When the end client thinks he is smarter than the translator
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:39
English to French
+ ...
Nov 12, 2009

I found out today, to my absolute horror, that a large translation project I worked on last year was utterly perverted, most likely by the end client. In fact, I found the final translated document on the Web.

Briefly, sentence structures were changed in a way that they now sound English (the translation was to be done from English to French), typos and grammar mistakes were introduced, the carefully researched terminology (I really put a lot of effort into that) was carelessly changed to terms that just don't exist and therefore will not be understood by readers and everything was just really zealously edited until the text looks a lot like machine translation.

I am very dismayed by this. First off, I worked my butt off to produce a high quality translation, often keeping myself from sleeping at night. Then, I am afraid that this completely perverted translation will be used internally by the end client, a company with over 6,000 employees in Canada, to help other departments assess my translating abilities (what if the guy in the other department is wiser and can tell right away that the translation published is very poor and he will never hire me, through the agency I work with, for future jobs?). Then, considering the nature of the document and what it will be used for (environmental assessment upon which important decisions will be based), I am afraid that some people will take the wrong decisions. I mean, a shifted decimal point can have disastrous results.

Can somebody please explain to me a few things?

1. Why does the end client think s/he is smarter than the translator? If they can produce absolute rubbish with their apparently incompetent editors, why do they pay me to work my butt off so that, in the end, they publish something they could have obtained free through machine translation?

2. Would I be better off working much faster and producing rubbish for clients that can't appreciate the difference? I mean, the result would be the same, except I would be making a hell of a lot more money.

3. Can I do something to help this end client understand and appreciate the difference? Can I educate a client that I am not in direct contact with, given that I worked with them through an agency?

4. Why oh why does it seem like even the most serious and quality-oriented companies (the end client here is a company I would work for even as a cleaning lady) manage to mess things up this bad?

5. Can you suggest a way to find out whether the agency has a hand in these senseless edits? To my knowledge, they did not work with reviewers, they just ran spell check and proofed internally for grammar and spelling mistakes. I doubt the agency has a hand in this, but how can I ascertain of that?

Please, give me some insight here. This nut is too tough to crack, even for me.


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:39
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
A few answers Nov 12, 2009

ViktoriaG wrote:
1. Why does the end client think s/he is smarter than the translator? If they can produce absolute rubbish with their apparently incompetent editors, why do they pay me to work my butt off so that, in the end, they publish something they could have obtained free through machine translation?


I would say you've benefited already, having been assigned this work and paid for it (I'm assuming there weren't/won't be any problems with getting paid).

ViktoriaG wrote:
2. Would I be better off working much faster and producing rubbish for clients that can't appreciate the difference? I mean, the result would be the same, except I would be making a hell of a lot more money.

You know that's the surest and fastest to lose most of your good, quality-conscious customers. Quality is not worth compromising!

ViktoriaG wrote:
3. Can I do something to help this end client understand and appreciate the difference? Can I educate a client that I am not in direct contact with, given that I worked with them through an agency?

Unfortunately, you probably can't. But you can go through the agency (who, and I'm not really clear on this from your story, is not the end client).

ViktoriaG wrote:
4. Why oh why does it seem like even the most serious and quality-oriented companies (the end client here is a company I would work for even as a cleaning lady) manage to mess things up this bad?

I see this all the time, and it's really sad. However, you may console yourself by the fact that YOU did YOUR job to your highest standard. Ultimately, it's their loss, not yours!

ViktoriaG wrote:
5. Can you suggest a way to find out whether the agency has a hand in these senseless edits? To my knowledge, they did not work with reviewers, they just ran spell check and proofed internally for grammar and spelling mistakes. I doubt the agency has a hand in this, but how can I ascertain of that?

Why not simply ask them? Don't make any fast accusations -- simply inquire.


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:39
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Working late at night Nov 13, 2009

"I worked my butt off to produce a high quality translation, often keeping myself from sleeping at night."

One thing I can tell you after almost 17 years in the business is this: Do NOT, under any circumstances sacrifice your sleep and health for any jobs whatsoever.

It's easy to become sleep deprived ("working from home"), it's easy to become a hermit ("working from home"), it's easy to become a tired, weak and boring person ("working from home").

If you insist on staying up late, do it only once a week (Fridays maybe?) if you know you can sleep more the next day.

Health problems related to sleep deprivation are far more serious than you probably think, they hit suddenly at any age and they can have very costly consequences and irreversible effects on your health.

Situations like this one are common and just get used to them. It's the same as saying "I'm the Chairman of Honda and I feel awful with what Mr. Peterson has done to his Honda car - he has destroyed it - what are people gong to say?"

In reality, people know Honda quality and they will not change their minds if one or two or even a thousand car owners painted their cars with funny colors.

In my experience, it will not affect you. Just send an email to the agency telling them that the translation has been compromised and then do something else and just forget about it - the translation was already sold and it's not your product anymore - it's theirs and they can do whatever they want with it.

You, on the other hand, should never compromise your health for this business or any other business. You only have one (1) life and only one (1) health. You lose it, game over.

(ask yourself the question: WHY do you work? and if you like working, will you be able to work if you get sick?)


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:39
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Nut Nov 13, 2009

ViktoriaG wrote:

This nut is too tough to crack


I don't see that there's any nut to crack. I've had similar experiences myself.

If you have done a good translation and been paid, your task is complete. On payment, the translation is the property of the person who paid for it.

If you did the translation via an agency I would write to them expressing regret, reminding them that you still retain the "uncorrupted" version of the translation as delivered, but then I would move on. If you were working directly for that client, the same applies.

As long as your name isn't published anywhere as "the translator" I would just move on to the next thing. Bad experiences like this don't happen often -fortunately.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:39
French to German
+ ...
Been there, done that... Nov 20, 2009

http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/147227-how_to_approach_companies_that_publish_poor_translations-page2.html#1230560 et seq.

My point of view at the end of the mentioned thread:
To reassure me, I am just telling myself that I have sold a "product" to an intermediary and that the end purchaser may (mis)use it any way they like . But obviously, this kind of (mis)use is not eligible to any kind of after sales service. You should never use a Rolls Royce as a refuse truck, but if you do, don't complain about the stains on the upholstery or the scratches and bumps on the bodywork.


And I fully agree with Eleftherios when he writes:

Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:
Working late at night

"I worked my butt off to produce a high quality translation, often keeping myself from sleeping at night."

One thing I can tell you after almost 17 years in the business is this: Do NOT, under any circumstances sacrifice your sleep and health for any jobs whatsoever.

It's easy to become sleep deprived ("working from home"), it's easy to become a hermit ("working from home"), it's easy to become a tired, weak and boring person ("working from home").

If you insist on staying up late, do it only once a week (Fridays maybe?) if you know you can sleep more the next day.


[Edited at 2009-11-20 11:53 GMT]


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xxxGrayson Morr  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:39
Dutch to English
Been there, done that, too... Nov 21, 2009

(Thanks to Laurent for pointing this thread out to me.) Viktoria, I feel your pain. I recently posted about my own experience of post-editing horror.

Tom in London wrote:

As long as your name isn't published anywhere as "the translator" I would just move on to the next thing.

I think this is a good line to draw in deciding how to respond to mangled translations. Emotionally, this is an easy distinction for me. If my client wants to fiddle with my anonymous translation and produce a piece of rubbish after paying me for gold, he's welcome to do so. I think it's crazy, but whatever floats his boat. As Laurent says, it's his text to use as he sees fit.

Until he lists me as the translator. Then, morally and, I hope, legally, that text is permanently under my control. It represents my professional ability and demeanor to the outside world, and he may not amend it in any way without indicating that the changes are not mine, or (preferably) sending the altered copy to me for proofreading and approval.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always (ever?) work that way. My horror story has taught me to explicitly specify that the final product may not be modified without my express written consent when my name is publicly linked to it. I haven't gone that far yet, but I think it would be wise to do so.

[Edited at 2009-11-21 12:54 GMT]


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