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Sending comments and questions with your translation
Thread poster: Judith Imbo

Judith Imbo  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:53
Danish to English
+ ...
Feb 23, 2009

Apart from certain essential questions which need to be asked and answered before even starting an assignment, I wonder whether other translators send extra information during, before or on completion of their work:

- How often do you communicate problems, questions or just comments to your client? -for any reason, such as to seek clarification/confirmation or explain a translation decision you have taken.

- If you do send questions and comments, what is your experience of feedback from either agency or client?

Thanks in advance for your reply. I am working on a dissertation based on problems in translation and communication between translator and client.


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Kay Barbara
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:53
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Sometimes / as required Feb 23, 2009

Most of the jobs I work on are pretty straightforward and do not require a lot of communication with the client or agency.

When I am translating video/computer games, however, it is more likely for communication to be necessary and maybe even essential. This could arise for various reasons e.g. the client sometimes does not realise that providing the translator with as much relevant information as possible helps improve the quality of the translation.

Sometimes I choose explain parts/sentences of my translation in order to avoid "brute-force-proofreading" when my work will be proofread by another party and I do not know how experienced that proofreader is (you might always get an "But-That-Is-Not-In-The-Source-Text"-type of proofreader .

Except for one case (a direct client) communication has always been excellent (i.e. I received feedback/answers) and beneficial for the quality of the translation, no matter whether it was directly or via the agencies I work for.


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K Donnelly  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:53
Italian to English
+ ...
Sometimes Feb 23, 2009

It depends on the client or the agency. Some agencies that I work with are extremely helpful when I request clarifications. If the agency is unable to help with my questions, they will contact the client to obtain more information. I generally try to ask questions well before the project is due and group the questions together in one email to make things easier for the PM. If the deadline is tight and there is little time to ask questions, I will highlight anything I had doubts about when I submit the project so that the reviewer is sure to double check these points.

However, some agencies are not very helpful with questions. I try to avoid working with these types of agencies, as it is usually a sign that quality is not their top priority.


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Caridad Rios  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Collaborative clients make a difference Feb 23, 2009

I usually ask questions when I definitely cannot get the answers elsewhere. In my experience, large organizations are not very helpful unless good contact has been established either with the publication's authors or the project's focal point. In these cases, it is most helpful to work collaboratively with the client, especially for long publications involving policy-making and decision-making.

Caridad Rios


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Judith Imbo  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:53
Danish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you Feb 23, 2009

Thank you all three for the helpful answers posted so far.
@Caridad: by 'focal point' do you mean a contact person at the organization? Collaboration sounds an enviable thing. But does it sometimes involve more time than you would otherwise devote to a project?


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Hector Aires
Local time: 06:53
Member
English to Spanish
My humble opnion Feb 23, 2009

I think that 50% of my production is delivered with corrections in the Englsih original. You will not believe how many mistakes and typos originals have. I correct them and highlight the corrected text with a brief explanation or comment on the email or the pdf file(s) and ask the agency to make it reviewed by the final customer. 95% of the cases I'm right.
Furthermore, there are three European agencies, including one among the British top five, that usually put me in contact with their customers' technicians to ask for "illumination" or discuss how the sequence of the explanation texts should be.
It takes time, of course, but they pay for it and avoid future headaches. Besides, the final customer is happy to deal with a buddy (I'm engineer) who speaks the same language and feels the agency takes care on the quality of his translation.

My 2 cents.

Héctor


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:53
Portuguese to English
+ ...
When needed Feb 23, 2009

I always comment when something comes up that wasn't addressed when the job was sent to me. Clients/PMs seem to appreciate this.

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
absolutely yes:-) Feb 23, 2009

Judith Imbo wrote:

I wonder whether other translators send extra information during, before or on completion of their work:

- How often do you communicate problems, questions or just comments to your client? -for any reason, such as to seek clarification/confirmation or explain a translation decision you have taken.

- If you do send questions and comments, what is your experience of feedback from either agency or client?

Thanks in advance for your reply. I am working on a dissertation based on problems in translation and communication between translator and client.


I don't work for many agencies, but expect my direct clients to be available to deal with issues. I typically have issues, becuase most of my work is with authors needing to get published. I make it a point of telling them from the outset that I am likely to have doubts and they usually get the idea that publishing the best possible article is about collaboration.

Authors are usually very appreciative of this approach and also helpful (logically!).

How often? Usually as a separate doc or as comments in the text when I deliver the first version (that is, a polished version, but with issues that can only be resolved between us in further rounds).

I rarely explain a translation decision, what I usually do is simply to ask the author to confirm an interpretation, and very rarely explain why I chose one option over another or give any other kind of explanation. I think that that's in part becuase of the areas I work in, but also the fact is, they may not quite see the problem as you as a translator do, becuase they don't necessarily have your knowledge/insights into the target culture.

Agencies are another matter, and it can be problematic. For example, just recently I did the kind of text I normally do - an academic article - for an agency. This raises all kinds of problems and issues, becuase the remit is the same - get published - but there is no suitable set-up for the collaborative approach. This agency finally gave me contact details for the author, and when I phoned I discovered that the agency had sent the job but not the notes! This already placed me in a dilemma: I'm wondering why they omitted to send such an important text, and the author has been left at a loss. This author is now going to see how the translator "works better" than the agency (he will see how the "extra mile" is mine not the agency's) and may well contact me directly in the future. I would prefer not to be in this situation, and would tell him no, but would possibly advise him to find a translator to work with directly. I firmly believe that certain texts are best worked on in the collaborative approach with no intermediaries, and academic articles are included in this category.

I don't think in terms of translating x number of words in these cases, I think in terms of what it will take to produce the best possible text, and for academic articles that almost inevitably involves rounds between me and the author. My prices reflect that to some extent, but also I find it very motivational, and, of course, a happy author always comes back:-)



[Edited at 2009-02-23 18:58 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:53
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Inconsistencies and word preferences Feb 23, 2009

If it's an agency, upon finding any inconsistency in the original, I communicate with the PM immediately, especially when I know there are other translators/teams working on the same original into other languages. My favorite real example was when I spotted "both options, A, B and C have these features". I asked them to check whether it was a later addition, or if there was a surplus option there.

There are many technical words nowadays that, due to corporate culture, are left untranslated in American companies' foreign subsidiaries. It's one thing I prefer to check as early as possible, to save time in proofreading.

If it's an end-client, I do it in a slightly different way. I list all such inconsistencies, and send them a "questionnaire" after I'm through with the translation stage, but before delivery. Regarding their preferred usage, I check their existing translations, possibly other pubs provided as reference or on their web site. I only ask them when I can't find what I specifically need anywhere.


Response time is dazzling fast with great translation agencies, if asked within their and the end-client's working hours. The not-so-good ones tell me to do my best, they won't bother the emd-client with such petty details. I don't work more than once for the bad ones, so I couldn't tell.

End-clients often get puzzled with my questions, especially if several thousand copies of something they don't like - now that they've noticed it - have already been printed. A web site is often easy to fix.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:53
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
From my side Feb 23, 2009

Judith Imbo wrote:

Apart from certain essential questions which need to be asked and answered before even starting an assignment, I wonder whether other translators send extra information during, before or on completion of their work:


Generally "during", because it saves time. Usually these are the questions.

- How often do you communicate problems, questions or just comments to your client? -for any reason, such as to seek clarification/confirmation or explain a translation decision you have taken.


When I make a translation decision that could be ambiguous and it is not resolved by the client before my deadline, I highlight that part to call attention to it.

- If you do send questions and comments, what is your experience of feedback from either agency or client?


Some of my clients (agencies) are not in a position to make decisions on some questions. However, they revise texts before submission. That's when the highlighting and the footnotes come in handy. They usually understand the situation and prefer this approach.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:53
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Before, during and after Feb 23, 2009

Depending on the project, I might send feedback or questions at any stage. Sometimes the game starts with a round of clarifying terminology preferences before the actual work begins.

I usually ignore standardized feedback forms from agencies for one simple reason: for the extent of feedback I often give, these are a huge waste of my time. Unless someone wants to pay me by the word to fill these beasts out, I can't think of much to motivate me to do so.

What works best for me because I am a Déjà Vu user is to use that tool's exportable comment feature. In its current incarnation it produces an RTF table with the source text, target text, segment ID (useful in discussion sometimes) and possibly other information, such as segment status or file name. In some cases this can be pasted conveniently into those horrible agency Excel sheets, but because corrections can be made directly in these RTF tables and re-imported to the project, copying to Excel isn't such a hot idea. This works for Trados jobs done with DVX too, of course, and I suppose with just a little thought one might even be able to write a Word macro to convert those comment tables to TagEditor comment files if you're working on a TTX. (I haven't tried this yet, just thought of it earlier this evening when I was brainstorming my wish list for MemoQ comments.)

@Hector: I wouldn't believe it? Try me. The level of technical writing in English (and German for that matter) is rather appalling most of the time. Because of the severe legal consequences this can have sometimes, most customers are grateful for suggestions for improving the source text (especially when diagrams are labeled wrong or important words are missing). However, once in a while you'll find one who goes into orbit if you suggest the use of a spellchecker or point out an error that might lead to unpleasantness. One of these days maybe I'll get into the habit of doing this myself and delivering spellchecked, corrected source documents along with the translation. Charging the time, of course. But then that might be a path without end given the quality of some of these documents.


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Mónica Algazi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 06:53
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
SOMETIMES IT IS INCLUDED IN THE WORKFLOW Feb 24, 2009

Some clients include comments in their customized translation software. If you come across a term you feel should be discussed with the reviewer, you just add it right there. I feel this is a great feature.

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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 10:53
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
My experience with comments Feb 24, 2009

Judith Imbo wrote:
- How often do you communicate problems, questions or just comments to your client? -for any reason, such as to seek clarification/confirmation or explain a translation decision you have taken.

Usually anything with more that say 10.000 words. Additionally in cases, where I am essentially ask to translate the terminology - which is I assume beside the question -.
Having a "comments" file on the side is a great help to avoid getting stuck on some tough item or issue.

Judith Imbo wrote:
- If you do send questions and comments, what is your experience of feedback from either agency or client?

neutral to positive. When I ask for a feedback, I always get it. However, I dont know about suggested actions on the side of the agency.

[Edited at 2009-02-24 10:57 GMT]


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Caridad Rios  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Hi Judith, Feb 24, 2009

Judith Imbo wrote:

Thank you all three for the helpful answers posted so far.
@Caridad: by 'focal point' do you mean a contact person at the organization? Collaboration sounds an enviable thing. But does it sometimes involve more time than you would otherwise devote to a project?



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Caridad Rios  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:53
English to Spanish
+ ...
Clarification on "focal point" Feb 24, 2009

Hi Judith,

By "focal point" I mean not just a contact person but the person who is in charge of coordinating the project because more often than not, and especially with large organizations, a translator won't be directly in touch with the authors. It won't involve much time because in principle, the translator will do his/her job without resorting to someone in the organization. However, it is very convenient when there is no alternative and also, to ensure a better delivery.


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