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Poll: If you find that a job you've started on contains passages beyond your capabilities you:
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 05:42
SITE STAFF
Apr 3, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "If you find that a job you've started on contains passages beyond your capabilities you:".

This poll was originally submitted by Nesrin

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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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:42
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
As usual, terms need defining Apr 3, 2007

Beyond your capabilities How far beyond?

Do your best to translate it anyway OK if it's not that far beyond your capabilities and you have access to dictionaries in the field (and KudoZ) to help you. But if it's way beyond your capabilities, don't attempt it.

Explain the situation to the client This looks like the most honest alternative, but it is understandable not to want to reduce the client's faith in your abilities if you think you can turn in a reasonable job.

Outsource Possibly, but not without the client knowing about it.

Would never be in that situation Hubris which may be followed by nemesis. No-one wants to be in this situation but it can still happen to anyone, no matter how carefully you try to avoid it.

I selected the "explain" option myself, but circumstances can alter cases.


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Annette Heinrich  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:42
English to German
+ ...
Explain to the customer Apr 3, 2007

I've been in that situation just once but I definitely learned something from it: Always look through the whole text before accepting a job, not just the first few passages!!!

In my case, it was a business letter which started with the usual stuff but later on contained some difficult legal passages. I first considered asking for help via Kudoz but as there were several sentences I did not understand at all, I decided to call the client. They agreed to give the job to somebody else and even told me that I had the right reflex not to tackle something which was beyond my capabilities. A big hurrah to professional customers...


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Irene Elmerot  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 14:42
Member (2005)
Dutch to Swedish
+ ...
Make the client get a good proofreader Apr 3, 2007

Last time this happened to me, I simply told the client tha a passage had a lot of terminology that is not my area of expertise, so that they had to make sure a proofreader with knowledge of this terminology checked the text. That turned out very well.

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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:42
English to Arabic
+ ...
Definition Apr 3, 2007

Jack Doughty wrote:

As usual, terms need defining



The full question I would have wanted to ask (but the quick polls only allow for a limited number of characters) is:

If you find that a large* job you've already started working on contains (longish) passages (say 5% of the job, more than you can ask on Kudoz) WAY beyond your capabilities (i.e. you really feel out of your depth)...

*I'm saying a "large" job, because I assume that quite a few of us translators do not read the entire text prior to accepting a job, esp. if it's a really long one.


Irene Elmerot wrote:

Make the client get a good proofreader



I like that solution, Irene.




[Edited at 2007-04-03 15:14]


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Els Spin  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:42
Dutch to English
+ ...
Hear hear! Apr 3, 2007

Jack Doughty wrote:

Beyond your capabilities How far beyond?

Do your best to translate it anyway OK if it's not that far beyond your capabilities and you have access to dictionaries in the field (and KudoZ) to help you. But if it's way beyond your capabilities, don't attempt it.

Explain the situation to the client This looks like the most honest alternative, but it is understandable not to want to reduce the client's faith in your abilities if you think you can turn in a reasonable job.

Outsource Possibly, but not without the client knowing about it.

Would never be in that situation Hubris which may be followed by nemesis. No-one wants to be in this situation but it can still happen to anyone, no matter how carefully you try to avoid it.

I selected the "explain" option myself, but circumstances can alter cases.


Hear hear, Jack. Couldn't have put it more clearly myself! Only difference between you and me, is that I ticked the 'other' box.

Have fun!
Els


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:42
English to Arabic
+ ...
Definitions 2 Apr 3, 2007

And this is how I would define the answers:

- Do your best to translate it anyway: i.e. do everything you can, as long as it's legal, incl. consulting a specialist.

- Explain the situation to the client: i.e. leave the decision to the client

- Outsource the job: outsource all or part of the job to someone you believe may be more capable

- Would never be in that situation: this would apply to the case of translators who read texts thoroughly before accepting to do the job, so there can be no surprises.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:42
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Sometimes clients are really helpful Apr 3, 2007

If the problem is terminology, clients may know their own favourite expressions or find earlier texts - and then they can't complain afterwards

I've been in deep water several times. If I have time, and I'm not too far out of my depth, I can often sort it out myself anyway with the help of friends, colleagues and Kudoz.

If it's serious or I'm not convinced by whatever help I find, I would always tell the client. In the early days this happened several times with my favourite agency, and they suggested a colleague who could help. It was often someone who should have had the whole job, but didn't have time!

This was very useful, because I learnt a lot from the feedback. Getting a good proofreader is another workaround, and here too, the feedback is worth a lot.




[Edited at 2007-04-03 19:28]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:42
English to Spanish
+ ...
Beyond your capabilities Apr 3, 2007

At this point over 50% have answered "Beyond your capabilities".

Not only that, I also see people doing it all the time.

That's what gives us a bad name. We complain about rates; then if we have people working "beyond their capabilities" all the time, what do you think we can expect?

Let's clean up our act and be professional. If you cannot do first-class work, don't do it at all.


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:42
French to English
+ ...
Chose would not Apr 4, 2007

Hi all,

I wholeheartedly agree with Henry's remarks and is one of the reasons why I don't even agree to proofread or edit something without having seen the translation first! A few nightmarish editing jobs, where it was obvious the translator did not have much of a clue what he/she was writing about (notwithstanding writing style issues....), vaccinated me against taking those jobs blindly.

And I will not quote on a translation project without having scanned through the entire text first. Eons ago, I took a speed-reading class and know if somewhere my eye to brain connection slows down, I have to evaluate a potential problem.

I do turn down jobs occasionally, telling the prospect frankly that I am not the best fit for the project, that my expertise is in XYZ area not KQF.

If one does not look carefully at a project, how can one write up a bid and pledge a delivery date/hour?

Cheers,

Patricia


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Stefan Keller  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:42
English to German
I could not agree more Apr 4, 2007

Henry Hinds wrote:

That's what gives us a bad name. We complain about rates; then if we have people working "beyond their capabilities" all the time, what do you think we can expect?

Let's clean up our act and be professional. If you cannot do first-class work, don't do it at all.


Perfectly put!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:42
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It happens for the best... Apr 4, 2007

Even experienced translators can end up in that situation, in spite of reading the text through first.

I have been surprised several times to find that passages I understand perfectly well in the source language are fiendishly difficult to render in English. The equivalent must happen regularly for translators working in language pairs where the cultural differences are far greater than between my languages.

There may be several reasons. I live in my 'source country'. So in some domains I have learnt what I know in Danish, and may not have read up enough on the subject in English. I am just not familiar with all registers and genres in all fields in spite of trying to keep up. There is not always time for the necessary research before deadline!

However bilingual you are, some domains are always better covered in one language than in the other.

Or I take on a contract, for instance - a "legal" text that includes a passage on IT or some such subject, where I really need help to make sure I get all the technical details correct.

One of my real 'heroes' in translating - a former agency colleague with many years of experience - warned me very early on that this can happen. So if it happens to him it can happen to anyone.

Of course, you can refuse to take on the text, but he often found the client insisting: "If you can't do it, nobody can!"

Telling the client and getting help is the only way out. Nobody is perfect, but knowing your own limitations is the first step to learning more and being able to do better next time.

"The stupidest questions are often the ones you don't ask, but should."

Happy translating!


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:42
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
some "passages beyond my capabilities" Apr 4, 2007

are those quotations already translated, the back-translation of which would NEVER yield their original. And here you really have to explain to the client.

I agree perfectly with Jack.


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Ylva Gravengaard
Denmark
Local time: 14:42
Member (2005)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Explaining to the client will proof your professionalism! Apr 4, 2007

[quote]Jack Doughty wrote:

Explain the situation to the client This looks like the most honest alternative, but it is understandable not to want to reduce the client's faith in your abilities if you think you can turn in a reasonable job.

Hi

I do not completely agree ... In understand the thoughts here, but to me - and the translations agency I represent - explaining to us and the client that parts of the texts comes to be beyond your qualifications and experience, is a way to show that your are actually a professional and serious translator!

It is always preferable to tell it 'in the open' instead of keeping it to yourself and - maybe - deliver bad quality. Telling it to the client gives them the opportunity to decide how this should be dealed with ...


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
The real world Apr 4, 2007

If you find that a job you've started on contains passages beyond your capabilities you…do your best to translate it anyway.

Personally I believe the reason why (at the moment) 51% of us have answered “do my best to translate it anyway” is due to the conditions under which we work. In an ideal Monday-to-Friday, 8-to-5, flexible-deadline world, it would be easy to consult with other more experienced translators, call the agency and ask for help, etc., but many of us don’t live and work in that world.
To give a real life example, I was asked yesterday to translate a 45-page medical text, which didn’t really seem that complicated, but I knew I would probably have a few questions on it. As of tomorrow (Thursday), this country virtually shuts down until next Tuesday the 10th, which by the way was when the translation was supposed to be on the agency’s desk. How am I supposed to ask a fellow translator to help me during the holidays? Is the client or agency going to be open to answer my questions? I don’t think so!!
So, what did I do? I politely turned down the opportunity because I’m lucky enough to have steady work. I understand, however, that not every freelancer is so lucky and far be it from me to judge anyone who does accept jobs like that and just does the best they can under the circumstances. If I had felt the need to accept the work I would have “done my best to translate it anyway”.

PS. This was an interesting poll and as Nesrin said, it should be kept in mind that the number of characters for writing the poll questions is quite limited. Hence, some oddly or poorly worded polls.


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