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Your thoughts on a translators' blacklist?
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:23
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Nov 20, 2007

G'day everyone

For the second time this week I'm editing a translation done by a translator who really should get blacklisted somewhere. I can't believe any professional translator would deliver such rubbish as a finished product to a client. It is blatantly dishonest, in my opinion, for such a person to give themselves out as experts in their field.

I'm in the fortunate position to work in a less common language pair that is likely to see most translators in it originating from a single country. This makes a blacklist much more of a practical possibility. But... there is no such blacklist, and probably for good reason (libel, slander, you name it).

Still, I'm so peeved that I'm considering initiating a blacklist of translators in my language pair and country, to protect the good name of our industry. What are your thoughts on such a list? I'm not talking about a blacklist on ProZ.com, but something separate.

Just fishing for some ideas here... call it a rant, if you will.

Thanks
Samuel


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
Happens a lot I'm sure Nov 20, 2007

A blacklist would probably not do much good because new frauds can keep appearing and the old ones can keep shifting identities. But in a language pair basically limited to one smaller country it will probably be easier for people to separate the sheep from the goats.

Just think of my language pair... it's an impossible situation to deal with.

It's best to continue upholding your own good reputation and try to prosper.


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Wolf Kux  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:23
Member (2006)
German to Portuguese
+ ...
No blacklists Nov 20, 2007

Dear Samuel Murray,

Think about this: what if on your blacklist someone gets appointed and later this appointment is proven to be a mistake, and this appointed guy put a judge to ask you why ?

If you do not have a exceptional good response, you have to pay, pay very, very much !

Another blacklist multiplied by -1, is this : references. If a guy is not a good translator, surely he/she does not give any good reference.

Or, for example the proz.com "WWA" data is an excelent reference.
Anyone who received a bad translation service does not work again with no bad translators. Of course a WWA appointment may be a fake, but this is another issue.

HTH


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Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:23
German to English
+ ...
Samuel, Nov 21, 2007

To stray a bit from your question: Did you tell the client and what did the client say??

Trudy


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I blacklisted myself... Nov 21, 2007

... in medical translation, for a client who just loves my metrics when I translate video for dubbing. He insisted that physicians would check my work thoroughly, but I had no clue on what I was watching, hearing, or doing! Btw, I had previously blacklisted myself in finance and biology.

Would this entitle me to blacklist some colleagues who trans-butchered material on human resources management, sales techniques, mechanical and electric maintenance, industrial safety, and so on? Subjects where I'd often dare to waive my right to use dictionaries, the Internet, etc. to translate...

These guys might be just great for translating surgical procedures, but I'd never be able to judge them.

It's all in the game. The translator should be able to draw the line where his/her ignorance begins. Clients should just ban trespassors of their own lines.


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:23
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Aren't lawyers already making enough money? Nov 21, 2007

The blacklisted translators would be able to sue for libel, and in many countries they would win even if you could *prove* that he or she is a terrible translator (the truth of a statement is a sufficient defense in label suit only in a few countries, AFAIK.)

I understand your frustration having to edit bad translations: for that reason I never accept editing jobs "sight unseen" if the translation was not done by a translator whose work I know well. I always reserve the right to refuse an editing job if it turns out to be a retranslation project in disguise.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:23
French to English
Maybe a "whitelist" is the way forward? Nov 21, 2007

Charlatans and cowboy operators are a problem in many, many trades, especially those suitable to freelance-style operations. Consider the problem of knowing whether the plumber, electrician, car mechanic, builder...... you may be thinking of using is up to the task.

I would venture to suggest that if blacklists were generally an appropriate and workable response to the issue, they would by now be an established practice (and I mean this comment to apply pretty much the world over). Notwithstanding, of course, the new opportunities created by the internet...

You have already seen responses giving reasons why this may not be the case - there are bound to be others. But legal issues are surely bound to be the main obstacle.

It seems that most trades' response to this has been to establish organisations that will broadly certify the quality of a given practitioner with the threat of sanctions if standards drop. This of course includes translators' associations. Altho I am not yet a member of my own local organisation, I would think that the way forward is more to promote use of people on such a "whitelist" rather than attempt to discourage via blacklist.
This can work - only a fool in the UK would book a holiday through a firm that is not a member of the ABTA, for instance. It just needs wider promotion and acceptance.


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Haiyang Ai  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:23
English to Chinese
+ ...
Whitelist Nov 21, 2007

Blacklist is an effective way to prevent less qualified translators from producing "rubbish" and leaving a bad impression to clients. But I agree with Charlie that maybe a whitelist is better way out. Blacklist basically bans people forever, while whitelist allows them to progress gradually. When they're qualified, they can enter into the whitelist.

Regards,
Haiyang


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lbone  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 15:23
English to Chinese
+ ...
sometimes bad translations are produced by agencies Nov 21, 2007

If an agency push a translator to work 3 times faster than his/her general speed, you know what will happen.

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S&L  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:23
English to Polish
+ ...
No need for a blacklist Nov 21, 2007

lbone wrote:

If an agency push a translator to work 3 times faster than his/her general speed, you know what will happen.


Or seem not to care about the quality of the translations - I have had some experience with that.

I don't think a blacklist is needed at all - in theory, if You suck, You don't get new orders, that's it. If, however, the agency doesn't really care about that or, for any other reason is willing to accept low quality translation, well... no blacklist is gonna help here I guess :/


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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:23
English to Spanish
I agree with Trudy completely Nov 21, 2007

Trudy Peters wrote:

To stray a bit from your question: Did you tell the client and what did the client say??

Trudy


It´s up to the translator to alert the client about the quality of the translation and it´s most definitely up to the client to decide what to do about it.

One´s judgement is not enough to "write someone off" the list of translators.

On the other hand, your judgement as a proofreader/translator can conflict with the client´s judgement. What if the agency realises that one of their best translators is being heavily criticised by one of their best proofreaders? Do you really want to make them choose between the two?

Maybe they want to keep that translator with them because he or she charges low fees and that´s what the agency wants.

In my humble opinion, Samuel, I would wonder why the agency keeps on working with that translator. Leave it for them to make the call.


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xxxNicoletta F
Local time: 09:23
English to Italian
I was thinking... Nov 21, 2007

I'm off-topic?
I'm wondering why a lot of translators who should (I suppose) translate in their own native language, are always posting very very basic questions for translation suggestions
here in Proz, and elsewhere...
I mean i.e. level "first year of Italian secondary school / English as a foreign language" questions...
I would never propose myself to translate into a language which is not my native one, the results would always be ridiculous...
Even people with bilingual parents achieve a good knowledge level in both languages through study, there's no other way, as far as I'm concerned...


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:23
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How to respond to bad translations Nov 21, 2007

Henry Hinds wrote:
A blacklist would probably not do much good because new frauds can keep appearing and the old ones can keep shifting identities.


Thanks, but I do not get the impression that we're dealing with frauds here... just very, very bad translators, possibly translators who may have had some university education even. One of translations I edited was done by a university lecturer who is a native spearker of the target language. Clearly he is not a fraud, but he is a particularly poor translator, and clients who can't speak the target languge wouldn't be able to tell that just by looking at his work. And when the brown stuff hits the fan, clients realise that perhaps translation isn't a good idea and after all, English is universally understood. Result? Our entire industry in disrepute... and bad news travels fast.

Just to give an idea... one of the source texts concerned insurance and assurance. His translation was about insurance and self-confidence. In both texts the two translators regarded diacticial marks (umlauts etc) as superfluous throughout the translation, and were particularly economical with consonants in several places, especially where they are usually doubled (and no, this is not a regional variation).

Wolf Kux wrote:
Another blacklist multiplied by -1, is this : references. If a guy is not a good translator, surely he/she does not give any good reference.


Only if the client gets wind of the fact that the translation is bad. My second text concerned a worldwide multilingual project with many variables that may affect the success of the venture, so there's no way the client would know that his failure was owing to the translation. The translator in this case would be judged on other qualities, such as a quick response time or having had a friendly voice over the phone.

I'm only glad that many clients realise that a second proofread is a good idea... but what if the second proofread is done by an equally sloppy translator? Surely we can't have the attitude that bad translators will be caught by the quality control process, and therefore it doesn't matter.

Besides, I have a feeling that many references are given before the brown stuff hits the fan. A client may have been impressed by various things about the translator, and will recommend him to others, long before it becomes apparent that the translation is a piece of brown stuff. By then, the damage is done, and the translator has been recommended not only by the client but by the client's associates and people they came into contact with over the next few days.

Trudy Peters wrote:
To stray a bit from your question: Did you tell the client and what did the client say??


The one client has learnt a valuable lesson about not trusting references and appearances, and his reprint will have a much better reception. The other client isn't overly concerned with quality translations in the initial stages... that is what the editor/proofreader is for, after all.

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:
I understand your frustration having to edit bad translations: for that reason I never accept editing jobs "sight unseen" if the translation was not done by a translator whose work I know well.


Not accepting jobs sight unseen is a myth, in my opinion... or do you read the entire text with a hawk's eye before you accept the job? Besides, the object of the exercise is not to avoid bad translations as an editor (that's what you get paid for, after all), but to help the industry avoid bad translations altogether.

Ibone wrote:
If an agency push a translator to work 3 times faster than his/her general speed, you know what will happen.


True, and that is when things like typos (not caught by the spell-checker) and perhaps certain direct translations happen. Even so, it should be possible to distinguish between a translator who was simply in a hurry, and a person whose translation technique resembled a first-generation machine translator.

Nicoletta F wrote:
I'm wondering why a lot of translators who should ... translate in their own native language... I would never propose myself to translate into a language which is not my native one, the results would always be ridiculous...


I have no problem with folks translating into their second language. Both the texts I edited were obviously translated by native speakers of the target language -- there are certain tell-tale things a non-native speaker wouldn't do, or things that young people of today might say which are unlikely to be said by non-native speakers.

Trying to ensure quality by using only native speakers is a very poor method of quality control, in my opinion. Many translators are sufficiently bilingual to translated in both directions... and their translations will be adequate if they are skilled translators. Translation is not just about knowing the target language well -- there is a whole skill-set to it.


[Edited at 2007-11-21 09:23]


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xxxNicoletta F
Local time: 09:23
English to Italian
I agree... Nov 21, 2007

"Many translators are sufficiently bilingual to translated in both directions... and their translations will be adequate if they are skilled translators. Translation is not just about knowing the target language well -- there is a whole skill-set to it."

I was talking about skills indeed...


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:23
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Blacklisting Nov 21, 2007

The client should always be alerted if the translator is dealing with a poor translation/proofreading job.

This happened to me recently and I told the client that the translation needed to be done again from scratch and the proofreading would serve no purpose as the translation was so awful. Fortunately, the client took note and said they would not use the translator again.

As for translators translating into their native language, I thoroughly agree. I have noticed on Proz that even the best of bilingual translators still make errors.

As far as I am aware, The ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting) here in the UK recommends only translating into the native language. I think there is a very good reason for this.

Liz Askew

[Edited at 2007-11-21 09:40]

[Edited at 2007-11-21 09:40]


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