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How to approach companies that publish poor translations
Thread poster: John Rawlins

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 5, 2009

I am sure most of us frequently have the experience below.

We visit a website and see that the translation into our language is awful.

We either take a deep breath and move on - or try to win some new business.

But what approach is most likely to work?

I don't believe that the 'Dear Sir - Your web translation is ghastly and destroying your company's credibility' approach is likely to harvest many positive responses.

Does anyone have other - more subtle - ideas?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Doesn't work Oct 5, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:

I am sure most of us frequently have the experience below.

We visit a website and see that the translation into our language is awful.

We either take a deep breath and move on - or try to win some new business.

But what approach is most likely to work?

I don't believe that the 'Dear Sir - Your web translation is ghastly and destroying your company's credibility' approach is likely to harvest many positive responses.

Does anyone have other - more subtle - ideas?


I tried this once and received an offensive reply. So I've never tried again.

Having reflected on this negative experience, I came to the conclusion that the individual within that company who had commissioned the (bad) translations found their own position called in question, and therefore responded defensively.

[Edited at 2009-10-05 10:50 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:35
English to Croatian
+ ...
Creative ideas... Oct 5, 2009

Maybe approach them as a client from the target country trying to buy something from them/do business with them and tell them that you haven't got a clue what they are trying to say and their messages are totally incoherent... then come back after a few days as a different character(translator) and ask them if they require a translation into your target language.




[Edited at 2009-10-05 09:41 GMT]


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Daniel Šebesta  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 23:35
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
Be diplomatic and offer "improvement" Oct 5, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:

Does anyone have other - more subtle - ideas?


Well, you could start by saying that you recently came across their website and that you really appreciate they took the trouble to have the content translated into your own language. As a native speaker of the target language and a professional translator/proofreader, you found some errors (name a few, explain the problems, and include the proposed corrections) and are able to help to improve their credibility (avoid saying that they are not credible now). Refer them to your website if you have one, so that they can compare it with their own, and tell them that they are more than welcome to contact you if they decide to enhance their online presentation in your language.

HTH,

Daniel


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes - subtle but... Oct 5, 2009

Lingua 5B wrote:

Maybe approach them as a client from the target country trying to buy something from them/do business with them and tell them that you haven't got a clue what they are trying to say and their messages are totally incoherent... then come back after a few days as a different character(translator) and ask them if they require a translation into your target language.




[Edited at 2009-10-05 09:41 GMT]


Yes, this is subtle. But it is also rather time-consuming and many people will feel uncomfortable about pretending to be somebody they aren't.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Enhance and improve Oct 5, 2009

Daniel Šebesta wrote:

enhance their online presentation in your language.



Yes, enhance and improve are good positive words.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:35
English to Croatian
+ ...
Don't try that lol ! Oct 5, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:


Yes, this is subtle. But it is also rather time-consuming and many people will feel uncomfortable about pretending to be somebody they aren't.



Oh, never try that, I was only joking. That is to say, lying is a big NO-NO.

I would regard any kind of "attempt" to make them see how bad the translation is as a waste of time. I have seen multi-billionare companies ( sometimes governmental) having machine translations of their website in my language. Why would I bother telling them anything, since they chose the MT over a real professional, despite their vast endless budgets? I don't see any point in approaching them.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
the need is there - sometimes Oct 5, 2009

Lingua 5B wrote:

Why would I bother telling them anything, since they chose the MT over a real professional, despite their vast endless budgets? I don't see any point in approaching them.




Objectively, the need for a better translation exists in these companies. Either the company doesn't care about the quality, or the company is unaware of the low quality. Companies that don't care will never be good clients - so how do we spark interest in companies that are simply unaware of their published errors?

Daniel (above) suggests citing some errors.


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Daniel Šebesta  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 23:35
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
Client education Oct 5, 2009

Lingua 5B wrote:
Why would I bother telling them anything, since they chose the MT over a real professional, despite their vast endless budgets? I don't see any point in approaching them.


Perhaps because client education is a relatively useful part of our job. Non-linguists do not always understand why human translation is better than machine translation or why professional human translation is better than non-professional human translation. Telling them about existing errors can make them want a better translation and chances are they will want to buy it from the person who made them aware of the errors. In short, telling them may generate work for you (and others as well if multiple target languages are at stake).

[Edited at 2009-10-05 10:03 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:35
English to Croatian
+ ...
Yes Oct 5, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:


Objectively, the need for a better translation exists in these companies. Either the company doesn't care about the quality, or the company is unaware of the low quality. Companies that don't care will never be good clients - so how do we spark interest in companies that are simply unaware of their published errors?

Daniel (above) suggests citing some errors.


Yes, he has presented some good ideas. But the problem with MT translation is that they have such structure that makes it impossible to " cite a few errors" as that would mean citing the entire text, sometimes a rather large one.

I also believe that companies caring about their reputation ( or simply having a common sense) will never put up a bad translation ( in this case MT) publicly visible before consulting a professional.



[Edited at 2009-10-05 10:11 GMT]


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Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 04:05
German to English
+ ...
Great for direct marketing Oct 5, 2009

Excellent idea for direct marketing, though it can be time-consuming.

One approach could be to highlight badly translated phrases, sentences and sections and shoot off questions regarding the same to the concerned department, without identifying oneself as a translator or a potential customer. "Did you mean....?" "Am I correct in assuming that this product on your website ...?"

The time to sell one's services would be if and when the company/department responds.

Unfortunately, writing to the Webmaster frequently yields no answer. Many websites list email contacts, but quite a few do not. As usual, the key is to knock on the door of the right person. If one can find out who that is.

There are a significant number of badly translated websites out there, even ones related to EU matters. Opportunity beckons!


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
take out the sting Oct 5, 2009

Daniel Šebesta wrote:

In short, telling them may generate work for you (and others as well if multiple target languages are at stake).

[Edited at 2009-10-05 10:03 GMT]


Perhaps we are getting to the heart of the question. Are people naturally grateful to those individuals who point out the error of their ways? Hmmmm. While some people are confident enough to accept such criticism positively, I suspect that most people will not want to continue a discussion that starts in this way.

How do we take the sting out of the message and inspire some confidence?

[Edited at 2009-10-05 10:16 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:35
English to Croatian
+ ...
Examples of bad translation+bad business Oct 5, 2009

John Rawlins wrote:

How do we take the sting out of the message and inspire some confidence?


I could give them a few examples ( real examples that I encountered) where the bad translation affected business results, partnership and profits. Maybe that would open their eyes.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Offering a free review Oct 5, 2009

Daniel Šebesta wrote:

In short, telling them may generate work for you (and others as well if multiple target languages are at stake).

[Edited at 2009-10-05 10:03 GMT]


Instead of volunteering a possibly unwanted list of errors it may be more effective to invite the company to contact you if they want a (free) critical review of their published translation. This could save a lot of time, and would put you on the high ground - as the company is coming back for more information.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:35
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Unproductive Oct 5, 2009

I've seldom found it productive to deal with organizations in this situation directly regardless of how much subtlety I employ in the approach. Indirect approaches through trusted associates with whom they already do business, on the other hand, have a high success rate. So, for example, I would say that you have a better chance of picking up add-on business if you are translating a brochure for the customer via a reputable agency and discover that the web site is awful and probably damaging to the company's desired image.

Often these sites are translated by the company owner, the owner's daughter, cousin or even pet monkey, and I think that even the best of criticism will not land in a kind place much of the time. So I tend to ignore these people now and use them as marketing examples of what not to do when dealing with the competition which has approached me for some quality work. Rather than rip up a potential client's texts, rip up a competitor's - most are smart enough to compare and notice that they make the same mistakes, and you've given them useful ammunition for sales and a standard against which they can measure the work you might do for them.

Flanking maneuvers usually do beat frontal assaults.

************

Edited to fix the usual shoot-from-the-hip carelessness

[Edited at 2009-10-05 10:57 GMT]


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