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Poll: When the source text is poorly-written, do you tell your client?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 21:39
SITE STAFF
Jul 25, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "When the source text is poorly-written, do you tell your client?".

This poll was originally submitted by Terejimenez. View the poll results »



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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:39
Member (2008)
English to Italian
yes Jul 25, 2011

When the quality of the text is not high I tell the client, and to be specific:

- the quality of the document does not allow the file to be read properly: I ask when I do not understand what is written

- when the sentences (technical stuff) are not clear due to a bad style, I call the client and I ask of my interpretation is correct

The second case occurs when the documents in English I am translating have not been written by English native speakers.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 05:39
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Likewise! Jul 25, 2011

Gianluca Marras wrote:

When the quality of the text is not high I tell the client, and to be specific:

- the quality of the document does not allow the file to be read properly: I ask when I do not understand what is written

- when the sentences (technical stuff) are not clear due to a bad style, I call the client and I ask of my interpretation is correct

The second case occurs when the documents in English I am translating have not been written by English native speakers.


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Angus Stewart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:39
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Yes Jul 25, 2011

As Gianluca rightly states, it is vital to inform the client when the quality of the source text is so bad as to impede the translator's ability to preform his task.

More generally, I think that this can be part of the value we add to our clients, when we draw their attention to typos and other errors in the source text. This can be particularly beneficial when the source text is itself still has "draft" status (for instance a draft contract) and the translator can function as a useful second pair of eyes in reviewing this document before it is finalized.

[Edited at 2011-07-25 08:52 GMT]


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 06:39
German to English
+ ...
Only if the Client can do anythign about it Jul 25, 2011

A lot of what I translate comes from third parties, and often teh client themselves have problems with it. I do however point out anything that might be ambiguous and suggest alternative translations when such appear relevant.
A bigger problem is that of "the previous version taht only needs updating" that turns out to have ben tranlsated by a fifteen-year old with three years of English.


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Nathaniel2
Local time: 06:39
Slovak to English
David, you are so right Jul 25, 2011

I have learned to turn down jobs where "we made a few changes to the original and just need them inserted", as the one and only time I agreed to do this for a client I discovered that your same 15-year old had done the original translation and it was so horrid as to be impossible to "just insert" their changes.

But generally this is why I do not like working for agencies - in my experience they haven't seemed to much care that the original document was of poor quality. With my direct clients I always ask. I don't actually call them and say "your original is poorly drafted", I simply ask them to explain what I don't understand and they will generally realise their own error.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:39
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Yes Jul 25, 2011

When the source text is written, usually, by a non-English native speaker, I inform the client. Especially when the text is unclear, leaving several options to be translated.

As David stated, many texts are from a third-party so that the client can probably not do much about it - other than to inform her/his client.

Sometimes when there are too many spelling or gramma mistakes in the source text, I offer to edit/proofread even the source text.


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Elena Novski  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:39
Member
Russian to English
+ ...
Always, Jul 25, 2011

otherwise they may think that the poor outcome is my fault. And I am always specific.

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends Jul 25, 2011

Some clients just don't care enough for me to bother.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:39
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
If it makes a difference Jul 25, 2011

Sometimes I am presented with a sloppily-written text, but the meaning is clear enough.

For instance a draft of a letter or e-mail to be sent in English to a client. The text might have benefited from being proofread, but the meaning is clear. I check that I know who will be reading it and translate accordingly. The source text will never actually be used, and I say nothing.

If I know the source is the main document, or the original version will be used by the client's customers or clients, then I do suggest getting it proofread. It might be marketing, or a contract, where the original version takes precedence over the translation in case of doubt, and then I draw attention to poor drafting and ask for clarification. Clients are often glad to clear up the doubt.

Otherwise it depends on time and how bad the text is. If I can translate it, then I do my best.


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Blanca Amoroso  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:39
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agree! Jul 25, 2011

Elena Novski wrote:

otherwise they may think that the poor outcome is my fault. And I am always specific.


You have to tell your client, otherwise you may pay the consequences.

Regards,
Blanca


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:39
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think it essential to do so... Jul 25, 2011

...otherwise, as Elena points out, the client (i.e., either the agency or the end client) may think that any problems in the translation are my fault.

I will also sometimes make specific comments, as others have suggested, but if a document of substantial length is fundamentally defective, I really don't have the time to construct a Talmudic commentary on each and every textual issue, offering hypotheses regarding the author's intention and suggesting alternative translations.

In the end, a good translator might be able, in the best of cases, to purify contaminated water, but he should never be expected to turn water into wine.


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Cristina Heraud-van Tol  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 23:39
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Other Jul 25, 2011

Rather than "It depends on the client", I would say "It depends on the text". If it's written in a way I can manage to understand the meaning, I translate it and don't tell the client. This normally happens with technical manuals translated by non-native speakers. If it's really, really terrible that I can not understand any phrase, then I tell the client.

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Lany Chabot-Laroche  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:39
Member (2009)
English to French
I used to Jul 25, 2011

But after seeing nothing was ever done about it and that some clients even take offence, I usually don't anymore unless it's a very receptive client with which I'm on great terms.

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Alexander Kondorsky  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 07:39
English to Russian
+ ...
It does not pay and may be dangerous Jul 25, 2011

There is always a probability that source text was authored by the client's partner, protege, friend or even relative. Anyway, your client is not the least bit interested in the quality of source text.

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