Pages in topic:   [1 2 3] >
Back translations - I HATE THEM!!!
Thread poster: Nesrin

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:57
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jul 8, 2008

Yes, I know this has been discussed before,
here
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/74202-back_translation.html
here
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/12505-dont_you_just_hate_back_translations.html
(by a fellow back-translation hater )
and elsewhere...

and people have defended/ cast doubt on their value before, but I just have to vent my frustration!!!

I've been sitting here for the past hour, going over dozens of comments by the client on a back translation of my own translation. And for the past hour I've been defending the fact that I translated "ability test" as "test of ability" - I'm sorry but that's how Arabic is constructed!!! , the fact that I often start sentences with "and" - I'm sorry but this is very common and acceptable in Arabic!, and explaining where the back-translator mistranslated my translation!!!

The few comments that I found reasonable where issues that a good proofreader could have picked on much more easily and clearly.

Is there a more money-wasting (for the client) and time-wasting (for me and the back-translator, even if we get paid for it) exercise????

[RANT OVER]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Robin Salmon  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 19:57
German to English
+ ...
Wrong end of the stick? Jul 8, 2008

Nesrin wrote:



I've been sitting here for the past hour, going over dozens of comments by the client on a back translation of my own translation. And for the past hour I've been defending the fact that I translated "ability test" as "test of ability" - I'm sorry but that's how Arabic is constructed!!! , the fact that I often start sentences with "and" - I'm sorry but this is very common and acceptable in Arabic!, and explaining where the back-translator mistranslated my translation!!!



When translating, which do you respect more, your own language or the target language?

Sorry, Nesrin! It looks like I'm the one who got the wrong end of the stick too early in the morning! I thought you had translated into English.

I have never had to do a back translation.



[Edited at 2008-07-09 12:42]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:57
English to French
+ ...
I would flat out refuse to do it Jul 8, 2008

Hello Nesrin,

I totally understand your frustration. I have luckily never had to backtranslate or review a backtranslation, but if I was ever asked to, I would flat out refuse, for reasons I will not go into but that you can easily guess in your current situation.

I can see why some clients prefer to work this way, but it should be done on their own time and at their own expense. After all, these clients are the ones who chose this method and the translator wasn't asking for it.

I am not sure if you will feel any better, but here goes.

I was asked to translate software packaging a few weeks ago. The job is worth about $150. I said sure, I'll do it. Well, first of all, this is packaging, which means there is a lot of missing context - I was expecting a PDF along with the translatable document, especially since this client always sends PDFs of everything. But no. No PDF. Just a Word file, with placeholders for where things will land in the finished PDF document. Alright. I do the translation.

I deliver. The day after, the client wants me to proof the PDF - this is the procedure they use and I agree with it. They send me a PDF... of the Word file! Alright, I proof it. A typo and a missing non-breaking space later, I send it off. Seems like my work is done - no siree!

They contact me the day after saying the client is not happy with the translation. They send me a Word document with yellow comments (ooooh! I love those!) wherein the reviewer says things like "erm, I'm not sure about this one" and "do they really say this in French?". No suggestion of better alternatives, no constructive comment, and each occurrence of DC (the correct French translation of CD) was reverted back to CD. Just for fun, I checked who this person is - I found out he's marketing director in a big computer hardware company and he just happens to speak French (with lots of typos). Ew!

Then, my client asks if I could please reply to the client's reviewer's comments. Alright, let's do it. Just when I am done adding my own yellow comments to the file and sending it off, I get another version of the same, this time with comments from my client's internal reviewer, who by the way initially liked my translation. So, here I am, sitting in front of two different Word documents full of yellow comments. Of course, I should reply to the internal editor's comments as well.

Meanwhile, I learn that the source document has changed since I started the translation because they realized that some functions of the software in question are not supported in French. Now, I am getting comments from the marketing director that I shouldn't include those parts in my translation...

I am then asked to combine all yellow comments in the Word file and add mine - I comment on those comments the second time around now. I do that and then, I am asked to decide how each "error" is resolved, and add that into the Word document, add the same comments into the PDF file AND correct the TTX file accordingly. Cool, I do it.

Then, I get a PDF of all this, which still has some problems. The DTP people don't speak French and so disregard things like French trademark symbols, non-breaking spaces, etc. So, I add some comments in there.

Guess what I got today? A new version of this PDF, to proof again to make sure everything is perfect. All in all, I have worked three entire days for those $150, when I find that working one day for that kind of money is already too much to ask.

I know, my story has nothing to do with backtranslation - but hey! You and I sure know what it feels like to waste precious time on useless tasks!

I truly sympathize!

[Edited at 2008-07-08 23:52]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:57
English to Arabic
+ ...
Your good closing question Jul 8, 2008

Ahalan wa sahalan, Nesrin!

Re your closing good question in your interesting post:

Is there a more money-wasting (for the client) and time-wasting (for me and the back-translator, even if we get paid for it) exercise????

The answer is no.

About that person's nitpicking, which is only worsened by such apparent ignorance of Arabic literary conventions: Yaa salaam... yaa saatir, ustur...

Regards.

Stephen

San Pedro, California


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:57
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What a nightmare! Jul 9, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

I am not sure if you will feel any better, but here goes.



This seems like all the troubles I've had with the past 10 projects bundled into one! I certainly sympathise with you too.
Lately, these "spinoffs" (if that's a suitable word) of submitted work has been driving me mad. Checking back translations is only one of them, but there's certainly everything else you've mentioned as well.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Back translation is invalid Jul 9, 2008

Back translation is just plain invalid as a means of determining how good your translation is. If the client does not know that, you do not need that client.

[Editado a las 2008-07-09 00:24]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 11:57
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
I'll frame this and hang it behind my monitor Jul 9, 2008

Back translation is just plain invalid as a means of determining how good your translation is. If the client does not know that, you do not need that client.

++


Direct link Reply with quote
 

casey
United States
Local time: 05:57
Member
Japanese to English
Could you clarify? Jul 9, 2008

Nesrin wrote:
I've been sitting here for the past hour, going over dozens of comments by the client on a back translation of my own translation. And for the past hour I've been defending the fact that I translated "ability test" as "test of ability" - I'm sorry but that's how Arabic is constructed!!! , the fact that I often start sentences with "and" - I'm sorry but this is very common and acceptable in Arabic!, and explaining where the back-translator mistranslated my translation!!!


Are you saying that their back-translator translated your Arabic text back into English and started his or her own sentences with "and" and used "test of ability" instead of "ability test"? If that is the case, this is a problem with the second translator and not the first (you).


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Like any other type of work Jul 9, 2008

Henry Hinds wrote:

Back translation is just plain invalid as a means of determining how good your translation is. If the client does not know that, you do not need that client.

[Editado a las 2008-07-09 00:24]


A back-translation done wrong or used for the wrong purpose is a useless tool, much like a hammer with a loose handle that's being used to clean fragile glass.

But just because there are idiots out there doesn't mean we should stop using hammers.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Sundar Gopalakrishnan
India
Local time: 15:27
English to Tamil
+ ...
No use! Jul 9, 2008

What is the use of back translations? They serve no purpose at all. A back translation is never going to match the source text exactly. So it is better to employ a competent translator rather than to go for back translations. Back translation is useful for academic purposes only. For example, they are used in the field of translation studies to theorise about translation. In my humble opinion, translators should not accept back translation jobs. Even if they accept them, they should do back translation for just a portion only. That must be sufficient to know whether the first translator's work is good or not.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:57
German to English
Where is this common? Jul 9, 2008

I've never even heard of this and am wondering how it is meant to work: does anyone have a good link explaining what the purpose of backtranslation is, and how it's supposed to be done?

casey wrote:
Are you saying that their back-translator translated your Arabic text back into English and started his or her own sentences with "and" and used "test of ability" instead of "ability test"? If that is the case, this is a problem with the second translator and not the first (you).


I'm guessing that the point of backtranslation is to produce a literal translation, rather than a native-like one? Is this right - and is your problem the fact that the client doesn't understand that, Nesrin?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:57
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Bad back translation Jul 9, 2008

casey wrote:

Are you saying that their back-translator translated your Arabic text back into English and started his or her own sentences with "and" and used "test of ability" instead of "ability test"? If that is the case, this is a problem with the second translator and not the first (you).


Yes, that's exactly what happened - the back-translator did do quite a bad job out of it, which made matters much worse than they need have been.
But my previous experience with better back-translations has never convinced me that they're any more use than a thorough proofreading job. They just raise questions that shouldn't be raised in the first place, thus wasting a lot of effort.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:57
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Quality control tool Jul 9, 2008

Anne Koth wrote:

I've never even heard of this and am wondering how it is meant to work: does anyone have a good link explaining what the purpose of backtranslation is, and how it's supposed to be done?

I'm guessing that the point of backtranslation is to produce a literal translation, rather than a native-like one? Is this right - and is your problem the fact that the client doesn't understand that, Nesrin?


Hi Anne -

Apparently this is a kind of quality control tool. In my experience they're often used in surveys, tests, questionnaires etc where the client needs to be sure that the respondent will understand the question as it is intended. So the back translation is meant to point to any inconsistencies/ambiguities.

In the discussion I mentioned above
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/74202-back_translation.html
you'll find several colleagues explaining why back translations are necessary (Steven, Samuel, Martin), but I personally fully second the opinion of Henry (the original poster).

[Edited at 2008-07-09 09:04]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:57
German to English
Good to be warned Jul 9, 2008

If I do get asked to do one of these, I now know the risks and will steer well away from it!

I couldn't put it better than Marc P at http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/74202-back_translation.html#581916
Marc P wrote:
Either the flaws in the original translation will be retained, and possibly even multiplied, as in a game of Chinese whispers. Or a skilled translator may succeed in correctly inferring the meaning of the original from a poor translation and producing a perfectly usable text from it.
It follows therefore that a badly written original (source) text may result in a good or bad back translation, that a well written original may result in a good or bad back translation, and that in none of these four permutations can the standard of the intermediate translation necessarily be inferred from the end result.


Apart from this, there would be the whole problem of ensuring that the client, translator and back translator were all in complete agreement as to the purpose and the method of the back translation. As clients usually have little idea about language and translators often have different ideas about how to translate, somehow I can't see it happening!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxhazmatgerman
Local time: 11:57
English to German
Soothing remarks Jul 9, 2008

Dear Nesrin,
On the point of "and" at start of sentence: it would be knowledge-enhancing for your customer-backtranslator to be given a chance to read Sir R. F. Burtons's 'Nights' translation from the source text. Much could be learned from his volumes, for those who ha a feel for language.
Good luck, and do it to them before they do it to you.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2 3] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Back translations - I HATE THEM!!!

Advanced search







TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search