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Just had a translation rejected! What?!?
Thread poster: Jessica M

Jessica M  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:43
Spanish to English
Dec 14, 2007

I have been doing freelance work for some time with an agency here in Spain. They send me work at least once a week and I have always met every deadline (even the urgent ones) and they have never had a problem with my work.

This week I received a legal document from this agency via email, which I promptly translated and returned. I will admit that there were some questions about vocabulary, but via the term search feature on this website and my legal dictionary I felt as though I had translated this document in a professional manner. Yesterday it came back returned to me, saying that the client and the agency and another translator had compiled a list of errors that were "very serious" and "strange for a translator to make, let alone a native English speaker." To me, many of them seem to be a question of style, for example: "Flr." as the abbreviation for "Floor" in an address (it was abbreviated in the original document, so what is wrong with abbreviating it in the translation?) or "a cheque in the amount of 300€" being deemed grammatically incorrect AND being deemed as "spanglish" (they said "a cheque for 300€" would be grammatically correct, but I didn't translate it that way because it didn't seem formal enough to me). I responded to them saying that I did the best work I could and that I was very sorry. I defended my work in a professional manner, but was not rude or overly defensive. They responded back saying they had "taken my comments into consideration" and "have a nice weekend."

Now, I am new to the world of translation but I have done several legal documents for them and for another agency, and have never had any problems. Those of you who read the KudoZ questions can see that I always ask plenty of questions when need be. I am very careful, especially with legal contracts.

So, here are my questions:

1. Do I bother to ask if they are going to send me work again? They didn't say that they wouldn't.

2. What are your impressions of their response?

3. Do agencies normally double-check the work they send off to the client, especially if it is translated by someone who is new to the field?

4. If they don't send me any more work do I bother to ask them for a reference?

I am truly sad and slightly discouraged. I really enjoy working with them, and the bulk of my experience so far lies with this company.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 02:43
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
When non-natives criticise a native's use of that language Dec 14, 2007

Hi. From your post, it seems to me that they are being very picky. I fail to see why they would think a cheque in the amount of is gramatically incorrect, because it is NOT. I think everyone has or will at some point have a dispute with a client. How you respond to their complaint is up to you, but if the translation market in Spain is anything like the one here in the Netherlands, it is a small community, and you could easily be branded a difficult, or even worse, bad translator (not to mention the posting that could go on here).

Maybe you can get a fellow translator in the same language pair to have a look at your translation and get their opinion before taking any action towards the client.
Good luck.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 02:43
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
my guess... Dec 14, 2007

is that they got surprised by the client and then just passed the buck ("in the amount of" sg) to you.

I do not think I would do anything more (or less) than you did.

And no, I would not check with them about the future work - even if you depend on them, this would make it worse for you down the road.

Wait for Monday for things to clear.

Sincerely emphatic yours

Vito



[Urejeno ob 2007-12-14 13:19]


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:43
French to English
+ ...
Hi Dec 14, 2007

Hi Jessica

I wouldn't worry about it - it actually happens quite a lot in Spain - I remember one client, who spoke "perfect" English, criticised my use of "period" as a translation for "periodo", saying that in English a period meant nothing more than a full-stop (he had obviously been in the States), and that I should have used "stage"...

That said, a good agency will have a look at work before sending it on to a client, or alternatively get it proofread by another translator. I worked as a PM for a company here for 2 years, and proofred everything that went out to the client - although the freelancers we worked with were trustworthy on the whole, everyone can have a bad day, and all our translations were checked before going out. So, these mistakes should theoretically be picked up by the agency before reaching the client....


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Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:43
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Take a deep breath Dec 14, 2007

and then wait and see.

I also experienced some strange things during my first year as a freelancer.
I mean, if a translation would have been really poor and full or errors, I understood any complaint.

But if I translate a 5000 words document into my mother tongue which is German and the agency then tells me that the customer (US) is very unhappy und upset with my translation, because one term in the heading is in singular and in the contents it is plural - I really don't know what to say.
I just correct it, say sorry and wait to see if the error really was so serious that they don't want to have me anymore or if it was just an overreaction by the agency, because they were confronted with the customer and didn't know what to say.

Just think about all the good jobs that you did.


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 20:43
German to English
Have an experienced colleague review Dec 14, 2007

From your description, it doesn't seem that your translating sins were particularly serious. Unless the content of the document is highly confidential, you might have someone look at the offending passages.

Sometimes reviewers can be especially nit-picky; it is possible that the client had a new reviewer who was trying to score points with his/her employer. It's also possible that there were genuine errors in your work.

I, for one, genuinely appreciate feedback on my work. I don't generally get negative comments, but in some cases, those few negative responses have helped me improve as a translator. In a few instances, the comments were not especially helpful, as the reviewer didn't understand the text. In one case, the end client faulted me for *not* varying my style in a series of SOPs (?!), and not divining that they had a standard set of terminology (not provided). The agency took me to task for a myriad of other issues such as endangering the health and safety of the end client's employees (the SOPs had to do with office practices: filing systems, data entry, e-mail templates -- give me a break).

I took no small pleasure when both the agency and the end client went out of business shortly afterward.

Should you continue to work with this agency?
It's quite possible that the critique was well-intentioned. If they're willing to send you another job, take it. If they beat you up a second time, then there's no point in continuing with them.


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
My point of view Dec 14, 2007

1. Do I bother to ask if they are going to send me work again? They didn't say that they wouldn't.

I wouldn’t bother to ask them that question. It smacks of grovelling and you don’t want to do that in the beginning or you’ll have to do it forever. You’ll find out soon enough if they’re going to or not. In any case, you should have enough other clients to count on in case something like this happens and you don’t receive any more work from this particular agency.

2. What are your impressions of their response?

If one person had read it and complained, I’d be suspicious, but if 2 or 3 have read it and reached the same conclusion, I would take their comments seriously whether I agreed with them or not. One thing you have to understand is that end clients are often experts and know all the vocabulary in the target language. They’re just not able to string together coherent sentences in it, so they look for a translator who they assume will know at least as much as they do about the subject.

3. Do agencies normally double-check the work they send off to the client, especially if it is translated by someone who is new to the field?

Agencies should revise everything they send to the client - new translator or not. You know, “Cuatro ojos ven más que dos”. Any agency that doesn’t use a quality control system isn’t worth dealing with. The final quality control should be included as part of the money they’re skimming from the original price of the job. If they don’t do quality control, they’re taking their cut and doing little or no work to deserve it.

4. If they don't send me any more work do I bother to ask them for a reference?
Jeje, that’s a good question. It depends on if you’re willing to hear what they have to say and if you think it´d be productive for you in the future.


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Simon Mountifield  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:43
French to English
For what it's worth... Dec 14, 2007

Hi Jessica,

Really just reiterating the points that have already been made. Such things do happen, whether we like it or not. Sometimes feedback can be very constructive, especially when dealing with specialist terminology. However, I'm always wary when changes are blatantly subjective or style-related (such as "associated with" replaced by "relating to" and vice-versa). It can be a case of the proofreader trying to score extra brownie points with the agency, in which case you might want to ask another translator for their opinion. Or it might be that old chestnut of a bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing, i.e. a non-native end customer claiming to be more proficient than the native. Then again, it might be the agency trying to pass the buck, because they should have checked your work.

Either way, I think you were right in defending your work in a calm and collected manner. Sometimes, the agency might not have any in-house expertise in your language pair, so they will be worried if a customer complaint comes in, because they can't personally judge whether it is justified (though any self-respecting agency should be able to quality control its translations). Personally, I would write back and address the points made by the customer/proofreader, backed up with references and examples. For example, concerning "in the amount of", you could say that it is standard phrasing used in countless contracts and EULAs, such as those drafted by Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.

If the agency doesn't bother using your services again, don't lose too much sleep over it - it's their loss. At least you've given your side to the issue and you can move on with a clear conscience.

Regards,

Simon


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:43
English to German
+ ...
Legal texts Dec 14, 2007

As far as I could see in your profile you are no expert for legal translation and have no background in this area of expertise.

As far as I know translating legal texts requires a very good knowledge not only of the different legal systems of the countries involved but also of the technical expressions and the special way to put ones words.

For example: A lawyer in Germany would choose his words very different from my choice of words even though I am a professional translator and German native speaker and have some background in phrasing contracts. This is why I generally refuse to do legal translations - unless someone only wants to know, what the text "says and not what it means".

If your translation was for a lawyer for example, he or she would have far higher expectations regarding quality than let's say a publisher who needed a copyright note translated.

Maybe this was part of the problem?


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Jessica M  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:43
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone... Dec 14, 2007

I would like to thank everyone for your support. I really appreciate it. Most of you have cleared up doubts that I had and have reinforced things that I was sure of already.

I suppose time will tell.

With regards to this:
Claudia Krysztofiak wrote:

As far as I could see in your profile you are no expert for legal translation and have no background in this area of expertise.


It has been a while since I've updated my profile. I don't claim to be an expert in legal documents.

As far as I know translating legal texts requires a very good knowledge not only of the different legal systems of the countries involved but also of the technical expressions and the special way to put ones words.

For example: A lawyer in Germany would choose his words very different from my choice of words even though I am a professional translator and German native speaker and have some background in phrasing contracts. This is why I generally refuse to do legal translations - unless someone only wants to know, what the text "says and not what it means".

If your translation was for a lawyer for example, he or she would have far higher expectations regarding quality than let's say a publisher who needed a copyright note translated.

Maybe this was part of the problem?


I also don't claim to have broad legal knowledge of Spanish Law. I do, however, have a lot of experience reading and drafting legal documents in the US because I was an assistant to a firm of nine attorneys in the US. This is not the first legal document I have translated. In fact, the first one was 88 pages longer and 32,000 words bigger and there was zero problem from the client. The problem is not my interpretation of what the document says, it's obviously an issue of the client being picky and the agency being broadsided because they didn't check my work first.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Time for reflection? Dec 14, 2007

You seem to be rather surprised that a translation was rejected, in fact the title of your post might even be interpreted as amazement!

The good thing about a problem like this is that it makes one reflect, which can't be a bad thing. Unless we are made aware of other people's world views - in any area - we have no way of adjusting our own.

[Edited at 2007-12-14 16:18]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
translationese Dec 14, 2007

Buck wrote:
I fail to see why they would think a cheque in the amount of is gramatically incorrect, because it is NOT.


It's not grammatically wrong, but it's translationese, from the Spanish expression "un cheque en la cantidad de". Natural English would be "a cheque for"; even a "cheque for the amount of" could be considered overdoing it a bit (but that's a translation decision that depends on the context of each text).


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:43
French to English
+ ...
Maybe I'm picky but... Dec 14, 2007

Hi Jessica,

Maybe I'm being picky but I would have issues with "a cheque in the amount of" too. To my mind, it just doesn't sound English - well not UK English at least, I can't speak for US. If you wanted to avoid "a cheque for", then maybe a "cheque for the sum of" might be more formal. However, I wouldn't call it "serious" and I'd certainly have no problems with leaving the abbreviation of "Flr." if part of an address.

I'm the first to hate my work being criticised but, as other people have said, it's best to swallow your pride, thank them profusely for pointing these "oversights" out to you and learn from them next time.

Good luck!

Claire


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:43
French to English
Just wondering Dec 14, 2007

Jessica M wrote:
I will admit that there were some questions about vocabulary, but via the term search feature on this website and my legal dictionary I felt as though I had translated this document in a professional manner.

Please don't tell me that these were the only two resources you used....

(it was abbreviated in the original document, so what is wrong with abbreviating it in the translation?)

Is this the approach you always adopt with abbreviations? This point you make gives rise to so many other questions and comments, it's hard to know where to start, beyond giving the facile response of "there might be plenty wrong with it, depending on the context".
e.g if it's an address, you should perhaps leave in Spanish in case someone copies the address onto an envelope and confuses the Spanish postie! Is the target readership only EMT, or are there going to be any non-natives reading it who might struggle to connect "flr" with floor? And so on.


or "a cheque in the amount of 300€" being deemed grammatically incorrect AND being deemed as "spanglish" (they said "a cheque for 300€" would be grammatically correct, but I didn't translate it that way because it didn't seem formal enough to me).

Patent piffle from your client, although "for the amount" would appear (google) much more common, which does not make it right, but may condition customer expectations.

I defended my work in a professional manner, but was not rude or overly defensive.

That good. I have noted, however, that you're all gushing and appreciative of those posting in support, but as soon as someone says "er, are you sure you're qualified", you do get defensive (as one would) but do not, in fact, provide any evidence that you are in fact qualified. On your own admission, you don't know much about Spanish law. I know criticism can be hard to take, but can you put your hand on your heart, look me in the eye and say you know it was perfect the way it was?

Reading between the lines, I would guess (I can do no more) that you are part right, and the client has been picky on occasion (once you first find a flaw, it can be hard to stop picking away!), and that the client is part right.


[Edited at 2007-12-14 16:49]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:43
French to English
As if to prove the point !! Dec 14, 2007

Claire Cox wrote:

However, I wouldn't call it "serious" and I'd certainly have no problems with leaving the abbreviation of "Flr." if part of an address.


There you go, Jessica, a completely contrasting view! I may be old fashioned, but I would say one potential purpose of an address is to go on an envelope to be delivered by a postman.
Do you all seriously expect postmen to be able to read "floor" in every possible language? You don't (I hope) translate "calle" in an address, so why translate floor? I don't get it....


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