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What do you do when an agency tells you that your translation stinks?
Thread poster: CRochereau
CRochereau
Brazil
Local time: 20:48
English
+ ...
Sep 28, 2006

Dear colleagues,

I did a translation via Proz (EN -FR) and received the following comments about the agent, asking me to pay for the proofreader:

unfortunately we had problems with a project you worked on (the DVD manual) that was translated in French. It was pointed out to us by our proofreader that the translation was full of mistakes and we had to have it throughly proofread. It was not possible to send the file as it was because of the low quality of the translation.

I had a look to the final version and yes I found a few mistakes but I disagree with "the low quality of the translation".

One place they had changed my "Le manuel utilise les symboles suivants" to " recoure aux symboles"
- "Ne jamais placer cet appareil sur un chariot" to "Ne placez jamais"
- "Ne jamais obstruer ou couvrir" to "N'obstruez ou couvrez jamais"
- "Essuyez le disque en partant du centre vers l'extérieur avec un chiffon doux" to "Essuyez le disque à l'aide d'un chiffon doux du centre l'extérieur" ( vers non ???)

If anyone wants to, I will be happy to forward the document for anyone who can read French to see my translation and the "proofreaders".


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xxxEmmanuelleAn  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:48
English to French
+ ...
Send it to me! Sep 28, 2006

Please feel free to send it to me. I'd be interested in having a look at it.

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Stefanie Sendelbach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:48
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Maintain confidentiality Sep 28, 2006

Dear CRochereau,

CRochereau wrote:
If anyone wants to, I will be happy to forward the document for anyone who can read French to see my translation and the "proofreaders".


I don't know if it is such a good idea to send your documents to colleagues. Afterall the documents are the client's property, and the client might not like to have their texts distributed over the internet. You should definitely ask the agency or client their permission before you send the texts out.

On another note, I think the agency should have given you the chance to correct any mistakes yourself before they engaged the proofreader.

Best regards,
Stefanie


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:48
Italian to English
+ ...
Negotiate Sep 28, 2006

Stand back from the translation and evaluate all the proofreader's comments without getting emotional about it.

If they made fair changes, accept them. If they put in unfair, incorrect changes or needless rephrasing, then tell the agency. Send the document back with Track Changes showing all of your comments.

Hopefully you'll end up with a compromise - so you might have to give them a small discount to cover the proofreader but not as much as they'd asked for.

Good luck!


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:48
German to English
+ ...
I'd take a big whiff of it... Sep 28, 2006

...to see if it really does stink.

This sounds like (it could be) a delicate situation. I think it depends on a lot of things how to react to a situation like this.

If the work is truly substandard (be honest and objective), humility works well for me. I'd go through it and comment on each and every alleged mistake. I might even offer a discount, if there really are a lot of mistakes, but I doubt that I'd pay for some proofreader who I didn't commission - I probably would have been able to find a better and cheaper one (also see below).

I've heard that some agencies do things like this systematically. I'm not saying your agency did (I have no clue), but if so, I wouldn't take it. In most countries the law would back you up on this. In Germany, for example, the translator has a right to have a chance to rectify any mistakes, before the principal (here: the agency) can just go and hire someone else to do it (and thereby adding costs).

I'm all for owning up to what I've done and taking the lumps if necessary. But like I said, it depends on a lot of things, i.e., how intensive my relationship is with the agency, how large the project was, how many other jobs are lined up waiting, how long I've been in the business, how confident I am with my work, etc.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2006-09-28 16:12]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:48
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agree with Derek and Claire Sep 28, 2006

If most of the changes are insignificant, then tell the agency one by one. It's a long, boring job, but it will put your mind at rest and maybe restore the agency's confidence in you.

If not, insist on being paid for what you did and find some better clients!

Some proof readers seem to delight in altering everything that is not exactly as they would have written it themselves.

I ran across one just before the summer holiday. She was taking over a large job in several instalments for a regular client, so I happily sent her the sections I had done to coordinate.

The end client has never complained about any of my work - and sometimes they like my solution better than their own suggestion when they know the reason. That's what they pay me for in fact.

My text came back more red than black! It was full of comments, but most of them basically meant 'I wouldn't put it that way,' or were completely unnecessary. I altered some of the terminology back again - I have word-lists etc. from the end client that we have worked out and agreed on.

I was furious! But going through the text and handing it over was a very healthy exercise. It restored my confidence, and I left it there. That job is now on the client's website, and there are passages I certainly would have written differently.

But the end client is back with me - by request!

There were a few improvements in my colleague's corrections too - nobody is perfect.

*****
Note anything you can use for later. Being able to take criticism when you deserve it is an important way of learning. And where you don't deserve it - don't worry. Life's too short to let things like that spoil your beauty sleep!

I hope you sort it out!



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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:48
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Examples of "proofreading" speak volumes Sep 29, 2006

CRochereau wrote:
- "Ne jamais placer cet appareil sur un chariot" to "Ne placez jamais"
- "Ne jamais obstruer ou couvrir" to "N'obstruez ou couvrez jamais"


These two changes are classic examples of overzealous (and ignorant) "proofreading". Using the "instructive infinitive" is a convention that is well-established in the French language. From these examples, I even get the impression that the proofer may not have been a native speaker of French.

That said, I fully agree with the previous contributors to this thread. Please do adhere to any confidentiality obligation you have entered into - just sending the "proofed" version to a colleague in order to get a second opinion (without prior consent by the agency) is an approach I would strongly advise against in this case. What I would do is in line with Derek's suggestion: "I'd go through it and comment on each and every alleged mistake".

Hope you get this sorted out!

Steffen


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:48
English to Spanish
+ ...
Proofreading accuracy Sep 29, 2006

Christine Andersen wrote:

Some proof readers seem to delight in altering everything that is not exactly as they would have written it themselves.



Christine's above comment made me think (although I am sure it is something that has been widely/previously discussed in these forums) about the true accuracy of some proofreaders.

I have been at least once in similar situations like the one both CRochereau and Christine have mentioned, in which some of the changes requested have been the result of the proofreader's *personal* preferences.

For example, French being my second foreign language, I honestly don't see a mistake or a major difference between "Le manuel utilise les symboles suivants" and "[le manuel] recoure aux symboles". As far as I know, both of them mean the same in this case.

Unless the proofreader is dealing with texts of a same project translated by various translators, where consistency for a given phrase or word is required, I find such kind of changes unnecessary.

Of course, we all make mistakes and it is not uncommon that even after you proofread yourself before a delivery, you might find out later that you made a mistake (or more than one).

So I definitely value the proofreader's task, but perhaps some preparation (just like you need preparation to be a translator) should be required when performing this task (I just saw a thread about this at http://www.proz.com/topic/56306 ).

And of course, CRochereau, dealing with post-delivery issues like proofreading also requires some preparation/experience, in order to avoid unnecessary tensions with your customer, so use your best diplomacy if the customer is worth keeping (Claire's comment is an excellent approach).

Best,

Ivette

PS: just edited the reference link...

[Edited at 2006-09-29 10:38]


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CRochereau
Brazil
Local time: 20:48
English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sep 29, 2006

Dear colleagues,

I really appreciate all the advices. Most of the changes are insignificant, and I decided to tell the agency to add a comment to all of them. If the proofreader demonstrates the low quality of my translation, then I will agree to lower my prices. After all I consider that is the duty of the agency to have a good proofreader.

I also sent to the agency a link to this forum. The project manager knew from the beginning that I was asking for a second opinion.

Best regards,
Catherine


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David Brown  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:48
Spanish to English
Negative feedback OR "your translation stinks" Sep 29, 2006

This has happened to me on one or two occasions. Unfortunately the proofreader, in my case, worked with the agency much longer than I had, was much younger than I was and was from a different English culture (US vs UK). All the points were minor and a question of style (no translation errors) but although I defended the points one by one, I have never received any more work from that source.
Of course, defend yourself, but there is always someone who point out small differences.


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Ana Cuesta  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:48
Member
English to Spanish
A problem of management by the agency, I think Sep 29, 2006

Surely we all have examples of overzealous proofreaders spoiling our carefully crafted work J And probably most of us have also felt the anguish of trying to decide what was worth changing and what not when proofreading other people’s work.

In my opinion, all that would be solved (and money saved) if the agency made it clear to both translator and editor/proofreader who has the final responsibility and hence decision power over the translated text.

It may be that they have a trusted translator and just need a second pair of eyes to spot the odd error here and there… or they may have hired a generalist/more novice translator to prepare a first translation and then need a specialist/some one more experienced or trusted (but maybe not available for translation in the first place) to polish it.

Both scenarios are plausible and legitimate. But the optimal way to manage them is quite different.


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:48
German to English
Inexperienced proofreader? Sep 29, 2006

I've also had similar experiences. In one case, a text included a translated quote from an English person. I found the original English quote on the Internet and put it in my translation, and the proofreader "corrected" several things in it! He/she also made lots of unnecessary changes in my translation, apparently with the "synonyms" feature on Word: "seems" was changed to "appears", "nearly" to "almost", that kind of thing.

When I sent it back to the agency I pointed it out, and suggested that next time, the proofreader could mark actual mistakes in a different colour, so that I could find them among all the changes based only on personal preference. I doubt they passed the message on, though!

Having my work proofread overzealously has certainly made me more aware of how to do it for other people, though: I now think more carefully before making changes, and ask myself if it is actually wrong, or just not what *I* would say, although that can be difficult to decide, very often! So it has been a useful experience for me. Maybe your proofreader just hasn't had that experience yet.


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