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Edition that turned out into "re-writing" the author's text
Thread poster: Ivana de Sousa Santos

Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:18
French to Portuguese
+ ...
Apr 14, 2007

I was proposed by a new client to make an edition of 3 books (about 100 pages in total) that were supposed to have been writen in European Portuguese. So, I was told that there were probably Brazilian words and/or exressions that I had to edit into European Portuguese. The client also said that perhaps there were not too many changes and that probably everything was all right.

The client asked to first have a quick look at the files and tell if there was anything to change.

I looked at it, passed the spellchecker and saw spelling mistakes in European Portuguese, because in Brazilian Portuguese they don't use certain letters as we do. For instance, we write "objeCtivo" and they write "objetivo" because it's how we pronounce it.

So, I said I would do the edition.

When I started doing so, not only the text had a lot of spelling mistakes (other that those words we write in a different way), but also sentence structure mistakes, incorrect ponctuation, and the list goes on... The book is really badly written.

I asked for the source texts because I thought it was a bad translation, but the original texts are the Brazilian Portuguese ones.

It turned out that I'm not editing but improving the author's books with my own words.

I am keeping on doing this because I have a deadline until Monday, I am doing this over the weekend and like to respect my deadlines, but I can't help thinking that I shouldn't be doing this.

I will have the job done on Monday, but what will I tell my client about it?

I feel like I'm a kind of co-author of the book: the ideas aren't mine, but the writing is now.

Do I have the right to ask for a higher fee than what we have already arranged or author rights?

I feel like I shouldn't be doing this editing, but I was recommended by a good client to this new one and I don't want to disappoint anyone.

Can anyone please give me some piece of advice or share a similar experience?

Thanks you in advance
Ivana


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:18
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Not sure what is wrong with it Apr 14, 2007

Hi Ivana,

What you've described is... well, editing!

What else did you expect? Editing usually goes beyond proofreading.

Hoping I did not midunderstand you,
Mikhail


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:18
Member
French to English
+ ...
'Editing' is a minefield! Apr 14, 2007

Looks like you got caught with this one!

Whether or not you can ask for a higher fee depends on what arrangement you have; if it is 'per word', or a 'fixed fee', then there's not much you can honourably do about it, given that you did have sight of the document before you agreed to do it. However, if you only agreed an hourly rate, it is only reasonable to bill the actual time taken, and if that is not in line with what the client was expecting, then that is because they underestimated the amount of work involved.

Otherwise, I think you can only put it down to experience, and with the benefit of hindsight, you will know better for next time, both in terms of how you negotiate your fee, and also, how carefully you look into the text before accepting.

I have learnt the hard way that clients invariably say "Oh, it only needs just a look through, a quick tidy up..." — partly, no doubt, because they're eager for you to take the job, but also undoubtedly because they themesleves are unable to judge, hence why the need to ask you to do it!

I have so often been caught out, losing a job to someone with a lower rate than mine, only to be later begged to correct their unsatisfactory work, but for the lower proof-reading rate; so in other words, I am passed over, and the job goes to someone charging say 0.04 € per word, who does a poor-quality job (as you'd expect for the price), and then I am expected to correct it for say 0.03 € a word, meaning that the client has got my level of quality, but only paying 0.07€ / word, instead of say 0.09 € or whatever.

What makes it worse, of course, is that the deadline has been eaten into by the original translator, and so the job that I'd originally refused to do in 4 days now only has 1 day left for me to correct it! So I have to rush and work twice as hard...

I have been caught like this so many times, I now only do occasional proofing work for clients who also give me translation work; most of my loyal regular customers at last realize that the quality I deliver right off can end up saving them a fortune in proofing costs!

Good luck with the rest of the job!


[Edited at 2007-04-14 22:03]


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:18
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mikhail said it! This is what editing is all about... Apr 15, 2007

And I also agree with Tony:

Tony M wrote:

I have learnt the hard way that clients invariably say "Oh, it only needs just a look through, a quick tidy up..." — partly, no doubt, because they're eager for you to take the job, but also undoubtedly because they themesleves are unable to judge, hence why the need to ask you to do it!

...
Good luck with the rest of the job!


[Edited at 2007-04-14 22:03]


I am a professional English-language editor (for works that have not been translated), and this sounds quite normal to me. Editing is an underpaid profession...

It's important to remember that authors have a long, hard slog from the time they start a book until it reaches the editing stage. Usually, they have wonderful ideas or important information to share, but either from exhaustion, having seen the text too often, or simply from lack of craftsmanship, the person's writing can be improved.

They will tell you just what Tony M. says "just a quick tidy up, please!" Then, when they see what you've done, they realize that they were falling short, and in my experience, they are inevitably grateful for the help. The gratitude goes a long way to offsetting the poor pay ...

But don't hesitate to review a ms. with more care in the future, and to set your boundaries at a point that is comfortable for you! Good luck getting to Monday morning!


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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:18
German to English
+ ...
A minefield indeed! Apr 15, 2007

Tony M. said:
I have so often been caught out, losing a job to someone with a lower rate than mine, only to be later begged to correct their unsatisfactory work, but for the lower proof-reading rate; so in other words, I am passed over, and the job goes to someone charging say 0.04 € per word, who does a poor-quality job (as you'd expect for the price), and then I am expected to correct it for say 0.03 € a word, meaning that the client has got my level of quality, but only paying 0.07€ / word, instead of say 0.09 € or whatever.


I have had this happen to me once, and that was enough. I now make a policy of not accepting so-called proofreading of jobs I have unsuccessfully tendered for. I also now refuse to take on any “proofreading” of work before seeing it.

There is another issue here, one which was raised by the agent responsible for most of my nightmare “proofreading” jobs. Apparently, the European Norm (whatever it is) requires revision, and places higher standards on the qualifications of the revisor than on the original translator. As the agent put it, it doesn’t make sense to have an inexperienced translator correcting an experienced translator’s work. This is fair enough, but the original work must be of at least passable quality for the exercise to make sense, either economically or as quality control. Depending on how bad the original translation is, I may end up refusing to touch it unless the agent agrees to a complete retranslation (at my normal rate), or advising the agent that I will only correct actual errors, and ignore stylistic infelicities etc., or negotiating a higher budget on an hourly rate.

I think there are many reasons why we get nightmare revision jobs. Sometimes, the agent, although possibly a competent translator, may not be competent enough in the particular language combination to recognise the original translation is a dud. Or the agent may be strapped for time and not even give it a cursory glance. In these cases, the agent may have been hoodwinked by an incompetent translator who got someone else to do their test or used bogus qualifications. Then of course there is the blatant economic exploitation Tony mentioned.

Anyway, I have written an article on a related topic for another forum, and you can read it here.


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Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:18
French to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My point is not really the fee for doing the job Apr 15, 2007

The client accepted my actual fee, so I'm happy with that.

Let's imagine I write a book in English, which is not my native language.

I "forget", or whatever, to pass the spellchecker and it has got a lot of mistakes (of every kind, even verbal tenses, and the way the conjugation of verbs is written, etc.).

Then I ask a translator/proofreader/editor, an American native, let's say, that I want my book into American English instead of British English, which was what I supposedly wrote.

Has this person the right to change my words and improve my words, my sentences and at the end say the book is very poorly written and that s/he had to change almost everything besides putting the British words into American words (for instance, change "lift" into "elevator")?

For you to have an idea, I am correcting/changing words in EVERY sentence.

How will the author feel? (well, I don't really think my client will tell him/her about my comments, but s/he will see the changes at the end).

When someone writes a book, specially when the language is not his/her own (as I suppose in this case), shouldn't the text be revised by a linguist instead? Isn't it a different work from what we do when we edit/proofread a text?

I fisrt called this job an adaptation from PT-BR into EU-PT, but it's more than that and I was only asked to do a "revision" (client's words) and change what was PT-BR into EU-PT.

I feel like when I teached Portuguese in Switzerland and corrected my students compositions, only this is a 100 pages composition.

And this is not a translation, so I can't tell the client "The text was poorly translated", but "the author doesn't know how to write". It's very weird for me to do that.

That is basically my point. I feel it's not a translator/editor/proofreader job to "revise" an author's book and even change it, improve the style, etc, so I feel it's not me who should be doing this.

The fee is also an important aspect of the question, of course, because I'm being paid for a certain job and doing another one (in my point of view), but that's not really my point.

I am sorry if my point was not clear enough in my first posting, but it was what I wanted to transmit.


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 07:18
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Moving this topic... Apr 15, 2007

...to Translation Theory and Practice.

Enjoy the discussion!

Nancy


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:18
English to Portuguese
+ ...
European vs. Brazilian Portuguese Apr 16, 2007

I've written to every channel at Proz, Henry Dotterer included, about treating the two versions of Portuguese as separate languages, at least in job offers. Absolutely no results so far.

Against my POV there is the Brazilian Constitution, that declares Portuguese our national language, leaving no room for its variants.

However linguists on both sides of the Atlantic seem to favor my stance, as no well-informed client should be willing to pay for either one in lieu of the other. An outsider to the Portuguese language might think the difference is comparable to the one between US/UK English. For these, I'd suggest reading an ATA Chronicle article, AFAIK accessible from my esteemed colleague Nelson Laterman's web site: http://www.necco.ca/faq_what_clients_need_to_know.htm

On the other hand, while machine translation serves mostly to give translators some laughing matter, I honestly think that such a contrivance could do a good job either way between PT-PT and PT-BR. After all, it is the same language, though used differently.

The missing link would be that people in Portugal use a different logic from ours in Brazil. I haven't yet grasped the whole of it, but my best attempt so far is that in Portugal words are taken at face value.

My pet example takes place at a hotel front desk.

IN LISBON:
Brazilian tourist (BT): Does that bus outside go to the airport?
Portuguese clerk (PC): No, sir.
BT: So how can I get to the airport?
PC: You should take that bus outside.
BT: But you just said it doesn't go to the airport!
PC: That is correct, sir. It goes somewhere else, but on its way there it stops at the airport.

IN RIO DE JANEIRO:
Portuguese tourist (PT): Does that bus outside go to the airport?
Brazilian clerk: Yes, sir. It should depart in ten minutes.

This difference in logic has generated countless jokes (at least in Brazil) that tend to make the Portuguese look stupid. They are not dumb at all, they just operate under a different line of reasoning from the one Brazilians adopt. I recall that before the days of the politically correct, similar jokes were made in the US about the Polish, and I was told that some identical Swedish jokes about the Norwegians also exist(ed), as well as the Canadian jokes I heard in Toronto about their own Nuffies.

The point is that the Portuguese hotel clerk in Lisbon above was correct: the bus didn't actually go to the airport, so the question was improper, viz. the Brazilian tourist failed to ask precisely what he wanted to know. In the second episode, in Brazil, the clerk automatically second-guessed the tourist's intent, i.e. if that bus would be a proper way of getting to the airport. He even ventured volunteering information on how much time the tourist would have to take it.

Okay, let's get on track. Considering that I, as a Brazilian, don't work with European Portuguese, I wonder what kind of a professional would handle this "logic shift", if I may call it so. If the text is in some different language, all right, there may be two translations, one for Portugal, another for Brazil. But if the text is originally from either country, Brazil or Portugal, who will do this "conversion", or whatchamacallit?

If it's an editor, watch out!


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