal with it might be a Proz community service.

All the best,
Terry


[Edited at 2006-12-15 09:44]


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:15
English to German
+ ...
This is not about belief Dec 14, 2006

Nadejda Sokolova wrote:

... They most probably get defensive, and I'm not sure agencies have an obvious way to find out whom to believe. So the question is not how to fight proofreaders but how to help PMs make out if they are being deceived.


Agencies in this situation have to ask for a third opinion. They cannot afford to simply belief one of the parties if they think themselves professionals. Of course, this consumes time and money, but this is the risk you always take, when you offer services the quality of which you cannot evaluate for yourself. This is what you get the extra money for as an agency.

And this is one very good reason for establishing long-time relationships with qualified translators and proof-readers and not always hunt for the lowest price - the latter may become quite expensive over the years.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:15
English to French
+ ...
I completely agree with Claudia Dec 14, 2006

However, in practice, we couldn't be farther from this.

I have been looking up US agencies recently, trying to figure out the rates they charge. This was the step before getting on the phone and actually asking for quotes. To my huge surprise, there are actually agencies in the US who display on their sites that not only do they offer professional translation services AND a complete quality assurance process, but that they also charge only USD 0.10 per word. Oh, and they also claim they have the top translators working for them, diplomas, accreditations and all. Do you believe this? I am sorry, but at an agency rate such as this, it is impossible that they can offer this much, and they probably get the work done by students and "wannabe" translators who are not even aware how much their work is worth. In light of this, we can but wonder why we encounter so much shobby work all over the place.

I have read in a LISA report that merely half of professional (!) agencies have their translations proofread, and even out of that number, only a few actually have it completely proofed, and most only "spot-check" them. Do we wonder why rates are going down? Agencies try to stay competitive by offering lower rates (hence they pay lower rates to their translators), and they can afford this low rate because they simply skip the quality assurance procedure (yay! no proofing/editing fees!). This has a very bad effect on end clients, because these people don't know what translation is, why quality assurance is important and therefore they don't know that USD 0.10 per word only covers a part of the job and that it's very likely that they will get shobby work at that price. Also, after that, they will be very reluctant to pay better rates - they will think that it is already expensive enough to pay USD 0.10 for shobby work, so why would they shell out USD 0.15 for the same shobby work? It is attacking our repuations and ruining our markets.

One more thing. I agree that when you get corrected by someone who visibly isn't knowledgeable and is just bringing you down in front of your client, of course you can comment on each correction. However, this also takes time, especially when your comments are then reviewed and rejected by the proofreader. I once worked on a contract that was later proofed not by a proofreader, but by the end client (agency client), who just couldn't trust us professional translators (see? we ARE having a reputation issue...). The client sent me back a comments file the size of a 2-inch binder. In it, I found such comments that I smeared my brain all over the wall. For such terms as "terms and conditions", the client preferred his "termes et conditions" to my "modalités" (the job was English to French). To those who don't understand French: the client basically checked in an English-French dictionary whether I used the correct words - word by word! And the client was angry that I didn't follow the dictionary! Now, this was already making me mad, because I am a professional and know what I'm doing and will not take such comments from people who haven't got a clue of my work. But then, I was also kindly asked by the agency to comment on each and every comment the client made. I spent a whole day on this! And all I got form the agency was "sorry, this was a bad client, we get these once in a while". What? So, while you could comment on the bad corrections, I have since then decided that if there are more than a few clearly wrong corrections, I just answer the request by "please have this proofread by a professional proofreader". Oh, and I just remembered, I'm also going to add a clause to my agreement template about this: "I am not responsible for any corrections requested on the grounds of unprofessional proofreading. I will only correct my own work if the errors were suggested by a professional proofreader/editor".

This indeed is a very frustrating situation. All the best!

[Edited at 2006-12-14 20:58]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 02:15
English to Russian
+ ...
My remedy - know your editors. Dec 14, 2006

For years I was sticking to a very small number of clients with unlimited potential and very serious projects at hand, I was with them through good times and bad times and never betrayed them for an immediate short-time gain. Now it all pays off - I do not work under unknown editors. As a minimum, I know them by reference, we are one big merry bunch. In other words, most of the time their changes make me grateful, not angry. Some changes leave me indifferent, and the remaining ones can always be duscussed in a very civilized manner. Moreover, I have a privilege of asking who the editor will be. Another positive result - they are superb professionals and today their training ensures that on a very rare occasions when I stray or have to work without editing and only proofreading instead, the end clients remain happy. The gain is mutual - trained by them, later I won 2 huge projects with global monsters for the same clients. I got my bonus!

Stable clientelle is a wonderful thing but it takes time and even occasional loss to earn it. I would greatly recommend to try this business approach.

Best,
Irene


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Ara Mkrtchyan  Identity Verified
Armenia
Local time: 12:15
English to Armenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What came next is Dec 14, 2006

that the agency turned to a third, independent proof-reader who supported the first editor in some both true (I must be objective) and hilarious mistakes, then went on to critise other points of both me and the first proof-reader and started suggesting his or her own variants that were not different in essence, but rather were paraphrases of the same thought, just in order to look even more professional.
The thing is, IreneN, that unlike in your situation, we deal in this particular case with 'winning clients', which I consider to be both unprofessional and unseemly.
What I think I'll do in such cases in the future, and I hope they are rare, is that I'll tell the client that the 'editor' lacks this and that, has commented wrongly here and there and provide relevant but rather short arguements if needed and add that if you insist, I can incorporate the changes, but I am no longer responsible for the correctness of the translation. I believe it would be the golden mean, oder?

Rgrds,
Ara


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