Proofreading an instruction manual - examples of sloppy work that endangers human lives
Thread poster: Vito Smolej

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 23:51
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Jul 25, 2007

I am proofreading (actually re-translating) an instruction manual for some machine, It is a killer of a machine: beside producing useful stuff for the mankind, it can also kill, in all kinds of ways - power, moving parts, cutters -...

Here´s an excerpt from the trouble-shooting tables. In the column, indicating possible causes for a system failure, you find sentences like

o Protection net (left/top/right etc) is open!
o The door (left/front/back/side) is open!
o The end switch (top/bottom) is active!

etc...All those sentences are consistently translated in the imperative mode:

o Open the protection net (left/top/right etc)!
o Open the door (left/front/back/side)!
o Activate the end switch (top/bottom)!
...

in my mind's eye I see the machine watch its operator and purr: "Go ahead, make my day, punk!"

Don´t these ... dodos understand, that their sloppy work endangers human lives!? No, I guess not, because they have not figured out the meaning and its context in the first place...

SIGH...

Regards

Vito

[Edited at 2007-07-25 06:16]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2007-07-25 07:02]


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Barbara Biaggi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:51
English to Italian
Oh my goodness! Jul 25, 2007

And agencies and customers keep telling that good translators' rates are too high!!!!

B.


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Martin Wenzel
Germany
Local time: 23:51
English to German
+ ...
Open valve - valve is open Jul 25, 2007

I have had something similar years ago with a plant where they used a very toxic gas comparable to dioxin...

Open valve can mean "open the valve" or the "valve is open"

whereas it actually should be "valve open" in English, I believe, but you never know...

I had about 40 queries on the original text...the agency told me that their client was on holidays, but they would phone him to clarify the queries by phone.


I told them that I would not take answers over the phone, but wanted everything in writing...

On one occasion, they asked me to come into their office to discuss future translation work. I had asked them to provide some reference materials and pictures of the machine.

When I arrived at their office, they had forgotten about the reference material.

This was the last time, I ever worked for them...


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Lars Jelking  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:51
Member (2006)
English to Swedish
+ ...
Too common Jul 25, 2007

And it all bottoms down to translators that desperately wants to make an easy buck and take jobs outside their "field(s) of expertise". You know, there are people out there that can not replace a burnt-out lamp bulb and have no scruples taking on a technical translation. They can of course not visualize the equipment and consequently do not understand how it works. Sad, isn't it, that their feeling of responsibility is just as low as their moral.

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Marta Riosalido
Spain
Local time: 23:51
Member (2006)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Question Jul 25, 2007

Whose fault is it, then? The agency's, which take the lowest quotation or the translator's, who is much too eager to translate something he / she doesn't completely understand?

Marta


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:51
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
Another question Jul 25, 2007

Marta Riosalido wrote:

Whose fault is it, then? The agency's, which take the lowest quotation or the translator's, who is much too eager to translate something he / she doesn't completely understand?

Marta


Or the client's for not being prepared to pay for a good job in the first place.

I once translated the new bits of an instruction manual and was obviously told to be consistent with the previous translations.

When I pointed out to the agency that some of the previous translation was, in my opinion, incorrect, and that different parts of the machine were translated differently in different sections, the agency informed the client. Rather unexpectedly, the client said they were aware of this and just to get on with the new bits as best we could. They were not prepared to pay for a "clean up" operation.


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Oh God, that's a real danger !! Jul 25, 2007

Barbara Biaggi wrote:

And agencies and customers keep telling that good translators' rates are too high!!!!

B.


You are right!!!

Marta Riosalido wrote:
Whose fault is it, then? The agency's, which take the lowest quotation or the translator's, who is much too eager to translate something he / she doesn't completely understand?


I'ts a combination of agency + translator. Have you ever seen someone asking for a question in Proz and selecting a wrong option against other Prozian's comments? I have. And if they do that in public, It's easy to imagine what those can decide for themselves. This is the translator part.

A professional translator would try to find out why people says that something is simply wrong. A professional agency would fire him/her if he/se does not do it.

Ruth @ MW


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Ah, yes, the customer too :) Jul 25, 2007

Nikki Graham wrote:

...
I once translated the new bits of an instruction manual and was obviously told to be consistent with the previous translations.

... Rather unexpectedly, the client said they were aware of this and just to get on with the new bits as best we could. They were not prepared to pay for a "clean up" operation.


Yes, I agree. And sometimes I know I have been a pain in the neck to a PM for that... (yeah: I love you all, my dear agents )

But... when an agency systemmatically gets such projects there is obviously a problem with them trying to sell the right project to the customer. I know that sometimes it takes time to convince a customer, but it pays the effort when you get results!!

Ruth @ MW


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 23:51
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
"Proofreading an instruction manual" - context Jul 25, 2007

I got the job from an agency, I used to work some time ago, before I moved on to greener pastures - no really hard feelings either side -. It was a first after a long long time, so it must have danced out of their line-up in any case - was suspicious enough even to the non-speaking agent. If they proofread as a rule, I cant say, this order is the only one as far back as I can remember.

In retrospect it seems there were (at least) two translators at work, the first one with little or no experience, and then a second one, who was under time pressure (and money pressure I assume as well), so he/she used lavishly his/her line of TMs at an outrageously low match rate (bam wham thank you .. segment)

Who's the father of the "open problem", I can't say: note however, the source is German, so it is the difference between "Tür offen" and "Tür öffnen" so the source can not be misunderstood.

So whose fault is it? It´s the agency and whoever they hired to do the job. On the other hand, it´s the agency itself, that pulled the plug to avoid a disaster. And by the time the text gets to the client, this will be all forgotten.

So we´re all OK, are we not (sg)? Needless to say, the pay for this job will be below my average, actually below average minus 2 * sigma to be exact. But who would expect this kind of BS...

[Edited at 2007-07-25 11:31]


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Can Altinbay  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:51
Japanese to English
+ ...
Indeed too common and... Jul 25, 2007

Lars Jelking wrote:

And it all bottoms down to translators that desperately wants to make an easy buck and take jobs outside their "field(s) of expertise". You know, there are people out there that can not replace a burnt-out lamp bulb and have no scruples taking on a technical translation. They can of course not visualize the equipment and consequently do not understand how it works. Sad, isn't it, that their feeling of responsibility is just as low as their moral.


I agree, except that in this case, the area of expertise is not the technical field, but the language. The translator does not comprehend simple English (or whatever language the source is in, but assuming that the quoted sentences are in English...)

I suppose that Original Translator sees an exclamation mark and immediately kicks into oh, it's imperative. What is hard about "Valve IS open"? Especially when the context is troubleshooting.

You can't take a few years in a language and become a great translator. When you do, you hurt the rest of us. Why, after seeing this kind of "work", would anyone think of us as professional?

Thre is another culprit in this, and that is the person who wrote the source text. I worked in computers and IT for 25 years, and long fought a losing battle against exclamation pointitis. User messages and manuals are full of announcements of incredibly exciting events such as successfully performed tasks and beautifully opened files, all ending in ! Colleagues, I'm sure you'll agree that these events are not really that exciting, though some may feel that with today's computers, a successful anything is worth popping the champagne over.


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:51
German to English
+ ...
Proofreading or defusing? ;-) Jul 25, 2007

Vito Smolej wrote:
So we´re all OK, are we not (sg)? Needless to say, the pay for this job will be below my average, actually below average minus 2 * sigma to be exact. But who would expect this kind of BS...

[Edited at 2007-07-25 11:31]


Did you didn't think about reading the document, explaining to the agency that it was virtually a retranslation and you would meet them halfway with rates?

Did you think of asking the agency about their third party insurance coverage?

Tut tut!

I have been sticking to such firm rules for a long time. Almost as long as my nose is.

A good point, Vito. Goes to show how scary things can sometimes be in this business and to show how vital it is that someone along the "supply chain" gives a s**t.


Lars Jelking said:
There is another culprit in this, and that is the person who wrote the source text.


I know a (specialist) colleague who has been known to violently harrass people about crap/potentially dangerous source text and offers to rewrite it for them. Sometimes it works...

Cheers
Chris


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 00:51
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
go proofreader, go... Jul 27, 2007

Dear Vito,

Seems to be a "classical example to save the money" - the agency that got this job from the end client bootlicked the client by accepting a big volume to be done "before yesterday" (some 15000 words per two days) and by offering "big and special discounts"...The found some cheapest translators who worked 26 hours per day for a couple of bucks per page (even worse - divided the same manual between 2 or 3 people) and here you are "Dear Vito, we have a proofreading job - could you please check if all is OK ? We need it back urgently". I had such a situation. The agency asked "Is that text good?". Had to reply that "good" can depend on many factors and that in our specific case the text contained an average of 80 grammar mistakes (not even speaking about the technical comprehension and correct terminology) and a 10-year pupil would not be able to get even a negative mark at school for such a text. The client got really mad (I think they really had their reasons).

I imagine how "easy" it should be for you...

Just two questions (hope this is not too personal):

1) how much do you charge for such "proofreading"? Having in mind that it takes more time (let alone physical and mental energy) to correct a complete scrap instead of translating it "from zero"?

2) what about your "emotional state"? I simply cannot work more than 2 hours at a go with such stuff as I can "explode" from the negative emotions it "accumulates" mumbling for myself permanently (on the basis of a monologue) "How dare people make such a nonsense?!", "Damn ... can they really be that stupid?", "Will never ever take any proofing job again" - when my wife returns home from work, she can feel in 2-3 seconds that I am doing a proofing job or a very poor text because all cm3 of my computer room is "electrified"


Well, I do not think there is a big probability that people might be killed or injured because the ones who use the machinery are engineers and qualified specialists + there is a common sense - no one fill try to stop a knife that rotates at the speed of 2000 rpm, nor will anyone check if there is voltage in a 360 V cable by touching it with wet hands...But if people translate "open" instead of "close"...Let's hope for the best - let's be optimists.

Whose fault is that? I think it is the fault of the agency - out of any question. Because 1) they have to know what people they hire for their projects (is it your or client's fault that they take those people who translate "open" instad of "close"?, 2) the agency shall know the principle "Do you need high quality or low prices?" - I think they just got an adequate quality of translation for the rates they paid; 3) it seems that the greater majority of all those terrible translations are done with a total lack of time (overnights, by several people) - isn't it the agency who should know the realistic deadlines ? Seems that no-one serious wanted to take the translation because of the urgency (a week ago I got a proposal to make a technical translation of 8600 words "for tomorrow" - did not even bother to respond) and/or because of the low rate.

And, Vito, do not spoil your health - if agencies send you such "trampslations" for "revision", tell them straightly "I will only retranslate it on a full rate basis on my usual translation turnaround"...Why someone who does not know how to manage things shall ride on your neck to the heaven? Why their problems shall be your problems?









[Edited at 2007-07-27 00:35]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 23:51
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Leaning back... Jul 30, 2007

1) how much do you charge for such "proofreading"?


The rate, which I set myself after spending 10 minutes with the text. Its pizza money compared to the time I spent on it - equal pretty much to the time to translate from scratch. But, a deal is a deal and I will not go on barricades with the agent. But believe me, I will get my pound of flesh from them sooner or later.

2) what about your "emotional state"?


There's two "pathic" sisters empathy and sympathy.

Sympathy means suffering together:"Headache? You got headache? Omegod, I know, ya, it hurts ME like hell". Empathy is understanding the suffering (but not suffer yourself): "Headache? I see... Can I get you an aspirin?"

If you mix sympathy and empathy, you're in for trouble - see all the drinking going on in the doctors' and lawyers' guilds for instance.

I screwed up taking by on this job, but I did it, hopefully saving some poor sob his hide and ... and tomorrow the agent is back from holidays(*)

Thanks for your musings. Feels good.

Vito

* remembered what Al Capone used to say: "you can achieve much more with a good word and a gun in your hand, that by just a good word alone".

[Edited at 2007-07-30 19:28]


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 19:51
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Moving this thread... Oct 7, 2007

... to Proofreading forum

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