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Bad translations on client's homepages - should I tell them?
Thread poster: Carolin Haase

Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:57
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Dec 6, 2010

Dear all,

this is about website content for a new client (international company). The client's websites went online last week and a couple of other translators and I have been working on the texts (EN originals to be translated into various languages). There is no quality assurance involved; you just take texts from their work space, translate and then publish them. Some of the texts/translations into German I read are very well done, others are a mess.

Do you think I should tell the client?

Personally, I think I should (I would want to be told), but doesn't this put me in a bad light, like I was quibbling and wanted to get the other translator(s) into trouble?

What do you think?

Regards
Carolin


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imatahan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:57
English to Portuguese
+ ...
IT Dec 6, 2010

It depends on how much you know the company. I've tried it once, with a translation company where I was registered and they've reacted badly...

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Saoussane  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:57
Arabic to English
+ ...
Definetly say something about it Dec 6, 2010

I was in a similar situation a while ago, I did not hesitate one moment to outline the mistakes to my client and the response was positive. I ended up getting more work from that client as a result. There is nothing wrong in providing feedback or drawing your customer's attention to any quality shortcoming from their part. As a matter of fact, they will thank you for it.
Best of luck,
Saoussane


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Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:57
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Agreed Dec 6, 2010

I agree. If you can give actual examples of errors (and not just style issues), the client should thank you. (And it's not your fault that the other translators messed up.. no need to feel guilty.)

In the end, everybody will benefit from it. I've been working on various projects with existing TMs whose quality wasn't really that good. That in turn made my life harder.
Imagine what would happen if your client took those messy translations and gave them to you for further use in your translations. That would make your life harder, too.

So, informing them early on will save them (and you) from trouble in the future.


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Mr Florida
Local time: 13:57
German to English
+ ...
Waste of time Dec 6, 2010

I have yet to meet a client that was open to that type of unsolicited constructive criticism.

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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:57
German to Spanish
+ ...
Be cautious.... Dec 6, 2010

Hallo, Carolin: Be cautious because you do not know if it is the customer itself who has done the translations, and you could lose it. And, I am very sorry to say this, but every time I have notified a private client of those mistakes, he has not made any case.

If I were in your shoes, I would be very diplomatically, and only suggest him the convenance to review such pages, but I would never tell him that such translations are a true mess. If he ask you for more infomation, then go ahead and if not, the forget it...

So, I really do not agree in full to what other good willing colleagues have said before.




[Edited at 2010-12-06 15:25 GMT]


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Kay Barbara
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:57
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Tell them if ... Dec 6, 2010

... you do not depend on them for work; obviously there is chance that your client might take it the wrong way.

Having said that, I think that informing your client about shortcomings in source texts or other texts you have access to is the right thing to do!
It is not rare for me to deal with sources where parts had been previously translated by other translators. When I spot anything which I think could/should/needs to be better, I inform the client about my suggested changes (even if pertains to a part of the source which is not included in my brief).

If your client can deal with feedback as to what could be better with their texts, I am sure they will appreciate it if they care about quality.

From my personal experience I can say that my clients have almost always valued (and often acted upon) my contributions/suggestions in this regard. I simply see it as a value-added service I provide and my clients see it the same way.

To sum it up, Simone already said what needed to be said...

Simone Linke wrote:

I agree. If you can give actual examples of errors (and not just style issues), the client should thank you. (And it's not your fault that the other translators messed up.. no need to feel guilty.)

In the end, everybody will benefit from it. I've been working on various projects with existing TMs whose quality wasn't really that good. That in turn made my life harder.
Imagine what would happen if your client took those messy translations and gave them to you for further use in your translations. That would make your life harder, too.

So, informing them early on will save them (and you) from trouble in the future.


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Anna Rioland  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:57
Member (2010)
English to Russian
+ ...
Diplomacy is paramount Dec 6, 2010

I was in a similar situation some time ago. I had to translate texts for a website, and the previous translator had made some errors/typos. I suggested some improvements, and the client was grateful for them.

[Edited at 2010-12-06 16:18 GMT]


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Katja Schoone  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:57
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Comment on it Dec 6, 2010

I have done so once and ended up with the proofreading job for their German website

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Barry Appleby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:57
Russian to English
+ ...
What about mistakes in the original? Dec 6, 2010

I recently translated a new Swedish official VAT booklet explaining the rules that apply to the sale of services within the EU. It had clearly not been proofread before being made available to the public. For example, in one worked example there was an incorrect caption, which implied that Norway was a member of the EU! There was also a grammatical error that was spotted by my eagle-eyed and very exacting native Swedish proofreader (my partner). I informed the PM at the agency of these errors and omissions and she informed the customer, who now can correct them when the brochure is re-printed.

As a professional translator, I consider it my duty to inform a client of errors of fact, unadvisable use of metaphors (for example, the one about Mohanmmed and the Mountain) and any other cultural aspects of translation, such as the use of foul language and obscenities. The agency I work for has its own website, part of which is in English. I have informed them that the English text in question is badly written, apparently by a non-native speaker and that this is detrimental to their corporate image, especially as they boast of having ISO-standard quality certification. To date, they have not bothered to do anything about it. That is their choice, but I wanted to impress on them that I always attempt to deliver the highest level of quality that I can.

In Caroline's case the situation is more complicated. Her work will be on view side by side with work by other translators that is of much lower quality, so she cannot use this website as an example of her work on a CV, as a prospective client might mistakenly think that she was responsible for these faux pas. Then there is the perennial problem of uniform terminology since different translators have worked on a customer's texts at different times without any guidance on accepted equivalent terms in the target languages. This makes life very difficult for subsidiary companies and agents on the individual markets where these languages are spoken.

I agree that it is necessary to be very diplomatic and sensitive in drawing the client's attention to obvious errors and mistranslations or misconceptions, but my own personal take on this dilemma is that I feel that I have no choice it ist my professional duty to help my client achieve the best possible translation quality. Prospective purchasers of goods or services are sometimes very sensitive to the manner in which their native tongue is handled and I thus always argue that the latter will hardly be able to have confidence in a company's products, if it cannot even produce correct and well-written language materials. There is always a chance that a client might be offended and feel that he or she has lost face, but if their prestige is more important to them than having acceptable translations, then I would rather not do work for such a customer. In this instance, the cost of correcting these errors would probably be minimal as this involves a website and not printed materials.


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david young  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:57
Member (2009)
French to English
don't hesitate Dec 6, 2010

tell them their company's image is being downgraded. But go to the top to make sure you avoid the person who Ok'd the site

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Rifraf
Local time: 19:57
it's a mistake to tell your client Dec 7, 2010

Mr Florida wrote:

I have yet to meet a client that was open to that type of unsolicited constructive criticism.


You are so right! Customers don't want to know, they don't care and they won't thank you for it. It will only cost you time and effort and they won't correct the mistakes you've pointed out to them.

It's sad, but true:(


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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:57
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Be careful with generalisations Dec 7, 2010

Rifraf wrote:

Mr Florida wrote:

I have yet to meet a client that was open to that type of unsolicited constructive criticism.


You are so right! Customers don't want to know, they don't care and they won't thank you for it. It will only cost you time and effort and they won't correct the mistakes you've pointed out to them.

It's sad, but true:(


What you are describing here is your own experience, which represents only a tiny section of the market and does not allow for any general statement regarding the behaviour and reactions of customers. Please don't jump to hasty conclusions here - there are customers, and then there are customers...

Steffen


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:57
French to German
+ ...
Ultimate responsibility Dec 7, 2010

Rifraf wrote:

Mr Florida wrote:

I have yet to meet a client that was open to that type of unsolicited constructive criticism.


You are so right! Customers don't want to know, they don't care and they won't thank you for it. It will only cost you time and effort and they won't correct the mistakes you've pointed out to them.

It's sad, but true:(

The ultimate responsibility of deciding how which translation will be used is with the client. Informing them about a substandard translation is not really a mistake. But I agree that, in such cases, seeing reactions or hearing back from clients seems to be rare.


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Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:57
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No broad agreement, then, Dec 8, 2010

on how to proceed - that's interesting because I thought most fellow translators would say that I absolutely needed to tell the client.

No, I do not depend on them for work, but I like to work with them.

I don't really think they will change the texts (or have me change the texts), but if I was them, I would like to be told if texts on my sites were of poor quality, because I might loose clients and money.

I am not sure yet what to do; I might write a mail and just offer to have a look at the texts as I found some were not so well done - something like that. Perhaps.

Thanks for your input!


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