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scenario: an angry translator or when the source text is terrible
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 23:26
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Sep 11, 2007

I took a job. It already takes twice the time to do it. Why? Because I do not think that even the author of the source understood what he/she wanted to say or to write...Not even toi mention the fact that the text is a promo material for a high-tech product where the main emphasis is QUALITY and a well-known brand. There are places (whole sentences and whole paragraphs) that are total nosnesnes - even impossible to understand what it is all about (not from the technical side, but from the linguistic side). I do not even speak about grammar and style mistakes, logical inconsequences and EVEN technical mistakes (OFF instead of ON)...

And the client urges me "Where is the translation, are you sure you won't be late?". Explained several times already that the "source text is not easy to translate and that the work goes slow - two times slower than usual"...Because 1) have to read a sentence at least 3 times to try to understand it, 2) I actually do not translate, but REWRITE the text into the target language straightening the fluency of it...If I translate just "as is", someone will think that there was something wrong with that translator...But again - it gets more and more difficult to resist a temptation just to translate is "as is"...No one would be able to raise any claims as all will be translated as per source 1:1 (not word-to-word)...Well, patience has some limits and a translator is not a paper recycling factory to make something like a good product from paper waste...

Has anyone had similar situations? And if yes, how do you deal with these?


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Vitaliy Shkonda  Identity Verified
United States
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
It happens very often Sep 11, 2007

Hi, MariusV,

I am sure every translator had worked with "terrible sources".
More of that, such sources appears again and again.
As to me in such situations, I explain to the customer the problem and the customer decides to add payment or to seek for another translator.
I think the problem roots are in desire of customers to hire any people claiming themself translators and being ready to translate for small rates. There are many students and amators among such translators.
The only way to save a good job and its customer is patient explaination of the situation to customers.

P.S. Only because of my curiosity, it would be very interesting for me to have a look at some patterns of the source you have mentioned if it is possible for you.

Best wishes,

Vitaliy


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:26
Dutch to English
+ ...
Do the best I can Sep 11, 2007

and avoid this customer like the plague in future. I also include a disclaimer when I deliver (had to do this last week when I proofread a piece since the time allocated was too short).

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Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Yes, many times, unfortunately Sep 11, 2007

Hi Marius,

It actually happens a lot, at least to me, and I often have to correct all kinds of errors, like e.g.:
-spelling errors;
-concordance (plural instead of singular and similar) errors;
-math errors (like authors that cannot make a simple addition or subtraction, about for instance the age of a person he/she is writing about);
-missing words or sentences;
-terrible punctuation.

Often the translator is the one that makes the target text better than the source text...It should never be the contrary, anyway...

I always let that know to my clients, which are agencies, and they can forward my comments to their clients, but I usually never receive a "thanks" for doing this or any kind of feedback.

It is the way it is, and I don't think there's anything to do about it...

At least, you are not alone
Giusi


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Suzette Martin-Johnson
Canada
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
It happens Sep 11, 2007

Hi there,

Unfortunately, this does happen sometimes and it is like they want you to re-write the text to sound like it made sense in the first case! Others think you should make it sound just as awful in the target language to remain true to the cource text.

The only way of avoiding this (which is hard) is if you have a good client base and get to read through the document quickly before accepting it. This is an ideal situation which we don't always experience....


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 23:26
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Because they want the source text to be English Sep 11, 2007

Nowadays many documents are translated into English by non-natives (mostly engeneers on-site). One reason is, that it is often difficult to find translators from Hungarian into Lithuanian, and they are expensive. But tranlators from Hungarian into Lithuanian are more abound and their rates are (probably) lower.
I finnished today a project, where the source text was English, but the manufacturar from a German-speaking country. So they had called mobile phones "Handy" and the decimal numbers had comma instead of points.
(I was happy about the decimal comma, though, because it saved me much work).
I don't know if the English and American customers are happy too.
Otherwise the text was ok most of the time.

I remember a Japanese patent that was written in English by a Japanese, which I had to translate into German. It was awful.


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Aliseo Japan  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 05:26
Member
Italian to Japanese
+ ...
In Japan Sep 11, 2007

MariusV wrote:
Has anyone had similar situations? And if yes, how do you deal with these?


Almost every day in Japan, with English translations made from Japanese by Japanese or Chinese translators. But, sadly to say, I am now getting used to this and don't even bother to complain with agencies anymore, for they do not bother on their turn to complain with their end clients (big names of the Japanese electronic and mechanical industry, very often through DTP or printing companies, i.e. too many intermediate steps that frustrate any clarification request). When delivering my works I simply add a standard disclamer, should I feel it's necessary to protect myself.

The good thing of all this is that when I receive a work done by a real English mother-tongue translator (unfortunately this amounts only to 5-10% of my whole English-Italian work volume) I feel unusually happy and my fingers fly on the keyboard with renewed energy.

Mario Cerutti
http://www.aliseo.com/english/


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Veronika Hansova  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:26
Member (2006)
English to Czech
+ ...
What I do... Sep 11, 2007

I immediately inform the client, highlighting the staring errors.

If it is a regular job and I manage to save some time: I do the proof-reading of the source text so that the client could see the errors (in grammar, style, matter-of-fact, technical etc.) and I comment on it, too. Not every time, of course, but sometimes it is worthy. And I attach an official disclaimer, too.

If it is a rush job, I do not bother to correct everything. I translate it as it is. It is not my job to correct the contents. What I can do is to do my best to translate it so that it had no grammatical or stylistic mistakes. If the sentences are nonsensical than I add a comment claiming that the source text was nonsensical/illegible and thus I am not able to translate it. And I again attach a general disclaimer.

I would suggest you preparing a template for a disclaimer, where - whenever you encounter such problems - you only enter the necessary data about the project and you may then attach it to your translation. This way you can cover your back.

Veronika


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JabTrad  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:26
Partial member (2003)
Russian to English
+ ...
My view Sep 11, 2007

Hi,
For me it depends whether the client is direct or an agency.
If it's an agency, then I see it as their obligation to get some answers from the end client, or failing that to deal with the issue themselves. More than once I've been instructed to translate the text as it is, including errors - although not spelling or grammatical errors. The problem is usually that the agency has barely taken a look at the source text, if at all.

However, the translator has to assume more responsibility in the case of a direct client: which of course means you can charge more. I've never had an awful source text of the type Marius described from a direct client, but in the case of errors they have been happy to provide clarification.


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 23:26
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
1) "translator did his/her best" or "translator got angry" Sep 11, 2007

Giuseppina Gatta wrote:

Hi Marius,

It actually happens a lot, at least to me, and I often have to correct all kinds of errors, like e.g.:
-spelling errors;
-concordance (plural instead of singular and similar) errors;
-math errors (like authors that cannot make a simple addition or subtraction, about for instance the age of a person he/she is writing about);
-missing words or sentences;
-terrible punctuation.

Often the translator is the one that makes the target text better than the source text...It should never be the contrary, anyway...

I always let that know to my clients, which are agencies, and they can forward my comments to their clients, but I usually never receive a "thanks" for doing this or any kind of feedback.

It is the way it is, and I don't think there's anything to do about it...

At least, you are not alone
Giusi


Dear Giuseppina,

It seems like you are describing my situation 1:1.

What regards the "followup comments" (or, as someone noted very well - a "translator's disclaimer"), no one usually cares if there are questions during the translation or after the completion of it. And what is most interesting that agencies do not care about that. They only care getting the files from the client, re-attaching them to the translator and again re-attaching the translation files to the client - all goes on a "let-it-be" basis where a PM does not even care to move a finger for better quality and other things. Yes, there are some professional agencies who ask their clients and provide detailed explanations to the queries of the translator. But, in this case, the texts are high level and such cases and agencies are more like an exception to the rule, not the rule.

I usually receive the reply "do the best you can" and they wash their hands. But, as to be on the safe side, I attach some list of dubious places and issues of concern to be on the safe side.

I have now more related questions:

1) Is it ethical in general to comment on the source text, esp. on it's quality even if it relates to the quality of the translation? maybe it is better to traslate it "as is" on the principle "scrap in - scrap out" + attach the "disclaimer" and that is it? Who will be able to raise claims for translation (even if the end user reads it as TEXT, not as translation) if it was translated just "as it was" in the source (let alone the "warnings" attached)

2) Maybe it would be more "ethical" to do the best to the client (just ethical from the professional side) and even to spend many hours pulling up the target text to something more or less reasonable? Fairly speaking, I cannot allow myself to make scrap out of scrap just imagining the end user who reads this text and sratches his/her head or laughs at some nonsenses...Even if the translator is not "guilty" for these nonsenses. Maybe it is better to spend some extra time and exert some extra effort for own peace of mind even if no one will ever say "thank you" for you (let alone - when they let you understand that you are bothering the agency with your piles of questions and concerns - if a translator has some questions, many people start thinking "maybe he/she is not professional and asks these questions just because of that")...And, of course, after completion of this terrible source, later on one can eithe refuse such sources for translation, or ask for a bigger rate...

So, this was my main concern as not to make it like in the first option when "the translator got angry and translated the source AS IS"


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Read first Sep 11, 2007

islander1974 wrote:

The only way of avoiding this (which is hard) is if you have a good client base and get to read through the document quickly before accepting it. This is an ideal situation which we don't always experience....


Really to tell if a text is badly written, you don't have to read the whole thing. You'll know by reading a paragraph or two.

Amy


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Maria Antonietta Ricagno  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:26
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
My experience Sep 11, 2007

About 2 months ago I got a Word file from an agency. They said it was a list of items and components from tool machines (grinding machines etc.), so I had a quick look at the file and put it apart in view of translating it in the afternoon.
When I started it, it was soon clear that the file was a real mess: every kind of mistake, typos, etc. (it seemed a very bad translation from German), so I informed the project manager about the problem, asked for any images and/or pictures available etc. They simply said they had no reference pictures available and asked 'to do my best', as they considered the job as already allocated by then.
So I was somehow forced to do it, but at the end, after 3 days of translation and 3 days more of proofreading by a bilingual engineer, I sent it back complaining the very poor quality of the source text and attaching about 6 pages (!!!) of doubts/errors etc.
I also asked them to provide me with the client's feedback so I could amend any incorrect translations, but no reply.
I hate that behavior: it seems that the only ones to care for quality are translators. They make me feel pedantic.
Now, I have adopted a different strategy: immediate check of the incoming file and immediate rejection in case of such troubles.
Antonella


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 23:26
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
but you cannot know all things in advance untill you star real work Sep 11, 2007

Amy Duncan wrote:

islander1974 wrote:

The only way of avoiding this (which is hard) is if you have a good client base and get to read through the document quickly before accepting it. This is an ideal situation which we don't always experience....


Really to tell if a text is badly written, you don't have to read the whole thing. You'll know by reading a paragraph or two.

Amy


I think that reading and reviewing the job (and even re-counting/checking the real volume of it in comparison to the PO volume) can help avoiding similar situations in many cases. And I try to do this as much as it is possible. Had many "lessons" already.

And I agree that best is to analyze the job received before confirmation, even if the client presses to confirm it ASAP.

BUT (and in this case of mine) I did take a look into the text received and well, it did not appear so bad at first. So, MANY things come out when you start REAL work and just taking a glance does not always help to determine the thing. The deeper you get into the forest, the more trees you find in it...



[Edited at 2007-09-11 14:45]


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xxxEstrano  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:26
English to French
A very important issue for any translator and editor Sep 11, 2007

As many others, I experienced this bad situation already, as an editor. Due to the very short delay I had the first time this happened to me, I felt really embarrassed as the company did not react the way it was supposed to react. In fact, I warned that company that I would have to translate the whole document again because it was really impossioble to make any work on it the way it was. They accepted but after my job was done, they denied I was asked to translate that text and wanted to pay only for the initial job which was an editing job. I have learned thorugh this experience that anyone should be very clear as soon as the first job for a company by mentionning this possibility to be surprised by a bad translation, and this works also for a bad material we have to translate. Be clear about that possibility and be sure that the company or customer will react the good way if this happens is the best way to protect from conflict or bad experience. Not easy when you want to create a new relationship with a customer or a company but I don't see any other possibility. In one word, anticipate this kind of traps.

[Modifié le 2007-09-11 17:06]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 23:26
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yes, but... Sep 11, 2007

Estrano wrote:

As many others, I experienced this bad situation already, as an editor. Due to the very short delay I had the first time this happened to me, I felt really embarrassed as the company did not react the way it was supposed to react. In fact, I warned that company that I would have to translate the whole document again because it was really impossioble to make any work on it the way it was. They accepted but after my job was done, they denied I was asked to translate that text and wanted to pay only for the initial job which was an editing job. I have learned thorugh this experience that anyone should be very clear as soon as the first job for a company by mentionning this possibility to be surprised by a bad translation, and this works also for a bad material we have to translate. Be clear about that possibility and be sure that the company or customer will react the good way if this happens is the best way to protect from conflict or bad experience. Not easy when you want to create a new relationship with a customer or a company but I don't see any other possibility. In one word, anticipate this kind of traps.

[Modifié le 2007-09-11 17:06]


Yes, we shall be very clear from the very beginning and I think many of us had such a situation at least once.

But - what and why the translator shall be responsible for if 1) the translator gets (if it's a crap) and 2) is anyone can be responsible if there WAS a "disclaimer"?

Imagine you want to have electricity installed in your house. A professional electrician warns you that the installation cannot be made like that as there is a risk of an electric shock or even fire hazard. But you tell him "do whatever you want"...He makes the things just as you told because you disregarded the warning and then, after a year or so you house is on fire...WHO will be responsible for that and whose is the interest to avoid such a hazard? Is it the electrician who WARNED you or is it you yourself (who should be interested to have things all right becauce it is YOUR house, not the house of the electrician)...Would it be logical then to demand the electrician to come and build a new house for you on his own expense and ask for the moral damage?

So, two things (after many discussions here) are really strange for me: 1) I wonder why the simple logics and elementary things of "commerce" has different logics of "commerce" in the area of translation where in all other areas these things are clear like 2+2, and in translation these are like some mysticism; 2) I have noticed (from discussions again) that the number of the "traps" like that (or some other, like a PO with a different amount after the job, like "our mystical revisers had to redo the text, but we cannot even send or show the text after revision what was wrong", a test tranlation appeared to be poor quality when one did half of the ordered job of 100 000 words, etc.). Can it be because the translation market undergoes a very tight competition and there are freaks (like in any other business) who just pretend to be fools and who are looking for victims, esp. unexperienced translators who are like a piece of cake for such frauds... ? What do you think?

And why it goes upon the usual rule that can be added to Murphy's Laws:

Time allocated to develop new high-tech product: 3 years.
Time allocated to write documentation: 3 weeks.
Time allocated to type the documentation: 6 days.
Time allocated to translate it: 3 days (after all, it's been typed already...)

+ Our product is so super duper in quality, and other things. Just only one minor thing - the quality of our manual and promo material is so good that the user does not even understand what we write in the language that actually appears to be like English (at least visually



[Edited at 2007-09-11 18:29]


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