How pecky can you be?
Thread poster: Marionlam

Marionlam  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:22
English to French
+ ...
Mar 19, 2012

Hi all,

I am not a full time translator but I probably translate between 30,000 and 40,000 words a year on a freelance basis. Quite often I pick up the slack from translation agencies who are getting too busy for their own teams.

I am once again finding myself up against a situation where an in-house translator has done some work on a product and I am asked to translate a brochure on the same topic. My initial instinct was to ask for the existing material so I could use the same vocab for consistency.

I wish I hadn't asked... The translation was obviously not done by a native and there are many grammatical errors or mistranslated words / expressions. Now my dilemna is;
- Do i point the errors out and risk annoying my client (I'm referring to their employee after all) and potentially getting into a debate which they won't fully understand
- Do I simply translate the brochure my own, correct way
- Or do I translate using their weird syntax to keep consistent (I really don't like the sound of this one...!).

Part of me think I might pick up more business if I point out that they would be better off using a native translator but i know a lot of small companies are happy to compromise on quality in order to keep the cost down...

What do you normally do?


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Mar 19, 2012

Definitely not option 3!

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 12:22
Chinese to English
Just do your thing Mar 19, 2012

It's definitely more than your job's worth to start trying to teach other translators English. If they're not messing with you, there's no need to interfere with them. Just accept the obvious: you asked for useful supporting materials, but those materials turned out not to be useful. So throw them down the memory hole and do your own job.

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Jing Nie
China
Local time: 12:22
Member (2011)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I sometimes be asked to proofread some materials Mar 20, 2012

Some translations are really good, and I only spent a short time to proofread them. And I will praise their quality when I send the proofreaded file back.

But sometimes I will meet very terrible translations, usually I will continue to proofread them at the usual rate. Then tell my client frankly that this translator is really unsuitable for translating these documents.

Since I cooperated with my clients for several years, they will consider my suggestion seriously.

But I agree with Phil Hand this time, just do your best , you are not asked to proofread other people's translations. Just ignore them unless you are asked to proofread these terrible translations.

[修改时间: 2012-03-20 03:25 GMT]


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xxxchristela
Agree with Phil Mar 20, 2012

Some years ago I still told the client. But I ended up in being classified as a 'complicated translator' and 'making much fuss for nothing'. So I agree with Phil, just do your own job. If they come back with comments, just answer what Phil says, 'the documentation was not useful for me'.
You can make comments about procedures, but NEVER criticize people.


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xxxwonita
China
Local time: 01:22
Do your job, but Mar 20, 2012

Jing Nie wrote:

But I agree with Phil Hand this time, just do your best , you are not asked to proofread other people's translations. Just ignore them unless you are asked to proofread these terrible translations.

[修改时间: 2012-03-20 03:25 GMT]

indicate that the translation from the agency is not good. A bad translation comes out sooner or later, and no one should believe that you are not competent to make the judgment.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:22
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Well, you have to say something... Mar 20, 2012

Marionlam wrote:
My initial instinct was to ask for the existing material so I could use the same vocab for consistency. ... The translation was obviously not done by a native and there are many grammatical errors or mistranslated words / expressions.

- Do I point the errors out and risk annoying my client ... and potentially getting into a debate?
- Do I simply translate the brochure my own, correct way?
- Or do I translate using their weird syntax to keep consistent?


The fact that you had asked for their existing materials (and by implication had offered to attempt to remain consistent with it) means that unfortunately you have to say something about it, if only to let the client know that you would not be able to maintain consistency. If the client had sent you the existing materials but there was no expectation that you should remain consistent with it, then you could have simply dropped it, but the client here expects you to [try to] adhere to it.

Whether you want to point out the grammar errors are up to you, but if you do decide to do it, do so only for issues that you can prove from a book (and that their translator can consult and learn from), and limit your comments to a few of the most glaring issues.

My approach in this scenario would actually be close to your item #3, i.e. try to stay consistent with it in the way that most readers would notice (though I would not go out of my way to make my syntax as weird as theirs). But...

You should decide which of the mistranslations relate purely to terminology, and which of those term translations you feel are non-negotiable, and let the client know about those. The list you send them should include terms that you feel are inappropriate even though they are not wrong, terms that you believe are actually wrong but not critical, and terms that are non-negotiable in your opinion, and which you would not use in your translation. In other words, limit your comments to terminological issues (which are more objective or reasoned) and not grammar, syntax, style etc (which can be rather subjective or a mere matter of preference).

Finally, just to throw a spanner into my works, even if you decide to remain consistent with their text, it may be that their text are redone or re-edited later (if it really is that bad), and then their text would no longer be consistent with yours anyway.


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:22
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Communicating criticism Mar 20, 2012

The translation that you will submit must not be of lower quality than the one you would submit if you had not asked for reference material. Reference material is there to help you produce better, more consistent work. Taking over faulty parts is nonsense. Consistency comes into play only when the legacy translation is worthy to be consistent with. Propagating errors is not an option.

Make a short list of typical problems encountered in the text, with a couple of examples each time:
- Incorrect terminology (scalpel translated as mobile telephone - the surgeon may go terribly wrong)
- Spelling problems (if some of them are picked up even by the spell checker, make sure to mention this)
- Incorrect comprehension of the text
- Sentences that are obviously unsound grammatically.
The list should not be exhaustive, just informative. Pick the errors that cannot be defended - your criticism should be irreproachable.

Having established the substandard quality of the existing translation, you have now very good reasons to pick only parts that you agree with - and you do not need to give any further justification.

"As being consistent with the choices made in the previous translation and providing a quality translation of the present material is incompatible, I will choose the best term in each case, regardless of the previous translator's choice. Should you have a client-approved glossary, please send it. I will review it, and stick to it unless there are some obvious errors - in which case we can discuss problematic terms with the client."

Best
Attila


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:22
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Option 1 or 2 Mar 20, 2012

Preferably point out the worst errors and certainly don't go along with anything incorrect or weird. Make sure your version is faultless.

I'm assuming your target language is not English, but the same principles apply to any language.

I have this problem when proofing, compounded by the fact that things that grate on my ear are perfectly acceptable to others. (Different to, different than... instead of different FROM as I learnt in school, and hundreds more.) While expressions I use undoubtedly sound odd to others.

If they are used consistently, I wince and leave them, but if the translator is obviously fumbling, then my red pen descends...

Some languages are more prescriptive. Even in English, there are limits to the accepted variants, and they have to be selected for the target group wherever possible.

I don't think you are doing anyone a favour by letting poor material pass. If it looks shoddy, it reflects on the product. If it is misunderstood it could lead to complaints and might even cause accidents.

But as Samuel says, keep to the errors you can find in a book - and you need not catalogue them all. If possible, find a couple of things you can say were fine as well - it sugars the pill!

PS I've just seen Attila's post - and agree entirely.

Best of luck


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tell them (where to get off) Mar 20, 2012

I would definitely "point the errors out and risk annoying my client". Moreover, being the person I am, I would not mince my words or give a hoot about hurting anyone's feelings or losing a client like this.

In fact I don't really like working with ("hell is...") other people as part of a team at all if I can help it, unless I hand pick them myself.


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Kelly Gill
Italy
Local time: 06:22
Italian to English
ask the client Mar 20, 2012

I have come across this a few times and I simply ask if they want me to stay in line with past translations, pointing out a few "funky" bits, or if I can do what I want.

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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Principles count too Mar 21, 2012

neilmac wrote:

I would definitely "point the errors out and risk annoying my client". Moreover, being the person I am, I would not mince my words or give a hoot about hurting anyone's feelings or losing a client like this.

I like to be proud of my work - if the reference material were poor and if I were to follow it, I would not be proud of my work. Basically, I would find it hard to live with myself.

I refuse to turn in substandard translations for the sake of "consistency" - I know that sometimes some of my agency clients "change things back" after I have done painstaking research to determine the correct translation (and to show that I am right) - and in that respect, you could say "it's just not worth it".

But that is the agency's decision to appease the client - not mine.

I am afraid that I agree in this respect with neilmac. I do not appease. I tell the client when things are wrong, and if they can't respect the word (and work) of an experienced, native-speaker translator, then I know I shouldn't be working with them. I have stopped working with clients because of this before, and I'm sure it will happen again.

Only you can decide how strong your principles are and how hungry your wallet is.

---
OT
Christine Andersen wrote:...things that grate on my ear are perfectly acceptable to others. (Different to, different than... instead of different FROM as I learnt in school...)


Oh thank the UNIVERSE someone else has mentioned this!! I have moved from the US to Australia (and sometimes watch BBC) and I simply CANNOT STAND IT when people say "different TO" !!!


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