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When an end client simply "prefers" other words!
Thread poster: Rebecca Lyne

Rebecca Lyne
France
French to English
+ ...
May 21, 2008

Hi all,

I have a situation in which I translated a document for an agency. The client has come back to the agency saying they were not happy with the translation. Upon reading their 'corrections', it appears that what this is about is the personal style of the reader vs the translation.

Such differences as

hold vs store
Fill in vs complete
indicate vs. specify
verify vs check
part of vs section of
for defining vs to define

Lots and lots of this sort of thing.

What would your response to an agency be in this situation?

Thanks!


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Rosa Diez Tagarro  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:24
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
specify these are not corrections May 21, 2008

but preferences, and they are entitled to them, but this doesn't mean your translation is wrong.

Unless there are other kind of corrections, just bring to their attention the fact that the customer is suggesting synonymes. A matter of style.

Keep calm and be extremely polite even if infuriated.

Best of luck!

Rosa


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Joan Berglund  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:24
French to English
smile politely? May 21, 2008

As long as they are not claiming that you owe them any kind of discount for quality issues, I would just politely say that I was making a note of their preferences for the future. And then I would most likely arrange to be busy for the next translation. If they are asking for a discount, that is a different question, probably requiring legal advice, because the examples you gave certainly don't warrant a complaint about quality.

P.S. I wonder if I've worked for these guys? There are a few of them out there:)

[Edited at 2008-05-21 14:21]


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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:24
Spanish to English
+ ...
Should have specified May 21, 2008

If the client had a preference for certain words/expressions over others, they could - or should - have specified this from the outset. Point that out to them. As Rosa has stated, this is about preferences rather than 'corrections'. Stand your ground on this one.

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Rebecca Lyne
France
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks!! May 21, 2008

Thank you all!

I have replied to the agency and will update you on whatever feedback I get.

Best,
Rebecca


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:24
Member
English to French
IT end-customer? May 21, 2008

In which case, hold, indicate and verify are indeed quite rarely written to mean store, specify and check, from my experience as a ENtoFR translator.
To my non-native ear, such words would sound "foreign" in an IT text.

So yes, they are synonyms, the meaning is there, but there are also "customs" in various trades. If you are not familiar with them, then your translation will read awkwardly to the audience, ie like a translation (which we don't want). And the customer will not be happy.

However, without specific stylistic/translation instructions, you are entitled to comment at will on these changes. But you will also learn from them.

Forget my post if I made wrong assumptions.

Good luck,
Philippe


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:24
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Ignore them May 21, 2008

They will never pay you in a month of Sundays, so it might be a very good idea to simply get on with the next paid job.

The customer is always right.


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Rebecca Lyne
France
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
paying May 21, 2008

Hi Astrid,

I understand what you are saying, however, we know from experience that the customer is not always right.

Sometimes the customer simply does not want to pay.

Best,
Rebecca


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:24
English to French
+ ...
The customer is not always right May 21, 2008

When an order is placed for any good or service, the client has to specify their preferences. In fact, they should check if you can offer them a customized service before even placing the order. If you buy a Nintendo DS without specifying the colour, you are guaranteed to get the least popular, default colour. Whose fault is it? I once bought a Dell computer and did not specify the language of the OS (English and French OS both have to be offered in Quebec because French is the official language) and I received a computer with a French OS, much to my dismay. However, I am the one who did not specify the language of the OS and therefore cannot complain, and I did not. The same goes for this client.

If the client doesn't specify what s/he wants, how can you guess? We are translators, not mind readers...

Also, if the "errors" they found are simply term preferences, if they were able to identify and correct those "errors", they are surely smart enough to simply replace your words by the ones they prefer.

I somehow feel they are just trying really hard to prove that your translation is no good so they don't have to pay you. And they clearly weren't able to find any substantial errors. Offer to correct the words they don't like to the ones they prefer, and also request a list of preferred terms, making sure to mention you will only correct those and no further mind reading will be performed. If that is not good enough for them, I would post this on their BlueBoard if I were you, clearly stating what the client's complaint was so that other translators know what to expect if they decide to work with that client.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:24
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Sounds familiar to me May 21, 2008

I've had this kind of complaint from end clients numerous times. Usually they are not speakers of the target language, but think they know better. It irritates me no end, but I try to be polite and simply say that these are questions of style and certainly not mistakes on my part (and under my breath I say, why don't you translate it yourself next time!)...

Amy


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:24
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I know my previous reply does not sound right or fair May 21, 2008

However, my experience is that - regardless of whether the customer genuinely "does not like" the product they received, for one reason or another, or simply wants to get out of paying - there is no practical, reasonable or cost-effective way to get the money out of them.

Every single minute that you spend on the subject is time lost from your money-earning time, and therefore will not bring you any gain, but only further losses (of time, and therefore money). To increase my income, I therefore usually simply walk away, and leave them and their conscience to their own devices. It is maybe not what I would have done at one time, but the German fiscal authorities are always holding out their hands for more and more tax money, and I would not be able to keep up with paying for the privilege of working if I did not act in an absolutely practical way, cut my losses and concentrate on known customers who like my translations and very happily pay the invoices.

Sure, Rebecca, I feel for you, but if you want to earn as much as possible....

Astrid


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:24
English to French
+ ...
Accepting such situations will only worsen the overall situation of translators May 21, 2008

I agree with Astrid that the more time one spends chasing money down, the less time one has to actually make more money. But that, in my opinion, is too simplistic an approach to making money.

By accepting such unfair situations without doing anything about it, the message we send to agencies and other client types is that they are right and we are wrong. Many agencies already take our services for granted, inventing ridiculous reasons to avoid paying us. I hope that the majority of translators actually acts upon these unfair situations and that only a small minority lets it go right from the start. Otherwise, we would be conditioning the market into believing that the customer is always right and that our work, as well as our invoicing, can be interpreted any way the client prefers.

Translation is a serious profession. We are not unskilled labour paid under the table, and we have rights, just like any other service company. The translator delivered the service - she is entitled to be paid for it. Not demanding payment would be like admitting that her work was unsatisfactory.

I agree that it may be inefficient to chase payment and use every resource possible until there is none left. But I would demand payment, perhaps through registered mail, and definitely post a BlueBoard entry. It's the least one can do to protect one's reputation, the market and the profession.

[Edited at 2008-05-22 06:48]


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 11:24
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
errors or rewording? May 22, 2008

Can such "corrections" be considered as mistakes or errors? No. Have you translated something incorrectly, did you use some incorrect terminology, did the client give their own "preferred terminology"? No. Are there any real reasons to be unhappy about the translation? No. So, as long as they have received a correct translation done in good quality and on time, rewording is their own problem and "matter of taste". A simple letter to the client explaining that in a polite manner and a clear indication "Sorry, I cannot accept such claims" will do.

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The Misha
Local time: 04:24
Russian to English
+ ...
An eye for an eye May 22, 2008

I am afraid Astrid may be right, and throwing good money after the bad is not the best business decision. More likely than not you will not squeeze you money out of them. However, I tend to side with Viktoria here. This is America (oops, at least it is for me), and if you've been wronged, you are entitled to your moral satisfaction, if nothing else. If I were you I'd scream bloody murder and complain anywhere I can. BB, ATA, ITI, BBB, the Office of Attorney General, the Chamber of Commerce, the United Nations - you name it. Vindictive? You bet! But then again, no one has ever canceled that beautiful eye for an eye concept ...

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Rosa Diez Tagarro  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:24
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
completely agree with Viktoria May 22, 2008

This is the same thing with late payers. I insist on being paid on time, and some agencies are surprised I find it so important. Then I see that other translators' attitude is "oh, yes, they are always late with payments, but they do pay in the end, so there's no need to complain". They don't realise they're making it harder for me to educate this customer.

We're part of a profession, and we should think of the consequences of our acts for other colleagues.

Rosa


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