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New trend? Send out machine translations not to be post edited, but to be translated as is?
Thread poster: Channa Montijn

Channa Montijn  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:38
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Oct 28

Dear fellow translators
I have been translating for more than 16 years and lately I have been receiving jobs from an agency I like to work for with source texts that are really unbelievably bad… I have a strong impression that a (new?) trend is setting in… The original source in Chinese has been translated via machine translation into English, English text without post editing are sent translators to be translated (in my case into Dutch). I mentioned this repeatedly to the project mana
... See more
Dear fellow translators
I have been translating for more than 16 years and lately I have been receiving jobs from an agency I like to work for with source texts that are really unbelievably bad… I have a strong impression that a (new?) trend is setting in… The original source in Chinese has been translated via machine translation into English, English text without post editing are sent translators to be translated (in my case into Dutch). I mentioned this repeatedly to the project manager, but she says nothing can be done about this because the original client will not pay for post editing/checking by a native speaker. I pointed out that a bad source cannot be turned around into a translation of high quality, however she wants me to finish the job. Me, on the other hand, am fed up with this kind of bs… Not to mention, it is a lot more work than the word count suggests, sleepless nights and a very bad mood. What do you think? Send it back and count my losses and move on to a next project? Continue with this text and send lots of queries (enough to point out again what is wrong with the source, but that being said… I could send the whole text back in that case)? Or try to make the best of it and send the translation as is based on the source and nothing but the source.

I carefully considered all your input and decided this morning to send this email to the PM: "I am really sorry to let you know I can not finish this translation this way... the source is too bad.
I have a distinct feeling that a large part of this text has been machine translated and not post edited by a native English.
I mentioned this several times and I am always willing to put an extra effort in, but this is not doable (as countless examples before... here is another one: Become stuffy continued operation could cause the interior air to and induce drowsiness, and the windows may mist over.)

I can send you what I have rewritten/interpreted/translated so far without QAD (which is nonsense in this case).
However, I need an adjusted PO as well and not only for words translated, but also for the extra time spent on this.

Please note that I have tried to make to best of it, and also that this has caused me a lot of money since I was not able to take on other jobs (I informed other clients I was not available until November 13)."

Just wait and see what happens (this is really a first for me!)



[Edited at 2019-10-29 08:27 GMT]
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Anthony Keily
Local time: 17:38
Member
Italian to English
+ ...
Similar experience, although with reviewing Oct 28

I've had a similar experience that had to do with reviewing, again from a trusted TSP.

What struck me was that the PM in the case didn't point out that the text was not "English" in any acceptable sense or that it had been machine translated. They just requested reviewing.

When I asked for a source text to do (bilingual) revision instead of reviewing they told me that texts from this client were sent directly in this form from China, so I imagine some of them were als
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I've had a similar experience that had to do with reviewing, again from a trusted TSP.

What struck me was that the PM in the case didn't point out that the text was not "English" in any acceptable sense or that it had been machine translated. They just requested reviewing.

When I asked for a source text to do (bilingual) revision instead of reviewing they told me that texts from this client were sent directly in this form from China, so I imagine some of them were also being sent for translation to other languages. I also imagine the client wanted to save on a preliminary Chinese-English human translation and was trusting that reviewers and/or translators would do the necessary "brushing up".

I turned the job down.


[Edited at 2019-10-28 11:48 GMT]
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DenPS
rafiqul hasan
Sheila Wilson
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
 

Baran Keki  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:38
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
Just out of curiosity Oct 28

Channa Montijn wrote:

Dear fellow translators
I have been translating for more than 16 years and lately I have been receiving jobs from an agency I like to work for with source texts that are really unbelievably bad… I have a strong impression that a (new?) trend is setting in… The original source in Chinese has been translated via machine translation into English, English text without post editing are sent translators to be translated (in my case into Dutch). I mentioned this repeatedly to the project manager, but she says nothing can be done about this because the original client will not pay for post editing/checking by a native speaker. I pointed out that a bad source cannot be turned around into a translation of high quality, however she wants me to finish the job. Me, on the other hand, am fed up with this kind of bs… Not to mention, it is a lot more work than the word count suggests, sleepless nights and a very bad mood. What do you think? Send it back and count my losses and move on to a next project? Continue with this text and send lots of queries (enough to point out again what is wrong with the source, but that being said… I could send the whole text back in that case)? Or try to make the best of it and send the translation as is based on the source and nothing but the source


I wonder if your translations are sent to a proofreader afterwards? And to answer to your question, I wouldn't accept work from that agency unless I was desperate.


DenPS
Sabrina Bruna
Capesha
 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:38
Member
Italian to English
GIGO, silk purses and pigs' ears Oct 28

I'm at a point in my career where I no longer suffer fools gladly. Poor BB record? You can be sure I will ask you about it. Ridiculous payment times? Won't put up with them. Silly NDA clauses? Nope. It's amazing how payment times of 120 can shrink to 30 when we refuse to accept the former. What I'd probably do in this case is point out the sheer laughability of wanting to get a silk purse out of a pig's ear at unreasonable rates, taking the juiciest three or four lines and translating them by wa... See more
I'm at a point in my career where I no longer suffer fools gladly. Poor BB record? You can be sure I will ask you about it. Ridiculous payment times? Won't put up with them. Silly NDA clauses? Nope. It's amazing how payment times of 120 can shrink to 30 when we refuse to accept the former. What I'd probably do in this case is point out the sheer laughability of wanting to get a silk purse out of a pig's ear at unreasonable rates, taking the juiciest three or four lines and translating them by way of example, to make the agency understand what it's asking you to do.

Some people prescribe to the GIGO (garbage in garbage out) mentality. I don't. But that's just me.
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Dan Lucas
Kevin Fulton
Sandra& Kenneth
Tradupro17
Bernhard Sulzer
Michele Fauble
Philip Lees
 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:38
Member (2004)
English to Italian
No way... Oct 28

say no to GIGO... I wouldn't touch stuff like that...

Sheila Wilson
Kevin Fulton
Cristina Bufi Poecksteiner, M.A.
Bernhard Sulzer
MollyRose
Philip Lees
Axel Dittmer
 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:38
Member
French to English
+ ...
Pass the buck back! Oct 28

Channa Montijn wrote:

I mentioned this repeatedly to the project manager, but she says nothing can be done about this because the original client will not pay for post editing/checking by a native speaker. I pointed out that a bad source cannot be turned around into a translation of high quality, however she wants me to finish the job.


The PM's expectations are unreasonable. The fact that she doesn't care about the great difficulty involved suggests that this is an outsourcer to avoid.

As for the current job you are working on, I like your "send queries" option because (a) it shows you care about the end result, and (b) it should encourage the PM to do something about the situation instead of passing the buck to you. Pass it right back! And then maybe she'll start caring when the situation creates extra work for her.

And if she won't deal with your queries, then you will have a good defence if someone complains about the final translation ("I did try to tell you..."), so at least you'll be able to say you did everything possible but no one helped you.


MollyRose
Dorothea Grunwald
Laura Kingdon
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 16:38
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
@Channa Oct 28

So far this "new trend" has gone unnoticed but I think I’d have two different answers depending on who the client is: to a first-time client I’ll say no immediately, to a repeat customer I’ll follow Fiona’s suggestion: "taking the juiciest three or four lines and translating them by way of example, to make the agency understand what it's asking you to do".

MollyRose
Alena Hrybouskaya
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:38
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
These texts can be impossible to work with Oct 28

Channa Montijn wrote:
What do you think? Send it back and count my losses and move on to a next project? Continue with this text and send lots of queries (enough to point out again what is wrong with the source, but that being said… I could send the whole text back in that case)? Or try to make the best of it and send the translation as is based on the source and nothing but the source

Like Anthony, I've been expected to "tidy" monolingual English texts of this sort, and from Chinese they're often totally unintelligible. I often tell the client that I'm an editor, not a mind-reader (in the case of a writer whose English is really poor) or a magician.

I'm not sure what I'd do in your circumstances as it depends on a lot of things, but your idea of sending queries sounds like a good one. I think I might send a whole batch of them - dozens - and say I can't/won't make any more progress until I get answers. Put the onus on them to provide solutions. Your contract (even if it was just a series of emails) will have referred to a translation from English. If the source text is not in more or less correct English, they haven't fulfilled their side of the contract.


Cristina Bufi Poecksteiner, M.A.
MollyRose
Philip Lees
Jocelin Meunier
Alena Hrybouskaya
 

Channa Montijn  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:38
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the input! Oct 28

Thanks for the input! I am not sure what to do: I agree with you all… GIGO (never heard of that one, will keep this is mind ) , however I am not in a position to send a job back and I have never done so. I’ve been working for his agency a long time and this is only the second time, they have sent me this crappy source

 

Sandra& Kenneth  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 18:38
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Make them worth your time... if you want to do them at all... Oct 28

Channa Montijn wrote:

Me, on the other hand, am fed up with this kind of bs… Not to mention, it is a lot more work than the word count suggests, sleepless nights and a very bad mood. What do you think?


If you want to translate these texts at all, at least make them worthwhile.

Charge the agency whatever you think will make it worth your time and set an appropriate deadline. Your sleep and enjoyment of work are important.
Explain it to the PM the reason for the price increase. The fact that the Chinese customer cannot pay for a translator into English or a post-machine reviewer, is not your problem. If he accepts the new rate, at least you'll make a lot more money. Otherwise, you will have time to look for other customers or do what makes your happy until the next job.

If you don't want to see these jobs at all, charge even more AND give a veeery long deadline.

I wouldn't bother with questions or examples. This will convince noone - certainly not the Chinese customer - and would probably be a waste of your time. The PM can read the files herself and the Chinese customer doesn't know any English.

PS
You are an independent contractor - you don't have to charge the same rate for whatever the agency sends you. This does not mean sending back the translation, but rather pricing it according to the effort involved in doing the "Garbage In Gold Out" work you are asked to do.


HTH,
Sandra





[Edited at 2019-10-28 16:26 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Can you skip sentences that don't make sense? Oct 28

Channa Montijn wrote:
I pointed out that a bad source cannot be turned around into a translation of high quality, however she wants me to finish the job.


Well, the problem is that if a sentence is ambiguous or unclear or doesn't make sense, then the translator has to guess the most likely meaning, or choose from a number of possible meanings. This is a risk for the translator because another translator or reviser might guess differently.

One solution for this type of work is to translate only sentences that are wholly unambiguous (even if you can't be certain that the English text reflects what the original wanted to say), and to leave all other sentences untranslated (and optionally highlight those sentences so that the client can see that these are sentences that they should query with the original client or for which they should inform the client that the sentence is untranslatable). This does mean that you would have to charge your proofreading rate for untranslated sentences, because it takes time to figure out that a sentence doesn't make sense.

I understand that this may not be an option for you if you tend to translate off the cuff (i.e. without first reading the sentence to figure out what it means).


 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:38
Member
Italian to English
Lines in the sand Oct 28

Each of us draws our own line in the sand. I decided a while ago that I wasn't going to stand for any nonsense from agencies, and it's an approach that has worked for me. Decide what you are willing accept and stick to it; negotiate what you're not happy with, you'd be surprised how often things that are seemingly set in stone can be changed, like payment times shrinking from 120 to 30 days, or discounts for fuzzy matches.

You say you are "not in a position to send a job back", yet
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Each of us draws our own line in the sand. I decided a while ago that I wasn't going to stand for any nonsense from agencies, and it's an approach that has worked for me. Decide what you are willing accept and stick to it; negotiate what you're not happy with, you'd be surprised how often things that are seemingly set in stone can be changed, like payment times shrinking from 120 to 30 days, or discounts for fuzzy matches.

You say you are "not in a position to send a job back", yet with the increased word counts, sleepless nights and bad moods, can you afford not to send certain jobs back?
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Channa Montijn
Dan Lucas
Desiree Davidse
Philip Lees
Sheila Wilson
Kuochoe Nikoi-Kotei
 

Channa Montijn  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:38
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Oct 28

Fiona Grace Peterson wrote:

Each of us draws our own line in the sand. I decided a while ago that I wasn't going to stand for any nonsense from agencies, and it's an approach that has worked for me. Decide what you are willing accept and stick to it; negotiate what you're not happy with, you'd be surprised how often things that are seemingly set in stone can be changed, like payment times shrinking from 120 to 30 days, or discounts for fuzzy matches.

You say you are "not in a position to send a job back", yet with the increased word counts, sleepless nights and bad moods, can you afford not to send certain jobs back?





I know what you mean, and thanks for your input!


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:38
Member (2008)
French to English
+ ...
[unintelligible] Oct 28

Sometimes I am given handwritten texts to translate that are impossible to read, and just return it with the text marked "[illegible]". Why not just return the text marked "[unintelligible]" where that is the case. Then you have done your job and it's over to the agency to take it further.

MollyRose
 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:38
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
No go Oct 28

Channa Montijn wrote:

Thanks for the input! I am not sure what to do: I agree with you all… GIGO (never heard of that one, will keep this is mind ) , however I am not in a position to send a job back and I have never done so. I’ve been working for his agency a long time and this is only the second time, they have sent me this crappy source


What to do? This:

Ask for a source text that makes sense. But I guess you already did that?!
If they can't/won't provide that, stop right now, refuse to continue and count your losses. Otherwise, you're really just asking for more trouble. You can word your refusal very nicely if you feel like it.
That's the only way they will learn for the future as well.


If you continue, the best that you would be supplying is some good stuff (if that's at all possible) and a lot of %$3@3r. And the %$3@3r is what they will criticize you for and don't expect them to go quietly/gentle into the night.

B

[Edited at 2019-10-28 21:52 GMT]


 
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