What should I do if the original document is badly written?
Thread poster: languagelunatic

languagelunatic
Philippines
Jul 28, 2016

Hello. I'm currently working on a Spanish-English translation job. My client represents an organization and isn't actually the one who wrote the document. The problem is that the original Spanish document is filled with so grammatical errors that make it hard to understand. I suspect that the original author may not be a native Spanish speaker or at least can't speak it well, and that the original document itself was a translation from English, and the client wants me to translate the Spanish version to English for comparison. I would like to ask the client to clarify this but if I'm worried that if I'm wrong, it would look more like my Spanish just wasn't good enough and I would end up insulting the original author (although I'm pretty sure those were actual grammatical errors). Do you think I should take the risk and ask?

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:44
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Possible solution Jul 29, 2016

languagelunatic wrote:
I'm worried that if I'm wrong, it would look more like my Spanish just wasn't good enough

I know what you mean - been there myself! How about posting a couple of KudoZ questions? Native speakers will soon let you know where the error is.


 

languagelunatic
Philippines
TOPIC STARTER
I considered that but am afraid of violating client privacy Jul 29, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

languagelunatic wrote:
I'm worried that if I'm wrong, it would look more like my Spanish just wasn't good enough

I know what you mean - been there myself! How about posting a couple of KudoZ questions? Native speakers will soon let you know where the error is.


I considered that, but unfortunately, I signed a confidentiality agreement with this particular candidate. This particular document has so many grammatical errors that I'm afraid that even if I remove the original names, I'd still be revealing too much. Even if I hadn't signed the agreement, I still really respect and value client confidentiality and am still trying to figure out how I could post Kudos questions without revealing too much. The only thing I could do now is ask whether it's a good idea to ask the client if the original writer is a native speaker.


 

Tecton
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:44
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Positive suggestion Jul 29, 2016

If there are so many grammatical mistakes that you have to spend additional time trying to understand the meaning, I would indicate a few of the examples and tell the client that it makes a normal translation impossible. If you think it is still possible to decipher the meanng say that you will have to do it on a time charge.
How your client explains that to the original author is his problem-not yours. It is quite possible that somewhere down the line someone does not realise how poor the source document is.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:44
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Confidentiality is certainly a consideration Jul 29, 2016

languagelunatic wrote:
This particular document has so many grammatical errors that I'm afraid that even if I remove the original names, I'd still be revealing too much. Even if I hadn't signed the agreement, I still really respect and value client confidentiality and am still trying to figure out how I could post Kudos questions without revealing too much. The only thing I could do now is ask whether it's a good idea to ask the client if the original writer is a native speaker.

But I think you've gone a good way to bypassing the KudoZ step anyway. It sounds as though there are far too many problems with the writing for you to worry about taking any responsibility for not understanding the text. I think I would avoid any mention of native vs non-native speaker and simply say that trying to understand a poorly written source text takes time; time that you have not included in your quote. Tecton has described the solution for that: charge for your time. Whether or not the client will accept extra charges for the work at this point is another matter.


 

Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:44
English to Spanish
... Jul 29, 2016

languagelunatic wrote:

I'm worried that if I'm wrong, it would look more like my Spanish just wasn't good enough


What would you say your Spanish proficiency level is? Beginner, intermediate or advanced? It could be that the Spanish document is actually OK. Are you a Spanish>English translator? Is this a direction you frequently work in?


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:14
English to Hindi
+ ...
Three versions of Spanish Jul 30, 2016

Are you using the right Spanish version? As far I know there are three distinct versions of the language - European (mainly Spain), Latin American, and the US version. The Latin American version has several sub-dialects in the Argentinian, Chilean and other country-specific versions.

If you are familiar with only one of these and the document is in another dialect of the language, you could easily jump into the wrong conclusion that the source is badly written, whereas the truth would be that it is in a version of the source language you don't follow.

If that is not the case, and the source is really badly written, the obvious thing to do is to immediately notify the client. Ask for a renegotiation of deadline, rates, etc. Check whether he could have it properly edited and resent for translation. If he can't, make it clear to him that the translation cannot be expected to be as good as it could have been, had the source been properly written, and you won't be responsible for the accuracy of the translation - as yours would be at best an intelligent interpretion of a vague source.

And, if you can afford it, just refuse the job, as it won't be worth your while to pursue it.

[Edited at 2016-07-30 02:18 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:44
Russian to English
+ ...
What do you mean by a document? Jul 30, 2016

Legal document like a contract which has to be very precise, or a Word document, even such as a short story. Well,if it is fiction, it may contain nonstandard constructions which some less aware people may take for errors. A legal document has to be very precise but then legalese is different— has different grammatical rules. I think you should talk to the customer, and let them know about your concerns.

 

languagelunatic
Philippines
TOPIC STARTER
It's a legal document and is in European Spanish Jul 30, 2016

It's European. Well, it definitely seems to suffer from a lot of grammatical errors (intransitive verbs using objects, etc.). I'm actually about to email my client about possibly extending the deadline and having it re-written and edited by the original writer (if possible). Hopefully that goes well. Thanks for the advice guys.

[Edited at 2016-07-30 09:04 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:44
Russian to English
+ ...
You should definitely contact them Jul 30, 2016

Good luck.

 


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