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Poll: Do you contact your client to request an explanation if a term/phrase is unclear?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 15:54
SITE STAFF
Jul 23, 2008

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you contact your client to request an explanation if a term/phrase is unclear?".

This poll was originally submitted by Carla Abdel Karim

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 00:54
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Perhaps I'm old fashioned Jul 23, 2008

but I prefer to use a dictionary than ask my clients. After all I have a much better collection of resources - I'm a professional translator, they are not.


Magda


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lillkakan
Local time: 00:54
English to Swedish
of course Jul 23, 2008

If something is unclear in the source - of course I ask, it's the only way to get it right! Translating a lot of software documentation, written in English by Asian non-English speakers, makes for a lot of odd sentences and expressions that need clarification to even begin to make sense ...

And of course you ask for glossaries or previously translated material to be consistent, but if there is nothing of that sort, then there's of course not much use asking the client for clarification of any target term/phrase. That's what dictionaries, colleagues and Kudoz is for. But I interpreted the question as asking about unclear terms or phrases in the source.


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Alexandra Speirs  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:55
Italian to English
+ ...
customers guilty of typos Jul 23, 2008

Customers have a nasty habit of not rereading the stuff they send us to translate.
This means we are often racking our brains to understand something that is completely wrong in the first place!

Like the time someone asked for assistance on the Proz English-Italian board, looking for a translation for "pampers" when the correct word was "hampers" ... lots of imaginative explanations were proposed !!

So if something looks suspiciously like a typo, I ask for confirmation.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:55
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
For ambiguities, yes Jul 23, 2008

When the term clearly has two or more possible correct interpretations, I don't see any choice.

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Elisabete Cunha  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 23:55
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Of course Jul 23, 2008

I will contact the client in one of the following cases:

1 - The sentence is unclear even though I know all the words.

2 - There is an abbreviation that could have several meanings (ex.: In a translation I did recently there was a list of words/expressions related to software. One of the words was "Prev". I immediately thought of "Previous" but then it occurred to me that it could also be "Preview", so I couldn't just pick one of the words, I had to confirm with the client.

3 - There is what I suspect to be a typo and I have to confirm before assuming it is so. Unless of course it becomes obvious in a given context.


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Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:55
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
Yes I do Jul 23, 2008

Especially because I work only with agencies.

lillkakan wrote:

And of course you ask for glossaries or previously translated material to be consistent, but if there is nothing of that sort, then there's of course not much use asking the client for clarification of any target term/phrase. That's what dictionaries, colleagues and Kudoz is for. But I interpreted the question as asking about unclear terms or phrases in the source.
I don't quite agree with this statement. I don't think it is colleagues' and KudoZ' business to solve my terminology problems, including target text problems. I turn to Kudoz only when I've tried everything else, am desperate and know that my customer won't be able to help me. But most of the time, they are. After all, the (end) customer is still the best person to decide what terminology they want to use. And as for agencies, they get paid to, among other things, help me solve issues, whereas colleagues and KudoZ answerers don't. So I'm very grateful to them when they help me, but I don't count on them and don't assume they're going to do the agency's work.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:55
English to German
+ ...
Rarely but sometimes it's inevitable Jul 23, 2008

Because source texts can contain errors or might be outdated.

The typical replies start with:

"This is a good question."

Followed by:

"Let's omit this line.", or

"Thanks for notifying us. Here is the updated version.", or

"We asked one of our engineers, here is what he wrote:"

Followed by:

"Thank you!!"

If it takes an engineer to answer my question, why should I feel embarrassed? Even the best dictionaries have their limits, especially when dealing with cutting edge technologies where references are either sparse or nonexistent.


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lillkakan
Local time: 00:55
English to Swedish
well... Jul 23, 2008

Sophie Dzhygir wrote:
lillkakan wrote:
That's what dictionaries, colleagues and Kudoz is for.

I don't quite agree with this statement. I don't think it is colleagues' and KudoZ' business to solve my terminology problems, including target text problems. I turn to Kudoz only when I've tried everything else, am desperate and know that my customer won't be able to help me.


Of course I'm not saying that the first thing I do is run to Kudoz... O.o
When I have a terminology problem it means all other resources have been exhausted - that's when I turn to colleagues.
(And my customers very rarely can help me in my target language, obviously we have different kinds of customers.)

I'm going to be nice and not feel as offended as I initially did by your comment, but you completely misunderstood me there. (You won't find a single Kudoz-question by me, by the way.)


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sometimes inevitable Jul 23, 2008

We can only translate what we can understand. If something is illogical, ambiguous or inconsistent, then no dictionaries or consultations can help at all. The only recourse is to contact the client, assuming what we are working with is client-generated.

In such cases I point out the problem to the client and the need to revise the material and clients normally appreciate this help from an extra pair of eyes.

If it is not a client-generated document; that is, already written in stone, then the only recourse is a note pointing out the illogical, ambiguous or inconsistent passage.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:55
English to German
+ ...
The translator's First Commandment Jul 23, 2008

Henry Hinds wrote:

We can only translate what we can understand.


Thanks for quoting this one.


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Danae Ferri  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 00:55
Norwegian to Greek
+ ...
yes, specially when translating literature Jul 23, 2008

...and I believe this is what should be done in literary translation. So, in that case I ask -not the publisher, who should be considered my client- but the writer- many things which sometimes might even sound silly but are not obvious. These might have to do with disambiguations, stylistic approaches, specific factual information etc. It is nice to hear from the writer and I also prefer to know what they meant than guess. This is my way of showing my respect to their and also to my work.

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Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:55
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
absolutely Jul 23, 2008

better safe than sorry. I don't want to take a chance with something I'm not sure of. Usually if it's in an area of expertise where I don't know all the phrases or can't find it, or if i'm not sure of the sense of translation. Or for advertising slogans, that type of thing- where you want to make sure you have the right sense.

They always appreciate my attention to detail and conscientiousness.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:55
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Some of my clients' typos are very predictable Jul 23, 2008

They sometimes write "Plaintiff" for "Defendant" and "Defendant" for "Plaintiff", and of course it is obvious from the context which it should be. However, if the source document sentences get too tangled or nonsensical, I contact them.

On some occasions I have corrected everything that was obviously wrong, and eventually sent the translation to them in a hurry, forgetting to mention the mistakes in the source document that I corrected in the translated version. Guess what happens next? A few days later a secretary sends me a revised version, asking me to implement the changes in the target text - but there is nothing to change, because the source has simply been adapted to fit my corrections!

Astrid


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Erzsébet Czopyk  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 00:55
Member (2006)
Russian to Hungarian
+ ...
??? Jul 23, 2008

Magda Dziadosz wrote:

but I prefer to use a dictionary than ask my clients. After all I have a much better collection of resources - I'm a professional translator, they are not.


Magda

could not disagree more


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