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Poll: Have you ever complained to a client about the quality of a source text?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 21:27
SITE STAFF
Aug 7, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever complained to a client about the quality of a source text?".

This poll was originally submitted by Mark Nathan

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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Mark Nathan  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:27
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...
Hi everyone Aug 7, 2007

This isn't usually a problem for me - but what interests me here is the role of the translator. What should we be expected to do?
Obviously you would point out typos etc provided there were not too many. The same applies for factual errors (the wrong date for the revolution or whatever).
Some mistakes (I am not exactly sure which) should be left in, i.e. we take the attitude that we are faithfully reproducing the source text.
Anyone had any interesting experiences that might help define the role of the translator (or make us laugh)?


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends Aug 7, 2007

If the original is going to be published, I sometimes point things out. I'm thinking in particular of one job in which a tourism brochure (written in English by a non-native speaker) was not only ungrammatical, but inadvertently obscene. As for whether to retain errors, it depends on the nature of the job. Obviously, courtroom evidence requires a different approach from advertising copy.

[Edited at 2007-08-07 15:21]


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Luciana E. Lovatto  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:27
English to Spanish
One or twice? Twice! Aug 7, 2007

Once it happened to me that I had to translate something that was previously written in Japanese or Chinese so the source was a kind of “Englishnese”. The other day, I also had problem with some scanned pages, not only they were in an illegible handwriting, but also had spots and there were missing parts.

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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:27
Member
French to English
+ ...
I wouldn't say "complain"...but Aug 7, 2007

I've never "complained" per se, but have often pointed out, questioned, or mentioned mistakes in source texts (ok, with varying degrees of annoyance).

I've found that the reaction varies from total indifference to absolute relief, depending on the type of text being translated.

I have one client who writes what I translate specifically for it to be translated and he trusts that I will correct small mistakes (ex: last Tuesday, 24/07/2077). I always make a point of pointing these out anyhow.

Sometimes mistakes can raise a doubt, in which case I always go back to the client with a query or flag the problem when returning the work.

Last year I translated a book in which both the source and target languages appear (French on the right-hand odd-numbered pages and English on the left-hand even-numbered pages). I found a few mistakes, pointed these out to the author and/or graphic designer (depending on what point we were at in the process). The mistakes were corrected in my translated version, but for whatever reason were not addressed in the original version. Nothing too serious, just somewhat annoying as these mistakes could have been avoided.

Best,
Jocelyne


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
I've wanted to, but... Aug 7, 2007

Many times the client I am working for has no control over the quality of the source text. This would apply only to client-generated texts. My job then is to try to make the product a bit better than the original by polishing it where needed. Though I don't complain about the quality of source texts, in such cases I will have already agreed with the client that some polishing will be done.

They already know that some of their people are not the best writers and are glad to receive that added value.


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Claudia Aguero  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 22:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Many times Aug 7, 2007

I always call them and ask for a better copy if the original document is illegible. In other cases, I tell my client that the same information has been changed in different sections of the text (whenever I am dealing with a source tect written by the client). In such cases, we fix the text and both the original and the translation are the same. If I cannot contact my client or he says "just leave it that way", I use translator's notes and "sic". In some cases, I just send a note explaining that highlighted portions of the translation were not clear to me.

It happens to me that I have become a proofreader/editor for two of lawyers. They send me their public deeds and I have to call them to fix the documents. As one said, "whenever I file a public deed that has been translated by you, I never have problems at the National Registry."

In short, my clients are accustomed to my constant questioning about their writing. The good thing is that they appreciate this "additional service".


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:27
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Many times Aug 7, 2007

Sometimes it's just to the agency about the poor quality of the writing in general (I'm thinking mostly about one repeat client, the PM and I do like to have a moan about him in order to get through his texts!) and sometimes it's about specific parts (often of papers for publication) which just don't make any sense to me at all. The author has to be asked for clarification and often the sentence is totally rewritten or cut altogether. This can really annoy me, especially if I have spent quite some time trying to work out what they were going on about. Why can't they proofread their own work instead of rushing to finish it and sending it off to be translated without even reading it through.

You see, I'm complaining again already!


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Stephanie Ingunza
Local time: 23:27
English to Spanish
+ ...
Many times Aug 7, 2007

Sometimes I have to complain about the quality of the source text being written by someone who is not his/her mother tongue, sometimes documents in English written by Chinese or Asians. It difficults the translation because, first of all, you have to figure out what they wanted to say in English to translate it into Spanish. It takes a lot of time and it is very demanding. They just -it seems to me- do not have enough time to proofread their documents, they just send them to be translated.

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M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:27
English to Polish
Complain? No, but... Aug 7, 2007

... I was politely suggesting to give a text to native speaker for proofreading (I sometimes get texts translated from Chinese to English by a Chinese and several times it was too obvious).

Anni


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:27
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Transcripts Aug 7, 2007

I was once asked to translate transcripts of a large number of telephone conversations between two people who never completed a normal sentence. The whole text consisted of sentence fragments interspersed with 'uh' and 'you know'. It was impossible to get a handle on what it was all about. I didn't just complain, I refused the job.

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:27
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
A few times Aug 7, 2007

But everytime you have to ask the client for his reading, isn't that like saying he didn't put it well enough?

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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:27
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Translating vs. proofreading Aug 7, 2007

If the project is a translation, in general OK with the text quality. "Well-written" or "not-so-well-written" doesn't make the difference. The problem arises when the original is actually a bad translation from yet another original. I have some memorable stories on the issue.
Nevertheless, in general it's OK with translation originals. I can feel happy whenever a new client comes up.

But if the project is a proofreading...
1/3 is an easy reader
1/3 needs re-translation of some core concepts
AND
1/3 belongs to the category... OH MY DEAR GOD!

So you can guess how "happy" I am when I am offered a proofreading from an unknown client...


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
not complaining, but correcting... Aug 7, 2007

I see it as my role to include editing comments on the original when I return my translation. These can range from catching typos to suggesting a reorganization of paragraphs. I'm not sure how open all my clients are to this, but I always ask, "Would you like me to continue giving you this feedback?" And everyone has said "yes."

The essay I worked on over the weekend was unusually well written, but I found three surnames that were misspelled, some dates may be wrong, and there were a few typos. I wouldn't dream of sending in the translation without also returning the original with those problems highlighted.


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Ma. Fernanda Blesa  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:27
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I wouldn't say complain... Aug 7, 2007

but rather warn/comment/ask about the text in question.

For instance, a while ago I was asked to translate a brochure for some kind of machine from English into Spanish, and the English version was horrendous (grammar mistakes, choice of words, cohesion, coherence... you name it...) The greatest issue there was that this English version, evidently a translation from either Italian or French, was already published and it was being used by the company. So I warned them about the quality of the text and offered them to proofread it (for a fee obviously).

Occasionally, I find mistakes that are worth mentioning (unfinished sentences, factual mistakes, etc), which I point out in detail if they are just a few.

I usually don't mention typos in the original text unless I know my client has produced the text I'm translating.

So far my comments have been welcomed, and in my experience, they help building the trust your clients have in you. I mean, it's an excellent way of showing your clients why you are more expensive than the kid around the corner who can speak both languages and just because of that thinks s/he is a translator, right?


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