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Advice? "Translator" at work has no clue, I am afraid I need to quit my dream job :(
Thread poster: maria pelufo

maria pelufo  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 19:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 14, 2010

Hi everybody!

Not so long ago, I was working as a translator for a small start-up that was so cheap that had me translating from other languages that were not the ones I am qualified to work in, but are very solid ones for me, and got horribly flamed for just accepting to do that, so I don't know if I am going to have better luck this time, and elicit some compassion but I would appreciate so much some advice in my current situation, that I decided to risk it.

I moved to Canada, from Vienna, 2 1/2 years ago, and all the time I got jobs far away from my home, and for 1 1/2 hours, mostly in multi-lingual technical support with only 20% translation work. One year ago, I was hired by this Hardware start-up where I was the only translator. It was a very good experience. Finally, I got the job of my dreams this December! Spanish translator, and project coordinator for Latin America, for a small start-up downtown, where I live.

Unfortunately, things are not going that well. There is no supervision, and the office is very disorganized, and they hired another "translator", who turns out to be a lady from Mexico, that is a programmer, has very poor English skills, and therefore could not find work in her field in Toronto. The problem is that she is doing part of the translations for Mexico, and produces work of very poor quality. Today a printed paper was left on my desk by a manager, and it contained, in 6 sentences: "la mas larga audiencia", (the largest audience), "instantánea recompensa", "directa comunicación", "movil" (sic), "profunda relación con el cliente", and "una reconocida y confiable fuente". icon_frown.gif (She did not get the memo about changing the order of the adjectives, obviously).

When i pointed this out she said that she always works in English and that for her it is the same to talk about "una amplia audiencia" or una "audiencia amplia" (ignoring, or course that she had translated "large" by "larga", not to mention that her job is to *translate*)!!!

I think I need to quit. There is no way I can go to anyone and explain the situation. I will look petty, unprofessional, and jealous. They don't know me! They did not check references (that's how professional *they* are!). Nobody speaks or understands Spanish (or French or any other Romance language, to get the concept). They do not check *my* work! They do not have a way to verify that I am right... I am feeling very depressed right now.

I don't know what to do. It's the first time I have a chance to work 100 % as a translator, because of course, it is extremely difficult to find the right job here in Canada: Although I can work with the pair English/French because I worked for the United Nations, IBM, and freelance, for ages doing just that, I lack the required certifications, and cannot afford right now to spare the time to obtain them (I have been checking, and there are no part time or online courses). I know I will go back to customer support if I have to quit this job....And I really did not like it.


What do you think? I would appreciate very much some advice!!

Thank you!

Maria


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 02:44
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Be polite and do your work well Jan 14, 2010

If the pay is right I would stay at the job and don't care what others do. If your colleague makes a fool of herself someone will find out sooner or later. Try to work yourself as professional as possible. In the meantime you could take classes to get yourself a degree.
Also the technical side, try to get training about translation-software. Make your boss pay for it.

Cheers
Heinrich


 

Volodymyr Kukharenko
Ukraine
Local time: 02:44
Member (2009)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
first of all, cool down... Jan 14, 2010

... and then, if you are absolutely sure that the translations of your colleague are of very poor quality, write a motivated letter to all who may change the situation (your boss or whoever).

The important thing here is to leave emotions behind (no matter how you feel) and to write sound and logical, even polite message, in which you will rather describe the problems which may appear with the poorly translated texts and that the person does not qualify. Give the examples of mistakes and explain how bad they are and that it looks unprofessional. Emphasise on what your employer is risking, not on how you feel.

Also, if they cannot verify your work themselves, they can find a reliable third-party linguist who may evaluate your work and the work of the other translator and tell his(her) opinion.


 

Terry Richards
France
Local time: 01:44
French to English
+ ...
Three points Jan 14, 2010

1) The other translator is Mexican and I don't think you are. Is it possible that they really do speak this way in Mexico? I don't know, I'm just asking the question.

2) It is much easier to find a job when you already have a job. Stay where you are but start looking for another job.

3) Don't get too hung up on the certifications / qualifications. You may not have them but you do have an employment history. In my opinion, paper qualifications are most useful for getting your first job. You have already had that.

Terry


 

Monika Sommerfeld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:44
English to German
CYA Jan 14, 2010

I would make sure that the poor linguistic quality that your colleague produces won't reflect badly on you one day. So, just to "cover your ass" (pardon my French), I would write down a summary of all her linguistic faux-pas, in a way that even someone who doesn't know any Spanish understands what effect her language choices have on a native Spanish speaker. I would then escalate this document to a manager. If your superiors then choose not to do anything about the situation, at least you cannot be held responsible later on, when the first customer complaints start coming in.
The way I see it, you seem to be the only one in that company who is able to assess the quality she produces, which makes it your responsibility to speak up. If you try to focus on terms like customer satisfaction and universally accepted quality standards, you may be able to pull your complaint off without coming across as petty and unprofessional. Quitting your job should be your very last resort, especially if it is a job you are otherwise enjoying so much.
Good luck!
Monika


 

Julie Dion (X)  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:44
English to French
online course Jan 14, 2010

Hi Maria,

There are online courses in Canada. There is a French/English Certificate (10 courses) by the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface (cusb.ca; affiliated with the University of Manitoba). You can do it from your home, part time, and the profs are top notch.

Don't quit because of others. And follow Valdimir's advice. Good luck.


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:44
French to English
+ ...
Adjective ordering in Mexican Spanish Jan 14, 2010

Terry Richards wrote:
1) The other translator is Mexican and I don't think you are. Is it possible that they really do speak this way in Mexico? I don't know, I'm just asking the question.


Without polling large numbers of speakers for the particular examples in question, as a *general* point, there appears to be a large degree of flexibility in Mexican Spanish as two whether adjectives are placed before or after the noun. A while ago I polled informants for some material I was writing on this subject, and there were many cases where informants perceived little difference between placement before/after, including some cases that contradict the opinions of commentators such as Butt & Benjamin (whose opinion is largely based on Peninsular Spanish, although they sporadically treat features of other varieties).


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Exactly Jan 14, 2010

Vladimir Kukharenko wrote:
... and then, if you are absolutely sure that the translations of your colleague are of very poor quality, write a motivated letter to all who may change the situation (your boss or whoever).

The important thing here is to leave emotions behind (no matter how you feel) and to write sound and logical, even polite message, in which you will rather describe the problems which may appear with the poorly translated texts and that the person does not qualify. Give the examples of mistakes and explain how bad they are and that it looks unprofessional. Emphasise on what your employer is risking, not on how you feel.

Also, if they cannot verify your work themselves, they can find a reliable third-party linguist who may evaluate your work and the work of the other translator and tell his(her) opinion.

May I say that on top of this very good approach altogether, I would add a statement to the letter saying that you are willing to work side by side with this person for some time to help straighten the situation. That way, you are proving that you won't spare any effort to work for the good of the company and its long-term good name in the Spanish-speaking community.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nope Jan 14, 2010

Terry Richards wrote:
1) The other translator is Mexican and I don't think you are. Is it possible that they really do speak this way in Mexico? I don't know, I'm just asking the question.

Not at all. Even for me in Spain, it is very easy to tell when a translator (from any Spanish-speaking country) does not have the skills required and made a mess of a translation from English. You simply can see the exact wording of the English text through the Spanish text!icon_smile.gif


 

JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 19:44
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Adjective order may be flexible, but only to a degree. Jan 14, 2010

Hello, María

I agree with Neil Coffey. My own poll was very small; I tried out your examples on my Mexican husband. With each phrase, he conceded that the order given could be OK, but he preferred it reversed. And almost anyone can occasionally forget an accent mark. But there is absolutely no excuse for "una larga audiencia," unless you're talking about a court hearing instead of audience as in "people observing a performance."

On the other hand, errors of that very sort crop up frequently in the "Spanglish" of many Latinos living in the U.S. It may be the same in Canada. Was she raised and educated in Mexico, or in the U.S. or Canada? This shouldn't make any difference if she is well-educated and supposedly a professional translator. But in the real world, as we all know to our sorrow, many who think they are bilingual, and can translate, are not and should not.

By all means, document what you see. But don't "spy"; don't seek out opportunities to inspect the other person's work. How often do you see each other's work, normally? It sounds like this one instance was pure chance, not a usual occurrence. If you continue to see (and document) really poor translating, you might be in a position to talk to your boss from a position of concern about the good of the company, and suggest s/he might want to take/email samples of your work and hers to a well-educated Spanish-speaking person for evaluation. But I would wait until you've worked there longer.

Meanwhile, make sure your own work is excellent. Keep your head down, work hard, and pray that customer complaints come in soon. That would give you a clear opening to tell what you know--but be sure you don't come across as someone who's been dying to gossip about your colleague. Let the reluctance that you've shown here show: "I really didn't want to have to say anything, but I've noticed some things that made me wonder...."

Good luck!

Jane


 

Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:44
Italian to English
+ ...
Stay in your job and strive to be the best you can... Jan 14, 2010

I agree with Vladimir - you need to flag this up with your managers, but in the most professional and unemotional way possible. Be diplomatic and try and phrase a communication to them pointing out the dangers of bad quality from their point of view.
Sometimes in start-up businesses, the managers themselves are on a learning curve, learning how the industry works. You would be surprised how many translation agencies are more focused on costs and profits instead of good quality, providing fantastic quality for very competitive prices (where sometimes their competitive prices cannot achieve the fantastic quality they would like).

By letting your managers know the problem and adding a paragraph about how important you think a "second pair of eyes" review process is for the overall quality of the translation, they might really appreciate your input. By doing this, you can show them how interested you are that your translations are impeccable and how interested you are that their translation agency works well and builds up a good reputation.

Stick with it a bit longer, a business made up of a team needs its team to make it work and you are part of that so your contribution is more valuable than you think.

Best of luck


 

maria pelufo  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 19:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much for your supportive remarks! Jan 14, 2010

I didn't have a very good day, and there was a little episode about the word "terminate" (which she insisted should be translated in a document she was writing everywhere as "terminar" -as a transitive verb, just plainly like in English, like Tomás says: you could absolutely identify the English in what she was writing-), and I was feeling quite low... No, she is not a translator, she is a programmer that could not find a job because her English skills are poor, she was hired because she is a native speaker, and she accepted a very low wage.

I did study, very long ago (won't tell how long, that would date meicon_biggrin.gif), and obtained a degree in Translation at the Universidad de la República in Montevideo, just as many other thousands of girls that had gone to good convent schools and were multi-lingual since their early childhood. The chances to find work back then were nearly nil, so I moved on, and studied something else. Therefore, I am not very familiar with Mexican Spanish, and I am probably feeling a bit insecure because I feel, I am out of practice.

I fully agree that the way to go is taking the high road, being generous, offering help, presenting the facts in an objective way, showing concern for quality, working hard, and proposing something positive. I am unsure about what to propose though, since the resources are very limited. I would like to have some sort of quality control implemented (also for me, why not?). I will have to think about all this! I hope she is willing to cooperate.

I need to keep my temper at bay, and put myself in her shoes: she must be scared! There is a recession! She hides her work from me, because she knows that I will find the mistakes, and she tried to make me look bad with the Mexican manager, misquoting me. Not a pleasant situation to be in.

I will try to figure it out, and in the meantime, also look for another job, just in case.

Again, my most heartfelt thanks, and also I am very grateful that you provided me with information about some University online courses (merci Julie! Je vais m'y renseigner!). I will check it out.

Now, back to the PowerPoint presentation!icon_biggrin.gif

Have a great Weekend!

Maria


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:44
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I really believe... Jan 14, 2010

...that what your managers need is the positive, cooperative, commited attitude. It is probably the only way out of the situation: you prove that your work is good and you are trained for this, you show that your colleague's work needs improvement and show your willingness to help. They might decide to count on you to polish your colleague' skills, hire an independent reviewer to assess both your work and her work, or even dismiss her... or you for being picky!icon_wink.gif

Good luck in any case. Do keep us posted about how things evolve. It will be interesting reading!

[Edited at 2010-01-14 21:13 GMT]


 

adihway88
Local time: 06:44
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Take care of yourself and not herself Jan 15, 2010

IMHO;
1. calm down and take 2 days paid leave.
2. rewrite your goal, vision and mission in your brain which not involved her.
3, go back to work and focus.
4. Do more research and prepare more references for your job, so you certain what you are doing is 'correct'

Good Luck
EN-ID Translator
Jakarta, Indonesia


 

Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:44
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Professionalism has nothing to do with indifference. Jan 15, 2010

Do you know why the financial system collapsed? Not just because bubbles started everywhere, but because most of the people who saw the bubbles "were polite and kept their mouth shut".

Keeping your mouth shut is not a professional attitude. It's an indifferent attitude. Somehow some people are trying to convince us that "indifference = professionalism".

Quite the opposite.

Imagine if you were the co-mechanic for airplanes, and you noticed that the other mechanic in your team was doing a lousy job in the maintenance of an airplance.
What would yo do? Keep your mouth shut and kill all the passengers? As a professional you must speak. Just be careful on how you will phrase it.

This bad translator you' re talking about will eventually translate something that is really important (a financial document? a deposition for a trial? a medical device manual?) and her "work" will harm people.

You know that in the United States if someone says about you that "you knew and yet you didn't do anything, although you could do something within reason", you will be punished by law (even for reckless endagerment).

So, my advise is: Speak. Chose your words carefully and speak. Or quit and find another firm to work with.



PS. I'm amazed by the general advice from most such as "you shouldn't care what she does...". How do you protect your profession overall? Why such apathy and indifference, and then attempts to wrap it as "professionalism"? Do you guys even know that as professionals you also have responsibilities to your communities and the "community" of professional translators in general? Or is it that too much government and red tape made us just "indifferent and isolated individuals"? Do you really think that if you see potential catastrophic problems due to the bad work of another translator you shouldn't care?







[Edited at 2010-01-15 06:25 GMT]


 
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Advice? "Translator" at work has no clue, I am afraid I need to quit my dream job :(

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