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Translating from a source that has already been (badly) translated
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Aug 11, 2008

I have been asked to translate, from Italian into English, a fairly technical document that someone else has previously tried to translate from another language (maybe using MT) into Italian.

All I have to work with is this lousy bad Italian, which in many places is incomprehensible or could be translated in different ways.

Should I advise the outsourcer that I am willing to attempt a translation, guessing as best I can what the source text means, on condition that the outsourcer absolves me of all responsibility for inaccuracies in my translation?


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
Advise Aug 11, 2008

You might advise the outsourcer that it would be very difficult if not impossible to do an accurate translation of the material and you would feel uncomfortable professionaly in doing it. In my own case that is what I would do, and on that basis I would decline the job.

Anyone still insisting that it be done under those circumstances would be unprofessional in my opinion and would not be worth working for.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:46
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree Aug 11, 2008

Henry Hinds wrote:

You might advise the outsourcer that it would be very difficult if not impossible to do an accurate translation of the material and you would feel uncomfortable professionaly in doing it. In my own case that is what I would do, and on that basis I would decline the job.



Personally, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole ... why put yourself through the torture for starters?

[Edited at 2008-08-11 18:26]


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lexical  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:46
Portuguese to English
Agree with Henry Aug 11, 2008

Having been there myself (only once, I assure you) I promise you will be sorry you agreed to do it long before you are 10% of the way through it. Do as Henry suggests, and turn it down - politely by all means - but do turn it down.

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shfranke  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:46
English to Arabic
+ ...
Agree with the good comments by other posters here Aug 11, 2008

Greetings.

May I agree with and second the good comments by other posters here about declining that (here in respectful understatement) convoluted project.

This situation seems to be clear case of the proverbial "pig with (at least one coat of) lipstick" already lavishly applied.

No amount promised would be worth the mental anguish and intellectual wear-and-tear you have to endure to stablize, clarify and complete that project, even with generous turn-around time were available (the opposite is more often the case).

Hope this helps.

Regards,

Stephen H. Franke
English - Arabic,
Kurdish and Persian
San Pedro, California


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
hmmm Aug 11, 2008

thanks for all your sensible advice. I've sent the outsourcer the following message:

(start of message) Dear XXXXX

In order to meet your deadline I must move forward with the translation you sent me, but now I have stopped because the source text is very bad. Often there are two completely different ways of translating the same thing and it is impossible for me to be accurate.

I don't want to give you a bad translation but when the source is bad, that's all I can do!

I think there are two options:

1. Tomorrow you are able to get me a good-quality Italian text to work with and by Friday morning I give you a good, accurate translation.
2. You can't give me a good-quality Italian text to work with, but I have to keep working to meet the deadline. By Friday morning I give you as good a translation as I can, on condition that you accept any inaccuracies it may contain, or leave it to your client to correct them.

Which option is better? (end of message)

If I don't get a satisfactory answer by tomorrow morning - I'll withdraw. I hear what you all say, and would prefer to withdraw but I'll give it until tomorrow.

[Edited at 2008-08-11 22:23]


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Joseph Ferran
Argentina
Local time: 09:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Translating from a source that has already been (badly) translated Aug 11, 2008

Dear Friend:

I made the mistake of trying to tackle a similar situation. The truth is that it is not easy to try to understand something that as been "lost in translation".
Ask them to try to obtain the original... that would be your best bet.
Trying to translate from a version that has been "destroyed" by poor quality translation or to fix a poorly translated version... is a nightmare.
My advice... do not touch it with a 10 foot pole. Stay away from such projects and save yourself a headache.
Whatever your decision is... Good Luck


[Edited at 2008-08-11 23:35]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
the story continues.... Aug 12, 2008

Thanks, dear friends, for your further comments.

The incredible thing is that the outsourcer now tells me the client has withdrawn the translation, and would I kindly send what I've done so far ?

( ha ha)

I've asked the outsourcer how she is going to pay me if I send what I've done. I have no intention of sending her anything, of course, and getting payment would probably be impossible.

I would add that this outsourcer has a long list of positive entries in the Proz.com Blue Board, and a very high score, and that's why I originally accepted the job.

If anyone wants to know what outsourcer this is, just email me.

[Edited at 2008-08-12 09:00]


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xxxPRen
Canada
Local time: 09:46
French to English
+ ...
Job is withdrawn Aug 12, 2008

A (very good) client of mine occasionally withdraws a job once I've started - they always pay me for what I've already translated, at the full rate (18 cents), even if I've only done a partial first draft. That's only fair. By agreeing to take on the job, you've also made yourself unavailable for other clients and jobs. And if your client is an agency, you can bet she's going to turn around and bill her client.

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Nikolaj Widenmann
United States
Local time: 06:46
Member (2007)
Danish to English
+ ...
Offer to translate from scratch Aug 12, 2008

I had a similar situation not too long ago. I pointed out the flawed machine translation and offered to translate from scratch. I didn't get that particular project, but I did get a different and "normal" assignment from the same outsourcer, which posed no problems and was paid promptly.

Good luck.

- Nikolaj


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
needless to say--- Aug 12, 2008

needless to say, my request to the outsourcer that she explain how she's going to pay me if I send her the partly-completed work, got no reply.

And anyway, if her client had really cancelled the job, why did she want my partly-completed version of it?

Really bad behaviour!


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Gisela Greenlee  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:46
German to English
+ ...
Not necessarily bad behavior Aug 12, 2008

I would go on the assumption that the outsourcer asked for the partially completed translation so he/she can bill their client. I don't think you would have been asked to send what you've done so far if that wasn't the plan. Most likely the client was presented with the 2 options you proposed and decided to cancel and regroup for now. I don't really see any bad behavior so far, I'd wait to see if you get paid for what you did translate and then make a final judgement.

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
wrong assumption Aug 12, 2008

Since the outsourcer has failed to get in touch with me, that means they are behaving badly. I'm really not very interested in speculating as to what their intentions might be. I prefer to concentrate on their actions.

Every time I register an invoice I become liable to pay tax on the amount, whether or not it is paid. I only issue invoices when I am certain they will be paid, not as an adventure "to see" if they will be paid.

Anyway, this matter is now closed as far as I am concerned, thanks to the wise words of some of the earlier posters in this thread - to whom my thanks !

[Edited at 2008-08-12 18:40]


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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Same way as usual? Aug 12, 2008

needless to say, my request to the outsourcer that she explain how she's going to pay me if I send her the partly-completed work, got no reply.


Presumably, Tom (in London), you send an invoice for the partially completed work, then they pay you as per agreed terms (30, 45, 60, 90, etc. days)?

And if your client is an agency, you can bet she's going to turn around and bill her client.


So you do the same.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
What she might do.... Aug 12, 2008

John Paul Weir

As said above, I'm not in the business of speculating what she might do if I bill her.

She hasn't replied at all to my last message. I'm basing my judgment on that. Not on whether/who/for how much she might bill someone else if I bill her. She might be thinking what you're thinking. And then again, she might not. Neither of us can possibly know.


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