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Client wants to make incorrect changes
Thread poster: Satu Ilva

Satu Ilva  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:23
English to Finnish
+ ...
Apr 28, 2007

I translated a user manual for a device intended for normal consumers. The client was an agency.

A while later, I got a request from the agency to change the product name of the device to what the end client had already on the packaging - I checked the name and found it to be an incorrect translation, done by someone who obviously hadn't read the manual and didn't know what the device was for. I informed the agency of this, and refused to make the changes.

A little later again, I got another request to change the product name, different this time... only now it was not only not a very good translation, but also grammatically incorrect. I told the agency again that this was unacceptable, and gave them two more versions of the product name to choose from (similar to the latest suggestion).

I heard nothing for a while, then the agency wrote back again, asking that I just go along with the client's latest version, because they are insisting on it. My contact says he has passed on my comments to the end client and still they insist.

What would you do? It's not like my name is going to be attached to this translation for it to spoil my reputation but I am loathe to let anything less than what I consider at least acceptable out of my hands. It's unprofessional.

What I did with the latest message was to give the agency a few more suggestions on how to convince the client to consider my translation versions instead ("it's bad for sales to have a clearly badly translated product name, I wouldn't buy such a product", etc) and I still refuse to change it. The agency was going to do a search and replace but I told them the product name appears in the text in a shorter form too and they wouldn't get all occurrences like that (true).

So far I haven't got a reply to that, but I just know he's not going to convince the client. What to do? Yield to the client who thinks they know best, or stand my ground and risk making myself less than popular at this agency?

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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:23
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Stand your ground Apr 28, 2007

If I were you, I would tell the agency that you did the job you were paid to do, and did it professionally. What they or the client do with your work now is their business, but they can leave you out of it. They should not keep coming back to you about the subject.

A client should not come back to you about a translation at all unless either they have a question shortly afterwards (which, as part of your customer service, you should answer and did answer) or they have found a serious mistake (which they are then entitled to ask you to change).

You did not make a mistake, and you have answered their question and given your professional advice. Therefore you can just tell them firmly, at this stage, that the matter is at an end. They cannot involve you in what they do with your professional translation later.


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:23
Member (2006)
French to Hindi
+ ...
Similar Situation Apr 28, 2007

I had to face a similar situation a couple of days ago. I've already spoken about it in another thread so I won't go into details.

Evidently, the end-client had an 'employee' of Indian origin, who was not really conversant with Hindi. The changes were completely incorrect. I discussed the matter with the Agency (Indian agency)... the PM agreed with me... first I explained why the suggested changes were incorrect. It was a lot of work... it would have taken 15 minutes to accept all the suggested changes (as the person didn't know how to type Hindi and I had received hand-written pdf document)

At least I had done justice to my work. Then the client sent back another document with proofreader's comments that went "I feel suggested changes are correct". It was frustrating...

I'd worked for hours giving detailed grammar rules.. and this person does not give any rules... says "I feel..."

You can understand how I felt

So I just accepted all the suggested changes and wrote a note in the document:

I have accepted all the changes suggested by the proofreader as it is useless arguing with someone whose only argument is “I feel…” . Language has a grammar that can be explained very clearly and I did just that when I replied to proofreader’s changes. In its present form, I don’t take any responsibility of this document as it does not comply with my quality controls. And I work with an external proofreader who proofreads all my documents to ensure that my work is of good quality. And this document does not pass my test.

And then it was end-client's choice. I can't force anyone. I did what I could.

Maybe others have a different view... but that's what I did.

[Edited at 2007-04-28 05:54]

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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:23
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
Hi Satu Apr 28, 2007

In my opinion what the client wants from you is an additional service. Judging from your posting, the client has no complaints about the quality of translation and is not asking you to correct your mistake, they are just asking you to use the term they suggest. This has happened to me many times before. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't do what they want; if you don't, they'll find someone else who can do it. But on the other hand, I don't see any reason why you should do it for free, unless this is a very good client for whom you are ready to sacrifice your time. You have done what you had to do as a professional; you have warned them that what they suggest is incorrect. If they insist, just do it and charge them for the additional service. You have done your job well, and delivered a correct translation. Now it's not your text, but the client's. So you can regard it as someone else's translation.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:23
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Client complaints Apr 29, 2007

More than once I have had clients send me back a picky list of "complaints" that they expect me to correct. Nine times out of ten their suggestions are way off-base, and 100% of the time they are not native speakers of the target language (which I am). I have no patience with these people and even am suspicious sometimes that they are making things up so they won't have to pay for the translation...sorry, I'm getting off the subject a little here, but it is related and it really burns me up! Fortunately for me, the company I work for where this has happened always sides with me!


[Edited at 2007-04-29 13:05]

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Hani Hassaan  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:23
Member (2007)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Not a big deal Apr 29, 2007

Satu, we should know that many restrictions tie our my minds and hands in field of translation,.You situation is a clear example for these restrictions, I see you did your job as a Pro translator and did what you should to do, we should not blame the agency too, both of translator and agency are tied by business relations, so try not to lose your client, and I agree with Mr, Henrik about that, many times we do not have many options to choose between it.

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Marsha Way  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:23
Spanish to English
+ ...
Everyone here makes some very good points Apr 29, 2007

but I would agree with Henrik on this one. Unfortunately, neither the end client nor the agency thought to inform you of the product name beforehand, and unfortunately it is wrong, but this is a change you could make without feeling you have compromised quality, since this is something you were given. Besides, if it is as bad as you say, a person reading this text will probably realize that the text in general is coherent, well-written and that the name sticks out like a sore thumb.
It's up to you now, but think about making the changes and charging for them.
Best of luck!

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:23
Italian to English
+ ...
Consider it from the end client's point of view Apr 30, 2007

They've already produced the packaging - and therefore probably the instructions, promotional material, the whole shebang - using the (incorrectly translated) name. In other words, they've invested a huge amount of money in this. They're probably furious with whoever did the original translation, but have made a business decision to go with the existing product name rather than write off all their stocks of material and start from scratch.

Personally, having clearly made my point (as you have done), I would agree to the client's request, charging for my time and adding another disclaimer when sending the amended document.

[Edited at 2007-04-30 08:57]

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Satu Ilva  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:23
English to Finnish
+ ...
Thank you Apr 30, 2007

Thanks to everyone who answered - some very good points and a few that hadn't occurred to me. I am always too soft about charging for my time, and since the text is not that long, I didn't even think about charging for the changes. I may reconsider this.

You are all correct in assuming there were no complaints about the quality of my translation (though why the client refuses my original product name I have no idea), in fact the PM at the agency seemed very pleased with the result.

As for the end client already having made an investment in printing materials with the incorrect name, I'm not convinced about that because they did change the name from their original suggestion to another one after I first refused it. Why they insist on sticking with the second (incorrect) version I don't know.

I will take all this into consideration, should they come back to me once more about it. I suppose I will make the changes but make it clear that I take no responsibility for the translation any more. And should there be any question about them not paying me in full, I will be very firm on that - I have done my work and done it well.


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