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Should I tell my project manager the truth?
Thread poster: Oxana Salazar
Oxana Salazar  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:04
English to Russian
+ ...
Jun 12, 2009

Today I received an assignment to proofread a document translated from English into Russian. The translation, in my opinion, was very poor. It was really important to translate the document (a Doctor's letter) correctly as it was talking about how significant and necessary it was for a client to carry a medicine with her while traveling. The translated letter failed to communicate this vitally important message.
I just did not know what to do. Should I have e-mailed my project manager and told her about what I think of the quality or have done my proofreading and left it up to their quality control?
What do you do in a situation like this?


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conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:04
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
You should tell them Jun 12, 2009

If the translation did not communicate very important information that was in the source document, and if the general quality was very poor, yes you should tell them. The agency would want to know that the translation was very bad... that way they can avoid using that translator again.

But I would state it in factual terms:
Provide detailed facts about why the translation is bad, things that are objective that another person would also see as being wrong, not things that are subjective.

That way, no one can dispute that you are correct.

The agency should appreciate you providing this information.


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Oxana Salazar  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:04
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
To say or not to say? Jun 12, 2009

I had mixed feelings about talking to my PM about the other translator's job. On one hand, I deeply care about the quality of translation work and about the correct representation of a client in our profession. On the other hand, I knew if I told my PM on the other translator it would probably leave him/her without any future projects. Instead, I thought it would be a good idea to show the translator his/her mistakes or to explain how important it was in that situation to communicate the message correctly. But I am not a mentor, on the contrary, I probably still need a mentor myself.

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Umang Dholabhai  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 02:34
Member
English to Gujarati
+ ...
I always tell. Jun 12, 2009

I keep in mind, the concerns about the final product. When proofreading I do have it in mind that my translated works too pass through the same process. I have yet to find a translated text which was "zero-error" (mine too! ). However, that does not mean that the PM's should not be informed about the gaping holes. Usually the PM's from my regular agency have, by now, started to expect that I would be informing them about major issues. The advantage is that the proofreader can at least expect a better text for his/her next assignment [which permits you to avoid listening to an off-key soprano]. Personally I comment only if there are major issues involved as was the case illustrated by Oxana.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Always tell! Jun 12, 2009

They hire you as a proofreader to ensure the quality of the translation. If the translation is a mess, you should correct it and of course tell the customer. It's your duty as a proofreader. The customer has no other way of knowing whether they should hire that same translator again for that type of materials.

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Suyash Suprabh  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 02:34
English to Hindi
+ ...
I always inform my clients Jun 12, 2009

I always inform my clients regarding major errors in the translated text. I would suggest you to do the same.

Mostly, our clients expect us to inform them about any major error in the target text, and it helps both them and us in the long run.


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Lauren Butler
Local time: 22:04
Russian to English
+ ...
just another vote Jun 12, 2009

Trust your instincts and tell them in a tactful, factual way. Think of it: if you were the translation manager, you'd want to know about it!

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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:04
Italian to English
+ ...
In this case, definitely tell Jun 12, 2009

With non-critical translations, I normally don't comment on the quality of the original unless I'm specifically asked to. But in the medical field, accuracy is essential, so in this case I would certainly tell the PM of the deficiencies in the translation, providing examples.

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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:04
French to German
+ ...
Reason enough to tell Jun 12, 2009

is this statement of yours in the OP:
Oxana Salazar wrote:
The translated letter failed to communicate this vitally important message.


Laurent K.


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Volodymyr Kukharenko
Ukraine
Local time: 00:04
Member (2009)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
tell it Jun 12, 2009

Oxana Salazar wrote:

I had mixed feelings about talking to my PM about the other translator's job. On one hand, I deeply care about the quality of translation work and about the correct representation of a client in our profession. On the other hand, I knew if I told my PM on the other translator it would probably leave him/her without any future projects. Instead, I thought it would be a good idea to show the translator his/her mistakes or to explain how important it was in that situation to communicate the message correctly. But I am not a mentor, on the contrary, I probably still need a mentor myself.



People normally learn from mistakes. So even if the translator will be left without further projects, that would be a good lesson, even if you may feel that it is cruel of you. But normally the customer gives the traslator the second chance. If you leave it without notice, the customer will continue getting poor translations from that translator, and the translator may keep thinking that his(her) job is perfect. I met translators with 20-years experience who made childish mistakes just because no one criticized them before.

I was "beaten" by proofreaders several times in the past, but each time it was a good lesson, and it made my next translation better. Without criticism from colleagues the person won't be growing as professional.


So leave the doubts behind and tell everything.


[Edited at 2009-06-12 07:46 GMT]


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
I wouldn't tell Jun 12, 2009

I would just correct it and send it off, and I would only comment on it if asked to. Their quality assurance procedure has led them to have it corrected by you, so where's the problem. Here in Spain the chances of it being proofread by someone who understands Russian are very close to zero. I'm sure lots of translation is done very sloppily, in all fields.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Completely agree!! Jun 12, 2009

Vladimir Kukharenko wrote:
I was "beaten" by proofreaders several times in the past, but each time it was a good lesson, and it made my next translation better. Without criticism from colleagues the person won't be growing as professional.


That is absolutely true. The moments in my career in which I advanced more was when someone else with far more experience was blunt with me!


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Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:04
English to Dutch
+ ...
Tell, or pay... Jun 12, 2009

Don't think of it as a one-off occasion, and please let the PM know. Not just because the translator can learn that way, but also because it's better for your own future relationship with the agency.

If you don't tell your PM, he'll happily send you on another proofread job in the future from the same translator. Only this time it's not a letter, but it's 15k words. What do you do then? Happily correct / redo the job again? Would you be able to meet the deadline? How about the extra time you will have to put in? Does that come for free?

Or will you tell the PM... "Sorry, but this quality is appalling and I cannot take on this job at the proposed rate / I cannot meet your deadline, as it involves more than just proofreading to get this fixed".

In that case, the PM's answer's likely to be: "But how can that be? You never complained about this translator before."

Worst case scenario, the agency loses the large-job client because they either deliver sub-standard work or miss the deadline. You lose the agency as a client. And your colleague doesn't get paid for his 15k job because of quality issues, which could have been prevented with more timely feedback.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 23:04
English to Croatian
+ ...
Major one Jun 12, 2009

This mistake could endanger someone's life and health, evidently. So, don't question it for a single moment whether you should tell it or not.

Yes, DO tell, immediately.


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Claudia Catena
Italy
Local time: 23:04
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Proofread! Jun 12, 2009

I would correct the letter as you think it should be done (highlighting the vital information the original contains), and then tell the client the translation was poor and you had to rewrite it or change a substantial part of it.
I believe this is the best solution both for you (and your credibility as professional) and the translator (s/he will certainly learn from this, as somebody else has already pointed out!)

Claudia


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