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Request for British English: What do I do?
Thread poster: David Jessop

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 2, 2004

Hello Colleagues,

I was mailed a job request this morning that included "job should be translated into British English." I grew up in New York City and thus speak and write American English. While I believe I can get this proofread for "Britishness" by a traveller from the UK with good language skills, I am going to have to pay that person.

Do I request that the agency pay extra for this, do I handle it in any way with the agency, or just suck it up and take it out of my fee (which is quite low based on the country in which the agency resides)?.

Thanks for any help with this dilemma.

Best wishes,
David


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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:45
German to English
+ ...
British English Aug 2, 2004

You can always turn down the job!

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David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not an option Aug 2, 2004

Trudy Peters wrote:

You can always turn down the job!


I am not considering turning down the job.

David


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mónica alfonso  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:45
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hi, David Aug 2, 2004

Some time ago, an agency (very good clients of mine) asked me to translate something into 'Chilean' Spanish. I am Argentine, and perhaps could have resourced to some Chilean translator to proofread my work, but instead, I decided to be honest and replied stating that Chilean and Argentine Spanish were two different variants and probably a Chilean translator would do a better job there.
I lost a job, but surely retained my client's respect, at least that's what she said.
This sums up my opinion.
Hope to have helped you.


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Russell Gillis  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:45
Spanish to English
Be honest about your language capabilities Aug 2, 2004

I also saw this job posting in my mail, but promptly deleted it after seeing the requirement for British English. Being Canadian, I could probably make somewhat of a case of knowing a little British English, but I know there are plenty of competent translators in the UK who can do the job.

Being in Latin America, I think you are doing the client a disservice, especially considering that you will have to turn it over to a native speaker of British English. I don't think any agency would accept an extra fee to have it proofread by a native from that country, when that is supposed to be your job.

I guess if you are insistent upon getting the job, you will have to pay the proofreader out of your own pocket. Hopefully you can see from other opinions in this forum that it is not wise to take jobs that you are not best suited to.

Sincerely,

Russell


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David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
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Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Monica and Russell Aug 2, 2004

Russell Gillis wrote:

I also saw this job posting in my mail, but promptly deleted it after seeing the requirement for British English. Being Canadian, I could probably make somewhat of a case of knowing a little British English, but I know there are plenty of competent translators in the UK who can do the job.
Russell

Being in Latin America, I think you are doing the client a disservice, especially considering that you will have to turn it over to a native speaker of British English. I don't think any agency would accept an extra fee to have it proofread by a native from that country, when that is supposed to be your job.



Thanks for your ideas Monica and Russell.

Russell, I think we are talking about different jobs since this job said nothing about "British English" in the posting and it was not a proz.com posting but a relationship I made through sending out my résumé. I will take into account your suggestions.

Were this a literary piece, I would agree that I would be doing the customer a disservice by taking such a piece and am certain that I would make a different decision. I would not be able to capture nuances particular to British English. However, this is a technical translation that barely enters into the realm of regional nuances and hues and I feel quite qualified to complete it with success and high-quality. I have read plenty of technical British documents and not known that they were written in British English until the third or fourth page. It seems to me that enlisting the help of an English proofreader should be sufficient. I don´t imagine there to be too wide a difference in this case besides "program" and "programme" type differences and perhaps a few different terms used.

Regarding forthrightness, this is very important to me. I am planning on drafting an email to the client to let him know what I plan to do. I hear you regarding my responsibility of taking the rate out of my own pocket.

I am not sure what my "being in Latin America" has to do with the situation, however. Could you please clarify?

Thanks again to both of you for your suggestions.

David

[Edited at 2004-08-02 21:59]

[Edited at 2004-08-02 22:29]


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:45
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
British English Aug 2, 2004

I translate into both American and British English. Although I grew up in the U.S. I have had extensive contact with the British variety, and even taught it for several years. I do not find a terribly great difference when writing formal texts such as technical manuals. There are little tricks that you must know, such as the spelling for "programme", except when it refers to a computer program. Or, "the team are" rather than "the team is". But even so, you could make a case for using either of these conventions in either country.

So, if you are a good writer in American English I think you should be a good one in British English, but mind your Ps and Qs.


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Russell Gillis  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:45
Spanish to English
Clarification on my comments Aug 2, 2004

Hello David,

As far as the comment about being in "Latin America", this was just to emphasize the point about living in the country where the language is spoken (a native in the UK would generally do a better job than someone in Canada or Latin America).

I agree that the differences in technical documents will probably be minimal, but I would still feel a bit uneasy. After all, maybe what I call a "landline" here in Canada may have a different name in the UK.

Anyways, sorry about the misunderstanding regarding the job posting. I had recently seen one for UK English.

Best regards,

Russell


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:45
French to English
+ ...
Hi David Aug 2, 2004

Hi there David,

I translate into both British and American English, as Edward does, as I am Irish by birth, grew up in London, now live in Scotland and have lived and work for extended periods in the States and Mexico.

I would advise you not to take the job if it were a literary translation - as you mentioned, that would just prove hellishly difficult. Indeed, anything with any degree of creativity or artistic, stylish elements would be difficult for an American speaker to put into British English.

However, technical translations are a different kettle of fish. If you get a native English proofreader to proof it for you (I offer very good rates and proof for Scotland's national newspaper ;o) he he) - then there should be no problem. As you pointed out, the program/programme/colour/color differences are pretty obvious, and terminology differences will be picked up by a good proofreader. I would suggest, however, that you make sure to employ a good proofreader - not, as you suggested, someone who just happens to be travelling in the country. It could really make the difference for you and your relationship with the company!

Suerte! ;0)


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:45
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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There are a few online dictionaries Aug 3, 2004

e.g. www.peak.org/~jeremy/dictionary/dict.html

I have to do this regularly the other way round. You can usually find the term if you know it is different in the other language, the problem is you often don't know. E.g., I only found out a year or two ago that what we call a mobile phone, you call a cellphone.


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David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
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Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
mobile or cell, it´s all good (or dandy?) Aug 3, 2004

Jack Doughty wrote:

e.g. www.peak.org/~jeremy/dictionary/dict.html

I have to do this regularly the other way round. You can usually find the term if you know it is different in the other language, the problem is you often don't know. E.g., I only found out a year or two ago that what we call a mobile phone, you call a cellphone.


Jack,

That dictionary is helpful, thank you. Did you know that we also call them mobile phones? According to my experience, "mobile phone" is more and more commonly used!

David

[Edited at 2004-08-03 01:01]


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Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:45
German to English
+ ...
Partnerships Aug 3, 2004

I think there are a lot of translators who translate both into American English (AE) and British English (BE). I'm a Brit and now and again I get asked to translate into AE - usually the texts just concern skincare products and aren't that descriptive, so generally I don't consider it a problem - the end customer is happy and my customer knows where I come from.

As people have said, it really depends on the text - if you have to write something in British slang, you might find that difficult, although I have managed to write stuff in AE before, but then considering the amount of American films we're exposed to, it's not that hard ...

I have an American colleague and often we ask each other about certain phrases we're not sure of - it works quite well - she asks me how to say stuff in British English and vice-versa.

Two suggestions occur to me - Some people proofread on a kind of partnership basis - So maybe you could find a British colleague who needs stuff proofread for American English and who would in return proofread your stuff for British English. I don't know how well such arrangements work, but I have heard that they do exist. A mailing list such as Alexander v. Obert's u-jobs might help you to do so.

The other thing that occurs to me: If you are working for an agency, if they have any sense of quality they should also be proofreading your documents - Some agencies even outsource documents to be proofread (i.e. pay other translators to do so) if they don't have the capacities. If you mention to the agency your concern about British English, maybe they have someone at the agency who is a Brit or will decide to get a Brit to proofread it - after all, you're not the only one responsible and if they're happy to give you the job even though they know that your native language is AE and not BE, then they should also accept part of this responsibility. Unfortunately, I know that there may be a slim chance of the agency having any British natives as employees - I usually get my stuff proofread by German natives and British employees seem to be quite rare.

The bottom line, I think, is that you should be upfront with the agency and then discuss the matter from there.

Good luck!

Sarah


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be totally honest with them Aug 3, 2004

David Jessop wrote:

However, this is a technical translation that barely enters into the realm of regional nuances and hues and I feel quite qualified to complete it with success and high-quality. I have read plenty of technical British documents and not known that they were written in British English until the third or fourth page.

....It seems to me that enlisting the help of an English proofreader should be sufficient.



Tell the client that:-) You are making a strong case for why you should do the job, and yet you are being honest with your client.

As for the proofing rate, you either accept the job as is, and return GB English (assuming the cost of the proofreading yourself) or you inform the agency that you are not a GB English speaker and that you would have to charge extra for proofing the text. That leaves them with full knowledge, and they can choose whether to go for the more economically viable option of contracting a GB translator, or stick with you.

Proofing texts to convert them (non-native to native, or one variant of a language to another) is an additional wasteful cost that is not generally justified, except where there is a shortage of suitable translators. But the agency may simply prefer you to do the job, in which case they may be willing to pay extra.


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:45
Member (2003)
German to English
That's just the point, David Aug 3, 2004

David Jessop wrote:

Jack,

That dictionary is helpful, thank you. Did you know that we also call them mobile phones? According to my experience, "mobile phone" is more and more commonly used!

David

[Edited at 2004-08-03 01:01]


Yes David, but Americans never call them a mobile (common practice in the UK). Things like that can trash a job, a relationship with a client, a translator's reputation. I'll join the bandwagon that says you run a big risk taking jobs you're not qualified to do. If the client knows about it and approves, then fine. Good luck!

[Edited at 2004-08-03 11:40]

[Edited at 2004-08-03 11:40]


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David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Update Aug 3, 2004

Hello Colleagues,

Thank you all for your helpful responses. Last night I sent an email to the client forthrightly explaining the situation. He responded that due to the urgency of this document, it was only necessary to use the spellchecker for British English. Whaddya know?

Thanks again.

David


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