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What would you do?
Thread poster: Peter Shortall

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
Member
French to English
+ ...
Jun 17, 2006

I couldn’t make up my mind as to which forum to post this in, so I'm sorry if there's a more appropriate one I missed... it's a kind of ethical question. I have searched for similar forum postings, but so far to no avail.

For some time now I've been translating news articles for a website on a weekly, though not daily, basis. The client is very reliable and I have always enjoyed working for them – no complaints from either side so far. Until this week I was one of only two translators working for them in the relevant language pair.

Although I’m not supposed to be working for them today, I logged onto the site for staff just to see what was going on and noticed that a new translator’s name had appeared on the list of translators in my pair. This person had already translated two short articles earlier today (the other regular translator had also posted a translation of one of them - obviously a mix-up there), and out of curiosity I read through the new translator's offerings (roughly 450 words apiece). In the first, I’m afraid to say, I found a litany of errors (in my opinion) ranging from some infelicitous phrasings, through a couple of iffy bits of grammar, to some serious errors of comprehension. Just to give you a flavour (and my apologies to those who don't read French - it's about a music festival):

Source: "…le saxophoniste *romain*, XXX..."

(XXX is a name which *screams* Italianness, which ought to have been a clue… and it only took me a moment to check online…)

Translation: "…the Romanian saxophonist, XXX..."

Source: "Depuis ses débuts en **** [year], le Festival ***** ne cesse de battre comme un coeur passionné au fin fond de [name of city]..."

Translation: "Since its debut in ****, the ***** Festival has never ceased to fight enthusiastically right in the heart of..."

"Maybe it was a blip," I conjectured as charitably as I could while downloading the second translation. Not so: this one was about a football match which, we are told in the first line of the article, took place in an African capital on *15th June*:

"Les supporters des deux equipes, qui ont pris d’assaut les tribunes du stade du 5 juillet dès la matinée..." (yes, that's the name of the venue)

Translation: "Supporters who, on 5 July, had crowded the stadium stands since morning..." (hello, it's not even July yet...)

I should point out that the translations will be read by an editor, albeit one who has no knowledge of the source language. Then, after being edited for content/style, the items will most likely be posted on the website (though this may not happen for a few days yet). So, what would you do?

a) Post a message on the shared space used by staff pointing this out for all and sundry to see - after all, these are major inaccuracies and all staff concerned should know (may win you credit for your alertness, but highly embarrassing for the translator, will probably seem arrogant and may spark off a catty exchange)

b) Contact the translator privately to discuss the matter – more discreet and tactful, but unlikely to prevent it from happening again (and the translator may not thank you for your input)

c) Send a private e-mail to the translation coordinator expressing your concerns politely - discreet and less confrontational, and you may earn brownie points for your dedication, but still could look as though you're stirring

d) Do nothing, or at least hold off until the finished pieces appear on the website (if they make it that far). After all, it's not your problem – and by getting involved you could earn a reputation as a troublemaker (or even get the chop if they take exception)

e) Something else (discuss - maybe this should have been a poll…)

I'll be interested to see if the errors are picked up in the edited versions (there is a French-speaking member of staff in another department of their office whom the editor could, theoretically, consult if he chose to), but I fear not all of them will be. At the moment I'm wavering between options c and d (or d followed by c). I want to proceed with caution as I don't want to lose the client, even though they’re not a major source of income; on the other hand it makes me cross to think that from now on some of the work may well be going to someone who, I feel, has made a less than spectacular first showing (and, in all likelihood, will continue in similar vein). So what would you do, and why?

[Edited at 2006-06-17 00:58]


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Vladimir Dubisskiy  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:47
Member (2001)
English to Russian
+ ...
i think Jun 17, 2006

i'd think about c) or just drop it [ then d) ] as it does not concern me (you) as i am only another translator.
It is not about 'browny points' but for instance, about your good translation showing together with this bad translation and the fact, say, does not make you happy...

[Edited at 2006-06-17 02:27]



[Edited at 2006-06-17 02:28]


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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
d) Jun 17, 2006

Think about it.

For all you know, the new translator could be the owner's relative/significant other.



--
Dyran


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
d) Jun 17, 2006

Dyran Altenburg wrote:
For all you know, the new translator could be the owner's relative/significant other.



Indeed

They already have someone in charge of editing the material, so you might be ruffling not only the translator's feathers but also the editor's. It would be different if the client contacted you to ask your opinion, and even in that case you would do well to be tactful.

Susana

[Edited at 2006-06-17 02:02]


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Susana Galilea  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
c) is also a possibility Jun 17, 2006

Depending on your relationship with the translation coordinator, you might at some point bring this issue to his attention in as tactful a manner as possible. I would, however, wait a prudent amount of time to make sure you are not acting out of your frustration in having been replaced by another vendor (regardless of his/her skills). This also gives the opportunity for your client to find out some other way that this translator is not competent, thereby solving your dilemma.

I would definitely stay away from a) and b).

Susana

[Edited at 2006-06-17 02:04]


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Sormane Fitzgerald Gomes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:47
Member (2004)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
IMHO Jun 17, 2006

"D"

They haven't asked for your opinion. Just as simple as that, IMHO.

Now if they do, then, yes...A, B, C...

Sormane F. Gomes

[Edited at 2006-06-17 03:47]


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Fan Gao
Australia
Local time: 18:47
Member (2006)
English to Chinese
+ ...
I'd say also "D"...and a suggestion for "E" Jun 17, 2006

Hi,
I agree with the others as they haven't asked for your opinion and it might appear as sour grapes on your part that you're just upset that you're not getting as much work from them as you used to.

Under option E.....you said that up to now there have just been 2 of you doing projects for them in your language pair. Have the 2 of you been in contact before, do you have a good working relationship? I thought maybe you could speak to, or send a message to him/her and see what he/she thought about it.

Maybe if you both feel the same then you could voice your opinions together and then you wouldn't solely take the heat if it backfired for any reason. Just an idea.

Good luck,
Mark


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:47
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Other considerations Jun 17, 2006

Hi Peter,

Peter Shortall wrote:

Until this week I was one of only two translators working for them in the relevant language pair.

Although I’m not supposed to be working for them today, I logged onto the site for staff just to see what was going on and noticed that a new translator’s name had appeared on the list of translators in my pair. This person had already translated two short articles earlier today (the other regular translator had also posted a translation of one of them - obviously a mix-up there), and out of curiosity I read through the new translator's offerings (roughly 450 words apiece). In the first, I’m afraid to say, I found a litany of errors (in my opinion) ranging from some infelicitous phrasings, through a couple of iffy bits of grammar, to some serious errors of comprehension.


To be honest, other things come to mind as well. I've worked as a team on jobs like this, and the translators involved have always been coordinated by someone on terminology.

A) Are you and translator B working in the dark without the chance to agree on usage? E.g. if finance is discussed do you write Euro or use the symbol? The more translators are involved, the harder it is to ensure consistency.
B) Has the workload increased so much that they needed to find a third translator? Maybe they've added new sections. Can you find out?
C) Why didn't they contact YOU in the first place? What do you mean by "I'm not supposed to be working for them today"? That you have specific days and the other translator has others? What about saying you can take on extra days (if you're able to do so)? Maybe they contacted translator C to take up the slack.
D) Are your names cited in the general credits or under each article you translate? If it's just a general list that gets published, I'd have a huge problem with that. It means your name is associated with someone else's bad translation. The "festival fighting enthusiastically in the heart..." is a real winner...

I think I'd go with option d and see what ends up being published on the site before doing anything. But I do agree that if you're friendly with the other translator, contacting him/her might not be a bad idea.

Keep us posted!!
Catherine


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Nadia-Anastasia Fahmi  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 10:47
English to Greek
+ ...
I have another suggestion... Jun 17, 2006

Wait until the translation is published on their website and then, if it has not been edited correctly, you can contact the person responsible and let them know what you think (documenting thoroughly all your objections).

I agree with Mark and Catherine on the following points:

"I agree with the others as they haven't asked for your opinion and it might appear as sour grapes on your part that you're just upset that you're not getting as much work from them as you used to."

and

"I think I'd go with option d and see what ends up being published on the site before doing anything. But I do agree that if you're friendly with the other translator, contacting him/her might not be a bad idea."

However, I must admit that ".....and out of curiosity I read through the new translator's offerings..." did not sit well with me. And that is another ethical question, as far as I am concerned.

Good luck!
Nadia


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Jonathan Faydi  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:47
Dutch to French
+ ...
C Jun 17, 2006

C would be the only option for me and I have already done it in a similar situation.
There is nothing wrong with being professional and caring for your customer. Of course you should be diplomatic...

D would be no option for me in this case as it could damage your customer's reputation.

Good luck,

Jonathan


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:47
English to French
+ ...
I hope the translator in question reads this forum Jun 17, 2006

It would obviously get the message to him/her, without having to directly talk to him/her. Also, the coordinator may read this, and once again, you wouldn't be involved as much, as you would be if you spoke to one of the people involved.

Bonus points because you came here to ponder the solutions without taking actions. I think that's pretty ethical.

I would either choose C or D, but I'd sleep on it first.

Good luck!


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
French to English
Another vote for D Jun 17, 2006

Altho' in a way it depends on what "not supposed to be working for them today" means. Are you, for instance, expected to log in even when not actually working, just on the off-chance there may be something there 'of interest', in the widest possible sense? In any event, unlike some who have responded here, I see nothing wrong with your curiosity in your client's activities in general. The point is, are you in a position to make that curiosity public before the translation is published?

But anyway, in general terms, I would agree that unsollicited opinions about work not in the public domain could be misinterpreted in terms of your motives, etc, irrespective of whether you voice those opinions to the client or to the translator. There is, as you say, a chance that the errors will be picked up by normal procedures. If not, then once published on the website, I would go with D. Personally, I would never contact the person directly (C) since anything might happen (e.g. they may complain to your mutual client, possibly twisting your words to put you in a bad light in the process). D is the safest and, IMHO, most professional, option.


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
Member
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone for your comments - and in reply to your questions... Jun 17, 2006

Chinese Concept wrote:

Under option E.....you said that up to now there have just been 2 of you doing projects for them in your language pair. Have the 2 of you been in contact before, do you have a good working relationship?


Well we have been in contact, though not very often; I'd like to think we're on friendly terms, but I wouldn't really call it a working relationship yet! We work entirely independently of each other.


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
Member
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Jun 17, 2006

cbolton wrote:


A) Are you and translator B working in the dark without the chance to agree on usage? E.g. if finance is discussed do you write Euro or use the symbol? The more translators are involved, the harder it is to ensure consistency.
B) Has the workload increased so much that they needed to find a third translator? Maybe they've added new sections. Can you find out?
C) Why didn't they contact YOU in the first place? What do you mean by "I'm not supposed to be working for them today"? That you have specific days and the other translator has others? What about saying you can take on extra days (if you're able to do so)? Maybe they contacted translator C to take up the slack.
D) Are your names cited in the general credits or under each article you translate? If it's just a general list that gets published, I'd have a huge problem with that. It means your name is associated with someone else's bad translation.


A) Yes, we are working in the dark, as it were - though since everything goes through the editor, any issues of consistency like that are settled by him (and I have observed his conventions and adapted to them).
B) Definitely not - in fact it has tailed off considerably lately, and there are no new sections. I could ask why they've found a third translator, I suppose, but I'm slightly afraid of what the client would make of my curiosity!
C) I cover weekends, and translator B does the rest of the week (9am-5pm). I often like to have a quick glance on a Friday evening because if there are any untranslated articles there (contributors can post them at any time), they'll be left for me to do the next day. I also like to see how much work there has been earlier in the week, since the volume does seem to vary a great deal. Since the other five days are already spoken for, asking to take on more wouldn't be an option in this case; and yet I still can't work out why someone new has been recruited.
D) No, so there's no danger of that, at least - and yes, the "festival fighting enthusiastically" does seem a rather chaotic image! I'll certainly keep you posted.


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Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:47
Member
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Jun 17, 2006

Jonathan Faydi wrote:

C would be the only option for me and I have already done it in a similar situation.


What was the outcome? (I take it things turned out well!)


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