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Off topic: The darker side of translation...
Thread poster: Alex Farrell

Alex Farrell  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 23:55
Japanese to English
Aug 29, 2008

...as opposed to the lighter side, which is for a different forum.

Anyway, I'm translating a bit of downer of a document: a corporate restructuring plan in which the liquidation of a subsidiary and the planned termination of employees is neatly organized into an emotionally barren Excel file.

"How will personnel adjustments be made?"

"How many personnel are targeted for termination?"

"How do the risks of each method differ?"

Those aren't actual direct quotes, as that would violate my NDA, but you get the point.

Bummer...

- Alex


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Could be worse Aug 29, 2008

I translated documents about an inquiry into an aircraft accident in which an engineer was sucked into a jet engine and spewed out of the back in thousands of little pieces.

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:55
Dutch to English
+ ...
Bummers ... Aug 29, 2008

Alex Farrell wrote:

...as opposed to the lighter side, which is for a different forum.

Anyway, I'm translating a bit of downer of a document: a corporate restructuring plan in which the liquidation of a subsidiary and the planned termination of employees is neatly organized into an emotionally barren Excel file.

"How will personnel adjustments be made?"

"How many personnel are targeted for termination?"

"How do the risks of each method differ?"

Those aren't actual direct quotes, as that would violate my NDA, but you get the point.

Bummer...

- Alex



I spent over a decade in legal practice, specialising in liquidations and corporate restructuring.

When you have to go underground on a mine with questionable safety standards in Mpumalanga, South Africa, looking for assets concealed by fraudulent directors, only to resurface and find yourself surrounded by a workforce numbering several hundreds who haven't been paid for two months, who then think an effective way to get their money is to lock you in the site office for a few hours and place burning tyres around your jeep, that's a bit of a bummer too ...

I know exactly what you mean though - this is a profitable and very interesting side of the law for those doing the legal work, so I can't complain about that and I enjoyed hauling the directors in front of insolvency court to hold enquiries and trace where all the money had gone, but the human side of it is indeed very sad. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't one of the reasons I finally decided to get out of the industry and limit my role today to some legal consulting for my firm back in SA.

I think when we get documents like this, we have to just try and see the positive side of it and otherwise distance ourselves emotionally from the content. In Jack's case, whilst understandably full of grisly detail, his work was essential to get to the bottom of the matter and hopefully prevent the same type of thing from happening again.

In your case Alex, there are inevitably individuals who are going to take a bad knock, but there are some whose jobs will be saved because of the restructuring process. Probably better that the company takes steps now rather than reach the point of no return leaving everyone out of a job.

Still a bummer though ...


[Edited at 2008-08-29 07:58]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:55
Flemish to English
+ ...
Greed is good Aug 29, 2008

Google : "Greed is good" and have a look at that movie.
Business is war (on Wall Street and on the Square Mile) without guns and employees are foot-soldiers. The top brass usually moves on to another company and gets a better job.



[Edited at 2008-08-29 08:44]


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:55
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Golden parachute Aug 29, 2008

Williamson wrote:

Google : "Greed is good" and have a look at that movie.
Business is war (on Wall Street and on the Square Mile) without guns and employees are foot-soldiers. The top brass usually moves on to another company and gets a better job.



[Edited at 2008-08-29 08:44]


... and a whopping great golden parachute, at the shareholders' expense - or at the taxpayers' expense in the case of a recent notorious bank that the UK government decided to prop up "to protect the banking system".

Wow, Debs, what an adventurous life you've led!

The grisliest translation job I ever had to do was deciphering very indistinct cassette tapes in African French about female circumcision in West Africa. I had to play them over and over again to make out what was being said. Horrid, but, again, as Debs says, hopefully needed in order to bring attention to that nasty practice and put a stop to it.
Keep smiling,
Jenny.


[Edited at 2008-08-29 08:54]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:55
English to German
+ ...
This previous thread might be of interest... Aug 29, 2008

http://www.proz.com/forum/lighter_side_of_trans_interp/71174-most_macabre_translation_you_did.html


Shudder.


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Andrew Levine  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:55
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Oil industry in Nigeria Aug 29, 2008

My most depressing translation was a transcript of a French investigative journalism TV show where the program went to Nigeria for an exposé on the oil extraction industry there, and its effects. In 28 minutes they managed to roll together ransom kidnappings of foreign engineers, water pollution, child soldiers, gangsters-turned-(corrupt)politicians, and a representative of a major oil multinational who made no pretense of caring about any of this.

The client actually was the multinational in question, and although I'm not certain what their purpose was in having the show translated, I hope it was not to do damage control for the negative PR it might've caused them.

[Edited at 2008-08-29 11:37]


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Sushan Harshe
India
Local time: 20:25
English to Hindi
+ ...
In the world of professionals there is no place for Amatures Aug 29, 2008

My dear friend Alex, In my 22+ years in Journalism I have seen hundreds of incedences of social unjustice and business malpracticing. I was tougt by seniors of the field that, "If you are emotional with knowing something so called un-human act, consider yourself as yet you are not born well!" When I started translation in the period, I came across several different company business notifications and deeds as, against employees interests. I have convinced myself that, "what I am doing is a profession; and my job is to serve my client" If the job is legal then there is no meaning in discussing it in morality point of view!! I suggest you the same in different words, “If you are sentimental or emotional, better stay away from legal, business, and clinical trial like subjects. I know, you may find this hard to read but in period, you will appreciate my reflection.

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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:55
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Murder in the first Aug 29, 2008

My most terrible and horrific translation was the case of a man in Puerto Rico who murdered his wife in front of their children, all because the youngest one dropped a Bible. He went into a rage and did not stop, first hitting her with an aluminum bat, then with a telephone, and finally going to his room, where he fetched a gun from a safe, loaded it, and emptied it on her. He got a life sentence.

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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:55
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Pharmaceutical shenanigans Aug 29, 2008

This is a bit more subtle than some of the ones mentioned here, but I once translated a document for a pharmaceutical company in which ways were suggested to convince people to buy certain new drugs, even implying the "invention" of new diseases that these drugs would supposedly cure. Unethical and creepy, not to mention greedy.

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RNAtranslator  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Personal ethics Aug 29, 2008

I would not help those ######## for the same reason I would not help a pederast: personal ethics.

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RNAtranslator  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translator's ethics Aug 29, 2008

Amy Duncan wrote:

This is a bit more subtle than some of the ones mentioned here, but I once translated a document for a pharmaceutical company in which ways were suggested to convince people to buy certain new drugs, even implying the "invention" of new diseases that these drugs would supposedly cure. Unethical and creepy, not to mention greedy.


It's you who have said that the text is unethical, and I do agree. Don't you think that helping people to do unethical things is also unethical?


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Sergei Leshchinsky  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 17:55
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Autopsy rep Aug 29, 2008

... in 16 pages...

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Alfredo Fernández Martínez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Interpreting to the workers of a company downsizing.... Aug 29, 2008

Or teaching English to a person, who was about organise the delocalisation of an multinational industrial factory...

Or translating a pork-cutting machine...


You live, you learn to be choosy...


Alfredo

[Edited at 2008-08-29 18:58]


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Alex Farrell  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 23:55
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Wow Aug 30, 2008

Lots of interesting/scary stuff, and thanks for that link, Nicole, and thank you for your advice, Sudarshan.

I also did some translations of an MLM company's emails. The place had been forced to shut down for tax evasion and fraud and the documents were going to be used in court, so I feel it was for a good cause. And it was interesting: those pyramid schemes are like cults with their own propaganda and everything.

- Alex


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