Poll: Have you ever delivered a translation you weren't happy with?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 18:50
SITE STAFF
Jul 14, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever delivered a translation you weren't happy with?".

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Marjolein Snippe  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:50
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
once or twice Jul 14, 2014

At the end of the day, it is the client's wish that counts, not mine... If I have a question or comment, and I don't like or don't agree with the reply, I will try to explain my point of view, but if the client insists, I will have to yield (and try to explain one more time what I think should be changed, and why).

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
To save you all time, feel free to cut and paste Jul 14, 2014

I'm a professional but
(1) I'm not so arrogant as to think my translations couldn't be improved on
(2) Sometimes my pesky clients have stupid requirements
(3) We've all taken jobs under pressure that we wish we hadn't

Kudos to the first to admit they just dash off a pile of crap every now and again for the money

[Edited at 2014-07-14 09:07 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Once or twice Jul 14, 2014

Usually for reasons beyond my control, for example because the deadline is unrealistic or the client insists on leaving in stuff that could be improved or removed. Or clients who don't really care if it's top quality (or "nobody's going to read it anyway").

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:50
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Once or twice Jul 14, 2014

I remember one incident when my client asked for a translation in a field that I have only the "common knowledge" of (Chemestry). Although I felt like declining the job, we agreed that I would do the "best within my power" to complete the and that it would then undergo thorough proofing at the client's end. I did just that, but didn't particularily feel that I had done a good job. All in all, it worked out in the end.

Being only human, there is always a chance that I'm not exactly happy with a translation for various reasons. But I am always prepared to perform the required (or desired) corrections.icon_smile.gif


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:50
Danish to English
+ ...
I voted no but then remembered... Jul 14, 2014

... that I once took on a small job for an Indian agency, the translation of a user's guide for some small household product. The text included a numbered list of items, clearly referring to a picture of the product, which the agency was unable (or couldn't be bothered) to get hold of. Without seeing the picture, I was unable to guarantee that I chose the correct words in my native Danish. I told the agency this, and they said 'just translate it word-by-word', and amazingly, they didn't seem to understand that one English word could have more than one Danish equivalent.

In the end, I submitted the translation but as I felt that it was not a professional job, I told the agency I didn't want payment for it and would not accept any responsibility for its use. They took offence at this, but then again, I took offence at their lack of professionalism...


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 04:50
Turkish to English
+ ...
Other Jul 14, 2014

I am a perfectionist at heart so I am never 100% satisfied with my work.

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 02:50
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, once or twice Jul 14, 2014

I remember at least one instance when this happened. The source text was so badly written that I couldn’t understand even whole sentences and I was so ”green” by then that I wouldn’t dare declining a job coming from a very important client. In the end, the whole experience was extremely useful as I learned a very hard lesson (never ever accept a job without looking at it)!

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:50
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Unfortunately, several times Jul 14, 2014

Considering the time I've been translating, since 1973, it can't be just once or twice.

Every now and then I get a source text that is lame, inaccurate, incomplete, inconclusive, whatever. I do my best to improve its translation within the boundaries of faithfulness to the original, and warn the client accordingly.

Only my #1 client for 20 years in a row, in my major specialty area, gave me carte blanche in translation. There were a few cases where back-translation of my work was actually used to improve the original.

Sometimes I get a must-use glossary from the end-client that is populated with mistranslations. If there is an agency in-between, they'll tell me that they'll send my feedback to the end-client, however if it is at all possible to tweak grammar to fit their glossary, I must do it.

On other occasions I get partially translated materials, and I must match my translation to whatever is already there. Most typical cases are translated forms, screen captures, software menus, etc. If I am translating instructions, I can't fix something blatantly wrong, e.g. if they say "Click on (_something wrong_)", otherwise the user won't find it.

Most deadly is when the client asks me to translate a part of something big and, to cut costs, the remainder will be translated by the unskilled goodwill of some sesquilingual internal staff members. Of course, the ensemble will not be very good, and the end users may complain about it. The volunteering staff members who gave their 'contribution' will remain uncredited, as their identity is somewhat nebulous on exactly 'who did what'. If anyone asks who translated that @#$%&, my name will be the only one appearing on translation invoices, so there is a risk that the grapevine will advise not to hire me for translation services again.

This was particularly the case with training programs, where parts of the participants' workbooks and PPT presentations were reproduced in the course leader's guide. As the cost crunch became tighter, instead of asking me to translate the entire courseware, lock, stock, and barrel, some companies began sending me only the course leader's guide to translate. Some staff member would painstakingly copy & paste my translations to the other publications, and use Google to translate anything there that had NOT been reproduced in the leader's guide.

My response, to counter the aforementioned situation, was to offer repeated segments for free, so they'd assign me the whole job.

In any case, whenever I'm unhappy with a translation I deliver, I make sure the client is made aware of that, as well as the reasons why.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 10:50
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Yes, of course Jul 14, 2014

This happens - I've been translating 30+ years. But never intentionally, I have to add. Sometimes there are forces at work that are beyond our control - more often than not due to deficiencies in the source text and poor planning on the part of the customer or client.

Like, Thayenga (hello, long time no see), I'm happy to work out differences after delivery provided that the customer/client acknowledges that problems occurred due to no fault of yours truly and that we're both working together to clear up any issues.

But then there were times (gasp!) when I first started translating that I mistakenly thought I was almighty and could handle almost anything in my second language. I shudder at the thought of this where I'm sitting now.

@Chris S, was the last line a good enough 'confession' for you? icon_smile.gif


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Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:50
Member (2008)
English to Italian
Yes Jul 14, 2014

It might happen you struggle to find the best translation for a specific term, or a sentence, and at the end I have to say: well this is the best I could do, and you deliver it.. but obviously you are not 100% satisfied

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Luiz Barucke
Brazil
Local time: 22:50
Member (2013)
Spanish to Portuguese
+ ...
It happens Jul 14, 2014

Considering that I do not accept content I'm not comfortable with, poor translations are due to 3 main reasons:

- time
- bad source
- lack of context


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Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Once or twice Jul 14, 2014

Chris S wrote:

I'm a professional but
(1) I'm not so arrogant as to think my translations couldn't be improved on
(2) Sometimes my pesky clients have stupid requirements
(3) We've all taken jobs under pressure that we wish we hadn't

Kudos to the first to admit they just dash off a pile of crap every now and again for the money

[Edited at 2014-07-14 09:07 GMT]


(1) I'm not so arrogant as to think my translations couldn't be improved on
(2) Sometimes my pesky clients have stupid requirements
(3) We've all taken jobs under pressure that we wish we hadn't

My biggest issue is time.

P.S. Thanks Chris!


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njweatherdon
Canada
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Between time constrains and being human, I think it is safe to say perfection is always (or never) . Jul 14, 2014

I often think that another careful read would turn up some places where it is possible to improve things, but eventually you have to set perfectionism aside and get it done.

I always attach translator's notes, with extensive documentation of all places where there are potential ambiguities resulting from the process of translation, or where multiple meanings fit with the context in the source language. I think this leads some PMs to think that I don't know what I'm doing, but it always results in very high levels of satisfaction with clients.

Penny rich, dollar poor kind of effects lead many people to try to save 5 or 30 minutes. Oh well, their call.

One time I missed an entire sentence! I was very unhappy to discover that, to say the least.

Sometimes if I think there is one target audience, I translate in a certain way. This can lead to an appearance of bias if the target audience was actually different, or included groups that I hadn't considered. In these cases, I am not happy with the original translation, but perhaps not with my original effort.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:50
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Several times Jul 15, 2014

I have been translating for several decades. Obviously there have been occasions when I didn't plan my time (or wasn't given enough time) to read a job a third time before delivering it. Each time I re-read a translation, I find things to improve, so if I didn't re-read it, it was more than likely it could have been improved - and the thought that it could have been better doesn't make me happy.

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