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Need Advice re: Contacting Bad Translator
Thread poster: Sandra Alboum

Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:35
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 27, 2005

Hi.

Sort of long story. I do translations for the Maryland MVA (Motor Vehicles Administration, the people you get your driver's license from). They have a list of approved translators, and I am on it.

I've recently received paperwork from two people who have gone to another "translator" to get the paperwork they need done, and she has done it and even provided a notarization of it. Then, the people discover that this woman is not on the MVA list, and they have to get their paperwork redone so it will be accepted when it is turned in.

Here is the crux of the problem:

1. I have seen the work this woman does and the translations are pretty bad. Lots of words spelled incorrectly ("phisics" and "pshycology" appeared on a transcript I was given that she had done, etc etc...) and poor work ("It is issued this certificate that supports 320 credits from a total of 320 credits, which are part of the studies plan of the code #123...").

2. She signs that the translation is done to the best of her ability, etc etc.

3. She then notarizes her own signature.

Okay, well, I found out that number 3 is ILLEGAL. You can't notarize your own signature. Not allowed. Number 2 is obviously ... well, might be true, but the work is sooo bad.

I've already contacted the appropriate office to complain about this woman notarizing her own stuff as the client has told me that she charged extra for it (!!). But I feel like writing/calling the lady and telling her that not only should she use a spellchecker, but that she should also mention to her clients that the translation she provides isn't worth anything to them at the MVA (besides the fact that it isn't worth anything because it's just so poorly done).

I don't know ... maybe I'm just venting, but ... I feel sorry for my clients who spend money on her, thinking she is good and she is qualified, and ... she is NEITHER.

By the way, a little research turned up that the woman is actually an accountant, or works in an accountant's office. She's probably got this little racket running on the side.

Maybe I just need to vent. But what would everyone else do? My clients are people who work 80 hours a week for minimum wage. They don't have the money to waste on this trash, and I feel they've been taken advantage of.

Thanks.
Sandra


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 02:35
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Great question... May 27, 2005

Is there any kind of BBB (Better Business Bureau) for translators? And could it apply its rules to freelancers? I'd also like to know what one should do in this case and I'll follow up on this thread. Good call!

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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:35
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
*GROAN* May 27, 2005

Here's her latest certificate - which I am "correcting" and "retranslating" and "certifying"...

It's a transcript.

"GOVERNMENT OF THE FREE STATE AND SOBEREIGN OF VERACRUZ".

"GENERAL OFFICE ON EDUCTION".

Makes me wanna cry, I tell ya.
Sandra


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 06:35
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Hi Sandra May 27, 2005

Sandra Alboum wrote:
But I feel like writing/calling the lady and telling her that not only should she use a spellchecker, but that she should also mention to her clients that the translation she provides isn't worth anything to them at the MVA (besides the fact that it isn't worth anything because it's just so poorly done).


I think that the clients who had to pay twice are those who should complain. Maybe you could help them writing a report of what you saw. This way you would be a sort of counselor who doesn't get involved directly.
The other point would be the legal aspect, something should be done but I don't know what.

Claudia

[Edited at 2005-05-27 02:13]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
They're all over the place... May 27, 2005

...those pseudo "tramitadores", "traductores" and "notarios" (better known as "coyotes") who rip off unaware immigrants, both legal and illegal, with their worthless "services". Plenty are to be found along the border and now in many other places as well.

Many are operating outside the law or barely within it, as is this translator, due to the unregulated nature of our profession. Some of them even lead people to believe that they can help them achieve legal status in the US but if challenged they would say "Oh, no, I clearly explained to them that I merely help them fill out forms, but provide no legal services", etc.

One answer to this would be to contact non-profit agencies and other organizations that work with such people, perhaps in cooperation with other legitimate colleagues so you are not only promoting yourself, and have them start lists of recommended translators.

Another might be some PR through interviews in Spanish language media with you and some other legitimate colleagues to point up this problem.

The word does get around. Somehow these tramps are getting the business, but it could be going to you. Of course you also have to recognize that it's not the most lucrative business you could be in if you're honest.


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 05:35
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Agree with Claudia May 27, 2005

Hi Sandra,

I have a professional relationship with you so I know that you are a stickler and that's good.

You want to do something about this, and that's good, too, for both the clientele who is unwittingly being swindled and the translation community, as Henry has so ably explained.

I would explain to the paying clients.

Nancy


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Momoka  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:35
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
Helping others May 27, 2005

I think it really laudable of you thinking of your (exploited) clients and being willing to do something for them (and those to come), but I don't think you should get personally involved or take any direct action against this person.
Since some of the things she is doing are illegal, try to find a group or office, association, etc. working for the rights of the people you're talking about. They might be able to do something to solve the problem using the law, which would yield long term results and help many more.
My two cents.


[Edited at 2005-05-27 04:20]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Maybe write to the MVA? May 27, 2005

Maybe you could encourage your MVA to complete any handouts by adding the information that the required translations must be done by a translator from the MVA list (which should be attached).

When you will try to convince the MVA to take any action at all, your above explanations may well be sufficiently convincing.


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Christopher RH
Local time: 11:35
French to English
An accountant, huh? A relatively deep-pocketed target... May 27, 2005

Not that I wish to encourage needless litigation, but "best of her ability" is obviously false if the most basic Word spell-check would scream at her translations.

I would offer the clients full backing for any action they deem fit. What with the general drive towards corporate responsibility etc., I imagine an accountant misusing her position of trust would not go down well if your clients were to sue.
But still, it is for your clients to decide, really. I'm all for weeding out useless translators, but I don't think it's my place - as translator - to do it.


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:35
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Here's what I think I am going to do May 27, 2005

Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

There is a social services agency in Maryland where many of my clients get my name from. They do briefings on "how to get a driver's license" and other things. It is a well-respected and well-known organization both in the "Anglo" and Latino communities. I am going to contact them, and warn them about this woman. Perhaps they can reiterate in their chats that the people getting licenses MUST use someone who is approved, and that this woman is NOT. And they can also point out that it is NOT necessary to have these documents notarized, and they should NOT pay extra to do so.

In the meanwhile, I will be reporting this woman to the office that issues the notary stamps for the state. They told me that they would put these violations in her file for when her renewal came up (early 2006). Maybe they'll take away her stamp now, or maybe they'll do so when renewal rolls around, but the point is, she doesn't know how to use her toy, so they should take it away.

I'm also considering calling her up today and asking if she is approved to do these translations for the MVA. If she says yes, then she is misrepresenting herself, and the State should know about that, too.



[Edited at 2005-05-27 12:03]


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:35
German to English
+ ...
Is it your place (as a translator) to be calling other translators? May 27, 2005

I can totally understand your frustration, but do you really think your calling this other translator - and telling her to use a spellchecker - is going to make her, your or anyone else's life better? Personally, I doubt it.

I would be pretty flabbergasted, if some other translator, who thought they could do it better called me up to tell me. To be honest, I wonder what you hope to accomplish in calling HER.

I would encourage those customers, who are dissatified, to take action. I think your call to the MVA is also a good idea. Calling the translator is probably not going to help much (IMHO).



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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:35
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Might have misunderstood May 27, 2005

"I would be pretty flabbergasted, if some other translator, who thought they could do it better called me up to tell me. To be honest, I wonder what you hope to accomplish in calling HER."

The thought was not to call her to tell her that she stinks or to tell her how to use a spellcheck. I was thinking of calling her just to find out if she is fraudulently representing herself as someone authorized by a state agency to perform these translations. If she is, then the state needs to know about it and they can take the appropriate action.


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 11:35
French to English
IMO, no point in contacting translator directly May 27, 2005

Derek Gill Franßen wrote:

I would encourage those customers, who are dissatified, to take action. I think your call to the MVA is also a good idea. Calling the translator is probably not going to help much (IMHO).



Sandra, try to focus on what *you* hope to gain from this situation. From your posts it sounds like you really want is for these poor customers to stop getting ripped off; that's it, and it is admirable on your part. Try not to let your feelings about the way this other person is doing business cloud your judgment of that. Spend your time and energy working *towards* your goal rather than *against* this shady business person.

I agree with previous posts that this is best accomplished by:

1. Contacting the MV division
2. Contacting the board of notaries
3. Supporting clients who wish to take the person in question to small claims or another court by providing them with documentation of what has been happening.

Calling the person in question will probably only add to your frustration and sense of outrage. That won't help anyone, least of all you!

Good luck getting this resolved.

Regards,

Sara


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:35
German to English
+ ...
I don't think I misunderstood you. May 27, 2005

Sandra Alboum wrote:

"I would be pretty flabbergasted, if some other translator, who thought they could do it better called me up to tell me. To be honest, I wonder what you hope to accomplish in calling HER."

The thought was not to call her to tell her that she stinks or to tell her how to use a spellcheck. I was thinking of calling her just to find out if she is fraudulently representing herself as someone authorized by a state agency to perform these translations. If she is, then the state needs to know about it and they can take the appropriate action.



Please don't get me wrong, but your plan of action in this regard seems to be the job of a DA (or another supervisory entity), not a translator. It seems to me that your already having informed the "office that issues the notary stamps for the state" and the MVA should be enough to have somebody look into the subject, who can actually do something about it.

I fear that your 'detective work' will be in vain. It is my experience that district attornies (and/or supervisory entities) are able to come up with enough evidence on their own - if they feel it is necessary. In fact, evidence provided by "unsuspecting vistims" will usually be of better quality, i.e. will better support the district attorney's decision to draw up an indictment, should criminally relevant behavior play a role in the matter.

I honestly think that you have already done enough - setting up some sort of sting operation may even establish liability on your part (though I have not looked into the legal aspects of it).

But - as always - my post only represents my personal opinion, and nothing more.

[Edited at 2005-05-27 13:51]


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Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 03:35
English
Consumer fraud? May 27, 2005

Contact the state's condumer fraud enforcers:

It is a condumer fraud issue ... she is charging for a product she is not legally entitled to sell (MVA translations).
She is also notarizing her own signature, which is another kind of fraud.


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