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Ethical dilemma
Thread poster: Marie-Hélène Hayles

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:22
Italian to English
+ ...
Jul 14, 2005

For reasons which are irrelevant, I've recently started proof-reading documents translated from French to English - and French is not my specialist language. The agency is well aware of this and in fact uses me only when their other contacts are not free.
However, what's causing me some concern is that the translations I'm proof-reading are, quite frankly, terrible. The translator's grasp of French seems to be even shakier than mine (either that or his/her knowledge of English isn't up to scratch - although sometimes both of these seem to be the case!) - in short, as well as various grammatical problems, there are some absolutely glaring mis-translations. This means that my proof-reading times are considerably higher than they should be, increasing the cost to the agency (fortunately for me, I'm charging by the hour).

So my dilemma is this: should I specifically inform the agency that their translator is producing extremely poor quality work or not? I've already hinted it in various comments on phrases I've changed, and the sheer number of revisions also ought to provide a clue. Do I need to go any further than that? I was thinking of suggesting they put a call for translators out here on Proz.

I also have some misgivings about accepting the work in the first place, although as I said the agency is well aware that I don't generally work in French. I'd be interested in your opinions and advice!


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xxxIanW
Local time: 04:22
German to English
+ ...
Yes, tell them Jul 14, 2005



So my dilemma is this: should I specifically inform the agency that their translator is producing extremely poor quality work or not? I've already hinted it in various comments on phrases I've changed, and the sheer number of revisions also ought to provide a clue. Do I need to go any further than that?


In your shoes, I would definitely tell them that the translation is lousy - I would consider it irresponsible not to. And I wouldn't take any more proof-reading work on in a language that you don't feel at home in (in my case Italian )

All the best


Ian


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:22
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'm not so worried about the language aspect... Jul 14, 2005

... as the agency director (native French speaker) speaks excellent English, so between us we can work out the meaning of any phrases I'm not sure of and how to put them in English. Although I think I'll take your advice, obviously the fact that I posted the topic already indicates I'm uncomfortable about taking the money

[Edited at 2005-07-14 16:50]


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Amy Taylor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:22
Member (2002)
Italian to English
I agree Jul 14, 2005

In your shoes I would politely but firmly inform the agency. They might well save money by having the texts translated over again, and I expect that they will appreciate your honesty, especially if it saves them time and money.
Amy


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:22
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
OK, I've written the e-mail Jul 14, 2005

but I haven't sent it yet - I've saved it to think about in the morning. I've listed the various kinds of errors (spelling and typos, inconsistent terminology, incorrect terminology, grammar, punctuation, mis-translation.... it's got the works!) and given an example of each one.

I've also said I feel uncomfortable about proof-reading French-English texts and suggested she check out Proz and another translators' agency for both translators and proofreaders.

That ought to do the trick...


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:22
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My husband thinks I shouldn't mention the quality of the translation Jul 14, 2005

He thinks that the agency will be able to see from my revisions that the quality is poor, and that they may take it as a criticism of their judgement if I point it out in words of one syllable. He thinks I should limit myself to saying that they should try and find proofreaders and completely leave out any mention of the errors in the translation...

I'm not so sure now what to do, I'd really welcome more opinions.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:22
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
careful wording Jul 14, 2005

Marie-Helene Hayles wrote:

He thinks that the agency will be able to see from my revisions that the quality is poor, and that they may take it as a criticism of their judgement if I point it out in words of one syllable. He thinks I should limit myself to saying that they should try and find proofreaders and completely leave out any mention of the errors in the translation...

I'm not so sure now what to do, I'd really welcome more opinions.


I agree with what others have said, that you should point out to the agency that "as you can see from the number of revisions I have made, there are many errors, including type a, b, and c." Then you can go on to say that if it was just a matter of correcting spelling, punctuation, flow, etc., you wouldn't mind doing that, but that you do not feel comfortable correcting mistranslations because you are not fluent in French. I would not make any suggestions about finding another translator and/or proofreader. Just point out the facts and leave it up to them to decide what to do about it. If they decide to continue on as before and you don't feel comfortable with that, then you can decline and ask them to find another proofreader. How they will interpret what you say is always anyone's guess but you must do what you need to do.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Just do your job Jul 14, 2005

Marie-Helene Hayles wrote:
...I've recently started proof-reading documents translated from French to English...
My husband thinks I shouldn't mention the quality of the translation...

It is your task as a proofreader to provide your client with a comprising description of the quality and quantity of errors.

The last time I complained about a TM of very poor quality, the agency replied that this was a known problem, but the end client did not want to invest more money for a better quality. Then they offered me better conditions to compensate for my additional work.


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 04:22
Swedish to English
+ ...
Tell them Jul 14, 2005

I would still tell them. Do you know that the agency is actually going to thoroughly go through the text that you send them and note all your revisions?

Put yourself in the agency's place - wouldn't you rather have a proofreader that was clear in their opinion about the text's quality (remember you're paying someone to produce the original) or one that worried about what you might think of them and so neglected to inform you that you were wasting your money?

I realise that there might be a cultural issue here with how you actually inform them of the problem, but from what you've written earlier you seem to have a good relationship with the agency anyway. You may not need to put in all the examples of the mistakes in your e-mail - a short e-mail with what you think should do, and then they can come back to you for further clarification.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:22
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You're all right Jul 14, 2005

and I think I'll follw Clare's advice of just mentioning briefly that the job is sub-standard, offering to provide specific examples if wanted.

Thanks to you all.

Marie-Helene


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:22
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Proof a translation and collect all your modifications Jul 14, 2005

I've already hinted it in various comments on phrases I've changed, and the sheer number of revisions also ought to provide a clue.

Do they realise how many things you changed? Almost certainly not! They hire you for the proofing, and I don't think they'll then go and check what you changed.
I often create an Excel sheet with the segment/location, source, the original translation and my 'correction'. Another column for comments (wrong term, mistranslation, spelling, own preference etc.). Time consuming (although once you get used to it...) yes, but very useful. It is fairer than saying: there were many mistakes, even if you tell them what kind of mistakes. This way they can draw their own conclusions. FWIW, Anjo


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Larissa Dinsley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:22
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
I think your husband is right Jul 15, 2005

The agency would be able to see for themselves how many corrections you have made. Once, I proofread a text and made quite a few corrections. The agency contacted me immediately and asked for comments which I was happy to give - but it was them who asked me to comment.

Otherwises, I would not specifically comment on the quality of translation - your comments are in your work. The agency may have whatever reasons for using that particular translator and I would not want to interfere.

Cheers,


Larissa


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Momoka  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:22
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
The first thing is you Jul 15, 2005

I do agree that as long as you are working with them you should mention all the problems about bad translations, do you job, etc., but this comes second after you; not feeling comfortable with what you are doing is not good, and will always and somehow affect all the people who is involved. I think you should take some time to think about this first and after that consider the "other" things.
Best regards.


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Burkhard Ziegler  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:22
Russian to German
+ ...
Higher costs for rendering services expectable after PO placed - inform customer Jul 16, 2005

Hello, Marie-Helene,

I think you did absolutely right by informing the client (agency) that the quality is poor.

I couldn't read all statements of the apreciated colleagues, but let me underline the commercial point of view:

The agency expects you to make proof reading.

Certainly the agency will calculate that for the volume of y word/phrases you will need and charge x hours * (lets say) 30.00 EUR/h. (Even if this is no assigned in the purchase order.)

As the quality is poor you need more time, your invoice would increase to x hours * n ("bad quality coefficient") * 30.00 EUR/h.

From the ethical point of view on commercial behaviour the contractor should inform the customer if there raise higher costs than normally expectable and get his OK.

If you would go on proof reading and charging a higher volume than normally expectable, it may cause controversies on payment or leave a bad impression about commercial habits.

HDH
Burkhard


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John Jory  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:22
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Payment by the hour Jul 17, 2005

Fortunate for you. Most agencies pay about 0,02 EUR per word for proofreading. I recently had a proofreading job that took me hours (the hourly rate worked out at slightly over 10 EUR).

I fully agree with my colleagues that you should inform the agency quite openly, and simply state the facts as you see them. There is no point trying to be considerate.

In my case, I sent a detailed list of the corrections, which the agency appreciated very much. I also asked them to send the list to the translator as feedback, as it was pretty technical stuff and might be useful to him/her.

Greetings, John


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