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When translators behave like children
Thread poster: Juliana Brown

Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:22
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 6, 2008

For the past few days I have been working on a proofreading and editing job involving a series of grant applications. Within a few minutes of receiving the first docs, it became apparent that the translators were not working "into" their native language. The mistakes were rife, and worse, they were obvious, typical errors made by speakers of the source language. I fixed the texts, as I was hired to do, but mentioned to the PM that I was a bit surprised she was using non-native speakers. She said something about great CVs, etc. but I told her that she should be aware that the quality was sub-standard.
As the days passed, and so did the deadline, the docs dribbled in (late...),and the quality remained bad to horrific ("de Guatemala en Guatepeor", as we say in our house). The final straw came when the translator, who kept promising "it's coming, it's coming, just another half hour", sent the PM a message about "I'm doing this one personally and checking it with a fine tooth comb". Needless to say, it appeared a day late, and the quality was still very bad.

My point is, I keep thinking of my three year old, who upon being discovered drawing on the wall, tried to cover it up with more scribbles (and a fetching smile). It's charming, if annoying, when you are three. It is not charming when you are a professional, and people depend on your for their livelihood (the PM, who I fear will lose the contract, which was a juicy one)and sanity (Juliana, who being a Virgo, stayed up until mad hours of the night JUST IN CASE the next file came in).

There was a thread last week about professionalism and keeping clients. Many good comments were made (Nicole and Viktoria come to mind), and I think this is one more point to add:

You are not alone in this work, even if you are alone in front of your computer. There are repercussions- please consider them before accepting work you are not qualified for!


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Capesha  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:22
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
agree - but can not understand some agencies Aug 6, 2008

I experienced similar moments.
An agency is asking me for proofreading of a German text and this text has obviously been translated by a colleague who was no German native speaker.

In those moments I ask myself: why didn't they contact me earlier and let me do the translation?

On the other side I do not offer German-English translations as there always are these little, silly mistakes separating the natives from the non-natives.

In my opinion the late delivery and the excuses just proved that the translator was struggling with the whole subject.....


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 05:52
English to Hindi
+ ...
It is common in translation field Aug 7, 2008

It is common in translation field
I am working in translation for enough long time I see lots of such incidence. Allways I surprise when I see a non-netive, working in the pair, and latter am asked to proof read or review.
Now I am working in-house and managing vendors, here I realized that there are lots of things to consider when posting job to a translator. Subject exprty, Required software knowledge are the main, then comes availability and at last the rate.
You may be well aware that still there is huge gap between demand and avalability of experts in any of our fields. Here I would like to explain expert as; a person not just language expert but equally proficient in software envirment and same time prompt in business (from repling to task mail till delevering job and not switching off the handset in the mean time!!)
On one side we experience empty hand but same time the PM or the TL finds difficult to get a translator for a desired task. As this is not a regular, consistant business, in-house ppl has to work with the available ppl and latter get things fixed with the experts. I request you not to estimet the PM or his allies in the context of entire project handling. Normally they have the things in there minds, and to cope with the timelines they do the things, which we think as incorrect. This is considerd to be a hidden skill of successful PM. No mattar what he/she has clarified you on that act.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:22
English to German
+ ...
Timeliness Aug 7, 2008

Last fall I was booked for a major editing project. For one entire week. The translator kept promising files for the evening, the next morning, then the next afternoon, then the next morning again. They never arrived until one week later.

During this week, I blocked and declined all other assignments. During this week I lost 25% of my monthly income by being idle. Who are you to damage fellow translators' businesses? I have to pay people who have to pay their rent.

Outrageous.


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:22
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Translators? Really? Aug 7, 2008

Frankly, I think that your frustration is misdirected... That you had to browse through unreadable translations and was exposed to unprofessional behavior is, in my opinion, only the PM's fault (or whoever was responsible for HR management at that agency).

She hoped that the translation will be good because they had good CVs? That they will deliver jobs on time because they said so? Come on! If she loses the contract, she absolutely deserves it... If you say that the job was pretty important, how come it went to translators who were not proven and trusted?

An agency has only two assets - translators' directory and clients' directory. If they do not carefully tend either one of them, they will quickly lose the other...


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:22
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I agree Aug 7, 2008

Jabberwock wrote:

Frankly, I think that your frustration is misdirected... That you had to browse through unreadable translations and was exposed to unprofessional behavior is, in my opinion, only the PM's fault (or whoever was responsible for HR management at that agency).

She hoped that the translation will be good because they had good CVs? That they will deliver jobs on time because they said so? Come on! If she loses the contract, she absolutely deserves it... If you say that the job was pretty important, how come it went to translators who were not proven and trusted?

An agency has only two assets - translators' directory and clients' directory. If they do not carefully tend either one of them, they will quickly lose the other...


You are right. This was a big mistake on the PM's part, and I do blame her for this, especially considering the importance of the client. My complaint with regard to the translator is not so much for the language problem (also not good), but more due to her disregard for the deadlines. She had outsourced some fo the files, and did not seem to realize that she was then ultimately responsible for them....


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:22
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just a quick note... Aug 7, 2008

I should probably emphasize that my main beef is not with the non-native status issue. Though I prefer to avoid this, I know some colleagues who do a great job in their non-native languages as well, so I hesitate to generalise.
My complaint, like Nicole's, is there are other people who depend on us and on our work.
I know all too well the importance of being given a chance by PMs who are willing to leap into the unknown and try out new translators. We have all gone through this, and most of us, I think, have felt particularly responsible and triple checked our work so as to justify the chance given. Sometimes everything goes cockeyed no matter what you do, but knowing this, the PM should perhaps NOT hire someone "to give them a chance" when the file is crucial, right?
I don't know. I'm very frustrated, and now I've heard that the translator has said it's the fault of supposedly "native" speakers who did a bad job. Did we mention that native speaker means "native speaker WHO IS ALSO A PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATOR WORKING IN THIS AREA"?- not just a random English speaker picked up busking on the street?

None of this is new to any of us. I almost always have great respect for my colleagues- PMs, translators, etc. who worked their behinds off. This is just frustrating, and I feel I've wasted hours of time...


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
You're describing me... Aug 7, 2008

Juliana Starkman wrote:
The final straw came when the translator, who kept promising "it's coming, it's coming, just another half hour", sent the PM a message about "I'm doing this one personally and checking it with a fine tooth comb". Needless to say, it appeared a day late, and the quality was still very bad.


This was me, in my very, very early days of translation. I had since learnt (also because I'm an outsourcer myself) that PMs are typically not stupid, and they can see right throuh such excuses as "just one final check and I'll send it tomorrow". As an outsourcer I've also learnt how to deal with translators trying it on with me.

The cause of all this is usually bad time management on the part of the translator, but PMs can improve their chances by aggressively (firm but polite) demanding progress reports as time goes by.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:22
French to English
How? Aug 7, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
As an outsourcer I've also learnt how to deal with translators trying it on with me.

How?
If a file is late, how do you - or anyone - "deal" with that situation.
I know you can refuse to work with the person again, deduct some payment and stuff but that is all retrospective. If I need a file on Wednesday and it's now Thursday, how, exactly, can anyone "deal" with that?
(This may be a case of one's interpretation of the word "deal with", of course!)


The cause of all this is usually bad time management on the part of the translator, but PMs can improve their chances by aggressively (firm but polite) demanding progress reports as time goes by.

Granted, but even then, as the PM, you can be lied to.
You would need to ask to be sent the file as it is, wouldn't you, so you could judge for yourself whether you think they are on track.
I dunno, it just seems to me that short of standing behind them, watching, you just have to trust they'll do what they say.
Which I find causes me some anxiety, on those occasions that I outsource.


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Doron Greenspan MITI  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 03:22
Member (2005)
English to Hebrew
+ ...
The difference between beginners and Aug 7, 2008

As Samuel notes, that's the difference between beginners and, well, not so beginners. I can also recall accepting anything and everything in the beginning, just to get established.

But I see some differences between the more common translation languages, where, first, there are many more translators to choose from, and second, a PM can easily employ someone they trust to check a new translator out.

In Hebrew, there are those foreign agencies who've hardly ever seen this language before, and suddenly, bang!, an Eng-Heb project lands on their desk, and they have to produce a Hebrew translator out of thin air. So then they look at one's CV, website, ProZ.com profile, and risk it...

Perhaps agencies shouldn't accept jobs for which they're not 'equipped'? Just dreaming...

Juliana, I've been there too, and fully sympathize with your experience!

Doron

[Edited at 2008-08-07 14:42]

[Edited at 2008-08-07 15:14]


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:22
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Samuel, I am shocked! Aug 7, 2008

I always pictured you as a paragon of punctuality!

Seriously though, we've all had early jobs which went badly (or most of us have) for one reason or another, but as a PM, wouldn't one want to choose a tried and tested translator for a major new client? I don't work that side of the equation, but I'm guessing...

Doron (לאן נעלמת אחי?)I won´t even go into the ¨creative¨ Hebrew texts I´ve seen...But what you say is true. In Spanish-English there are so many of us to choose from, that really, it´s ridiculous.


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