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Conflict with end client: post-translation adaptation
Thread poster: Olga Adler

Olga Adler
United States
Local time: 12:07
English to Russian
+ ...
Jan 10, 2016

I’m in the middle of a rather Kafkaesque dispute with a client. Bach in October I translated about 200 pages of dental equipment manuals for a translation agency I’d been solidly working with for years. No glossary or reference materials were provided. They accepted my translation and paid me for it right away. On December 30 they contacted me and in a very apologetic manner told me that the end-client did not accept the translation. They were reading the manuals for 3 months, their dental expert made corrections to it and demanded that the rest of the texts be edited ‘in conformity with his corrections’. When I browsed through the edited files I realized that the expert did not look in the English source files (target language was Russian) and corrected the text according to his liking omitting parts of the original in some places and adding extra 2-3 lines of text in others. He also corrected many terms so that they look nothing like the original. For example,

he corrected the original ‘gold abutment with plastic sleeve’ into the Russian equivalent of the term ‘burn-off abutment’
or
‘standard intradermal implant’ into a Russian equivalent of ‘straight titanium implant’

Now they want me to edit 200 pages of text like that, literally asking me to deviate from original terms and asking to use the terms that they want (the logic of choice of which is unfathomable). They want me to do it for free because they say that otherwise the translation cannot be accepted and paid for. So, the agency I did the job for is asking me to do this adaptation for their client.
What would you do in this situation considering that I do not want to stop working with this agency despite this one end-client conflict and I really want this situation to be resolved?


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
No Jan 10, 2016

According to what you describe, you delivered what they paid for, a correct translation, and the changes they want would be an additional service over and above the translation itself. That's not something they can expect free of charge.

If it were a small quantity, one could be flexible with a good client, but if it's a good client, they must also understand that their request is unreasonable.

I would say the higher the rate they paid for the translation, the more flexible you can be when it comes to such additional demands, but the low and modest rates often paid simply do not leave any room for throwing in freebies. Outsourcers commonly measure fractions of words to cut the cost down to the bone, so why would a translator give them anything else than what they pay for?

I'd say you need to stand firm in what has become a harsh market.


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Olga Adler
United States
Local time: 12:07
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
true Jan 10, 2016

Thomas T. Frost wrote:
I'd say you need to stand firm in what has become a harsh market.


Agree, that was my first reaction but then I thought that maybe I had to share some responsibility too. I asked a co-worker to look into some corrections the end client made and she confirmed it that my translation was correct and the corrected terms are a matter of taste, not a misteke. It's hard to prove it to the client though, their expert doesn't seem to speak any English at all


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Alexey B
Russian Federation
Local time: 21:07
Member (2015)
English to Russian
+ ...
Additional work must be paid Jan 10, 2016

Olga, you fully did the scope of work, didn't you? So, if they want the corrections, they should either do it by themselves or pay you for it.
Another way is to talk to the end client and ask why they make such changes that are imcompatible with the original text. May be they abandon the idea of corrections.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
It sounds like Jan 10, 2016

Your client knows you're in the right. This is their problem, and they're not going to drop you if you politely decline to cooperate.

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Texte Style
Local time: 19:07
French to English
I may be pedantic but Jan 10, 2016

This has happened to me before, albeit with a smaller text. I went all the way through the text and commented on each of the "corrections", specifying for example that "this is an addition, the source text did not specify this. While this information may be useful to the reader, the translator is not in a position to add information." or "this information was in the source text. While it may not be useful to the reader, the translator is not in a position to delete information."

For terms that have been changed, you might want to do a bit of research to check whether the terms they appear to prefer are not synonyms. If they are, you will then need to check which are the most common, and assess whether your term or theirs is best. I always try to defend my translation, but I will accept other suggestions when they are clearly better. This shows that I am in good faith and not just blindly refusing to budge. A client in good faith will quickly see that this is the case only for a few minor corrections and then are willing to accept that my translation is still fit for purpose.

In fact, the last time this happened, the project manager ended up writing back that the client was more than satisfied with my assessment of the corrections, and actually said that they wanted me to translate all their stuff from then on, because they felt my vocabulary was much richer than that of other translators the agency had used for them.

So it all turned out much better than I could even have imagined, simply because I took the time to respond to their "corrections".


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Olga Adler
United States
Local time: 12:07
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I feel like being pedantic Jan 10, 2016

I started making a report on their corrections inconsistency but now I'm having second thoughts. The client seems very sure of the adaptations he made, because he is the expert. Although I can't ignore the inconsistencies completely

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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:07
Member (2014)
English to German
Why not Jan 10, 2016

You delivered a correct translation, the expert who doesn't speak English makes some changes according to his preference and would like you to edit the whole document accordingly.

I don't think the source text matters at this point anymore. It has become an editing job, so why not just give them a quote for that work.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:07
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Insist on being paid Jan 10, 2016

Insist on being paid, and insist that the client must explain EXACTLY the logic behind the corrections.

You cannot sit and guess through 200 pages what they like and what they don't. You will end up making a mess of what was originally a reasonable translation.

OK, most things can be said in two or three ways, but you must have had your sources of terminology, since they did not provide any. Tell them it's better late than never, but you want to know where their terminology comes from, and what the authority is, so that you can learn from the experience.

Of course, you may not learn what they expect, but you don't have to discuss that with them. If they will not pay and explain precisely what they want you to do, then in your position I would refuse to do it at all.

It is often worth the effort to stand firm and show that you DO know what you are doing. Even if the end client goes elsewhere, a good agency will respect you.

Best of luck!


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Olga Adler
United States
Local time: 12:07
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jan 10, 2016

Thank you for advice, I think I can't resolve the situation without discussing all the details with the end-client's expert who provided the corrections. I seriously can't know what dictionaries or references they used since many of their terms arent even googlable. I'll stand my ground as to the correctness of my translation and will try to make them understand that what they want is an extra service

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Your client has completely mismanaged this Jan 10, 2016

1. Your client allowed their own client to sit on a text for three months without paying for it. So they clearly have absolutely no cash-flow problems.
2. Your client accepted the right of their own client to ask for changes three months after delivery. Why? Don't they have a cut-off?
3. Your client clearly had no problem with the translation you provided. Did they proofread it?
4. They want you to translate text you've never been presented with before, as part of "corrections"? Come off it!


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Olga Adler
United States
Local time: 12:07
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
good point! Jan 10, 2016

I actually also wanted to ask colleagues here about what Sheila has just correctly mentioned: the feedback/complaint deadline. What deadlines do you usually set in your agreements with the clients? Here in Russia they can vary from 3 days to 3 months (as I can see now). What is the best option? If it's too short some clients might think you are 'washing your hands off' right after delivery because you know there can be something wrong and you don't want responsibility. If, on the contrary, it's too long, you can wait for months and end up in a 'Happy New Year' situation like mine.

Answering to Sheila's question 3, they said they proofread it but the proofreader isn't really an expert in the field and the source language. I guess all they did was spell and smooth readability check.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:07
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My own terms, fwiw Jan 10, 2016

Personally, I say I'll be happy to entertain any reasonable requests for explanations and changes until the payment due date, which is 30 days month end. I've had to remind clients of the "reasonable" bit a couple of times. I'm a professional English trainer, not an unpaid one. They do need to accept that they're paying me for my expertise so it's a bit daft questioning every one of my choices.

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:07
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I think even if you are paid for this additional step of "adaptation", Jan 10, 2016

this might still not be a do-able job. A specialized English term can have several different equivalents used in the target language. How would you know which one this particular "expert" would like to use? It is quite possible that after you have "adapted" the translation according to the expert's "taste", he still doesn't like it.

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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 01:07
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Medical linguists Jan 11, 2016

Olga Rogacheva wrote:

Now they want me to edit 200 pages of text like that, literally asking me to deviate from original terms and asking to use the terms that they want (the logic of choice of which is unfathomable). They want me to do it for free because they say that otherwise the translation cannot be accepted and paid for. So, the agency I did the job for is asking me to do this adaptation for their client.
What would you do in this situation considering that I do not want to stop working with this agency despite this one end-client conflict and I really want this situation to be resolved?


My embryology presentation job was reviewed by a native Thai physician who is not a literate linguist. After many prolonged days, he just commented with his own preference (e.g. transliteration and leaving as source English terminologies) by ignoring tasks of the translator. Ne neither wrote how to correct the texts carefully. The job was on Power Point files. I decided along with the client to remain both the source (English) and Thai texts consecutively in the Power Point slide so that audiences can justify how the translation quality is and how the source texts really say.
The client paid me fully.

Soonthon L.


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