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Proofreading a bad translation: should I let client know how bad the translation is?
Thread poster: Sandrine A.
Sandrine A.  Identity Verified

Local time: 00:33
English to French
Feb 17, 2010

Hi all,

Sorry if this has already been discussed before. I have just started a proofreading assignment for a client I have worked for on a couple of occasions. I had a look at the file before accepting the job.

My problem is the translation is just substandard. Luckily it's not very complicated so it's not like it's going to take me hours to fix it, but my question is: Should I let the client know how crap the translation is?

The thing is, the mistakes are not big, difficult sentences, but French punctuation has not been used, some words are still in English, there are spelling mistakes... Easy things that a spellchecker would have caught. And a few sentences the translator obviously did not understand.

Admittedly, I know nothing of the translator; maybe s/he had a tight deadline (though mine is rather generous)... I don't want to ruin his/her reputation.

What do you do in such a case?

Many thanks in advance,

Sandrine


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:33
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
well... Feb 17, 2010

Hello,

I was in a similar position once and had to submit two files:

1. one showing the changes made on the original translation in red, i.e. with "Edit text" on.

2. another one as a clean version of the finished text

so, the client could judge for themselves how good/bad the original translation was.


The it is up to them what action they may or may not take. In this particular instance the client did not know who the original translator was!! they had probably been sent the translation to sort out!!

And, yes, it took a lot of time to improve upon!

This can happen in proofreading, and usually I don't take on translations for proofreading as I would prefer to do the original translation work myself:)

Liz Askew


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Kristina Radziulyte  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 01:33
Member (2006)
English to Lithuanian
+ ...

MODERATOR
only when the client asks Feb 17, 2010

Hi Sandrine. Normally, I tell my opinion only when my client asks me for. Because you have assessed the translation quality before accepting the job (and hopefully charged accordingly), I don't see the reason why you should inform your client about these mistakes you've found. Unless, of course, you would like to adjust your price for this job, then surely you'll have to say your client that you're doing this based on a poor quality of translation.

Best,
Kristina


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Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:33
Member
French to English
+ ...
Yes Feb 17, 2010

You may find this previous post of interest: http://www.proz.com/forum/proofreading_editing_reviewing/137390-should_i_tell_my_project_manager_the_truth.html

In answer to your query, I would say a resounding YES, but be diplomatic and make sure your claims are well founded, of course.

Many customers have blind faith in their translators - and some get taken for a ride by bad translators (these are the same people that tend to give the whole profession a bad reputation).

I always tell my customers when I come across a particularly good (relatively often) or bad (quite rare) translation. Generally they appreciate the feedback.

As you mentioned, the important thing is to always see proofreading jobs before accepting in order to avoid unexpected surprises, but in any case I'm sure that your customer would appreciate your feedback as long as it is honest and for their own good (as well as yours).

Best,
Jocelyne

[Edited at 2010-02-17 15:01 GMT]


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Dr. Andrew Frankland  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:33
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Absolutely Feb 17, 2010

It's not your problem whether the translator's deadline was tight or not, and seen as yours is "generous" that's not very likely. A crap translation is a crap translation - full stop. Your job is to proof it and let the client know how poor it actually was, although that will quickly become obvious anyway due to the number of changes you make.

This morning I was asked to have a look at a research paper translated by a (supposedly) native English speaker, and added to by the author, which had been criticised by the referees for poor English. After reading through it, I simply replied (quoting examples) that the translation was poor (and the translator most likely did not have a scientific background), the author's additions hadn't helped at all, and that I recommended a complete revision. I assume that job will come to me, assuming the author accepts my recommendations, but if not I may well get the next translation instead.

For whatever reason, there are too many people in this industry working well outside their fields of expertise (see some of the KudoZ questions, for example, and the people who post hundreds and thousands of them covering fields they're clearly not qualified to work in) and it's about time some of them got their comeuppance so to speak.

Sorry for the rant,

Andy


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 18:33
Member
Spanish
+ ...
"Your job is to proof it and let the client know how poor it actually was" Feb 17, 2010

Dr. Andrew Frankland wrote:

It's not your problem whether the translator's deadline was tight or not, and seen as yours is "generous" that's not very likely. A crap translation is a crap translation - full stop. Your job is to proof it and let the client know how poor it actually was, although that will quickly become obvious anyway due to the number of changes you make.


Nothing more to say.


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Rifraf
Local time: 00:33
machine translation Feb 17, 2010

Sandrine Ananie wrote:

The thing is, the mistakes are not big, difficult sentences, but French punctuation has not been used, some words are still in English, there are spelling mistakes... Easy things that a spellchecker would have caught. And a few sentences the translator obviously did not understand.


Sounds like you are proofreading a machine translation!


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:33
French to German
+ ...
Best method ever Feb 17, 2010

liz askew wrote:

Hello,

I was in a similar position once and had to submit two files:

1. one showing the changes made on the original translation in red, i.e. with "Edit text" on.

2. another one as a clean version of the finished text

so, the client could judge for themselves how good/bad the original translation was.


This is the best method ever I can think of - no comments, no "Look how bad they are and how good I am", just plain and documented facts. Clients usually do not need more. A proofreader is hired to check a translation, not to ring their own bell.

[Edited at 2010-02-17 15:18 GMT]


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:33
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
They probably know Feb 17, 2010

In my experience the customer often has an inkling that the translation is bad. That is why they come to you.

I've been in situations where the customer knows the translation is good and they ask me to make significant changes. I find that to be a difficult situation as well.

[Edited at 2010-02-17 15:33 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-02-17 15:33 GMT]


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Andrew Little  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:33
Member (2006)
Indonesian to English
+ ...
Sweeping under the carpet helps nobody Feb 17, 2010

I work mainly as a translator but have also been a project manager under very tough conditions.

A translator should take pride in a job well done, but we are all human. The best tips I have ever received came from a few tongue-lashings over matters I should have known better. The other person could have been a lot more courteous, no doubt, but at the end of the day, I needed to learn. So I think being open to criticism enables us to profit from it. That said, there's a difference between constructive feedback and mindless nit-picking.

From a project manager perspective, nothing is more frustrating than to be kept in the dark. I wouldn't like to get feedback that is simply splitting hairs, but if something was fundamentally in error, I would want to know what and have a succinct explanation of why.




[Edited at 2010-02-17 15:49 GMT]


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Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:33
Danish to English
being an "informer" Feb 17, 2010

Yes, be honest.
I have just completed a revision of a Danish to English translation. It was horrible, the translation itself was incorrect and misleading, and the English was not acceptable.
I gave the client my honest evaluation, and then learned that the "translator" did not have English as his mother tongue, and had just been living briefly in Denmark. Furthermore, he had no knowledge of the technical subject matter. He had used Google translate, and the result was obvious.
Be honest!


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Alexander Chisholm  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:33
Italian to English
+ ...
Absolutely Feb 17, 2010

If you feel you are making excessively obvious corrections, including spelling errors, bad grammar etc. then you should tell the client. They're not paying you to retranslate the document, and you/they probably haven't budgeted for the amount of work required.

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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:33
German to English
Comments almost always appropriate Feb 17, 2010

I do a lot of editing/checking. Fortunately most of the work I see is of high quality, and the clients know I have a good opinion of the translators (I can frequently identify individual translators by their styles, as I've seen a lot of their work). It's important to provide positive as well as negative feedback. When I provide negative comments, I usually qualify them with examples so that the client (and perhaps the translator) will know that I'm not being arbitrary. I only provide detailed critiques when asked (and paid!), however.

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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:33
English to French
+ ...
Make sure the agency sets the rules with its translators Feb 17, 2010

I have had such cases where the usual French typographical rules were not followed. I asked the agency if they were pleased with the translator forgetting mandatory spaces, never using unbreakable spaces, capitalizing all titles, etc. They said: "Please, fix it." But they did not pay more. So, I am considering writing down what I consider the basic rules that any French writer/translator should follow, and check with the agency if they have such written rules, before I accept a proofreading job. If not, why should I correct what they don't care about? If yes, and if the errors are too important, I'll ask the agency to send back the job to the translator, highlighting the rule.
After proofreading, I usually send back a version in "Track Changes mode" and a cleaned file. I almost always comment, sometimes to explain that it is not as bad as it looks (like: stylistic changes but no misspellings or grammatical errors ). When it is really bad, I tell it to the agency and ask them to send back the document to the translator (actually, good agencies do anyway).


[Modifié le 2010-02-17 16:09 GMT]


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sarandor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:33
English to Russian
+ ...
A short evaluation summary with examples Feb 17, 2010

Kevin Fulton wrote:

When I provide negative comments, I usually qualify them with examples so that the client (and perhaps the translator) will know that I'm not being arbitrary. I only provide detailed critiques when asked (and paid!), however.


That's what I do too when I have to provide negative feedback. I simply state the facts and back them up with examples. A couple of years ago I was asked to provide my opinion on a proofreading done by another translator. The original translation wasn't a literary masterpiece, but the proofreader went over the top ripping it apart. His/her comments were full of exclamation marks and very emotional. I remember one of them that said "Even a second grader would not make such a mistake!"


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