translating poor translations
Thread poster: Thomas Johansson

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 13:24
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Apr 28, 2015

Should there be an extra charge for translating a source document that is a bad translation from a third language?

Suppose you receive an English manual of some 10,000 words to translate to you own language. However, the source document is itself a translation from another language (say, Italian, Russian, German, whatever) and, on top of that, not a very good translation. (It's full of confusing sentences, incorrect terms, too literal translations from the original document, etc., which will require you to spend more time than normal on the project.)

Would you charge more for such a translation? If so, how would you calculate your surcharge?

Thomas

[Edited at 2015-04-28 20:19 GMT]


 

Kitty Maerz  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:24
English to German
+ ...
Too late Apr 28, 2015

In my opinion it is unfortunately too late if you don't notice the bad quality until you are already in the middle of translating it. Ideally, this would have been apparent before the job is started/accepted - at that time it would make sense to adjust the price accordingly.

Obviously, we all make mistakes and similar things have happened to me as well - sometimes we accept a job after just a cursory look at it and later find out that it will require more work/time than expected (because of poor quality, subject matter etc.). Still, I think it is too late to raise the price now. Provided the quality of the text is at least good enough to make a translation possible, I would just go ahead at the agreed upon price.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Definitely SHOULD be charged more - the nature of the job has changed Apr 28, 2015

But you can't guarantee that the client will see it as a changed job, so the increased fee might be rejected. In that case you have two alternatives, I think. Either you stop work and simply invoice your normal rate for the words delivered - with no guarantee that the client will pay for this. Or you do the whole job for your normal rate and accept a lower rate per hour of your time. Hence the importance of checking the source fairly thoroughly before starting work. Something that I always ... mean to ... do. icon_frown.gif

[Edited at 2015-04-28 08:23 GMT]


 

Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 20:24
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
I agree with Kitty Apr 28, 2015

I agree with Kitty. It happened to me once - but I didn't raise my price. I put it down as experience and as a future incentive to check the source better before quoting a price. The text was a bad translation from French into English. It was a technical text translated rather literally, which means the technical terminology was completely messed up.

I asked the client for the French original and completed the translation with the help of a French technical dictionary, to everyone's satisfaction. The client even apologized to me.

But nowadays I would have a better look at the source, and avoid messy projects and clients. Life is so much easier this way.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:24
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree Apr 28, 2015

I agree with others here that, unfortunately for you, you accepted the job at an agreed price and you're stuck with it, but I think you should point out what you've discovered to your client who may not realise that the source document you have appears to be a poor translation from another language.
Best of luck!


 

Pierret Adrien  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:24
Chinese to French
+ ...
Always check thoroughly the document before saying yes Apr 28, 2015

In the way I do business, whenever I accept a job, its deadline, rate and conditions are a solid commitment for which I will never change the terms unless the end of the world happens. In which case I would allow myself 10 minutes to contemplate the meaning of life, destiny and the depth of space, then get back to work.

Which makes it my responsibility to have an extensive check of whatever is given to me for review prior of committing. We're not the car industry, we can't claim defects are hidden from us. It's all there, in the open, right from the beginning, right. So, check a couple of sentences every 10% of your documents, right until the bottom. It won't take you more than 10 minutes and save you a lot of gray hair.


 

Thomas Johansson  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 13:24
Member (2005)
English to Swedish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Rephrasing the question Apr 28, 2015

Thank you for your replies, but what I was really wondering was what the appropriate surcharge would be for a bad source document (say, when you calculate the price for an initial quotation).

(My issue is not whether it's possible to add a surcharge once a certain price has been agreed.)

I've now rephrased my question accordingly.

Thank you.


 

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:24
German to English
Depends on amount of extra time needed Apr 28, 2015

I would try and calculate roughly how much longer than a "normal" translation the task is going to take and up my charge accordingly - so if you think it will take 20% longer, add 20% to the fee you quote. That is also the approach I adopt with difficult formatting, working from sources that aren't in Word format, and so on. That way you have a basis for explaining/justifying the surcharge to the client. And if the amount of the surcharge you are able to levy doesn't cover the additional time involved, you would be better off declining the job.

 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:24
English to German
+ ...
What is the surcharge going to do? Apr 28, 2015

Thomas Johansson wrote:

Thank you for your replies, but what I was really wondering was what the appropriate surcharge would be for a bad source document (say, when you calculate the price for an initial quotation).

(My issue is not whether it's possible to add a surcharge once a certain price has been agreed.)

I've now rephrased my question accordingly.

Thank you.


In the extreme case, there will be lots of passages that are absolutely unclear as to what is really meant.
No surcharge will remedy that problem.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 02:24
Chinese to English
I'm kinda with Bernhard on this Apr 29, 2015

Particularly with English - the whole world is used to bad English, and you just read past the bad grammar to the meaning lurking underneath. If you can't tell what it means, you leave it and instruct the client.

I'd apply higher rates for technical stuff, stuff with a lot of names that require looking up... but not for bad translations.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:24
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
It is a part of the job.... Apr 29, 2015

.... or find another profession.

The last time I received a 'correct source text' (some years ago) was for a translation of an editorial in 'El Pais' (a Spanish quality newspaper) with a text from a famous contemporary Spanish writer. It was heaven to translate it!

Normally I receive (to keep it polite) 'strange' source texts, which sometimes look like the real deal, but is are far from it.

So, my philosophy in this case is: 'If you haven't got (translation) fantasy, don't take the job'. About 75% you get in is rubbish, and it is your task (even espected of you) to make some sense out of it. (Maybe 75% is a bit exaggerated, but still it happens too often, there are too many so called 'Sheakespearians' around us, and you can imagine what they mean). Just ask your price and be happy with it. Somemetimes you win, sometimes you loose, but don't start nagging about it, or look for another profession.


[Edited at 2015-04-29 22:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-04-29 22:30 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-04-29 22:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-04-29 22:33 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-04-29 22:33 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-04-29 22:34 GMT]


 

Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 20:24
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Impossible Apr 29, 2015

Robert Rietvelt wrote:

The last time I received a 'correct source text' (some years ago) was for a translation of an editorial in 'El Pais' (a Spanish quality newspaper) with a text from a famous contemporary Spanish writer. It was heaven to translate it!



Quick off topic.

I'm sorry, but this is impossible.

Editorials are never signed.

They're anonymous by definition.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:24
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Possible Apr 30, 2015

I even published a part of this text as an example translation on my account here on Proz!

The name of the autor is Juan Goytisolo.



[Edited at 2015-04-30 08:58 GMT]


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:24
English to Polish
+ ...
Address in your T&Cs Apr 30, 2015

Thomas Johansson wrote:

Should there be an extra charge for translating a source document that is a bad translation from a third language?

Suppose you receive an English manual of some 10,000 words to translate to you own language. However, the source document is itself a translation from another language (say, Italian, Russian, German, whatever) and, on top of that, not a very good translation. (It's full of confusing sentences, incorrect terms, too literal translations from the original document, etc., which will require you to spend more time than normal on the project.)

Would you charge more for such a translation? If so, how would you calculate your surcharge?

Thomas

[Edited at 2015-04-28 20:19 GMT]


If it's a short text, I agree with other posters who say it's too late.

If it's a longer text, however, then that's just not so simple. You have no obligation to expect the original to be a particularly translation from a third language when accepting work from a professional translation agency, especially one that speaks the language. Even when it's a direct client, I don't think think you can reasonably be expected to like read the whole thing before accepting just in case the client had used unprofessional translation from a third language.

A corporate client can reasonably be expected not to use unprofessional translation and to be able to spot it (due to having employees who are native speakers or proficient in the language, where for English the probability is of course higher).

This said, 'too literal' is often in the eye of the beholder.

[Edited at 2015-04-30 09:51 GMT]

Amend your terms and conditions for the future, also framework contracts with your clients. If they're native English speaking agencies and they balk, you probably don't want to work with them anyway. Otherwise you may need to provide for non-free quotations with stronger guarantees, where your pre-acceptance check is more thorough.

[Edited at 2015-04-30 10:00 GMT]


 


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