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"revision" of machine translated text
Thread poster: Lisa Mann
Lisa Mann
Spanish to English
Nov 14, 2006

I've just finished revising an academic text for the linguistic services department of the local university, for whom I also do translations from time to time. The text was clearly machine translated and so full of non-sequiturs and gobbledy-gook that I couldn't make sense of a lot of it. The parts I could pick out the meaning of needed serious restructuring and rewording. What gets my goat is that this person is paying for a (much cheaper) revision when what he really needed was a translation from his original. Has this ever happened to anyone? I'm kind of obliged to charge the revision rate now, but in future I'll make sure that the text is not machine translated before I accept it for revision!

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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:38
Member (2002)
English to German
Reject it Nov 14, 2006

Hi Lisa,

Of course you can reject this job no matter what you agreed on before.

In fact you should do it.

Either the agency knows that this was machine translated. Then they have nothing to demand from you anyway.
Or they don't know about it. Then you should tell them because somebody might have charged them a full translation rate for the machine translation.

Anyway, you don't have to fix a machine translation if you thought that you have to do a proper proofreading job.

Best regards

Andy

www.interlations.com


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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 22:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Reject the job Nov 14, 2006

When requested to do an editing job, I always make it clear that it must be "professional-quality" translation. If I receive a document that has either been machine.-translated or that is of very poor quality, I point this out to the client and offer instead to translate from scratch.

You would be surprised how many of my clients agree to have the document translated from scratch.

Best of luck

Ricardo


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:38
English to German
+ ...
Charge per hour or translation rates Nov 14, 2006

If you revise a professional translation than you may agree on a rate per word. Then you start from a real text in a real language.

If you have to translate machine speak into a real language (which is what you actually do), then you should charge translation rates or revision by hourly rates.

This is also what I would tell the agency. If they want a revision, they have to give you a text in the desired language. If they give you machine speak you can only offer a translation into the desired language. It is, in fact, no revision.


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:38
French to English
+ ...
you've finished the job? Nov 14, 2006

you say you've finished the job - that means you accepted the task. Did you see the text in advance, or tell the client as soon as you noticed it was a machine translation? Did you explain why it might be better for them to have it translated by a human to start with?

Also, why are you financially out of pocket? If you don't charge an hourly rate for editing, perhaps you should consider it.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 20:38
English to Russian
+ ...
Shoot me now... Nov 14, 2006

Lisa Mann wrote:

an academic text for the linguistic services department of the local university,... The text was clearly machine translated


How charming indeed. Is or was the client fully aware of the machine translation part?


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Alicia Casal  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 22:38
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
? Nov 14, 2006

Have you talked with your client before proofreading/editing or translating?

Did he give you the source text?

??????

I see a rate issue but also there is a professional one.

How did you manage to do it?


A



[Edited at 2006-11-14 17:32]


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
charge accordingly! Nov 14, 2006

Lisa,
A regular client for my English editing services is a Mexican university that publishes bilingual journals. The authors are required to submit abstracts in both English and Spanish. Not knowing English, they turn to the increasingly prevalent machine translation tools, and voilá: My laugh for the day!

So, I wrote to the university staff, saying that I would be happy to translate the abstracts at my regular rate but that editing them was out of the question. And no one had a problem with that.

It is a matter of educating the client. If they want quality, they need to be prepared to pay for it.
Patricia


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Alicia Casal  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 22:38
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good for educating the client Nov 14, 2006

Patricia Rosas wrote:

Lisa,
A regular client for my English editing services is a Mexican university that publishes bilingual journals. The authors are required to submit abstracts in both English and Spanish. Not knowing English, they turn to the increasingly prevalent machine translation tools, and voilá: My laugh for the day!

So, I wrote to the university staff, saying that I would be happy to translate the abstracts at my regular rate but that editing them was out of the question. And no one had a problem with that.

It is a matter of educating the client. If they want quality, they need to be prepared to pay for it.
Patricia


I love your educating the client observation.
Alicia-


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:38
German to English
+ ...
"Revision" always sets off alarm bells Nov 15, 2006

Whether humans or computers, home-made translations by a non-professional are usually full of problems.

I haven't yet been confronted with the revision of MT gobbledygook, but revision of translations (especially done by academics) can be a minefield anyway. Or a variant that I have often seen is the German native speaker (engineer, architect, accountant etc.) who says they have done some bits in English themselves which "only" (!!!) need proofreading, but other bits are in German and need to be translated. More often than not, there are some parts in English which I simply can't understand, and I have to ask them to express in their own native German what they are trying to say.
Interestingly, lawyers don't generally fall into this trap. In my experience, they seem to know the importance of careful wording and leave the translation to me. They sometimes ask clarification questions after the event, but they don't give me broken English to mend.

My conclusions:
1. I always try to avoid doing revision/proofreading work if I possibly can, as it is usually more trouble than it is worth, and turning a bad text into a good text is almost impossible.
2. If it is unavoidable, I always point out to the client what pitfalls and quality problems are likely to arise.
3. I avoid committing myself to a revision rate before I have seen the text (in fact, I generally tell clients that I can only finally decide on the appropriate rate when I have actually done at least some of the work and found out the difficulties that are hidden in the details).

In your case, I hope you told your contact what a rotten task he/she gave you. You have a strong case for charging a supplementary amount for the unusual difficulties that resulted from the dreadful quality of the material which you were provided. Alternatively (if the university's budget rules are too rigid or complicated), you can suggest that your contact owes you a few big favours to make up for the terrible problems that he/she has caused.

And, as you write, you now know what to be careful about in future.


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Lisa Mann
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Jumped the gun on accepting it Nov 15, 2006

Angela Dickson wrote:


you say you've finished the job - that means you accepted the task. Did you see the text in advance, or tell the client as soon as you noticed it was a machine translation? Did you explain why it might be better for them to have it translated by a human to start with?

Also, why are you financially out of pocket? If you don't charge an hourly rate for editing, perhaps you should consider it.


Yes, I accepted the job without looking very closely at it because I was busy and harried and I've done a million revisions for the same client before without any problems. Let me tell you that will not happen again!

Our company (I'm part of a cooperative of translators and language teachers) has never charged an hourly rate for revision. In fact, I don't know any freelance translators here in Spain that do it that way. If there are any freelance translators (not only editors) living here who charge an hourly rate for revision, I'd be interested in hearing from you.

Lisa


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:38
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
I now charge an hourly rate Nov 15, 2006

Lisa Mann wrote:

Our company (I'm part of a cooperative of translators and language teachers) has never charged an hourly rate for revision. In fact, I don't know any freelance translators here in Spain that do it that way. If there are any freelance translators (not only editors) living here who charge an hourly rate for revision, I'd be interested in hearing from you.


I no longer live in Spain, but many of my clients are there. I used to charge per word for "revisions", but changed that a while ago, including with agencies I have worked with for years (bar one so far). I can't quite remember how this came about, but I probably complained about a "revision" taking too long, not being worth the money and not wanting to accept any more unless the conditions changed. This probably went hand in hand with starting to charge a minimum for small jobs, which had also previously been paid per word.


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silviantonia  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:38
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
Revisions of other's translations is more trouble than it is worth... Dec 5, 2006

I took on a very large project for a client for whom I have done a number of previous jobs, and this one involved a 'revision.' It was taking me longer to unscramble the obvious machine translation than it was worth...

I wrote to the client and told them this (we did have a previous history) and stated I could no longer 'revise' but would have to translate from scratch, as it was actually taking me longer!

The client accepted...

The problem is that we are all too busy/harried to review someone else's text...

The plum is a translation of an article on jurisprudence that I did for a Spanish lawyer/jurist; he had used certain English and Latin terms within his text (in Spanish) that were plainly misused. I am also a lawyer, and have done much legal writing in over thirty years of practice... in both languages! And there is a widespread use of Latin in legal writing...

He was offended when I very gently suggested that some of his terminology did not fit the sense of what he was trying to say... Although he paid for my translation, he would not respond to queries, and is generally 'pissed off' at me, although I proofread the work three times and searched all terminology which was in question, and provided a cover letter with an explanation of any changes I had made, with links, definitions, etc. (And I promise, it was very respectfully submitted...)


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