Working in SL country: making mistakes in SL
Thread poster: Anne Koth

Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:13
German to English
Sep 19, 2005

I live in Germany and translate from German to English. I understand German very well but still make mistakes when I speak and write German: little slips with endings or umlauts. This would not be a problem if I lived in England, but as I live in Germany and have to meet and speak to German clients or agencies I sometimes find it frustrating. When I write an e-mail in German it takes ages for me to settle on the wording and then I check it several times for mistakes. I can imagine someone tutting over these little errors and putting a big red mark beside my name on a list. Am I worrying too much? Has anyone actually lost work/ dumped a translator for this kind of reason?

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't think you need to worry too much Sep 19, 2005

Anne Koth wrote:

I live in Germany and translate from German to English. I understand German very well but still make mistakes when I speak and write German: little slips with endings or umlauts. This would not be a problem if I lived in England, but as I live in Germany and have to meet and speak to German clients or agencies I sometimes find it frustrating. When I write an e-mail in German it takes ages for me to settle on the wording and then I check it several times for mistakes. I can imagine someone tutting over these little errors and putting a big red mark beside my name on a list. Am I worrying too much? Has anyone actually lost work/ dumped a translator for this kind of reason?


I live and work in Spain and Catalonia. My Spanish is good, but I am sure I make errors. I have never felt that this has affected my possibilities of obtaining translation work to English, however.

My Catalan is another matter (also my Portuguese). I understand both very well on paper, but don't speak either, although my Catalan is improving becuase I am living here, whereas my Portuguese remains teh same. I avoid certain kinds of work in these languages (scientific work yes, and nothing too culture-bound). When I write to Catalan institutions, I always have to get help with Catalan, but that's rare enough.

There's no point in worrying, because there isn't much you can actually do anyway, except carry on living there so that you will improve.

As for clients who might write you off, I think it would reveal that they fail to understand that one's passive language ability is always well advanced of one's active language skills, i.e. reading and listening skills are invariably better than speaking or writing skills. This even happens in our own language: we can intuit meaning of words we don't know in/from context, whereas we would never use or even be able to explain precisely what they mean.


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 13:13
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Hello Anne Sep 19, 2005

I don't think you're worrying too much. I'm sure that mistakes can give a very bad impression and I'm not sure that the client will think that you're writing in your source language and not the target one.

What I would do if I were in your situation:

For spoken German: I would try to find an experienced teacher who knows how to work with somebody who already knows the language but makes mistakes. Usually these mistakes are always the same or due to the same reasons because they are bad habits or due to the native language. Working with a tape recorder helps a lot.

For written German: I'd try to find a German translator who could proofread the e-mails and who might need the same kind of service or the other solution would be to elaborate some templates (I've never been able to use my templates, I'm better giving advice than applying it).

I don't know about German people, but tolerance is not the same in different cultures. I've noticed, for instance, that French people are much more demanding than Spanish speaking people. The French always correct the foreigner whereas the Spanish speaking people consider themselves satisfied if they understand the message and don't correct the bad pronounciation. The foreigner will have the feeling that his Spanish is good but won't improve it.

I don't know whether I have lost a work for this reason, it's possible. I have never taken this into account when outsourcing unless the communication is in the translator's mother tongue.
But I think it's a legitimate concern.

Good luck

Claudia


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xxxtarpo
English to Dutch
Cheer up Sep 19, 2005

I think your only problem is a lack of self-confidence. You can do something that all those German perfectionists can't do: write perfect English. So cheer up, and in the meanwhile, buy a book about writing business letters in German (for secretaries), and have your own letters read over by your friends or neighbours.
Good luck.


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MonikaB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:13
English to German
+ ...
It shouldn't matter Sep 19, 2005

As long as you can make yourself understood without problems, it shouldn’t really matter whether you make some minor grammatical mistakes in your source language. I don’t think you are going to loose any work because of this.
When I was living in the Netherlands, I once expressed similar concerns to the owner of a Dutch agency, as my written/spoken Dutch is not really perfect either. He said he didn’t see that as a problem at all, on the contrary: it just reassured him my German was still on native level. If I had been able to speak perfect Dutch, he would have thought that was at the expense of my native language.


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Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:13
German to English
+ ...
I reckon it depends on the extent of your mistakes Sep 19, 2005

Let's be realistic - which German actually writes perfect German? - I'm constantly correcting my boyfriend and I've met loads of people who don't even know the comma rules, which - as far as I'm concerned - are even easier than in English.

I think it really depends on the extent of your mistakes. I believe that to make a good impression you should be able to write a pretty coherent letter that doesn't sound like it's been botched together. That said, no one should expect your German writing to be 100% perfect. German can be incredibly difficult, particularly when it comes to the cases and the endings - I mean, if that weren't the case, the tenet "Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache" wouldn't exist - I know soo many Germans are are so unsure of so many rules ...

If you have studied German at uni, I'm assuming that your level of written German is more than acceptable. If not, perhaps you should try polishing it up with courses, if it really bothers you that much and you feel that there is a necessity.

As for how demanding people are here - my answer to that would be very. A lot is expected, but - on the other hand - how many Germans pass themselves off as translators into English, when they'd actually be better off sticking to their native language? (I'm sure there are English-speakers who do the same, but I can't confess to knowing any). I don't want this to spark off an angry discussion, but this is my opinion to which I am entitled and which is actually based on extensive experience, some of which involves proofreading such translators' work. As some Germans unforunately think they can write good enough English to pass it off as a native's (and believe me, it can be extremely annoying when you're constantly being told by a German how to write English - I know I am not alone here because this is a general gripe among German-English translators), then the Germans should cut us some slack when it comes to learning/writing/speaking their language!

I wish you "bon courage!"

Good luck!

Sarah

P.S. As an afterthought - if you ever need someone to read through a German text, feel free to ask me. I don't profess to being a native and would never translate into German, but I have occasionally looked at texts for German friends.



[Edited at 2005-09-19 23:38]


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:13
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Sep 20, 2005

Thanks for all your comments. My German is very good, but I didn't study it at university, which is probably what makes me rather self-conscious. I studied another language, so I know the kind of level expected from a graduate and I certainly think I'm as good as someone with a German degree. It's just those endings: I always have to look through twice to check I haven't carelessly written "aus dem Deutschen ins Englischen" - that extra N on the end always slips in somehow! I suspect strongly that people with a German degree could still have trouble with that kind of thing - or am I underestimating them?

One thing which made me start thinking about the effect these little mistakes have is reading people's CVs on Proz: there are quite a few with mistakes in the English which pop out at you and make you cringe. But at least I don't claim to translate into German. I was surprised to find that many of my competitors in the region where I live are not native English speakers: surely if you have to have everything proofread that just eats up most of the profit anyway? But those German speakers do have one advantage over me in that they can attract clients with their professional, slick German!


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:13
German to English
+ ...
The human touch Sep 20, 2005

I use the phone first and often do thereafter, as it builds a working relationship. It works well, in my experience. (Apart from anything else, if I have a question I get an immediate answer).

In fact the COO of a major localisation company I once worked for always expressed the wish that the company phone bill were much higher - despite mega global mail servers/FTP sites etc. - because it would mean more people were talking to each other.

After initial contact I'll be honest and say O.K. - mail me the files (or whatever), and maybe add the rider that my written German is not as good as my written mother tongue. If people don't understand that, then they are probably a waste of space.

Good luck
Chris


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Daniele Martoglio  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:13
Polish to Italian
+ ...
Dear Anne, i've the same situation.. Oct 22, 2005

I'm italian living in Poland. I do so:

When i write "not official" email, to old clients, or other "not official" things, as post in proz, i write directly in polish.

When i write "official" email, i mean, i present myself to a not-know possible customer, i use the help of native-speaker (polish people) that proofreed my letters. The same when i must prepare something official.

The problem is that in Poland it's normal to traslate in languages which are NOT our mothertongue. I traslate ONLY IN ITALIAN, but 99% polish people when they read that i'm a translator ask "so, you traslate from italian to polish?". For polish people such a practice is normal.

So they could think: "he write in polish with errors, and so it's not a good TRANSLATOR".

Obviously it's a nonsense, because i never translate into polish. But people's brain is VERY difficult to change. So i must write good in Polish, as they could believe that i can translate good into Italian.

Anyway, as someone here wrote, "the telefon helps".. The best is to begin a new collaboration by phone, in this way the other side can feel fluency, richness of vocabulary, speaking speed (and thinking speed ) and problems are off.

I don't know situation in Germany, but i think that may be the best is just to have proofreaded (may be by friends, not at high level) your "official" emails, and write directly the others one...

Daniele



[Edited at 2005-10-22 12:31]


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:13
German to English
+ ...
Issue subliminal reminders Oct 22, 2005

Anne Koth wrote:

I was surprised to find that many of my competitors in the region where I live are not native English speakers: surely if you have to have everything proofread that just eats up most of the profit anyway? But those German speakers do have one advantage over me in that they can attract clients with their professional, slick German!


When you talk to people, chuck in the word "*Muttersprachler*" regularly. e.g. "Are you looking for an EN **? That is what I can offer you. Please don't ask me to translate into DE, as I am not a **, but imagine the benefits you will have from working with an EN **. Ask whether they would prefer to communicate by E-mail in EN - some people do. If not, say fine: put a grin in your voice and say, O.K. - please just promise not to proofread my E-mails" (If I were to proofread incoming DE e-mails I could amuse myself for a long time).

After your introductory one, E-mails are there to communicate and you only need to get ONE introductory template mail proofread for further use.

HTH


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