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Off topic: Did I make a mistake with my first ever job?
Thread poster: Iris Shalev

Iris Shalev  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 06:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
Mar 22, 2007

Hi!

I just need to get something off my chest, really! I have just done my first ever paid translation job - a technical manual from a Chinese agency. And I think I managed to make problems already...

The manual was quite obviously translated from Chinese into (bad) English, and at the end there was a paragraph under the heading: 'English', which repeated the information given before (suddenly in very good English). I assumed that that was supposed to stay in English and left it untranslated...

Only to get an angry message from the agency saying that 'as the target language is Dutch, everything should be translated into Dutch!' I mailed back explaining why I thought it should be left in English, but they didn't understand at all. So I translated it, feeling stupid. Now, I have created a Dutch text, with a paragraph headed 'English', followed by Dutch text.

I felt unhappy with my text, but also upset because I managed to make my client angry doing my first ever paid translation job... Of course, it's only a manual and no one's going to linguistically analyse it... And the Chinese company pays abysmally so maybe I should be glad if they don't offer me work again! But still...

Did I make a typical beginner's mistake? Do you think that I was wrong or right?

Thanks for any reactions, sympathetic or constructively critical!

Iris.


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luciby  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:03
English to Italian
+ ...
Don't be sad Mar 22, 2007

Hi,

I think that what you did it was philologically correct - I would have done the same, but it happens so often the clients have no feeling for that. They are no expert in linguistics, but technicians, business men, whatever. Get prepared to such disappointments. My advice is: let them go.

Love
Luciby

Iris Shalev wrote:

Hi!

I just need to get something off my chest, really! I have just done my first ever paid translation job - a technical manual from a Chinese agency. And I think I managed to make problems already...

The manual was quite obviously translated from Chinese into (bad) English, and at the end there was a paragraph under the heading: 'English', which repeated the information given before (suddenly in very good English). I assumed that that was supposed to stay in English and left it untranslated...

Only to get an angry message from the agency saying that 'as the target language is Dutch, everything should be translated into Dutch!' I mailed back explaining why I thought it should be left in English, but they didn't understand at all. So I translated it, feeling stupid. Now, I have created a Dutch text, with a paragraph headed 'English', followed by Dutch text.

I felt unhappy with my text, but also upset because I managed to make my client angry doing my first ever paid translation job... Of course, it's only a manual and no one's going to linguistically analyse it... And the Chinese company pays abysmally so maybe I should be glad if they don't offer me work again! But still...

Did I make a typical beginner's mistake? Do you think that I was wrong or right?

Thanks for any reactions, sympathetic or constructively critical!

Iris.


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
Understandable, but you'd better ask Mar 22, 2007

Hi Iris,

don't blame yourself too hard.
You did what you thought was best and with good reason.

Just a suggestion for the next time: If you have doubts (however small) about what should be translated and what shouldn't, always ask the agency well before delivery. Most agencies prefer to answer (stupid) questions and make the decision for you. That way, they can never get angry with you about choices you have made.

And if they give a silly answer or make a decision you wouldn't have made, shrug your shoulders and do as they ask. They're the boss, aren't they?

I do agree with you, I too would have assumed the text under the heading 'English' would have to stay in English. But you need to always ask.

This has nothing to do with being experienced, it's just bad luck. Unless you didn't want to ask questions for fear of giving the impression you're not capable of doing this job - in that case, get over it. We all ask questions when we need to, we cannot know everything.

Sorry to hear you had this experience with your first job - hope you'll have better luck next time!

Best wishes,
Margreet


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Veronika Hansova  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 05:03
Member (2006)
English to Czech
+ ...
Not a big mistake - but take a lesson from it Mar 22, 2007

Dear Iris,

I donť think you made a big mistake. What I usually do is that I am uncertain as whether to translate a certain part or not, I immediately call/email the client and ask him. This way you can avoid such misunderstandings.
Also, I would let the client know how poor the source text English was and how big problems I had (highlighting some obvious mistakes in the text). This put you in a better light

To soothe you a bit, the agency should have informed you of the varieties in the source text (e.g. first part for translation, next part with the title "English" also for translation / left untranslated...). This looks like they did not even bother to look at the source text and they immediately forwarded it to you.
Also they could have been a bit more polite to you, too.

Don't feel stupid and pursue to claim money from them. You did your job as best as you could and they had not provided you with specific instructions regarding the text headed "English".

I keep my fingers crossed for you to get paid and find some better clients!:D

Veronika


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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Germany
Member (2002)
Swedish
+ ...
Client should be happy Mar 22, 2007

Hello Iris and welcome to business!

I have to say that your client's reaction is quite strange. They should be happy for your questions, as it shows that you care about your job and want to produce a good text, also that you don't switch yourself into a translating machine and then simply translate from the first to the last line automatically without asking questions.

If your client didn't understand the problem (so it appears to me), they haven't earnt better than to get a Dutch text with the header "English" (in Dutch, I guess). There's no need to waste too much energy with explaining these obvious facts to a client who simply won't understand, and who also gives us the impression of being disturbed when a translation needs some support in a job.

I don't think it's a typical beginner's mistake, Iris. Any translator should be able to ask questions to the client, without getting an angry reaction back. Any professional client would even be grateful for such questions.

I'll leave it to you to evaluate the degree of this client's professionality

Kind regards
Erik


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Vauwe
Local time: 05:03
English to German
+ ...
Try better communication with agencies Mar 22, 2007

Hi,
you wrote you ASSUMED that it was SUPPOSED to stay in English and left it untranslated... so you did not and translate and handed the job back without any remark?

Why not ask the agency first or during the job and let them decide whether it has to be translated or not or let them contact the end client for the final decision.
Normally agencies appreciate if you contact them in case of issues or when the instructions are not clear.
To fix a translation again after you have delivered it on deadline day is annoying for both sides.
Next time try to clear out any incomprehensible or missing instruction at the beginning of or during the job. If the agency does not have or give an answer you can at least say, I've asked you and have signaled the issue.

Edit: I see during my typing this text the others have answered in the same way




[Bearbeitet am 2007-03-22 08:14]

[Bearbeitet am 2007-03-22 08:14]


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:03
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I agree - but you could add a footnote Mar 22, 2007

Iris Shalev wrote:

Hi!

I just need to get something off my chest, really! I have just done my first ever paid translation job - a technical manual from a Chinese agency. And I think I managed to make problems already...

The manual was quite obviously translated from Chinese into (bad) English, and at the end there was a paragraph under the heading: 'English', which repeated the information given before (suddenly in very good English). I assumed that that was supposed to stay in English and left it untranslated...

Only to get an angry message from the agency saying that 'as the target language is Dutch, everything should be translated into Dutch!' I mailed back explaining why I thought it should be left in English, but they didn't understand at all. So I translated it, feeling stupid. Now, I have created a Dutch text, with a paragraph headed 'English', followed by Dutch text.

I felt unhappy with my text, but also upset because I managed to make my client angry doing my first ever paid translation job... Of course, it's only a manual and no one's going to linguistically analyse it... And the Chinese company pays abysmally so maybe I should be glad if they don't offer me work again! But still...

Did I make a typical beginner's mistake? Do you think that I was wrong or right?

Thanks for any reactions, sympathetic or constructively critical!

Iris.


Hullo Iris,
I agree with the opinion of the colleagues who have already answered. You didn't make a stupid mistake, but it would have been a good idea to ask the agency for instructions about the "English" section.
You can always add a "Translator's Note" in a footnote (easy to do in "Word"). If the client doesn't want to keep your footnote, he can always delete it.
With clients, it's always wise to be polite, admit any actual mistakes or omissions and offer to correct them - as others say, the client is the boss!
Best of luck and don't worry,
Jenny.


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Rebecca Lowery  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:03
French to English
strange agency! Mar 22, 2007

In my opinion anyway. I work as an agency and a freelancer so I can see this from both sides and I have to say I think the agency''s reaction is strange. There's no need to get so angry about a missing paragraph for a start - it only takes an e-mail or quick call to ask you to quickly translate any missing bits and believe me you're really not the first to miss bits out. Unless of course the agency didn't even look at your translation before sending it to the client in which case they're probably angry at their own mistake. It's true that if you are in any doubt, always go back to the agency and ask the question and you'll know this for next time. I'd put this down to bad experience and it's just a shame this is your first job. Please don't let this put you off. Not all agencies are like this!

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Iris Shalev  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 06:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Mar 22, 2007

Hi everyone, thanks for your replies!

I did ask them what to do with the last paragraph before I did anything with it, but it was nighttime in China and no one answered me until after the deadline... so I just delivered it the way I thought was right. They reacted angrily because they were in a hurry to deliver it to their client, I think.

I agree the client is the boss, so they should get what they want, even if I don't agree... (but it's annoying.) And yes, they are not very professional - I think they just want to deliver translations at top speed and cheap prices and are not too concerned about the quality.

But well, it's the first thing I do so I thought I shouldn't be too picky... I'm learning from this and at some point I will be able to find better jobs I hope.

They have already sent me the next manual to translate so obviously they didn't care too much!

Thanks everyone - good to speak about it with people who actually understand what I mean (my husband just looked at me blankly)

Iris.


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M. Anna Kańduła  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:03
English to Polish
Ask or comment Mar 22, 2007

Dear Iris,

don't take it too much to yourself. Mistakes can happen to everyone.

As other suggest - if you have doubts, even tiny, even seem to be silly - ask. If you cannot reach client before deadline - do as you decide, but explain them in your email what you did and if they are not satisfied - you'd correct it asap accordingly. Such "backup" They would know you did everything the best you can


Anni


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Francesco Amormino  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:03
German to Italian
+ ...
Who doesn't mistakes? Mar 22, 2007

Dear Iris,

I think most of us understand how you may feel in this very moment! But don't worry: this is simply part of the game.

My advice to you is to try to get back to the agency when you are not sure on what to do or if you think that things should be done in a particular way. Communication is a very important factor, especially between translator and client/agency.

Sometimes it happens that you have to do what the agency says since they are the ones who pay you, even if you do not agree with their way of thinking and acting.

Is some cases it can be useful to write down why you made particular translation related choices. This way you can show your client that you care and that you don't just write down words and sentences in another language.

The translation market is a very huge ocean with plenty of fishes of different colours and sizes. You just need to learn (like all of us) where to fish and what to fish. This is possibile only through personal experiences and by making "mistakes". If you make "mistakes" you start thinking about what you could do better next time. It's simply an exciting neverending "work in progress"!

Therefore, Iris, just go ahead and don't worry too much. If you want to be a good translator and you are willing to improve, then it will happen!

Please, also keep in mind that you can always ask proz.com community members whenever you are in doubt or you want to share your experience. We are here to help each other and to learn from each other.

Ciao and good luck,

Francesco



Iris Shalev wrote:

Hi!

I just need to get something off my chest, really! I have just done my first ever paid translation job - a technical manual from a Chinese agency. And I think I managed to make problems already...

The manual was quite obviously translated from Chinese into (bad) English, and at the end there was a paragraph under the heading: 'English', which repeated the information given before (suddenly in very good English). I assumed that that was supposed to stay in English and left it untranslated...

Only to get an angry message from the agency saying that 'as the target language is Dutch, everything should be translated into Dutch!' I mailed back explaining why I thought it should be left in English, but they didn't understand at all. So I translated it, feeling stupid. Now, I have created a Dutch text, with a paragraph headed 'English', followed by Dutch text.

I felt unhappy with my text, but also upset because I managed to make my client angry doing my first ever paid translation job... Of course, it's only a manual and no one's going to linguistically analyse it... And the Chinese company pays abysmally so maybe I should be glad if they don't offer me work again! But still...

Did I make a typical beginner's mistake? Do you think that I was wrong or right?

Thanks for any reactions, sympathetic or constructively critical!

Iris.


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Anjo Sterringa  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:03
Member (2003)
English to Dutch
+ ...
"English" becomes "Nederlands" Mar 22, 2007

Now, I have created a Dutch text, with a paragraph headed 'English', followed by Dutch text.


In most manuals, the language is indicated, so if you are translating an English manual into Dutch, the word "English" is usually translated as "Nederlands" - although sometimes it has to be "Dutch".

Anyway, the agency should have told you what to do with that word and that paragraph, but never leave anything in the original language, unless it's a menu which remains untranslated...

Which is why I always end up with a long list of queries!



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Claudia Digel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:03
English to German
+ ...
Leave the decision to the agency Mar 22, 2007

Hi Iris,

I agree with the others, in such a case the final decision is with the agency and no matter how stupid the decision may seem, you have to accept it.

In a case like this, when you cannot reach the agency before the deadline, it might be a good idea to just translate the text and mention upon delivery that you are not sure whether it needs translation at all. It's always much quicker to change a translated paragraph back to the original than having to translate it from scratch.

The way you describe the agency's reaction, I think this, once again, is a proof of the fact that agencies that pay poor rates do not behave professionally in other respects either.

Just my two cents.

Regards,
Claudia


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Iris Shalev  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 06:03
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
you're right Mar 22, 2007

Anjo Sterringa wrote:

In most manuals, the language is indicated, so if you are translating an English manual into Dutch, the word "English" is usually translated as "Nederlands" - although sometimes it has to be "Dutch".



I hadn't thought of that, but you're right, after a few emails I now found out that's exactly what they meant. They kept telling me: 'the source language is English, so the English should become Dutch' - and only after a few of these emails I realised they were speaking about the WORD 'English' which should become 'Nederlands'.

But still I think it looks strange, as the whole document is in Dutch and there is no reason to suddenly head the last paragraph 'Nederlands'.

Anyway it's all done now!

thanks for your reaction,
Iris.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:03
French to English
Clue in the word count??? Mar 22, 2007

I realise that if the document is quite large and it is only one paragraph, then the difference may not be obvious, but how many words are you being paid to translate? What was the word count on the PO?
If the agency have told you to translate X words, and you only deliver (X minus y) words, perhaps that is why they got a little upset. If you buy a bag that is supposed to have a dozen oranges, and when you get home, you find there are only 11, how do you feel?
OK, it's not the best comparison ever, but it is a similar idea

All that said, if I was confronted by text which, for some reason, I felt perhaps did not need to be translated, then yes, like everyone else has said, I would ask. Assume nothing


Iris Shalev wrote:
...... and only after a few of these emails I realised they were speaking about the WORD 'English' which should become 'Nederlands'.

But still I think it looks strange, as the whole document is in Dutch and there is no reason to suddenly head the last paragraph 'Nederlands'.


Presumably it looks just as odd as the document in English with a para headed 'English' at the end


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