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Am I part of the problem? (Am I condoning bad/cheap translations by accepting poor manuals?)
Thread poster: madak

madak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:41
Swedish to English
+ ...
Apr 12, 2010

I've bought two tools in the last two days - a garden trimmer and an an ice cream machine.

I bought the garden trimmer yesterday from the largest supermarket in the UK. I could have gone to a specialised garden centre or a diy store, but, not having a car, it was much easier to take a 10 minute stroll down to the supermarket rather than using a combination of bus services.

Got home and opened the manual in order to assemble my new tool: "Release the screw in the assistant handle 10, then assemble assistant handle 10 with the hand 2, and then fixed the screw". Now, anyone want to lend me a hand?

Today after work I had to get an ice cream machine as a bribe for my teenager (he'd actually done some of his GCSE homework). This time I'd managed to do some homework myself about various machines and, as the supermarket didn't sell any ice cream machines, off by bus we went to the nearest shopping centre. This time we bought a well-known brand, albeit a cheap model.

This manual wasn't really bad, but I'm still trying to work out what to with the recipes. All of them want me to boil milk etc and the "leave" the mixture "until cold". Not put it in the fridge, just "leave", nor "cool", but "cold". Could take a long time.

I seem to remember that there's an EU directive/regulation which states that goods sold have to be supplied with, readable/understandable documentation in the relevant language. So will I now jump on all my buses to return these purchases as faulty? Nah, too lazy and also pretty good at reading gobbily gook.

Result - by being lazing, I am in fact condoning bad/cheap translations.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2010-04-13 19:07 GMT]


 

Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:41
Danish to English
no! Apr 12, 2010

Don't be so hard on yourself. If we all had to return things that came with poorly written instructions we would never get anything else done, and I don't think it would have any impact on the product.
Look, some people spend money, and waste hours, doing something as mindless as solving sudoku problems. Be thankful that your products come with free puzzles, and that their solution will actually be of some benefit to you.
So, what is your interpretation? Do the instructions say "do not put in the fridge"?
I generally just throw away really bad instructions, especially in those cases where common sense will tell you what to do.


 

mediamatrix (X)
Local time: 08:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
Part of the problem? - Yes, of course you are! Apr 12, 2010

Who, other than a translator, would ever bother to read the instructions?

But please do let 'the mixture' cool down naturally before putting it in the fridge. If you don't, you'll perhaps find yourself reading the fridge repair manual and that might be a whole lot worse...

MediaMatrix

[Edited at 2010-04-13 01:26 GMT]


 

madak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:41
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not being hard on myself at all Apr 12, 2010

This was more a ethical/moral/philosophical posting. These forums are full of complaints about low rates, but at the same time I, and others I'm sure, continue to buy cheap products with poorly written/incomprehensible manuals without complaint. And we're most likely not even considering the rate paid to the persons actually producing the product.

Brian Young wrote:

If we all had to return things that came with poorly written instructions we would never get anything else done, and I don't think it would have any impact on the product.


Maybe not on the product itself, but potentially on the translation process. Most companies rely heavily on their reputation/marketing profile/branding. They might occasionally forget that, but in the end it usually backfires.


 

INDER M. SINGH
United States
Local time: 06:41
Hindi to English
+ ...
Madeleine, great post! Apr 12, 2010

Great post! All of us face similar situations, at one time or another....

[Edited at 2010-04-13 12:35 GMT]


 

Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 13:41
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Philosophical, indeed Apr 13, 2010

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote: This was more a ethical/moral/philosophical posting. These forums are full of complaints about low rates, but at the same time I, and others I'm sure, continue to buy cheap products with poorly written/incomprehensible manuals without complaint. And we're most likely not even considering the rate paid to the persons actually producing the product.

There are a few other philosophical things to add:
- Many of us do look for "best rate" when buying goods or services
- End users of translated texts are not the same as end clients. End clients may order translation from a reputable MLV (at a good price), the latter might subcontract an agency in the target language country (or look for a better deal elswhere), and the final rate to translator may really be miserable. The interesting part is that end clients aren't always aware of the lousy quality of translations they buy: end users rarely bother to tell them!
- All in all, it's us consumers paying the price of translation, irrespective of their quality: it's always included into the price of the product...


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:41
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Appliance translations are not taken seriously Apr 13, 2010

I remember I translated the instructions of a custom toaster sold by a leading offroad motorbike company (the toaster makes toast with the company's logo on the sides; a quite flashy idea if you are a follower of the brand), and I must confess that, being a seasoned professional, I found it hard to translate.

You have to think a lot about how the different actions, parts, and effects would be called naturally in your mother language. Yes, I know this is what we do in all translations, but in this case it was somehow harder than translating about a tractor engine. Simpler was harder. Puzzling, but true.

In any case, appliance translations are the kind of neglected stuff that makes us translators look like careless people. I just wish appliance makers would choose their translators more carefully!


 

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:41
French to German
+ ...
No way it will *ever* happen... Apr 13, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:


In any case, appliance translations are the kind of neglected stuff that makes us translators look like careless people. I just wish appliance makers would choose their translators more carefully!


before someone gets injured by the product in question. Some manufacturers find it appropriate and useful to write things such as "Do not use this microwave oven to dry pets", but could not care less whether the instructions provided make sense in any other language than theirs or not.

[Edited at 2010-04-13 09:56 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:41
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It will happen as soon as we complain Apr 13, 2010

When we start returning products for the poor quality of the manuals, they will certainly reconsider it.

The problem is that large supermarkets tend to repackage the product and sell it again, and even throw it away and swallow the cost, to keep the customer happy and returning later on. In many cases the manufacturer does not even get to know about what happened. I was informed about this by a friend who works at one of the major chains in Spain.

I think however that we should take our complaint to the consumer authorities. Then things would start to change!!icon_smile.gif


 

John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:41
Spanish to English
+ ...
Part of the product Apr 13, 2010

I suspect the quality of a manual and its translation is a key part of the relationship between quality and price.

When we buy a 'noname' product from the local supermarket we tend to assume that the manual will be cheap and poorly written. However, when we buy a top brand, or a conspicuously engineered high-end product, we assume that part of the pleasure of ownership will be reading through the glossy pages of a well-written and nicely illustrated manual.

Like many things in life, what we get is usually a reflection of what we pay.


 

Hermann  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:41
English to German
+ ...
Example Gardening Tools Apr 13, 2010

A gardener friend has been buying for years tools from a very well know German manufacturer. The English translations of the instructions were always excellent, however, the translation of the last tool he bought was anything but brilliant. He took the trouble and wrote to the German manufacturer but he is still waiting for an answer. This kind of tools could inflict some serious injuries and one would expect that the instructions are crucial for the save operation.

I have often wondered whether we as translators could start a revolution by returning goods with badly written instructions as 'not fit' or write to the manufacturers to let them know.

It might see a change in the way our industry is going.


[Edited at 2010-04-13 13:34 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:41
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
YES!!! Apr 13, 2010

Hermann wrote:
I have often wondered whether we as translators could start a revolution by returning goods with badly written instructions as 'not fit' or write to the manufacturers to let them know.

I entirely and completely agree!

I am wondering whether it would be good to start a new topic with this particular message: "How to return goods with poorly translated manuals". Then each of us in the different countries and regions could add the information applicable to each area, i.e. how to file an official complaint in the industry or consumer authorities, what legal requirements are applicable in each area, etc. etc.

The first reference should be a clear reference to the EU Directive or Regulation about this matter.


 

Vladimir Shelukhin  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:41
English to Russian
+ ...
Excellent idea! Apr 13, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I am wondering whether it would be good to start a new topic with this particular message: "How to return goods with poorly translated manuals". Then each of us in the different countries and regions could add the information applicable to each area, i.e. how to file an official complaint in the industry or consumer authorities, what legal requirements are applicable in each area, etc. etc.
I even volunteer to repost such message in Russian to widen the audience.


 

Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:41
German to English
+ ...
Camera Apr 13, 2010

This one from a highly-reputable Japanese camera company.

"Insert the batteries into slots A&B to begin with." icon_rolleyes.gif

Err, right. Cool. O.K. What do I do with them after that? Take them out? Put them somewhere else? In the microwave oven, perforce?

I guess we all proofread these manuals as well, which makes the 'go live' step of the product that much more of a future event.

On several occasions, I have often found that if you download a PDF manual for the same product it is the real thing.

Is there some little company somewhere churning out these Micky Mouse in-pack manuals by the million and posting requests for translation @ 0.2c per word?


 

Hermann  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:41
English to German
+ ...
Yes, this could be the way forward Apr 13, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I am wondering whether it would be good to start a new topic with this particular message: "How to return goods with poorly translated manuals". Then each of us in the different countries and regions could add the information applicable to each area, i.e. how to file an official complaint in the industry or consumer authorities, what legal requirements are applicable in each area, etc. etc.


I get my pencil sharpened to write these complaints.


 
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