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How do I deal with factual errors when translating?
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
May 17, 2009

I would like to know how to deal with factual errors in original documents when translating (when the error is obvious). Two examples in recent documents that I have translated are:

"... in the city of Pouso Alegre (SP)" [actually MG]

"Brazil has an area of 8.5 thousand km2" [actually 8.5 million]

Which of the following would be the best course of action?

1. Correct the text in the original (if editable) and also in the translation?

2. Correct the text in the translation only, and notify the client?

3. Translate as is and mark it with [sic]?

4. Translate it and list the errors in a separate file?

5. Ignore it, and translate the text as it stands?

Comments would be welcome.


 

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:09
English to Arabic
+ ...
What I would do... May 17, 2009

and what I have done in the past, is get in touch with the client as soon as possible (before submitting my translation), point out the errors, and suggest correcting the translation, as long as the client is happy with that.

If for some reason it's not possible to reach the client before the deadline, I would submit a corrected version and explain what I've done in a note to the client. I would offer to change everything back to the "incorrect" version if for some reason the client wants it just the way it is.


 

Rodna Ruskovska  Identity Verified
Macedonia (FYROM)
Local time: 19:09
Member
Macedonian to English
+ ...
I would and do :) May 17, 2009

3. Translate as is and mark it with [sic]?

And inform the client to tell the end client that there are some errors in the original and that I have marked them with [sic] in the translation.

After all - as a translator the original text is not my business - let the authors deal with it. I am not being paid to proofread it.


 

Peter Manda (X)
Local time: 13:09
German to English
+ ...
it depends May 17, 2009

If you are translating the document as a certified translation, then you would translate as is and enter "sic"

If you are translating for business presentations, you would correct and highlight, if the "error" is signifcant (the second error may be significant, the first one (misspelling of Puerto Alegre) probably not)

Resolve with client or agency, if in doubt.


 

Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:09
French to English
Option 2 May 17, 2009

I always notify my client when I come across these. If for some reason I don't receive further instructions, I go with option 2.

I don't correct the source text.


 

PRen (X)
Canada
Local time: 14:09
French to English
+ ...
Don't.... May 17, 2009

correct the original - that is not your mandate. Don't use [sic] - that would denote an error in your text (translation). Don't use translator's notes - they're generally not appreciated in the body of a translation.

Do send a letter / email to the client, with the translation, listing what you perceive to be errors.


 

Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:09
Spanish to English
+ ...
Send both versions May 17, 2009

Nesrin wrote:

If for some reason it's not possible to reach the client before the deadline, I would submit a corrected version and explain what I've done in a note to the client. I would offer to change everything back to the "incorrect" version if for some reason the client wants it just the way it is.


I agree with you, Nesrin, except that I send both a corrected and uncorrected version. Then I don't have to deal with any more back and forth on that particular project.


 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks May 18, 2009

Thanks to all who have replied. By the way, FYI, "Pouso Alegre" is not a misspelling of "Porto Alegre" but a different town.

For further information check out: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pouso_Alegre


 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 20:09
Turkish to English
+ ...
It depends on the purpose May 18, 2009

I think it all depends on the purpose served by the translation.

At one end of the spectrum, the translation of an exhibit in a court case needs to reflect the original text as closely as possible, "warts and all". For all we know, a court case may revolve around one particular factual error in a document. Unless that error is present in the translation, its whole purpose will have been defeated.

At the other end of the spectrum, if we are translating publicity material any factual errors will reflect badly on the company that is publishing the material, and I think that the translator has a duty of care to correct any gross, obvious errors. In such cases, I would clearly mark any corrections in the text by, for example, highlighting them and would draw attention to these corrections in a covering e-mail.


 

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Context May 18, 2009

To clarify the point of context, these two errors mentioned were both in business reports (not publicity material), but were not the main subject matter of these reports. They were not certified either. As for court cases, I have not translated any yet but of course in these cases I would translate what is said.

 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:09
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Footnotes May 18, 2009

I can do this because my clients are exhibit organizers. Also, an agency intervenes between myself and the direct client.

Since in these cases I'm usually hired because of my background, such input is expected.


 

liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:09
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Go back to the client May 18, 2009

As you have had various answers in this thread, I would go back to the client and put the ball in their court. We are translators not editors.

Liz Askew


 

Paulo Eduardo - Pro Knowledge  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 16:09
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Pouso Alegre May 18, 2009

Paul, there is a Pouso Alegre in the state of SP.

 

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Only correct the translation if you are absolutely sure, and include a note to the client May 20, 2009

I ran into something like that myself recently, where there was a document that was semi-advertising copy, and the author had embellished the information to the point that some of it was not exactly accurate.

I would never correct the original. That is up to the client to do so if necessary.

>>"Brazil has an area of 8.5 thousand km2" [actually 8.5 million]

I would put 8.5 million in the translation, and include a note to the client saying that you corrected this in the translation, and also providing a link to the reliable online site where you got your information that it was 8.5 million. And you can suggest that the client may need to change the original.

If you do say that something is an error, you need to be absolutely sure. If your research leads you to the conclusion that something is probably an error, but you are not 100% sure, I would not change it in the translation, but include a note to the client saying "My online research leads me to believe that XX is probably an error. I think it is supposed to say YY (list links or book titles as proof), but I am not 100% sure. Please notify the client so that the client can change it if necessary."


 

conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
However May 20, 2009

If for example, the error was in a quote of what someone said, I probably wouldn't change the translation, because the person did say that. I would include a note to the client saying that I believe that to be an error.

 
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