Direct customer with bad machine translation furnished by an agency
Thread poster: Andrea Halbritter

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:04
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Feb 2, 2015

Hi!

I have two direct clients which had their homepage translated in 2014 for the first one and a few years ago for the second one.

The first customer decided to have the translation done by an agency, the second with a company which was responsible for the whole homepage and promised to take some translators on.

However both of them have the same problem: They were sold a very bad machine translation in several languages and they thought paying for a high quality translation by professional native translators. (One of my customers even said he'd paid quite a high price, for the second one I don't know.)

Due to rather unpleasant comments of their customers who found a lot of sentences which made them quite laugh they understood that there was actually something wrong with the translation.

I actually retranslate now but wonder whether they still could get their money back for the first translation.

What would you tell the customer to do if he asked you and are there any possibilities to prevent others from the same experience? Is there anything like a blueboard where such agencies can be blamed?

Both customers are in France, one of the agencies as well, the second one I don't know yet.


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:04
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Not your circus, not your monkeys Feb 3, 2015

Andrea Halbritter wrote:


I actually retranslate now but wonder whether they still could get their money back for the first translation.

What would you tell the customer to do if he asked you


Andrea,
Those companies have/had a business relationship with the agencies, not you.
All you can do is tell your opinion of the translation quality.
As to what they should do, whether they should or could get their money back is frankly, none of your business. I think you would be crossing professional boundaries by getting involved in that part of this case. (Unless you are an attorney and you representing them in their lawsuit.)

It's like they purchased a "product" that failed (proven by their clients' complaints and your professional assessment). Whether they can return it for a full refund depends on the terms of their agreement with those who sold them the product.

My two cents.
Katalin


 

mariealpilles  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:04
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
bad machine translation Feb 3, 2015

I fully agree; that has nothing to do with you. It is up to the clients to expose such facts for the agency to learn a lesson. Too much of this is going on and has been for a few years now. But then, people only understand when a blunder causes a serious problem. I can give you a very good example. The government of Malta is going to hold the presidency of the EU in 2017 and to save on costs they have decided to train their civil servants in languages so they can chair and participate in workshops!!!! When such attitudes are accepted and considered possible, there is not much to be expected and all we professionals can do is sit back and wait till an incident erupts. it is pointless trying to convince and make people see light - all they are interested in is the money savec. Quality and qualifications do not come into it, unfortunately.

 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:04
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I know it's not my business Feb 3, 2015

Thanks for your answers.

I know that this problem is not my business, I just wondered what a customer can do in such a case once he actually paid the translation and did not know what he paid for.

When you enter in a jewelery and buy a ring which is said to be out of gold and then get to know that it is not you get your money back. What about translation? When the customer has paid does this mean he accepted the translation just like it was and can do nothing about it when weeks after native speaker tell him how bad it actually is or should he have read it by native speakers before paying?

I also agree with Marie. The problem is that there are quite a few customers around for whom only the financial aspect counts. They always take the translator or agency they have to pay the less and don't have a look on qualifications, sample projects or references.


 

nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:04
English to French
+ ...
Contract, warranty period, expert report, lawsuit ... Feb 3, 2015

It is up to the client to select the best provider and control the quality of the delivered product.

Before giving its whole website and all its marketing material to one agency/translator, the client can make a test with a small piece of material, or give the same text to different agencies ... there are numerous possibilities to assess quality.

The contract between the client and the initial agency/translator should have a warranty period (a few weeks or a month) so that the client can check the quality and ask for improvement within this period.

I know of some clients in the luxury goods industry who pay for back translation, or have an expert report on the inital translation before publication, or test their foreign communication with a consumer panel in the target country - the same process as to test a new product or a new marketing campaign before launching.

Of course all these solutions have a costicon_wink.gif


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:04
Chinese to English
Fraud, lawsuit Feb 3, 2015

I don't know anything about French law, so this may not be applicable. I do know that under British law it would not matter what was written in the contract, the vendor has clearly not provided the goods/service which it claimed to provide, and it is liable to compensate the customer for (at least part of) its losses. You can tell the customer you would be happy to provide testimony about the poor quality of the translations if you like, but they'll probably want to get their expert opinions closer to home.

The best thing we can do is educate our clients, remind them that translation is not a commodity but a professional service. If you hire a big agency to translate into multiple languages, they will farm it out to the lowest bidders, and their QA procedures aren't good enough, whatever they say.


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No opinion is a good opinion Feb 3, 2015

If you fall in love with a girl who has a boyfriend, the last thing you want to do is to openly criticise her sweetheart. If you did, you would raise suspicion. A better approach would be to behave in a way that she sees how good YOU are. She will have an opportunity to make her choice, then.

Now to the point, if your customer asks you what they can do about pseudo translation they “bought” of-the-shelf from a doggy agency, stay calm, breath deep and just point out to them that you can deliver a smooth and natural quality translation, and will take responsibility for every and each of the words translated, as you always have. In other words, refrain from giving any opinion relating to the “monkey job” someone did. Rather, tell them what YOU can do for them to fix the thing.


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:04
Member
English to French
Do direct clients have any clue about translation? Feb 3, 2015

Usually no. So they buy translations the way they buy computers and office supplies, looking at the wrapping and the pricing.
It's only when they're actually faced with non-sense (either reported by third-parties or when reviewing the "final product" themselves) instead of their carefully crafted content, with hefty additional costs to boot, that they realise that translation is more than dictionaires and a typist.
But trial-and-error is part of business, including with service providers.

It may be a good opportunity for you to educate the customer that translations (and translators) are not all equal when it comes to "meeting needs".

Philippe


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:04
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Devious Feb 3, 2015

Merab Dekano wrote:

If you fall in love with a girl who has a boyfriend, the last thing you want to do is to openly criticise her sweetheart. If you did, you would raise suspicion. A better approach would be to behave in a way that she sees how good YOU are. She will have an opportunity to make her choice, then.


This is so devious that it's beyond my comprehension.icon_smile.gif Moving on:

I agree with the other part of Merab's post: simply offer to do a better job - but starting from scratch, at your full usual rate. Don't get involved in any discussion about the other translator's work.

[Edited at 2015-02-03 11:10 GMT]


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:04
Member (2014)
English to German
Proofreading? Feb 3, 2015

Shouldn't agency have jobs proofread before they are sent to the customer?

I have been approached twice last week to do proofreading. The first text was edited by the client himself (a non native speaker) and I still changed quite a bit. The second text appeared to be an edited machine translation for which I quoted 3/4 of my translation rate, but the client thought it was quite a good translation.


 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:04
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agency and Google Feb 3, 2015

I think the agency knew what they sent to the client: a Google translated version of his site...

 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:04
German to English
If the contract is subject to German law ... Feb 3, 2015

As far as I know, the BGB prohibits any agreement with a warantee period of under one year, even between businesses, and the duration for most services is automatically two years unless an explicit agreement has been made to the contrary. (Not hard to look up in the BGB or whatever the relevant national civil code is here.)

I think that the 2014 customer can then demand that the provider deliver a functioning product ("Nacherfüllung"/ "Nachbesserung") and the provider has to fulfil these demands or face being sued for damages. In contrast to most (or all) of the people responding here, I consider informing clients about this right a standard duty of anyone acting as an editor or in a similar role (it can save clients a lot of money).

I don't know anything about the route of arguing that the service provider commited fraud or otherwise grieviously violated a contract (but this was not noticed until after the guarantee period).


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Doggy Feb 3, 2015

Michael Wetzel wrote:

I think that the 2014 customer can then demand that the provider deliver a functioning product ("Nacherfüllung"/ "Nachbesserung") and the provider has to fulfil these demands or face being sued for damages. In contrast to most (or all) of the people responding here, I consider informing clients about this right a standard duty of anyone acting as an editor or in a similar role (it can save clients a lot of money).



To claim damages, one has to prove that:

1. They have effectively suffered "harm" (it has to be quantifiable, such as economic loss of any kind, etc.)
2. That there is a causal link between the contractor's actions and the "harm" suffered
3. That the contractor's actions were improper (negligence, etc.)

This is so called "tort law". I find it difficult to prove (quantifiable loss that is attributed to contractor's actions, etc.), and you risk to lose the case (and pay costs).

Now, if there was a service agreement in place and it contained a clause that clearly defined the standard of contractor's output, and laid down consequences in case those standards were not met, than the parties will just apply the contract, which is a lot easier.

Another option is to just move on. They can only do it once to you.

[Edited at 2015-02-03 19:18 GMT]


 


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