Horrible translations - anybody home at the federal government?
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:59
English to French
+ ...
Sep 4, 2008

I just found a jewel of a mistranslation in a government document. Yes, a government document! One of those documents that, by law, has to be available in both of the official languages, not only so that the population can access and read it but also so that the professionals who base decisions on such documents can have a clear understanding before making decisions that have serious impacts on citizens.

Here goes:

English:
The frequency of westerly winds in Burrard Inlet is much less than over more southern areas.


French:
La fréquence de de l'ouest vents dans Burrard Inlet sont beaucoup moins que par-dessus les secteurs plus méridionaux.


I will let you guess which is the source and which is the target...

Now, I am really pissed. Something has to be done - can you share any ideas? I am just sick and tired of this phenomenon and I believe I am not the only one. These are our linguistic rights.

I am not looking for people venting their frustration (although you are welcome to do it, respectfully, in the process of contributing your views). I am rather looking for ideas on addressing this issue. Is there any organisation anywhere in Canada who has ever dealt with this problem? Is there any method that, if used consistently and by a large number of people, could work?

I can't stand it when a government tells us they are respecting our rights, but then when you look closer, you can tell it's all just a facade and there is nothing behind it.


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 04:59
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Since venting is allowed... Sep 4, 2008

here's another scandalous example:
http://www.cyberpresse.ca/article/20080904/CPSOLEIL/80903289/6688/CPACTUEL03


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Robert Aubut
Canada
Local time: 03:59
English to French
+ ...
There is hope..... Sep 4, 2008

Before 1995, federal public servants needing translation services had to go through the Federal Government Translation Bureau, where quality is garanteed. Since then, public servants are allowed to go directly to any outside agency for their translation needs, and $$$ is unfortunately the decisive factor in many cases. Individual departments are now responsible for the quality of their documents posted in both official languages. In cases such as these, I recommend that a formal complaint be sent directly to the Department involved (for example Environment Canada) via their website. Someone will have to answer questions internally somewhere down the line, and if complaints are too numerous, changes will be made in order to get better quality from service providers, even if that means spending more. I have made several complaints to different Departments, and have seen an improvement in quality on a number of federal websites. This procedure does take time, but it does seem to work in most Departments.

De toute évidence, la traduction y figurant a été produite par un logiciel de traduction, ce qui semble être la solution retenue dans un certain nombre de cas.

[Modifié le 2008-09-04 21:57]


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 04:59
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's true, Sep 5, 2008

the best thing to do is lodge a complaint. I have done it numerous times at hospitals (another basket of eggs, but still somewhat related to government spending or lack thereof). Unfortunately, this past year I have spent more time than I'd like in hospital waiting rooms, and one way I pass the time is by reading the howlingly horrible translations in some of the pamphlets meant to prevent people (mostly immigrants) from overdosing, mixing meds, etc. or teaching them how to access the system. Every time I find a doozy, (and there are ALWAYS some), I contact the appropriate dept. in the hospital and explain. I've had a range of reactions from disregard to apologies to a contract to correct stuff. The latter, in a strange way, means I am getting back some of the tax dollars I lost originally which went to pay someone else who did a sub-standard job.
Anyway, I agree. Complain...luckily the gov't keeps ticking even if parliament never sits anymore. As Sir Humphrey said "We know there will always be a minister, Minister."


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:59
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Tried it - but didn't like the reply Sep 5, 2008

I have tried what both Juliana and Robert are suggesting. I tried it mostly with Environment Canada, Public Works and a few others. I do complain when I see any serious problems, such as machine translation even a translator cannot make any sense of, or simply lack of French version for an official document. Yes, they even pull that off!

Well, I should say that in my experience, complaining was a coup d'épée dans l'eau. I keep getting the semi-generic "thanks for notifying us - we're working on it" message. Meanwhile, even government content I complained about a year ago is still displayed exactly as it was back then. And in some cases, the text is only a few hundred words worth - it's not like it would be so costly and time-consuming to fix it.

So, I concluded that such complaints are not the way to go, and that's why I posted here, thinking something's got to give.


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Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:59
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
environment canada Sep 17, 2008

i've noticed that too...on their weather statements. I know it's 'only a weather' statement but it's still a government agency. Can't they hire a decent translator? it is scandalous. I think they just use an automatic one for this type of thing. It really is scandalous...i keep seeing 'environnement' in the english versions. Can't someone check for that...this is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT not some tween magazine (which I am now revising and translating...yikes).

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Vladimir Dubisskiy  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:59
English to Russian
+ ...
apparently they can not Sep 18, 2008

Government agencies cut their stuff, why would they hire a translator?

Though in our province (BC) we now have PLS (Provincial Language Services) who provide both quality translations and good pay to the translators) They have really good and professional attitude - I love working with them.

I believe something can be done on local level - not federal. Feds - they fly too high)

BTW what is "tween magazine" you mentioned?

smarties wrote:
// it's still a government agency. Can't they hire a decent translator? it is scandalous. I think they just use an automatic one for this type of thing. It really is scandalous...i keep seeing 'environnement' in the english versions. Can't someone check for that...this is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT not some tween magazine (which I am now revising and translating...yikes).


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Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:59
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
tween magazine Sep 19, 2008

i'd rather not give the name of it...
it's a music magazine aimed at the young urban music crowd. I guess most of the contributors are inexperienced and not getting paid. Their writing skills (in both lang) range from not bad to YIKES...but that's what they have me for!!


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CLS Lexi-tech
Local time: 04:59
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
Weather reports Sep 5, 2009

are unfortunately machine-translated....
Paola


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Julie Dion  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:59
English to French
Government has tough choices Sep 5, 2009

If I may chime in...

Having been a meteorologist with Environment Canada for 20 years and being a translator now, I have seen both sides of the problem. The dilemma is this:

Do we spend money on translation or on scientific research? Everybody seems to think that the governement has tons of money for everything. But in fact, at the civil servant level, there are hard choices to be made with a limited budget.

I am certainly not saying translation should be neglected, but I know it is not that easy. And especially at EC, where there is a serious shortage of people.

And by the way, not only are weather forecasts machine translated, they are also machine written. Once the forecaster has entered the numbers into the computer, the software puts it into words. However, forecasters and real translators reread all forecasts before they are sent off. And as far as I know, the synopses and warnings are not machine translated.

Here is a funny thing about machine translation. Forecasters write their initials at the end of a forecast. One forecaster signed her work "CM". Well, the machine kept translating it "centimètre"!

Have a good week-end!


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Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:59
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
i am sure that Sep 8, 2009

the government doesn't have unlimited funds for this type of thing, and actually I don't mind the EC translations that much.

The worst are job websites...i remember when I was looking for a job I'd consult sites where the job listing was translated from french to english- obviously by machine. It was almost impossible to understand! it's like well, people who are looking for jobs must be losers, so why bother...lol


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
An awards ceremony Sep 8, 2009

We should look with some envy at the success that the 'Plain English Campaign' has enjoyed with its annual 'Golden Bull' awards in the UK. These awards are presented to the companies and organisations publishing the worst English. The awards attract considerable media attention and have helped raise public awareness about the quality of written English. I believe the awards have been running for about 30 years - so they must be effective for the Plain English Campaign.

Perhaps national groups within Proz could explore a similar approach.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 10:59
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
partial solution to the case at the top ... Sep 8, 2009

Julie Dion wrote:
...
And by the way, not only are weather forecasts machine translated, they are also machine written. Once the forecaster has entered the numbers into the computer, the software puts it into words....



M*alors, those words could easily be in French as well

Regards

Vito

[Edited at 2009-09-08 11:26 GMT]


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