Correcting corrections to my own work - should I charge?
Thread poster: Anne Koth

Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:55
German to English
Jul 8, 2006

Hi all,

I did a translation recently and sent it off. The next day I got it back; some changes had been made, and they wanted me to clean up the corrected version. Normally, I just look through and find they have corrected some little things such as plural verb + singular noun, or a missing word, and indeed there were a couple of mistakes of that kind, which they had corrected; fair enough. (I now realised that when you go back later and change things in Wordfast, it does not update it in the Powerpoint document!)

I wouldn't dream of charging them for finding my own mistakes. However, this time the proofreader had also changed some things unnecessarily (e.g. "can not" to "cannot", adding "the" when it was not necessary and changing "clear room for improvement" to "significant room ..." when "clear" was actually closer to the original) and some of the corrections were just wrong. The person who wrote the e-mail (not a native speaker AFAIK) had also apparently changed three terms, writing of one "I did not know exactly what the customer meant by this, but I changed it to xyz" - not understanding the English term either, as it meant something entirely different. The three phrases come up throughout the translation, and she changed all three to incorrect translations. Of course, I /had/ found out what the terms in question meant, and had gone to some trouble to find a good translation for them. Now they would like me to clean up these "corrections", which in this case means changing them back to what I wrote in the first place.

I'm wondering if I should charge them for this, and if so, how. And should I write an explanation of why many of the corrections were wrong, or would that look like I have to defend my work?! Is it normal to have the corrections corrected like this - surely it could go on indefinitely?


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Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:55
French to English
+ ...
never a fun process Jul 8, 2006

Hello Anne,

On your first question - should you charge - for me it depends on two variables:

- are the corrections additions or changes to the original text (and in your case it does not seem to be the case)
- did the request come in within a reasonable about of time (say under 2 weeks) from the time you handed in the translation

If the answer to the first is "no" and to the second "yes", then, personally, I don't charge.

As to your second question -- changing back things that were wrongly corrected - what I would do (and I'd be interested to hear how others handle this too!) is to highlight those changes I disagree with and insert a comment explaning why I used my original term XYZ and feel this correction is wrong.

In the end, it is up to the client IMHO to decide provided of course that he/she has all the information necessary to make an intelligent choice.

Kind regards,

Patricia


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
It's an agency. Jul 8, 2006

I forgot to mention that this was an agency I am working for. Still, I agree that it is up to the agency to choose whether they use the translation found after careful research by a native speaker or the one found by a non-native speaker who understood neither the source nor the target word, found in an online dictionary. Once I've sent them the text, they can do what they like with it.

I did send explanations about the three terms the German lady wrongly translated.

I could always just leave the corrections of "can not" etc, where the corrected version is right, too; but then it will look as if my version was wrong and my translation really full of mistakes! So I'd have to explain that "can not" can be written separately, providing some dictionary proof or examples. I'd have to write a short lecture on the use of "the". I'd feel very uncomfortable spending unpaid time on this sort of thing: I should think it would take quite a while.


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Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 20:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Defend your work Jul 8, 2006

Hi Anne!

We had a very similar experience about one month ago. One of our best agencies returned a 14,000 word job a week after delivery, including an e-mail from the end customer askng for a 25% discount since the translation had so many "mistakes". The documents had the "mistakes" highlighted, with no suggestions for "correction".

After the initial panic (this agency is a good one, and they had never send us any job back), we saw that over 98% of the so called "mistakes" were whether missunderstandings of proper grammar from the "proofreader", or requests for a synonym... not specified by them, by the way. In some cases we didn´t even understand what their concern was.

So we took about 6 unpaid hours (!!!) to write comments inside the docs with dictionary definitions, official governmental websites as a reference and grammar explanations. We did find about five minor mistakes though.

We did this for two main reasons:
1) To make it clear to the agency what the customer´s strategy was (and you know what I mean, don´t you?), and the quality of our work.
2) To give the agency an answer so they could give it to the customer.

Those 6 hours were nasty ones, but the PM was delighted (as she said, customers don´t understand we are not mind readers), and we were relieved.
Of course we will think it twice if the same thing happens with the same agency... We now have a precedent on our side!
We also made it clear that the customer will need to provide a glossary if he wants specific vocabulary used.

My advise is: if you care about the agency, defend your work (at least this first time). You will be adding value to your work before this agency.

I sometimes try to think as a PM... and I realize that what counts most (apart from quality) is our reactions in difficult situations, and the way one gives them useful answers.

Let us know what your decision is and what happens next.

Good luck!
ANDRES


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Natalia Kreczmar
Local time: 01:55
English to Polish
+ ...
Initial panic + lots of work to "be on the top of things" Jul 8, 2006

Hello,
this is more or less my strategy too. Since I care for my clients (almost exclusively TAs) and I want to make them see that I am OK, I spend a lot of time writing comments and remarks, adding definitions, quotes and so on. This costs me a lot of time and some stress too, but I consider this a learning experience. Definitely DEFEND YOUR WORK and don't let dishonest clients make you look bad in the eyes of your direct customers/PMs.
Best wishes
Natalia


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Sarah Brenchley  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not charge Jul 8, 2006

I totally agree with what has already been said. I personally would look through the corrections - acknowledge any mistakes that I had made and accept or not accept the corrections with an explanation why. But I wouldn't charge for this.
In the case of "clear" and "significant" in my opinion this is a case of the corrector not correcting your text but translating as they would have done - which is not fair to count as a correction.
One thing I don't understand is the "can not" issue. "cannot" is generally the correct version unless the not is part of a "not" expression (e.g. not only). Let us know what your final solution was.


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Barbara Micheletto
Italy
Local time: 01:55
Russian to Italian
+ ...
Not charge, but... Jul 8, 2006

I would insert the correction they suggested without charging but on delivering the job I would send them a sort of "disclaimer", like this: "I inserted all the correction you suggested, but as a mother tongue I personally disagree with many corrections. Therefore, should the end customer complaint about the parts amended, I am not to be held responsible for them". I would show myself very kind and relaxed about the matter, but I definitely would not tell which the wrong corrections are, for the following reasons:
1) you already did the job, then inserted the corrections; you can't waste more time.
2) you feel you behaved professionally and handed out a good translation; why defend it now against their incompetency? and
3) this is a bit catty... but I would like to frighten them! (Sort of implied suggestion: "As a mother tongue I am sure some corrections are wrong... guess which ones! I'm not going to tell you. But if YOU asked, I would tell you as a favour").
B.


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
uncommon or wrong? Jul 8, 2006

Sarah Brenchley wrote:

"cannot" is generally the correct version unless the not is part of a "not" expression (e.g. not only).



I agree absolutely that there are cases where "can not" must be written separately, and others where "cannot" must be written as one word.

What about times when either spelling is possible? I have a copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage which says that "cannot" is "more common". Ask Oxford says both spellings are acceptable and "cannot" more common. The Guardian style guide doesn't seem to mention it, but the Guardian website has examples of "can not" written as two words (e.g. "businesses and workers operating legitimately ... can not compete"). There are not as many examples as "cannot" - it really does seem less common!

Looking on the Internet I have now found sites saying "can not" is wrong: do I just have the wrong style guide and read the wrong newspaper? (Bangs head on keyboard: nbk,l bnvn)

The sentence is "the image cannot/can not very easily be identified..." - I'd also pronounce the words "can" and "not" separately, with a little stress on "not". Oh well, at least I am not "common"

I guess my feathers are simply still ruffled from having my nicely-researched terms changed by someone who didn't understand them in either language. I now feel as if I am going to have to argue over every single letter, and arguing is not really my thing, even if the other arguments are not as complicated as this!


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AnnikaLight  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:55
English to German
Ask what they mean by "cleaning up" the document Jul 8, 2006

Hi Anne,

Proofreading isn't easy (as you know)

It's a fine line between correcting mistakes and forcing your own style onto someone else's work. And, of course, proofreaders get it wrong from time to time (just as translators do) and they change a term that was perfectly correct and researched by the translator (which can be annoying).

The proofreaders I work with (all through agencies) use the "track changes" function in MS Word, so you can see what's been changed. Sometimes, I disagree with the proofreader, sometimes I agree. But I can always decide whether to accept or decline the changes. I never charge for this. It's part of the translation process (i.e. getting the document back from the proofreader, glancing through it and accepting/declining the changes).

Were the changes obvious in your PowerPoint document?

You wrote, "The next day I got it back; some changes had been made, and they wanted me to clean up the corrected version."

"Cleaning up" the document doesn't necessarily mean "accept the changes the proofreader made". The agencies I work with consider the TRANSLATOR the final decision maker.

I don't have to accept the proofreader's changes. "Cleaning up" (in the case of "my" agencies) means: "Accept or decline the changes. Make the doc look clean, and send it back to us."

You might want to ask what they mean by "cleaning up" and if they want you to accept the proofreader's changes.

Hope this helps

Annika

[Edited at 2006-07-08 20:50]


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Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 20:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I know how you feel Jul 9, 2006

[quote]
Anne Koth wrote:

I guess my feathers are simply still ruffled from having my nicely-researched terms changed by someone who didn't understand them in either language.
[quote]


That is just outrageous, since you spent so much time pondering terms, and maybe they want you to change one of those you thought so much about, and you know is RIGHT!



I now feel as if I am going to have to argue over every single letter, and arguing is not really my thing, even if the other arguments are not as complicated as this!


Yes, I think it is a matter of self confidence, which have been tested with this situation.
During about a week after the situation I wrote about, I translated thinking that later I would have to defend every term! Don´t worry, it goes away after a while.

But as other colleagues said, on one hand it is part of the business... on the other, you should also make your limits clear.

Andres

[Edited at 2006-07-09 02:58]


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xxxE2efour
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:55
Swedish to English
I sympathise Jul 9, 2006

Almost everyone will have found themselves in a situation like this at one time or another.

I think the only thing to do is to accept any changes that make no appreciable change to the meaning if only to humour the person who makes them. You will probably not be able to change their mind. So just accept "significant" as opposed to "clear room for improvement" and point out that there was nothing wrong with what you wrote in the first place.

However, you should defend yourself vigorously where the change has introduced a mistake.

Unfortunately, you did say you made a couple of mistakes that you should not have. This puts you in a difficult position to start with!

However, regarding "can not", my reaction would be to say that a native speaker would not and should not write this in preference to "cannot". The normal usage is "cannot" and there should be a special reason to write it as two words (emphasis or a quote from a speech). I think you are on shaky ground here!

Nor should you charge for cleaning up the text again unless the mistakes introduced cost you a lot of time. You just have to "grin and bear it".

Barry

[Edited at 2006-07-09 14:14]

[Edited at 2006-07-09 14:15]


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Sarah Brenchley  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
The day after Jul 9, 2006

Hope you're feeling better having slept on it and that your feathers are no longer ruffled.

There are several important issues here. I agree with Annika in that you as the translator have the final say as to what to accept and what to reject.
In my opinion, it seems that the corrector has gone beyond merely correcting mistakes and has also made suggestions as though presenting their own translation. Accept any mistakes that there are but leave the things you know are right, or style questions which you prefer.
Faced with a long list of corrections, the client might think there were loads of things wrong with your original translation. From a professional point of view, it is important to point out that this was not the case.
Good luck.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
English to French
+ ...
Sorry for coming here late... Jul 10, 2006

I will not even get into charging or not charging. I just wanted to comment on defending your work.

I always defend my work, while I also always pay attention to all corrections done to my work by others. However, with time, I have discovered that this is a situation where usually there is no way out. I defend my work out of mere principle - why would I admit the corrections are right when they are not? But I have done this in the past and guess what! I never heard back form the client, even if I have been working with them regularly for some time. I suggested to the client that sometimes, just sometimes, some editors/proofreaders like to change even things that don't need to change, just to have the agency appreciate their work. Some of them think that if they don't change a thing or only very few things, the agency will think there's no need for their services. I guess the agency did not appreciate it. And by the way, my copy was all red from track changes corrections. About 3/4 of those corrections were totally a question of style, thus, completely unnecessary. Also, the proofreader was paid by the hour, and the agency was mad that the proofing took much more time than expected, therefore, they lost all their profits for the job.

So, I am not going to give advice. I will just say that in situations where you have to defend your work, be extra careful how you will go about it. I have always had bad experiences with this kind of situation...


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks all! Jul 10, 2006

Thanks for all your comments. I've now preened my feathers back into shape and even changed "can not" back to "cannot", to be on the safe side!

(Next time I get my fur rubbed the wrong way, though, I may consider a petition to the style guide authors, urging them to reconsider their decision and citing examples of "can not", e.g. http://tinyurl.com/pof6j )

I cleaned up the document and it didn't take as long as I thought; I'm just going to send it back with a note saying that I accepted those changes which were correct and necessary. I don't think the proofreader was being funny; I know how hard it is to decide if you've found a mistake or just something you yourself would not write. The unresearched corrections were apparently by a different person.

My learning experience this time has been a) how to proofread fairly and b) after you have checked the translation, check it again! (They'll be lucky to get it back at all next time.)

So instead of losing money because of wasted time, this has made me richer (in knowledge) ...


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:55
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Dear Anne, Jul 14, 2006

I only got to your thread today, but I thought it may be worth still to point out that you can look at the whole experience differently.

Would you have preferred not to have the opportunity to "clean up" your translation and have it sent to the end client with the corrections of (as it turned out) two different people? I should think not.

It is a positive action on the part of the agency to send the document back to the original translator, because s/he is the one who's hard work it was.

This way you can have a look, think about the corrections, accept or reject them, and as you said, learn a couple of things to keep in mind in the future.

That's also a reason why one doesn't usually charge for finalising the document, unless the "corrections" are overwhelmingly unfair or incorrect.

We have a saying; "more eyes see more", and it is very true in our profession. We are so used to our style, our mistakes, that we may not notice them, unless somebody brings them to our attention.

Useful corrections mean that in the future you may pay special attention to some of the things pointed out to you and it will improve your work faster than if you are only dependent on your own eyes, so to speak.

Don't roll over, but treat these corrections as a tool to refine your work.

Best,
Judith

[Edited at 2006-07-14 14:41]


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