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Poll: How do you handle factual errors in a source text?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 19:11
Mar 18, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How do you handle factual errors in a source text?".

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Interlangue (X)
Local time: 03:11
English to French
+ ...
Other Mar 18, 2011

I translate the text "as is" but insert a "translator's note" as/with a comment and suggest a translation for what probably should have been. This morning, for instance, I delivered a translation stating that the recent earthquake in Japan had taken place on Friday 14 March... My note said "Friday, yes, but in my calendar, it was the 11th of March".


Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:11
Turkish to English
+ ...
Other Mar 18, 2011

It all depends on the purpose that the translation will serve.

My bread and butter work is the translation of litigation documents, and if a translation is to accompany a document that is to be submitted to a court in connection with a claim, it is essential that all material source-text factual errors are retained. The whole case may indeed revolve around a particular factual error in a document.


Judith Anne Smith  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Do authors mind being corrected by the translator? Mar 18, 2011

Or I translate "as is" and notify the agency so they can check with the client about the error. Sometimes I never hear back about it though!

I have found that some authors don't like being corrected by a mere translator. Others have no problem with it and appreciate the care given in producing a faultless text. What have you found?


Adnan Özdemir  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:11
Member (2007)
German to Turkish
+ ...
I correct the error in source text Mar 18, 2011

I correct the error in source texticon_biggrin.gif

Anadolu'dan selamlar
Saludos desde Anatolia


Eser Perkins  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:11
English to Turkish
+ ...
I notify the outsourcer about the error but... Mar 18, 2011

Only if it is a "factually misleading statement", meaning that if the source states something totally wrong, totally misleading for the audience.

It only happened to me once so far. It had to do with a law article that is supposed to be in effect. But the source cited an outdated article that had since been amended. I notified my agency and put a translator's note on the document. The client came back with the corrected statement and a thank you note, and all was for the better.

Any other case (a typo, a missing article or sorts) I only correct it in the target language and still leave a note if my choice needs an explanation.

Have a nice day, all.icon_smile.gif


Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:11
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
it hasn't happened yet Mar 18, 2011

but if it did, I would just translate it and add some kind of comment or notation. Or notify the client/agency and tell them before I start, then proceed anyways and add any changes if they have them.


Patricia Charnet
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:11
English to French
I correct the error in my translation Mar 18, 2011

if it's grammatical and other non-serious errors, I correct it as long as it does not changed the core meaning of the translation

if it's a serious error - I double check it with the client to make sure I'm not reading the text the wrong way

on a recent occasion, I translated a substantial error as such but inserted a note to the client that it was wrong, and I thought it would be the other way around, and the client was thankful for spotting this error, which would have been very costly to themicon_smile.gif

sometimes it's not really an error but an improvement

if the client contradicts himself/herself on an occasion within the source text, then I correct it in view of the context to be consistent - I've never had problems with these corrections so faricon_smile.gif


Anna Spanoudaki-Thurm  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
Member (2009)
German to Greek
+ ...
notify the client Mar 18, 2011

I find factual errors surprisingly often!

I always notify the agency immediately, so that I can have the response and use it without delay.
The clients (and agencies) are always thankful.

[Edited to remove silly smiley.]

[Έγινε επεξεργασία στις 2011-03-18 12:11 GMT]


Carla Sousa  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:11
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I correct the errors in my translation Mar 18, 2011

I correct the errors in my translation if I'm sure that this is the most accurate situation and since I realise that the errors or not serious ones. I always notify the client of the situation.
If there are serious mistakes, I notify the client first and wait for approval. Only due to delay in the answer or any time difference regarding time zones and if I'm not able to contact the client on time, I do not translate it and also notify the client.
Last year I came across a major mistake, did not translate it but notified the client. Some time after, the client wrote in appreciation stating that he was glad that I had pointed out that error.
A great day for all of you.


Lany Chabot-Laroche  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:11
Member (2009)
English to French
I usually correct it Mar 18, 2011

I come across a LOT of factual errors in my translations, mostly related to missing pieces, missing steps, wrong measurements. When the client is available, I do advise him of the mistake so her can correct it on his end.

When the client is not answering questions and communication is difficult, well too bad, his English version is going to be unclear. When in doubt, I just go with the source text.


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:11
English to Spanish
+ ...
Depending on Source Document Mar 18, 2011

This poll as proposed does not take into account the fact that what is to be done depends on the nature of the source document. There are two cases:

1.- The source document was prepared by the client. In such case the proper thing to do is to notify the client of the error and request permission or guidance in correcting it; or if none is forthcoming it is translated with the error intact, but at least the client was notified.

2.- The source document was not prepared by the client but is a document that is already final and existing, such as a document from a court file. In such case the proper thing to do is to use a translator's note [sic]* to point out that a possible error or inconsistency exists but it is translated with the error intact. Essentially this tells the reader "there is an error here, but it is not the translator's error, it is in the original". Thereby as a translator you save yourself from any blame that could result.


Darío  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:11
English to Spanish
+ ...
I correct the error AND warn the client. Mar 18, 2011

Of course.



Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:11
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Correct the error and warn the client Mar 18, 2011

I correct the error in the translation (highlighting it in red) and then notify the client so he/she/they can use the incorrect form if they so wish. Factual errors that I have recently encountered include geographical errors (for example "Glasgow, England" - although not quite that bad), numerical data (area of Brazil 8.5 thousand km2 instead of 8.5 million km2), and even names of people, e.g. Luis Inácio Lula da Silva (his name is actually "Luiz", with a Z).

When there is an ambiguous case like "the contract shall be valid for thirty (60) days" I just translate the words and inform the client . So, for Portuguese, "o contrato terá validade por 60 (trinta) dias" - note that in Portuguese the order is inverted and the figure comes first.

Other cases include reports for 2011 with the title "General Corporate Report 2010" (2011 being mentioned in the rest of the text). Here too I change it to 2011 and mark it in red.


Rebecca Garber  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:11
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
It depends on the text Mar 18, 2011

In an instruction manual with screenshots, I correct to the screenshot. Usually the end client is happy about the corrections.

In a patent, I notify the agency. I don't usually know *why* a patent is being translated, or for whom. So it is up to the end client to determine whether errors should be corrected or not.

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