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Spanish to English terminology dispute with client
Thread poster: Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 28, 2012

Hello all,

I hope I am posting this in the correct place. Forgive me if I have made a mistake.

I just recieved some comments from a client about the Spanish to English translation I did of their web site.
They are insisting on using a term I can not verify. It is a wholesale distribution company and the word they used in Spanish was "representante" but the context they gave me was more along the lines of client or customer. Now they are insisting that the correct term in English is Principal. I have looked on several wholesale web pages in the US and the UK and have not been able to find this term. Has anyone ever come accross it before? I am trying to convince them to use a more user-friendly term because it is web site content. Does anyone have any advice? Thank you!


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Terminology Nov 28, 2012

Principal and Agent are common terms for legal contracts, especially those involving sales agents.

Without seeing your contract, it is hard to be sure, but I think they have mixed up representante and representada:

http://www.proz.com/kudoz/spanish_to_english/law_patents/84195-representada.html

http://www.proz.com/kudoz/spanish_to_english/law:_contracts/1061689-la_representada_y_la_representante.html

http://www.proz.com/kudoz/spanish_to_english/law:_contracts/4866089-se_acredite_la_existencia_legal_de_su_representada.html

http://www.investorwords.com/3840/principal_agent_relationship.html




[Edited at 2012-11-28 21:07 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My two cents Nov 28, 2012

(I have to say that I only work in the opposite direction, English into Spanish.)

I am mentioning this without seeing the context, so I might be wrong. To me, the meaning they could be trying to convey is that of a person/company who buys goods from the wholesale company, and who in this sense of being appointed for a certain region or country is indeed a "representante". To me, in English it would not make sense to say "principal" in this context, but instead an "agent", or perhaps a "dealer" or "distributor".

If you are in a position to give us a similarly worded example without compromising the customer's privacy, it would be interesting to discuss this in more detail.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Indeed Nov 28, 2012

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
Without seeing your contract, it is hard to be sure, but I think they have mixed up representante and representada:

Most probably...


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:00
Chinese to English
It's their funeral... Nov 29, 2012

It's great to see a translator caring enough to make the argument. I think it's something we should all do. But you only have to make the argument once. If they don't accept your argument, that's their choice, and then you should be explicit and direct:
"I believe that using this term will make the text difficult for readers to understand. I do not approve the use of this term, and I will not deliver a text that uses this term. Of course, if you wish to adapt the text, that is your right."

I can't stand it when clients try to persuade me that their English is better than mine. You're the client, I'm the service-provider; I'll do what you want. But if you ask me for English, I'm going to give you English, not something that you've made up.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jargon Nov 29, 2012

"Representante" is a representative of any description. If they want you to use "Principal", then it's specialist jargon often meaning something like "main client/agent/distributor"... etc.

However, one thing is the way they want you to use it and the other is whether the way we would "normally" translate it is "wrong" or not. I find it's best not to go head to head with clients over their foibles and simply try to get them to see that they need to specify if they want jargonised terms rather than staightforward language.


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Customers can know better sometimes Nov 29, 2012

And Phil, I find your approach scary. As a customer, I see those cases where translator's word choice is wrong because the translator does not have the experience in the specific real life environment, pretty often.

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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sometimes they do but sometimes they only think they do Nov 29, 2012

Kamchatkabooks wrote:

And Phil, I find your approach scary. As a customer, I see those cases where translator's word choice is wrong because the translator does not have the experience in the specific real life environment, pretty often.


I don't see anything scary in Phil's approach, he says you should present your argument and if the client rejects it that is their choice and there is no need for you to insist. I think this is a good approach, after all repeating yourself is not going to convince the client to change their mind.

Sometimes the client might know best if you are talking about specialized language or if the translator did not really have experience in the field (in which case they shouldn't have accepted the job) but sometimes the client doesn't really know what they are talking about.

For what it's worth I would say this is one of those cases, representante could be translated as representative, agent, dealer, etc., depending on context, client choice, industry terminology, etc., but I have never seen it translated as Principal, the reason being that in all legal uses (at least all the ones I am aware of) the Principal is the person that has a representative, agent, dealer, etc, in Spanish they would be the "representado" so I would explain this to the client and hope they listened, but if they don't then that is up to them.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:00
Hebrew to English
Not scary, professional... Nov 29, 2012

Kamchatkabooks wrote:
As a customer, I see those cases where translator's word choice is wrong because the translator does not have the experience in the specific real life environment, pretty often.


Then perhaps you're using the wrong translators?


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There are no perfect translators. Nov 29, 2012

I however will prefer the one who is aware that he is not, and is willing to perfect himself, rather than the one with belief of knowing-everything-better, just because he is, um, a translator.

Of course that applies not only to translators, but to every other type of human activity. Translators' customers included

And Alex, no, people in business don't always see the need to "present their argument" just because there is some argument. I may possess that Important Serious Document From An AAA-Grade Organization in the target language, because of which I know the proper choice of word for my certain case, but I rather learn about the person I am working with - is he stubborn, or can he accept something new? And only in the latter case I will treat him as a worthy partner, and present my argument, even with some explanations, to the further benefit of us both.

Oh and Rachel, my apologies for hijacking your thread with this awful offtopic.


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Rachel Freeman  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
great input Nov 29, 2012

Hi Folks,

Thanks so much for your input. I agree that clients often know the professional jargon better than even a translator who may not have much experience in the sector but they also get funny ideas about what English is supposed to sound like. I think many clients believe because they can work in English they know what's best but they can't write in English. While some of this client's suggestions had merit many of them were so atrociously grammatically incorrect that it was laughable. Also, the purpose of a web site is to attract the maximum amount of browsers, which is not going to be done by using too much sector specific jargon. Any way I will look for the term but I did tell the client that they were better off with something more user friendly.


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sorry I don't understand Nov 29, 2012

Kamchatkabooks wrote:

And Alex, no, people in business don't always see the need to "present their argument" just because there is some argument. I may possess that Important Serious Document From An AAA-Grade Organization in the target language, because of which I know the proper choice of word for my certain case, but I rather learn about the person I am working with - is he stubborn, or can he accept something new? And only in the latter case I will treat him as a worthy partner, and present my argument, even with some explanations, to the further benefit of us both.


Excuse me if I'm not understanding you properly, but are you saying that if you don't think the client is a "worthy partner" you won't even try to explain your choice of words, and won't bother answering their questions even if maybe they are silly questions? Or are you saying that you will just cave in and accept their choice? Or are you saying something else?


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:00
Chinese to English
A little bit scary :-) Nov 29, 2012

I don't mind being a little bit scary. I aim to be a professional with as much authority in my own realm of expertise as my clients have in theirs - and translators get to work with some pretty high-powered people, so I have to make sure I'm always on the top of my game!

But Kamchatka, I think you've misunderstood the process that I'm talking about. The first thing that happens is a client sees my text and thinks that I've used a wrong word. They tell me, I listen, and I go away and understand the word and the context. Perhaps it's a technical term I didn't know; or perhaps it's their preferred word. Then I make the changes they request.

But sometimes it's a mistaken bit of English that the client has picked up from somewhere. That does happen. I do my research, and if I'm sure that the client is wrong on this word choice, then I come back to them, and explain to them why I think my version is better ("making the argument").

They might accept my argument; or they might put a counterargument which persuades me (e.g. it's a weird idiosyncratic usage unique to our company, I know it's odd but please use it anyway). Both of these are good outcomes.

But sometimes they do neither, they just insist on their wrong translation. And then I think it's time to do the professional thing: say no. You asked me to accurately translate this document into English; if I use that term, then it won't be English. I can't deliver that.

Of course we're always learning from our clients. But we have expertise which matters, and it's not helpful to the clients or to our own industry if we just throw up our hands and say, yeah, fine, whatever you want.


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Grammatically correct is not always correct Nov 30, 2012

Alex, I talk from the customer's perspective. Although normally explanation isn't a part of the translation contract, it is something to be expected from translator if customer has questions. On the other hand, customer can not bother to explain anything but say "use the word xyz, we've used it before". And if he will or will not explain something, depends on translator's reaction to that imperative.

Phil, how far does your "no" go? Would you cancel the job? Because otherwise client takes the translated text he paid for, and replaces the word as he pleases anyway. And it even may be published with your name as translator on it.

Besides, literacy and bureaucracy are not best friends even in the most developed countries. So something can be the correct translation even if it ain't grammatically correct. Just because it is used like that, maybe, by some "high-powered people".


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:00
Chinese to English
No means you can't publish it with my name on Dec 1, 2012

My "no" would mean a couple of things:

1) Literally saying no. It's weird how some clients seem very keen that I "agree" to their versions. If I think their versions are wrong, I tell them so: my professional opinion is that xxx is not a good translation, and you should use yyy.

2) If you want me to make this change, you'll have to pay me to do it. I don't mind doing bizarre secretarial work for you, if you pay my hourly rate. But this is an additional service not included in my original contract, to translate document X into English. (If I haven't used an English technical term, and the client asks me to, I change it at no extra charge, of course.)

3) If you change the text and publish it, then you can't put my name on it. I'm serious about this. I've done it before - turned down a published credit because the client altered my translation.

As to odd conventional usages - I'm completely open to that. I'm not trying to impose my ideas about grammar when there might be specialist terminology and conventional usages that I should respect. So, of course, if a client suggests a word or phrase, I google it, and if I see it is used in this way in this area, I just agree and make the requested changes (for free). If Google doesn't find it, ideally I'd try to track down a subject expert to ask. That's not always possible, but I might try.

Again, I only say no after very careful checking. But it really is the case that customers get it wrong sometimes, and it's reasonable for us to tell them when that's happened.


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