How are unmet subjective expectations handled where you live and work?
Thread poster: Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:38
English to Polish
+ ...
May 4, 2013

This is not about any real life situation, I'm asking in general because I'm interested in business practices in this regard in different countries. I'm posting in the Business Issues forums because this is, after all, an after-sales business issue, but I'm interested in both prevalent market practice and any good practice that should be but might not actually be observed in reality.

We've probably all come across a number of subjective complaints where the complainer can't sometimes even put his hand on anything concrete but rather makes some vague remarks about the style in general. Alternatively, a proofreader is being "smart" and assertive about his individual favourite convention out a couple of possibilities (for illustration, think about typography in English or the long-term struggle between prescriptive vs natural grammar). Obviously, each party involved will claim to be in the right or at least be more inclined to defend its own position as the correct one, the problem is that it's all subjective and basically comes down to a failure to communicate expectations. Availability of actual complaints based on undisclosed expectations is the core issue here, but I'm also interested in how those situations are resolved where no formal complaint is made.

And so, are clients or agencies in your business area (each of whom, I believe, maybe treated somewhat differently on account of their linguistic qualifications) generally understood to be entitled to request arbitrary discounts or edits and rewrites in such situations (if so, is it changes or discounts? or both at the same time?), or are they charged for any changes not resulting from a clear error or failure to meet agreed expectations, or are they rather told to communicate their wishes more clearly next time but this time it's too late and please put up with it?

If they are entitled to changes free of charge, how far is the normal practice to 1) allow them to go in their requests, 2) have those requests carried out by the translator personally? Can they request a translator basically to carry out menial data entry according to a sheet prepared by someone else who might as well have done it on his own while reviewing or asked his assistant to do it? How does the situation change when they are actually charged for the job--especially how flexible is the translator believed to need to be in (1) allowing the changes and in (2) carrying out the footwork himself?

Please feel free to expand a bit on this and cover any related issues that come to your mind but I haven't mentioned specifically. I'm basically seeking to expand my knowledge on after-sale modifications and discounts in different markets, as well as the clarity required of clients (or agencies) in communicating their subjective expectations. If you're not sure your experience can be generalised, I'd still like to hear it anyway.

Please let's each be friendly to others with different views. I will disclose it here, however, that I'm strongly against allowing actual complaints based on any unmet but undisclosed criteria or expectations, or allowing B2 adepts to play proofreader. I hope no-one who believes otherwise is offended by this, even as I continue to use somewhat colourful language to convey my opposition to the idea. Regardless which is your position, I would appreciate any practical advice, based on experience from your specific market, as to how to get the point across to agencies or clients without alienating them. My Terms of Service do disclaim footwork or complaints based on undisclosed expectations or subjective preferences as of now, which is unlikely to change. However, I'm more interested in the copy/PR aspect of it.

Thank you for your participation.


 

564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:38
Danish to English
+ ...
Learn to read between the lines May 5, 2013

What a long and complicated question.icon_smile.gif

I hope you will accept a response to just one part of your query:

In my view, you should always aim to give your customers what they want, whether they specify it or not. That is part of the art of translation, i.e. that you can look at a text, however well or badly written it is and work out what the end text needs to represent. At times, this will mean 'copying' the style quite closely, e.g. in technical texts, whereas more 'artistic' or 'academic' texts may require a lot of rephrasing. You treat each job differently, and always try to put yourself in the end client's position asking 'what is it they are trying to communicate, what is THEIR view, how do they want to APPEAR to their readers?' And then you do your level best to present this in your translation.

Now, if an end client then comes back and complains that your text is not at all what they expected, you learn from the experience and look at your own work and assess whether the client is right and you could have done a better job. At times, the source text will have been ambiguous or badly written, but the client will still expect you to make a silk purse out of a pig's ear, and then they may be disappointed that you didn't. You can discuss this with them and explain that there is a limit to how much you can improve on a bad source text through your translation. But in the end, the client was still disappointed, so you didn't do the job well enough. If you are lucky, i.e. if it is a client and a type of text that you would like to continue working with, you get to develop your relationship with the client by discussing styles and you get better at meeting their 'unspecified' expectations.

[Edited at 2013-05-05 06:56 GMT]


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:38
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Let me try... May 5, 2013

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:

What a long and complicated question.icon_smile.gif


Yes, I know. Perhaps I'm trying to to cover too many angles at once. What I'm mostly interested in is basically the transactional angle. They had some non-standard expectations they didn't tell you about, for example they wanted your proofreading to include a heavy dose of editing which they didn't order as a separate service like they should have, and now there's a complaint on your table.

In my view, you should always aim to give your customers what they want, whether they specify it or not.


I see. I rather expect people to be clear about what they want or at least clear about what they aren't sure about, with a touch of self-consciousness and an overall reasonable person standard. Half of the reason I'm a freelancer and not a salaried employee.

That is part of the art of translation, i.e. that you can look at a text, however well or badly written it is and work out what the end text needs to represent. (...)


Yeah, the problem is that there are nearly as many opinions as there are translators or previewers, and some people just can't seem to be able to process the idea that the existence of 2 competing conventions means theirs isn't the sole truth from which red ink can flow. I'm interested in the different ways in which particular markets handle that type of situation.

But in the end, the client was still disappointed, so you didn't do the job well enough.


That's where I respectfully disagree. I believe a translation is either good or bad in light of the circumstances (obviously not in the abstract, at least normally), but the client's emotional sensations don't make it better or worse.

If you are lucky, i.e. if it is a client and a type of text that you would like to continue working with, you get to develop your relationship with the client by discussing styles and you get better at meeting their 'unspecified' expectations.

[Edited at 2013-05-05 06:56 GMT]


I would normally be as flexible as you say in business terms but there's a difference when the red pen or a formal complaint is involved. I doubt we have any significant difference of opinion about the former situation but I'm more interested in what's your market's general sentiment about allegations of error, defect and so on based on undisclosed expectations.

Let's take an example for illustration: It's Danish to English. You translate a press article or something else that contains quotations. You weren't told your client's position on punctuation before quotation marks, i.e. do you put a comma or not before the start mark, do you put punctuation before or after the end mark etc. There is supposedly a general UK convention and a general US convention about that, but the reality is that it's all messed up, and everybody does it in a different way. In my view, this means that the translator is free to do whatever he does and also a "sophisticated" client (i.e. one that actually cares) is free to do whatever he wants too, except without relying on the translator to do the footwork, forget putting on a grumpy face and making a financial request.

So suppose you got that unfortunate: 'Dear Mr. Hansen, we are not satisfied and require n% discount.' My own initial reaction would probably be somewhere along the lines of: 'Sue me, I've been missing a good one.' Naturally, I wouldn't ultimately write or say that, unless n were an indecent number. You, I believe, would try to strike a compromise, probably somewhere midway, accepting the red pen but trying to minimise the damage. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.) But what's the general understanding in your market as to how such a situation should be handled?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:38
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A practical comment May 5, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:
In my view, you should always aim to give your customers what they want, whether they specify it or not.


I see. I rather expect people to be clear about what they want or at least clear about what they aren't sure about

Very often, our direct clients have very little idea what we do, so they sometimes aren't even in a position to know what they aren't sure about. It requires a certain amount of knowledge before you discover what the question is, let alone the answer. And our agency clients often have very little idea what their clients really want, apart from a translation - sometimes they have very little idea what we do, but that's another problem!icon_frown.gif It's our job to query what needs to be queried in advance - we're the experts.

Regarding your example situation of quotes being handled in a way that the end client does not agree with, surely that sort of thing can be sorted out without too much fuss and bother, can't it? You can justify your own choice after about 5 minutes on Google or looking in a reference book and quoting a few 'rules' (as you say, there are many supposedly correct ways out there, some more correct than others). But you can also concede the correctness of those other formats, so that the client can appear right, too. Then you can offer to make changes to fit the client's requirements. Another 5 minutes spent cutting and pasting. The whole lot shouldn't take more than 15 minutes, though more will be needed if an agency is involved. I can't see that any discount is justified and I would most certainly fight one.

You say your example is just hypothetical, so maybe that isn't the sort of input you're looking for, but I'm afraid I'm quickly lost when it comes to hypothetical consideration of unmet subjective expectations.


 

564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:38
Danish to English
+ ...
The client is always right May 6, 2013

I know that's a very provocative statement, but you ask what the convention is in my area, and this is it: only the client can decide whether the end product is what he/she wanted.

Now, your presumption that I would compromise if a client came back with a complaint that I hadn't met his/her unspecified expectations is wrong. I generally don't compromise on the standard of my work. I normally only take on jobs that I believe I can complete to a very high standard. So, once I hand in a job, I expect to be paid in full for that work, and in fact, I always have been. However, I always aim for satisfied clients, so I would try to amend the text in accordance with any complaints from the client, and I would do so free of charge, even if it might annoy me to some extent.

As for things like punctuation and choice of US/UK English, I have never had any comments about my choices, but once in a while I would ask in advance whether a client wants US or UK English, and unless otherwise stated, they will get UK English and my choice of punctuation.

By comparison, I have just finished proofreading a PhD dissertation written in Danish, in which the author had (almost) consistently chosen a style of quotation marks that I personally thought was confusing (Danish punctuation is generally bound by very strict rules, so it's not all that complicated if you know the rules, but as for quotation marks, there is some freedom of choice). It was an agency job, and I simply asked the agency to tell the end client that I thought a different style would be better, and the end client accepted this, kindly stating that "you are the expert", to which, of course, I could only agree. icon_smile.gif
And that is basically, what my work is based on: I am an expert at certain things and I feel confident about making choices about these things. Those that I am not an expert on, I check with the client. This seems to pre-empt the kind of problems you mention.

There may be issues in a text that I consider worth querying and then I simply ask in advance. For instance, just the other day I had to translate a short instruction about how to set up Outlook in a company-specific way, and all the screen shots in the text were in Danish whereas the explanatory text was to be in English. Common problem, and some clients will want you to write the references in Danish with an English explanation in brackets or in italics or bold, and others will want you to refer to the Danish text only. Simple enough to clarify and you save yourself the trouble of having to correct the text later by asking first.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:38
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hmm... May 6, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:
In my view, you should always aim to give your customers what they want, whether they specify it or not.


I see. I rather expect people to be clear about what they want or at least clear about what they aren't sure about

Very often, our direct clients have very little idea what we do, so they sometimes aren't even in a position to know what they aren't sure about. It requires a certain amount of knowledge before you discover what the question is, let alone the answer. And our agency clients often have very little idea what their clients really want, apart from a translation - sometimes they have very little idea what we do, but that's another problem!icon_frown.gif It's our job to query what needs to be queried in advance - we're the experts. (...)


I wouldn't expect any significant problems from non-professionals, actually. More of a problem are entities that are professional enough to retain proofreaders and reviewers but not professional enough for those guys to be mostly error-free or capable of realising the difference between: 'I'd do it the other way,' and, 'it's wrong.' Like you say, googling a rule or five tends to provide enough ammo for the shoot-out, as unfortunate as it is when professional proofreaders don't know their grammar, syntax or punctuation.

On the other hand, let's look at perhaps a better illustration: Corporation X sends you some very bad French. You salvage that thing, and correct but hardly Victorian English comes out. The same guys some back to you with a complaint based on a 'final version' that has every single sentence reworded into award-winning prose with a bunch of information that you're sure is not even in the text, which your guys believe your translation should have looked like from the beginning. Failure to know French is not an issue, and nobody with that kind of literacy could plausibly be ignorant of either good practice or the concept of equivalence. Basically looks like a zombie farm scam (to get translators to do their writing from drafts while being paid for translation only) or a severe case of disconnection from reality. What would the French market's or the UK market's reaction be, particularly when guided by good practice rather than a wish to keep the client happy and willing to come back?

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:

I know that's a very provocative statement, but you ask what the convention is in my area, and this is it: only the client can decide whether the end product is what he/she wanted.


I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that the Client is always right. For some reason, it seems to be deep-rooted in some parts of the translation industry, but why isn't in the practice of medicine or law? Why does a patient not get to be the final judge of a doctor's medical prowess or a lawyer's legal literacy? Why is it never a part of lawyer's services to be wrong on a point of law when his client says he is, and why does a doctor never change his diagnosis or prescription to accommodate a client wish? (Other than using an equivalent drug perhaps.)

Now, your presumption that I would compromise if a client came back with a complaint that I hadn't met his/her unspecified expectations is wrong. (...) However, I always aim for satisfied clients, so I would try to amend the text in accordance with any complaints from the client, and I would do so free of charge, even if it might annoy me to some extent.


Wait. How's that not compromising?

As for things like punctuation and choice of US/UK English, I have never had any comments about my choices, but once in a while I would ask in advance whether a client wants US or UK English, and unless otherwise stated, they will get UK English and my choice of punctuation.


Yes, of course. I'm talking about variant rules in either version or cross-Atlantic controversies.

And that is basically, what my work is based on: I am an expert at certain things and I feel confident about making choices about these things. Those that I am not an expert on, I check with the client. This seems to pre-empt the kind of problems you mention.


I guess my examples wasn't that good, after all. What about the one where the reviewer's wishes can be charitably described as 'heavy editions'?

There may be issues in a text that I consider worth querying and then I simply ask in advance. For instance, just the other day I had to translate a short instruction about how to set up Outlook in a company-specific way, and all the screen shots in the text were in Danish whereas the explanatory text was to be in English. Common problem, and some clients will want you to write the references in Danish with an English explanation in brackets or in italics or bold, and others will want you to refer to the Danish text only. Simple enough to clarify and you save yourself the trouble of having to correct the text later by asking first.


True, and I agree that asking is the better way, at least as long as you're not buried under a cushion of agencies retained by agencies and the work is not due yesterday. Still, I'd believe it to be proofreading or reviewing malpractice to come up with a complaint holding an external translator to the company's unagreed subjective favourites. And when I see a malpracticing proofreader or reviewer, my primary focus is to get him to realise what he's doing (in no mild words unless a professed amateur).

[Edited at 2013-05-06 07:19 GMT]


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:38
German to English
solving your example is easy May 6, 2013

I know that it was just meant as an example, but the fact that problems of detail regarding punctuation are so easy to solve might point the way to solving many other problems.

I always include US/UK and a specific style guide on my offers and invoices (and if your style guide doesn't recommend a specific dictionary, then that should be included as well). In my field, the Chicago Manual of Style is almost always good for enUS and either Oxford English (MHRA Style/New Hart's rules) or a variant of UK newspaper English for enGB translations (I use Guardian Style because their online style guide is easy to work with).

This solves a lot of problems and, of course, for most specific translations there are right and wrong conventions (or at least better and worse). At least it keeps all arguments about the placement of commas, variant spellings, dash typography, serial/Oxford commas, date formats, citations, etc. very short.

Regarding your question about international mores:
Under normal circumstances, clients in Germany do not and are not legally permitted to demand a discount because they are dissatisfied with a translation. They are supposed to (and normally do) demand that the translator make changes. If these are in keeping with the original contract or with common practice, then the translator is not permitted to change extra for the changes.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:38
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Common sense prevails for me May 6, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
What would the French market's or the UK market's reaction be, particularly when guided by good practice rather than a wish to keep the client happy and willing to come back?

The translation industry in France, and I believe in the UK, is totally unregulated so there is no official practice in either country. I daresay the translators' association in each country has guidelines - I'm not a member of either so I don't know.

I go by common sense and fairness more than anything and would simply take the trouble to point out a selection of instances where (a) their proposed translation would be incorrect for xx reason(s), and (b) their proposed translation contains information that is not in the source text. I would no doubt define "over-translation" for them. Once I feltl I'd checked their claims enough to be sure that I did an adequate job and that they're being unreasonable, I'd say so (in rather more diplomatic ways), and I'd say that I now considered this job completed. If they then decided to take the matter to an independent arbitrator, or to court, so be it. I'll cross that bridge when (if) I come to it.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:38
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
The patient is always right May 6, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that the Client is always right. For some reason, it seems to be deep-rooted in some parts of the translation industry, but why isn't in the practice of medicine or law? Why does a patient not get to be the final judge of a doctor's medical prowess or a lawyer's legal literacy? Why is it never a part of lawyer's services to be wrong on a point of law when his client says he is, and why does a doctor never change his diagnosis or prescription to accommodate a client wish? (Other than using an equivalent drug perhaps.)



I don't know about lawyers, but,

In France there is a law that puts patients firmly in charge of their health. No doctor or health professional has the right to impose treatment. Of course they don't like it and may threaten or insult those who do question diagnoses and prescriptions. I have been on the receiving end of both threats and insults in my quest to be treated in accordance with my own views, and have had to sign papers waiving my right to sue if anything goes wrong as a result of my refusal to comply with doctors' orders. However, in this Internet age, the info is out there now, no more arcane stuff shrouded in invisibility cloaks, and doctors are just having to deal with it. The patient is always right.

Similarly, we don't like it when the client want something that we feel or know to be clearly wrong. We can explain, provide umpteen links showing correct usage, correct the text without or without "track changes" but the client pays for the text and can do what they like with it. They are allowed to litter our pristine prose with glaring howlers, just as a patient is free to drown his liver in alcohol.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:38
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
A real-life situation May 6, 2013

I was recently in a situation such as you describe. The owner of a small agency sent me a French to English website to translate, with no specific instructions, style guide or glossary.
I translated it in my usual splendid style without difficulty and sent it off.
A couple of days later the agency owner told me the end client "wasn't happy with the style" and asked me to make alterations. I asked for more details about the desired style, but the end client provided none.
I made some stylistic changes and returned the translation again. The agency owner said the client still wasn't happy - but without details.
I tried a third time. Same result. I told the agency owner I was baffled as to what was required and said that perhaps the end client didn't understand what translation was, that I was not an advertising copywriter, didn't know anything about the company and had translated what the source file said. I wasn't in a position to add anything or say anything other than what was in the source file.
The agency owner was as baffled as I was and agreed with me. I think she told the end client that what he probably needed was a rewrite of the French original by an advertising copywriter to make it say what he wanted it to say, followed by a translation of the new text into English.
I heard no more and my invoice was paid promptly.
Baffled of Penzance.


 

564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:38
Danish to English
+ ...
Common sense and good service May 6, 2013

I thought you were asking what things were like in our different regions, which is what I responded to. We may have different approaches and views of how to tackle the hypothetical situations that you describe, but that's a different matter.

Like Sheila, I follow my own common sense and my own business standard, which is always to aim to make my clients happy. As a starting point, I don't consider clients to be troublemakers, just people who are paying for me to deliver the product they require. I will go to great lengths to meet those requirements if I take on a job. Call me silly, if you like, but that's how I do business. icon_smile.gif


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:38
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
When clients can be specific... May 6, 2013

... it is an enormous help.

I remember the very first complaint I ever received. I was heartbroken, of course, but nervously rang the client.

"It's not a bad translation in fact," he began. "It just sounds a bit too much like our biggest competitor."

Then he patiently told me precisely which phrases he meant, and we worked out alternatives. I really learned a lot that day.

Last week I was close to tears over one of those clients who was just vaguely dissatisfied with the style, and then, after a second attempt, took exception to perfectly good expressions like 'wide-ranging experience' (It has to be 'great experience' on their website) and several others, for no apparent reason. The result sounded like a school essay by the time I had made the changes they asked for, and if I hear any more from them, I will politely suggest they find another translator AND another proofreader. Some clients just don't like my style, and there is nothing I can do about it.

With regard to punctuation and spelling, I have my default system and can tell you why. I am fond of Sir Ernest Gowers and the updates of his work (The Complete Plain Words, revised by Fraser, Greenbaum and Whitcut, but don't throw the originals away...), and I have recently found the Penguin Guide to Punctuation, RL Trask, with an excellent guide to English commas! Michael Swan is another favourite. Then I can fairly confidently cut through any discussion by quoting an authority.

If the client really knows enough about the topic to ask for other systems, I do of course respect the fact that consistent style and communications are an important part of a corporate image. Naturally, I make the effort to comply. (For instance the American Psychological Association Style Guide or the Chicago Manual for scientific texts.) They may want z instead of s in all those -ise and -ising / -ize and izing words, or the Oxford comma in lists, which I usually omit.

By choosing a specific set of rules and adhering to them, you can keep most clients happy and defend yourself against proofreaders who do not know what they are doing.



[Edited at 2013-05-06 14:11 GMT]


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:38
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
More May 7, 2013

Michael Wetzel wrote:

I know that it was just meant as an example, but the fact that problems of detail regarding punctuation are so easy to solve might point the way to solving many other problems.

I always include US/UK and a specific style guide on my offers and invoices (and if your style guide doesn't recommend a specific dictionary, then that should be included as well). In my field, the Chicago Manual of Style is almost always good for enUS and either Oxford English (MHRA Style/New Hart's rules) or a variant of UK newspaper English for enGB translations (I use Guardian Style because their online style guide is easy to work with).

This solves a lot of problems and, of course, for most specific translations there are right and wrong conventions (or at least better and worse). At least it keeps all arguments about the placement of commas, variant spellings, dash typography, serial/Oxford commas, date formats, citations, etc. very short.


True. Thanks. I have a more less good idea on how to solve such situations in advance, but your post still offered some valuable advice. I suppose I'll have to get around to finishing my style specification or look for an existing one since that'd carry more authority. For what it's worth, I've recently become somewhat appreciative of Craig Shrives out of modern authors, though my inclination is to follow older Oxford or modern Cambridge (I don't really like the modern face of Oxford English). Anyway, yeah, it was just an example. I should probably have used examples from translation theory instead.

Regarding the last one, it's usually said that we need to strike a balance between fidelity and beauty, which is wrong. Neither is it true that we balance fidelity with creativity. IMHO it takes a good deal of creativity (and a ton of knowledge, not to mention the effort) to find a beatiful translation that's also faithful. No matter how you put it, in practice the problem comes down to subjective proofreading or reviewing, where someone either likes your style or your approach to translation or not. Some people are able to agree to disagree in the abstract (i.e. regardless whether they ask you to do some things their way in the future), some are not. What I'm trying to find here is people's experience of and views on the latter situation, as well as some general good practices or customs where a particular market seems to follow a more or less coherent approach.

Regarding your question about international mores:
Under normal circumstances, clients in Germany do not and are not legally permitted to demand a discount because they are dissatisfied with a translation.


Sounds familiar. Mostly because we've copied a good bunch of BGB into our Civil Code.icon_wink.gif

They are supposed to (and normally do) demand that the translator make changes. If these are in keeping with the original contract or with common practice, then the translator is not permitted to change extra for the changes.


Sounds a bit like the hired work contract (locatio conductio laboris), which is generally based on good performance, but includes a bit of what common law refers to as 'reasonable satisfaction', i.e. you work until the client is happy, but the client has to act like a reasonable person, unlike in the pure satisfaction standard. Principal can't reject the work merely because it doesn't fully suit his taste, contractor can't escape some tweaks for conformity with the client's preference. Not a bad compromise solution, though the particular contract model is more native to construction works or works of art like sculpting--here, there's some danger of rules of good practice in the professions needing to give way to client expectations in the event of a conflict.

I'm having an impression that the ISO-style client review whereby just about anybody can be a qualified reviewer of professional translations is bringing us closer to the pure satisfaction standard.

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I go by common sense and fairness more than anything and would simply take the trouble to point out a selection of instances where (a) their proposed translation would be incorrect for xx reason(s), and (b) their proposed translation contains information that is not in the source text. I would no doubt define 'over-translation' for them. Once I feltl I'd checked their claims enough to be sure that I did an adequate job and that they're being unreasonable, I'd say so (in rather more diplomatic ways), and I'd say that I now considered this job completed. If they then decided to take the matter to an independent arbitrator, or to court, so be it. I'll cross that bridge when (if) I come to it.


Thank you. That sounds a bit like what I do, except when there's a chain of professionals involved, then I tend to get somewhat serious about the good practice side of that, not that I'm enthusiastic about amateurs trying to play the game.

texte style wrote:

In France there is a law that puts patients firmly in charge of their health. No doctor or health professional has the right to impose treatment. Of course they don't like it and may threaten or insult those who do question diagnoses and prescriptions. I have been on the receiving end of both threats and insults in my quest to be treated in accordance with my own views, and have had to sign papers waiving my right to sue if anything goes wrong as a result of my refusal to comply with doctors' orders. However, in this Internet age, the info is out there now, no more arcane stuff shrouded in invisibility cloaks, and doctors are just having to deal with it. The patient is always right.


I see. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I suppose commenting on it in this thread more extensively would be pointless, though I've got to say that as much as I understand and support the right of patients to escape treatment they don't want or get the treatment they actually want, at least in the latter case, it's not like you can reconcile a doctor's oaths with giving chemo to someone who only thinks he has cancer, and like 10 different doctors are in agreement that he doesn't have it.

I'm really worried for the professional world if being a pampered consumer is enough to override degrees, credentials, formal study and practical experience.

(Where I live, lawyers generally have to do whatever the client says in terms of disposing of the matter in dispute or the strategy of litigation, but when you give advice or write a memo or issue a formal opinion, then the client has no business trying to influence the content. As in sure, if it's unclear or there's a mistake, then you've got to make up for it, but the client has no business trying to write legal memos with a pen held in your hand.)

Jenny Forbes wrote:

I was recently in a situation such as you describe. The owner of a small agency sent me a French to English website to translate, with no specific instructions, style guide or glossary.
I translated it in my usual splendid style without difficulty and sent it off.
A couple of days later the agency owner told me the end client 'wasn't happy with the style' and asked me to make alterations. I asked for more details about the desired style, but the end client provided none.
I made some stylistic changes and returned the translation again. The agency owner said the client still wasn't happy - but without details.
I tried a third time. Same result. I told the agency owner I was baffled as to what was required and said that perhaps the end client didn't understand what translation was, that I was not an advertising copywriter, didn't know anything about the company and had translated what the source file said. I wasn't in a position to add anything or say anything other than what was in the source file.
The agency owner was as baffled as I was and agreed with me. I think she told the end client that what he probably needed was a rewrite of the French original by an advertising copywriter to make it say what he wanted it to say, followed by a translation of the new text into English.
I heard no more and my invoice was paid promptly.
Baffled of Penzance.


How is the view from Land's End today?icon_wink.gif

I remember a similar situation last year. I translated something, I don't remember what it was but probably a legal essay, and I notified the agency of the problems with the original, the client then turned the cat upside down after being forwarded my comments, proceeded to reword a handful of sentences to make them no better than whatever I'd done, and expected me to alter the rest on my own accordingly, not that there were any specific guidelines. The agency agreed with me, but still asked me to do the rewrite. I objected, citing as always that to give an appearance of agreeing with an erroneous assessment is wrong, and the absence of any specific requirements or guidelines. I refused, the agency remained curious and asked for my invoice, which was paid. I've received no more work from there so far, perhaps due to my lack of readiness to be flexible, perhaps due to my rates or having enough in-house translators to staff all projects.

I once 'fired' an agency for automatically presuming that a client's director was right and 'had to spend the night' inserting her corrections, which was essentially all because of me etc. etc. Given also the failure to know what the PM was talking about when citing 'inadmissible errors', consulting with someone whose only stated competence was that of being a native speaker of the target language, and a couple of other things in the same vein, I decide to terminate the entire agency rather than asking not to be assigned to any other projects from the same client or with the same proofreader, which is my standard policy.

The problem generally seems to be that everybody has his own style, most users of a language are rather seriously limited in their competence, which doesn't prevent them from reaching high positions even in the language 'industry', and the effect is people more or less on B2/C1 level or somewhat acceptable C2 trying to correct professionals while being clueless as to whatever they're doing.

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:

I thought you were asking what things were like in our different regions, which is what I responded to. We may have different approaches and views of how to tackle the hypothetical situations that you describe, but that's a different matter.


Yes, I was. I'm still waiting to hear what things work like in general in your market.icon_smile.gif Also, I'm sorry if I misunderstood you.

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:

Like Sheila, I follow my own common sense and my own business standard, which is always to aim to make my clients happy. As a starting point, I don't consider clients to be troublemakers, just people who are paying for me to deliver the product they require. I will go to great lengths to meet those requirements if I take on a job. Call me silly, if you like, but that's how I do business. icon_smile.gif


I do it the same way.icon_smile.gif I just don't agree with proofreaders who are wrong or formal complaints that don't have a sound basis. Requesting a change is much different from pointing out errors. Barring some financial or quality concerns, I only have a problem with the second situation, i.e. being charged with error that just isn't there.

Christine Andersen wrote:

I remember the very first complaint I ever received. I was heartbroken, of course, but nervously rang the client.

'It's not a bad translation in fact,' he began. 'It just sounds a bit too much like our biggest competitor.'

Then he patiently told me precisely which phrases he meant, and we worked out alternatives. I really learned a lot that day.


Auch.icon_smile.gif Well, at least they kindly asked for a rewrite (essentially) while admitting you did nothing wrong. It's just too bad some people can't see the difference.

Last week I was close to tears over one of those clients who was just vaguely dissatisfied with the style, and then, after a second attempt, took exception to perfectly good expressions like 'wide-ranging experience' (It has to be 'great experience' on their website) and several others, for no apparent reason. The result sounded like a school essay by the time I had made the changes they asked for, and if I hear any more from them, I will politely suggest they find another translator AND another proofreader. Some clients just don't like my style, and there is nothing I can do about it.


Well, if 'wide-ranging experience' is getting turned into 'great experience', then the fidelity of the translation is being compromised by the proofreader. I suspect that the client essentially wanted an English writer but then the representatives should have said so instead of presenting an original for translation. I realise that I'm a hard-line partisan for fidelity, but in my view such replacements at least border on malpractice, if not forgery.

As a side note, I'm probably going to spend a couple of days writing a nice little copy essay on the basis of what experience we've shared here.

[Edited at 2013-05-07 14:08 GMT]


 


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