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Poll: Have you had an experience that made you think, “I’ll never do a translation like that again”?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 16:25
SITE STAFF
Jul 12, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you had an experience that made you think, “I’ll never do a translation like that again”?".

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Jul 12, 2016

Probably yes, a couple of times, and for different reasons, but I'm too busy right now to go into details.

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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 09:25
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Yes. sort of Jul 12, 2016

Once in a blue moon

Jobs from Hell like this do crop up occasionally because sometimes you can't see what's cooking inside if you don't take the lid off the pot. Even after 30 plus years translating, you still cannot see red lights until they start to flash.

Now, it would be a much easier question to answer if it were:

Have you had an experience that made you think, “I’ll never work with a customer like that again”?

Since you can smell something is wrong at an early stage.

Like Neilmac, " I'm too busy right now to go into details." Besides, I'm sure we've all had our fair share of 'monster customers.'

[Edited at 2016-07-13 01:21 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Like right now! Jul 12, 2016

One of those long-winded contracts that are prefectly understandable, but absolutely fiendish to render in understandable English.

You are advised, with reference to my client's confidentiality, not to enquire, consider or seek to know what I mean, under the terms of NDA .... signed on (date) in two copies by myself and the co-signatory, one copy to be held by the co-signatory and one copy to be held by myself.

I hereafter intend and commit myself to stop writing drivel and devote my best efforts to meeting the deadline agreed with my client, which is not later than 2 pm this afternoon.


I will probably end up doing another one sooner or later... It's been a long night!

On other occasions, yes, I have struggled through one or two diabolical translations and really avoided doing anything like that again.



[Edited at 2016-07-12 09:11 GMT]


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Chie. I  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 09:25
Partial member (2013)
English to Japanese
+ ...
Not really (except the wrong managment) Jul 12, 2016

Not really and I'd pick something up from such experience so that I won't get into trouble next time.
The worst was notepad glossary not opening due to too large file size or frequent change in source file but it is easy to learn to avoid such projects.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:25
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Illegible source files Jul 12, 2016

Yes, following a harrowing recent experience, I've vowed never again to be persuaded to accept source files which are not fully legible. There seems lately to have been a marked increase in, for example, non-convertible PDF files which, when printed out, prove to be in a tiny, grey font (enlargeable on screen but not when printed), badly photocopied forms with entries in illegible handwriting, fuzzy, wrinkled and smudged JPG files, and so on, leading to recriminations later. Never again, for me!

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 00:25
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, twice maybe... Jul 12, 2016

A couple of times in over 30 years, that’s an excellent average, isn’t it? I’m an optimist by nature, one of those persons who always find the positive side in everything, preferring to see the glass half full rather than half empty, but I wonder if my memory is weakening… Anyway, I do remember translating all the papers for a very ugly and dirty divorce, where they bombarded each other with an impressive vocabulary filled with big insulting words. Never again!

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Lol @Christine Jul 12, 2016

Leaving aside the horror stories of the very early years (most notably being coerced into handwriting wild-guess translations on some engineering blueprints), my first decade as a translator was a continuous process of "never again" translations as I zoomed in on what I enjoyed most - economics and finance - which is pretty much all I ever do now.

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Natalie Soper  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
French to English
+ ...
Oh yes Jul 12, 2016

A very long report with horrible clunky sentences and some words that didn't even seem to exist. When I asked the agency for more clarity, they revealed that the report had originally been written in Chinese, then translated into French...and I was translating the translation. Nightmare!

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Jul 12, 2016

More than once. Usually for format reasons - especially a text that has been OCR'd and comes out in tiny little boxes.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:25
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, and declared a few subject areas off-limits Jul 12, 2016

In 1987, one very frequent client got me to try translating video for dubbing, and we discovered a natural talent I didn't know I had.

I dipped my toes once into translation for subtitling in the 1990s, but I didn't like the results. In 2004, another client convinced me that, on account of the subject area and language pair of a huge project they'd have, I should learn to translate for subtitling immediately. I studied it, adapted my method from translation from dubbing, and have been doing it successfully ever since.

Most of all, I discovered that, thanks to digital video (not in use when I began translating for dubbing), I could do the entire subtitling job on my PC. It took me just a few months to learn it all.

That second client, who got me into subtitling, is a video producing studio, which also does dubbing and subtitling. They got me into it on account of a huge series of videos on automotive mechanics, something I'm quite familiar with. But then their clientele kinda shifted. At first, they had sales training video for pharma companies. No big deal, I was used to that.

But then... these videos began to shift to the medical side of their products, and they agreed to have my translations thoroughly checked by expert bilingual MDs.

Finally, they got into surgical instruments, which were science fiction to me. I enjoy watching those crime TV series, such as CSI, Bones, etc., so I can stand the gory details of it. They sent me a video to translate for dubbing, where an MD showed and explained how some breakthrough surgical techniques are used on on women's pudenda.

I have three children, so I am familiar with the area, however I don't know the technical names of the "parts". It made no sense to me what was being done on the video, as piercing through flesh caused no bleeding. X-rated? No! From the very nature of the age-related problem, the "cast" comprised centerfolds' grandmothers only.

After an entire morning trying to research about that, I had done less than two minutes of the 40-min video (all wrong, as I was told later). So I gave up. Found a colleague who is a dermatologist MD and also a medical conference interpreter, and dumped the job on him.

He later told me that it was much more complex than we thought, as the entire thing was a novelty. He had to pester a total of six leading edge fellow MDs, among gynos and urologists, for information on how to get it straight.

So made up my mind that if it's technical medical stuff written by MDs for MDs, I'm out! I say so boldly on my web site, and took the chance to include four other categories.

As Socrates said, "We don't know what we don't know." Apart from the obvious sense it embodies, it gives us two options: a) to learn what we don't know (like I self-taught subtitling); and b) to boldly acknowledge that we don't know squat about some subject area (like I've done with medicine) in more than one language.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Longwinded & clunky sentences Jul 12, 2016

Natalie Soper wrote:

A very long report with horrible clunky sentences and some words that didn't even seem to exist. When I asked the agency for more clarity, they revealed that the report had originally been written in Chinese, then translated into French...and I was translating the translation. Nightmare!


Oh, why! Why, in Pete's name do American organizations sometimes insist on us translators to write to the level of a 5th grader (a 10-year-old) when given instructions on how to sign up for, say, a 401(k) retirement plan?



I had mini-arguments over the 5th-grade reading level over the years with project managers and/or customers who don't understand the basics of writing and reading. Nowadays, I just translate what I consider suitable for the reader and that's that.


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 22:25
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A few times, yes Jul 12, 2016

Not considering some areas I'd rather not translate, like medicine and chemistry, because I'm not qualified, there are mainly three types of documents I usually refuse:

1. Post-editing (AKA the new scam on translators)
2. PDF scanned as image and not recognized by OCR
3. Theses and other university papers submitted by one-time clients who think they speak English and are usually a PIA and make all kinds of very undue "corrections" in your translation.

In addition, there is one more "I'll never do that again", but you have to do at least one translation for the client first. That's when you find out the reviser is the type that fills your text with undue red marks, changing six for half a dozen and other undue or unnecessary changes, just to show they are useful. I usually complain once and say I will no longer waste time with that. If it doesn't work, goodbye ex-client.


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Edith van der Have-Raats  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:25
Member (2016)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Lists ... Jul 12, 2016

.. full of terminology without any context. Such translations usually take 'forever', they are underpaid (because in running text, you usually get paid the same for words like 'the', 'a' and is', which are completely absent from such lists) and - because of lack of context - you are never sure if you actually choose the right word.

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Dittebd
Denmark
Local time: 01:25
Member (2013)
German to Danish
+ ...
Oh yes... Jul 12, 2016

Edith van der Have-Raats wrote:

.. full of terminology without any context. Such translations usually take 'forever', they are underpaid (because in running text, you usually get paid the same for words like 'the', 'a' and is', which are completely absent from such lists) and - because of lack of context - you are never sure if you actually choose the right word.


those are the absolute worst, welcome to 10 EUR an hour if you're lucky! Such assignments you only take on ONCE.

Other than that as already mentioned - source texts which turn out to be badly translated (usually into English) from another language. Usually with a completely nuts syntax spiced up with advanced (but not fitting) words looked up in the dictionary and insertet at will. Had such a text recently. The assigment was a detailed architectural presentation, so sounded like quite an interesting topic at first glance. However it turned out to be an incomprehensible Spanglish mess (and I speak no Spanish at all so couldn't check the actual source), the only thing which saved me were the pictures!

Really don't understand why they didn't just look for a Spanish to Danish translator instead.


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