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When they change your translation
Thread poster: MK2010

MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
+ ...
Jun 3

I'm wondering what others here would do in a situation where the publisher makes a significant change to your translation, one which you feel will make it come across as amateurish. Since the project in question is likely to get quite a bit of attention in the press when it comes out, having any reviews single out the translation in a negative way could be damaging to your career. Then again, if the change isn't as big a deal as you think it is, this could really help your career.

Do we have any recourse when our words are changed and the result has a negative impact on our reputation? I'm seriously thinking of asking them to take my name off the project if there's still time. But this is a major, award-winning publisher... so that could be a bad move too.

No idea what to do. Advice welcome!


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Katarina Peters  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:39
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
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Changes in your translation Jun 3

You should ask the publisher to send you all the changes for your approval. They have no right to significantly change a translation without the translator's consent, other than typos or errors in grammar.

Good luck!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:39
Member (2007)
English
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You need to register your concerns Jun 3

If you formally inform them of your worry that it has been changed for the worse, then you are at least partly covered. You couldn't then be sued, although readers wouldn't know about the changes. If you think there's a real risk to your reputation then you really have little choice but to ask to withdraw your name.

Do get in touch with them. Maybe they have no idea of the problem and will be only too happy to sort it out.


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
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TOPIC STARTER
I did express my concern... Jun 3

Weeks after I handed in my translation, I followed up to see how things were coming along, and I was informed that the author had made a rather "unusual" request by insisting on the above-mentioned change, and that the publisher had agreed to it and hoped it "wouldn't throw the readers." I vigorously argued in favor of NOT proceeding with the change, saying it would come across as a bad translation. Needless to say, my opinion didn't matter in the slightest (had I not inquired, I would not have even been informed).

@Katarina: "no right to significantly change a translation without the translator's consent." Is this a rule of thumb, an absolute rule, or completely dependent on individual cases? I need to go back and read the contract. This just seems wrong to me. It's bad enough linguists get virtually no recognition for their hard work... but to get potentially negative recognition for work you didn't approve is a whole other level of unfair!

@Sheila: why would I get sued? You mean bad work > poor sales type of thing? If anything, I should be able to sue them...


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:39
English to Russian
+ ...
Explain! Jun 3

Formal notices and insistence on having changes sent to you for approval won't do much (if anything) unless you take your time to explain at least some of your concerns in detail. Don't be harsh, be diplomatic - just tell them it has come to your attention that they made such and such changes, and that in your opinion as a professional linguist, your AAA looks better than their BBB for such and such reasons, your XXX looks better than their YYY for such and such reasons, and that you have similar arguments against other changes they made. Then, and only then, mention that having your name under their version of the text may thus be detrimental to your professional reputation, and suggest to discuss a mutually acceptable solution.

P.S. Now I see you may have already explained it. Well, then, just ask them how they intend to address the issue of potentially damaging your professional reputation.

P.P.S. Check your contract with the publisher - who holds the copyright to your translation? Have you retained it or assigned it to the publisher?

[Edited at 2017-06-03 16:23 GMT]


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
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It may be too late... Jun 3

The book doesn't come out until spring of 2018, but I've seen excerpts of it online, and I stand by my original reaction. The change makes the text sound off (it's a question of tense, that's all I'll say).

The thing that makes this even more unfortunate is that this is an amazing project, the author is a major rising star, the book is smart and witty and just overall fantastic, and my translation totally kicked ass...:) If it weren't for that one tiny, huge detail...! Which is only actually problematic in parts, not across the entire work as a whole. So unfair... and an example of poor editorial oversight, if you ask me.

@Anton: I'm going to follow your suggestion and formally ask to see the finished product. Not sure if I should say right off the bat that the passages I read online give me cause for concern and confirm my original misgivings (clearly expressed to them 3 months ago). What do you think?


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philgoddard
United States
German to English
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What Jun 3

is the change?

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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Maybe... Jun 3

...if they refuse to make any changes (which they will), I'll ask them to publish it under a different name. This way, bad reviews = no big deal, glowing reviews = guess what, that was me!

I think that might be the only solution. Either way though, not ideal. So much for translators' rights.


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
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Tense Jun 3

philgoddard wrote:

is the change?


Over the years, I've noticed there is a tense that is much more commonly used in French than it is in English, and that it English it can sound awkward. It's the sort of thing where you can usually tell when a French speaker is not using it properly. Just like there are constructs that are more typical of one language than another-- though not technically wrong (although in this case I would argue some instances are just plain wrong), they make the text sound awkward and "foreign."


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Copyright... Jun 3

@Anton: nope. No rights. The author has them all. He insisted. The publisher itself doesn't even own the rights to the translation. They said they made "special arrangements" with this one author.

I was just reviewing some of our email exchanges: they informed me that once I sent in the translation, that would be it, I would likely have no role in the proofreading, editing. Fine. But again, when you make changes likely to affect the quality of the work, I think it's a different situation.

[Edited at 2017-06-03 17:01 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:39
Member (2007)
English
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Ah, that tense Jun 3

MK2010 wrote:
Over the years, I've noticed there is a tense that is much more commonly used in French than it is in English, and that it English it can sound awkward. It's the sort of thing where you can usually tell when a French speaker is not using it properly. Just like there are constructs that are more typical of one language than another-- though not technically wrong (although in this case I would argue some instances are just plain wrong), they make the text sound awkward and "foreign."

Yes, I know exactly what you mean.

When I referred to you being sued, I was thinking that if this error they've introduced is bad enough then it could damage the reputation of the author, who could be inclined to sue you if you couldn't prove that you weren't responsible. Mind you, you say it was the author who introduced the error, so it clearly doesn't apply here.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:39
English to Croatian
+ ...
Examples. Jun 3

MK2010 wrote:

philgoddard wrote:

is the change?


Over the years, I've noticed there is a tense that is much more commonly used in French than it is in English, and that it English it can sound awkward. It's the sort of thing where you can usually tell when a French speaker is not using it properly. Just like there are constructs that are more typical of one language than another-- though not technically wrong (although in this case I would argue some instances are just plain wrong), they make the text sound awkward and "foreign."


If possible/not confidential, can you give us one or two examples?


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
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Jun 3



[Edited at 2017-06-04 16:39 GMT]


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:39
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just compare... Jun 4

...any biographical English Wiki entry with its French Wiki entry. Always in the historical present in French, always in the past in English. I love the historical present, and obviously we all use it for dramatic effect when telling a story, but it's tricky and if not used properly, it can sound awkward and create confusion as to when the action actually took place.

For instance, you can't say "films of the Nouvelle Vague are very popular these days" if you're referring to their popularity several decades ago, as, say, part of an article on cinema in the 60s that you've chosen to write using primarily the historical present tense.

Lingua 5B wrote:
If possible/not confidential, can you give us one or two examples?


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:39
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Change your translation Jun 4

If the edited translation is too gross, send them a letter by certified mail (or have a letter sent by an attorney) and insist that they remove your name as translator.

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