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Off topic: unsatisfied about my translation
Thread poster: Maaike van Vlijmen

Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:17
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
Apr 18, 2006

Hi all,
I would like to know something...
I am a beginning translator (a so-called "newbie") and until now I had only assignments with normal, that is, doable deadlines (I know, lucky me). But today I had to translate three documents very fast and fortunately I made the deadline. I was very satisfied to have made it, but also very unsatisfied, because it wasn't the best I could have done. Now I even feel a bit sad and worried; maybe the text is horrible. Is it normal to feel unsatisfied with a very tight deadline? Did you ever hand in a translation you thought wasn't that good? Thanks for your answers!
Maaike


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 14:17
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Learn the lessons Apr 18, 2006

Hello Maaike

We all made (make) mistakes, but you know that they were useful when you also notice that you learned the lessons.

We're Human and therefore might be able to translate our usual amount plus a certain percentage, maybe even increase the output twice for a short period, but our productivity isn't exponential. We have a limited translation capacity.

Once we understand this, we have to explain it to the client. And it is possible. It's much easier to explain to the client when ourselves have understood and accepted it.

Imagine that you need a piece of furniture and that the cabinet-maker explains that if you really want it in two days there will be no drawers and you will have to paint it yourself, but if you give him the week he needs you will have a well finished piece of furniture. Of course you could go and see another craftsman, but probably he will need a week too. And the one who says that he can do it in one day is very suspicious.

Some people will just see that in one day, instead of translating XX words they could translate three times that.
You, instead, worry about the quality. When you have some time, take it back and see if you would have translated it in another way, it's the best way to know whether you're right or not. It will also help you to decide next time whether you accept such a tight deadline.

Has it happened to me? Yes, but I think that most of the time, as soon as I noticed that I was in trouble I started looking for help, either a proofreader who could be working just after me or somebody whith whom I could share the work. For this, it's very, very useful to know people in your languages whom you can trust in case of too much work.

Good luck

Claudia


[Edited at 2006-04-18 21:23]


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:17
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Deadlines are not written in stone Apr 18, 2006

Hello Maaike Anne,

Imagine that you go to the dentist and say you want your tooth filled in 10 minutes. Surely he/she would tell you that it's impossible. Deadlines are not written in stone. If you tell the client that you can't do a good job in the time given, then in some cases you can negotiate a more reasonable deadline. Sometimes a client may agree to accept a less than perfect job, for example if it's just to get an idea of the content. If you feel comfortable with that you could do it but then I would get that in writing. Ultimately, you always have the final word on whether to accept a job or not. Your are the professional - stick to your own standards with regard to the quality of work you want to deliver and don't let others push you around.

Good luck,

Tina


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:17
Spanish to English
+ ...
avoid situations where you feel dissatisfied? Apr 18, 2006

Maaike Anne wrote:

But today I had to translate three documents very fast and fortunately I made the deadline. I was very satisfied to have made it, but also very unsatisfied, because it wasn't the best I could have done. Now I even feel a bit sad and worried; maybe the text is horrible. Is it normal to feel unsatisfied with a very tight deadline? Did you ever hand in a translation you thought wasn't that good? Thanks for your answers!
Maaike


Maybe you should try to avoid situations where you feel dissatisfied for whatever reason:-)

I can only empathise with you:-) I inadvertently had to leverage a translation of a legal text from a translation memory this weekend. The TM was full of error. I decided that I would never again do a legal text that relied on a faulty TM and me patching up someone else's work..... and especially for a legal text (a contract) - this kind of text needs a bit more attention, it cannot be cobbled together between translators....I'm really concerned about my possible liability here:-) All in all I have the same feeling as you, of hating a situation I felt I inadvertently ended up in:-(

Being a good / happy translator is really about liking what one does... I have always adored translation, but recently feel burned out, and realise that my survival depends on translating what I like to translate and being happy with my relationships with clients....


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:17
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Don't worry Apr 18, 2006

Perhaps you've heard of the old joke about the translator who offered good, quick, and cheap translations. The catch, as he explained to customers, was that the customer could only have any two out of those three, but never all three at once:

A good quick translation would not be cheap.
A good cheap translation would not be quick.
A quick cheap translation would not be good.

Translators often talk as if high quality is the only thing that matters. I disagree (and so does ISO 9000). Quality is actually all about meeting customer expectations.

It is therefore a mix of things -- the quality of the translation is of course important (and the higher the better), but so are other factors -- meeting deadlines and price, and sometimes these are more important than quality.

Your customer wanted a quick translation to a tight deadline. He got it. Sounds like you hit the target of two out of three.


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Rebecca Barath  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:17
Member (2005)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Don't worry 2 Apr 18, 2006

Same here, I was recently contacted by an agency, 'begging' me to do 3000 words in about 3 hours....reason being the original translator had turned in what looked like a MT. I told her there was no way, but I could try and she had to do the proofreading/formatting- and there was no way I could/would guarantee the quality....long story short, we made it....the previous translator had done such a bad job that the end client did not care , as long as it was somewhat comprehensible.....I felt horrible but the agency told me not to worry, it was more than readable and beyond what they had expected......and I received huge thanx for stepping up and trying.

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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 19:17
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Aren't we all? Apr 19, 2006

Hi Maaike,

"Did you ever hand in a translation you thought wasn't that good?"

There are tens of thousands of translators who use this site.

I very much doubt any of them could honestly answer that question in the negative.

Cheers,
Andy.


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:17
Dutch to English
+ ...
Similar situation Apr 19, 2006

Rebecca Barath wrote:

Same here, I was recently contacted by an agency, 'begging' me to do 3000 words in about 3 hours....reason being the original translator had turned in what looked like a MT. I told her there was no way, but I could try and she had to do the proofreading/formatting- and there was no way I could/would guarantee the quality....long story short, we made it....the previous translator had done such a bad job that the end client did not care , as long as it was somewhat comprehensible.....I felt horrible but the agency told me not to worry, it was more than readable and beyond what they had expected......and I received huge thanx for stepping up and trying.


I had a similar situation a couple of months ago. It was a PowerPoint presentation. The customer was so impressed, he actually got back to me to thank me and tell me that even the technical terminology was all correct. There might have been a typo here and there but the customer could do his presentation. I felt very proud


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Trevor Butcher
Local time: 19:17
English
Don't worry, be satisfying Apr 19, 2006

Peter Linton wrote:

Translators often talk as if high quality is the only thing that matters. I disagree (and so does ISO 9000). Quality is actually all about meeting customer expectations.



Yes, we are not the authors of the text and should not expect to produce the class of work we expect but the class of work that the customer expects. Of course, if you are not in communication with the customer then the the customer may have expectations different from our beliefs - and how can we surprise them with something extra if we really do not know what would satisfy them or what extra effort would give me the edge over the competition?

Trevor


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Kevin Kelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:17
Member (2005)
Russian to English
+ ...
Peter (and everyone else) is absolutely right Apr 19, 2006

The "two out of three" principle that Peter mentioned is absolutely right on the mark, and it applies to virtually any service, not just translation.

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Maaike van Vlijmen  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:17
Member (2009)
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Apr 19, 2006

Thank you all for your kind replies!!
After I wrote this posting, I discovered a typo in the title of my translation...I wanted to disappear from the surface of the earth!!! I told the woman of the agency about the typo, that I was very sorry, but maybe it could be corrected.
I woke up at 5 this morning, and after an hour thinking I got up and read my translation again...discovering that it wasn't as bad as I thought. And now, after having read all your kind and true words, I feel better. I'm only human and I did the best I could within the circumstances. And it's an experience I can learn from!
Thanks and a nice day to you all
Maaike


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