Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
What is the best course of action when the original text makes no sense?
Thread poster: kleiner Kater

kleiner Kater
Chile
Local time: 17:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 2, 2009

Hi.

I was wondering what you guys do when you have to translate a text that has certain paragraphs and/or sentences that just don't make any sense.

I've found myself in that situation way too many times. It usually happens when the text has been written by someone that doesn't speak the language properly.

I'd like to give you an example. This is from a resumé I had to translate into Spanish. It was written by a diver whose native language is Italian.

"The survey interested as the shore as the river bed for 2 kilometers about to overturning platform and zing welding"

Ever found youself in a similar situation? What do you do in such cases?

Thanks in advance.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:40
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Send it back Sep 2, 2009

If you were a mechanical engineering, and instead of axles and nuts and bolts they delivered to you potatoes and onions, what would you do? Obviously, you'd send them back.

Same here: send it back.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Send it back Sep 2, 2009

More to the point, why does this keep happening to you? Is an agency sending you the work no one else will take on perhaps? If so, time to take a stand; send it back, explaining why or ask for a premium on top because it is becomes a time issue in addition to an agreed rate per word/line/cartella. If they won't listen, then you need to seek out more rewarding agencies.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

kleiner Kater
Chile
Local time: 17:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
you're probably right Sep 2, 2009

Susanna Garcia wrote:

More to the point, why does this keep happening to you? Is an agency sending you the work no one else will take on perhaps?


No, it's nothing like that.

Susanna Garcia wrote:
send it back, explaining why (...) because it is becomes a time issue in addition to an agreed rate per word/line/cartella.


Yeah, you're right. Perhaps I should just do that.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 23:40
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Absolutely - send it right back! Sep 2, 2009

I always do that, asking the client to clarify.

If time is running short because of this kind of thing, I explain to the client that I cannot deliver untill this has been clarified and I have had time to enter the correct translation - deadline or no deadline.

If in any one assignment I find a high number of sentences that really cannot be dechiphered (was that spelled correctly?) in any way, I would most likely end up sending everything back to the client asking for a new translation for me to work from, or else decline to finish the job due to impossibility.

My two cents ;o)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

sivtufte  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 23:40
English to Norwegian (Bokmal)
+ ...
I've learned to ask... Sep 2, 2009

I sometimes come across texts who are absolutely garbled up and makes no sense.
Tecnical texts are usually most precise, but sometimes explanations added to the text really sound totally "stupid" - as if the writer understands the subject so well (perhaps) that he doesn't seem to think of the fact that others will need giudance to what this actually means.

In most cases the answer is to just ask the client for explanations.
They might not be ANY BETTER at all than what you can make of it, but at least it is something your client will accept.

Hopefully - his customers will understand the strange lines better, as they are reading this out of interest, are holding the product and has a chance of examining it as they read the article, manual, or what ever the text is made out to be.

On rare occations I've also sent notice to the client, pointing out WHY this is nonsense to a native speaker. That helps too.

OR the texting in ex. cells in a table might be shortened to fit the form. That will take it to a level of REALLY minimalized language too. In that case, I just go word by word...


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
This is why translators specialise Sep 2, 2009

kleiner Kater wrote:
I'd like to give you an example. This is from a resumé I had to translate into Spanish. It was written by a diver whose native language is Italian.


Assuming you've informed the client that sections of the text make no sense... this is why translators specialise. You should only translate divers' résumés if the text is crystal clear or if you're a specialist in that field. This is true for all texts.

There seems to be a belief among some translators that a translator should be able to translate any text, and that if the translator doesn't understand the text, then there is something wrong with the text (not with the translator).

I'm sure you realise that the solution "send it back" is no solution at all, unless that option is truly available to you. In this case, if the person whose résumé this is is available, then you should ask him what it means.

In case of emergency, another tactic is to determine to what extend you can generalise of vagueify the text. Depending on the text, you may be able to leave out the offending sentence altogether, or ensure that the gist of the text is transferred even if the specifics are not. Did I mention that these tactics apply in case of emergency only?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

kleiner Kater
Chile
Local time: 17:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yup, but Sep 2, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:


There seems to be a belief among some translators that a translator should be able to translate any text, and that if the translator doesn't understand the text, then there is something wrong with the text (not with the translator).



I understand what you mean and I agree with you. If you're not qualified to translate a text, chances are you're not going to understand it. But I do think that the text is the problem in this case.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:40
Italian to English
It's not English, it's Googlish Sep 2, 2009

kleiner Kater wrote:

"The survey interested as the shore as the river bed for 2 kilometers about to overturning platform and zing welding"



This looks very much like Italian that has been run past Google's Translator, Yahoo's Babelfish or some other automatic translation program. "Interessava" means "involved" as well as "interested" in Italian and "as... as" corresponds to one of the Italian correlatives (probably "e... e" or "sia... sia").

"Zing welding" sounds intriguing. Perhaps someone with more practical knowledge of engineering than I have could hazard a guess at what it means.

The moral of the story is never accept a job without seeing the whole text

Giles


Direct link Reply with quote
 

kleiner Kater
Chile
Local time: 17:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I think you're right Sep 2, 2009

Giles Watson wrote:

This looks very much like Italian that has been run past Google's Translator, Yahoo's Babelfish or some other automatic translation program. "Interessava" means "involved" as well as "interested" in Italian and "as... as" corresponds to one of the Italian correlatives (probably "e... e" or "sia... sia").


Giles


Yup, I bet that's what happened.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
NR_Stedman  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:40
French to English
My strategy Sep 3, 2009

Obviously if the whole document is badly written the only course is to send it back. However one quite often encounters badly written sentences in an otherwise reasonably well written text. In this case, if I think that I am doing a form of back-translation (i.e. my client is using the translation for information purposes or to check a document in another language) I translate literally preserving the poorly understandable or ambiguous quality. If however I think that thedocument is for direct publication then I will just translate what I think it means. In exceptional cases I may highlight the sentence or tell the client. I don't hesitate to rewrite to make a document readable. I have never had negative feedback about rewriting something that no one can understand!

What I never do it waste time thinking about it for too long or bother the agency or client. Sometimes on this forum I find that translators don't realise the distance (3 or 4 intermediates) between them and the person who wrote the original document.


[Edited at 2009-09-03 07:32 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 00:40
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
Art nonsense Sep 3, 2009

Every six months, I have the privilege of translating a whole series of art articles (desriptions of art and exhibitions). Aside from the biographical data, these articles consist of beautiful sentences in French that mean absolutely nothing. In the beginning, I used to get upset. Now, I relish the challenge of writing equally beautiful sentences in English that mean the same "nothing". Believe me, that is an interesting challenge. So, often, the lack of any sense in a text is actually intentional.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I've also done art-nonsense Sep 3, 2009

rifkind wrote:
Every six months, I have the privilege of translating a whole series of art articles (desriptions of art and exhibitions). Aside from the biographical data, these articles consist of beautiful sentences in French that mean absolutely nothing.


I have had such texts myself. I do not enjoy translating them, but I know some colleagues who do, so if I can, I pass on the work to them.

One problem with these art-nonsense texts is if there is a proofreader/reviewer who expects the translation to be a translation, telling the client then that the translation is bad. I suspect some of these artsy people actually think they're writing sense (but if you ask them what it means, they just look at you and think "he's obviously not one of us").

Art-nonsense sentences also occur in press releases (written by PR people who think they are very clever). The worst thing is if you encounter them in semi-official documents such as tenders, proposals and policy documents.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Marek Daroszewski (MrMarDar)  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:40
English to Polish
+ ...
What is the purpose of your translation? Sep 3, 2009

It all depends on the purpose of your translation and common sense should prevail.

kleiner Kater wrote:
what you guys do when you have to translate a text that has certain paragraphs and/or sentences that just don't make any sense.
(...)
text has been written by someone that doesn't speak the language properly.
(...)
resumé (...) written by a diver whose native language is Italian.

Ever found youself in a similar situation?


I've had a similar situation. A person was applying for a job and send his resume to a company. The company contacted me to translate his documents from English to Polish. I could clearly see that English was not the mother tongue of this person and told the company that the English was not quite up to what you might expect and was hard to understand. Would it be right to say - ask the candidate to send in a proper CV/resume? I don't think so. So I shared my concerns and agreed beforehand with the company that I would do my best to say in PROPER target language (Polish in this case) what I think was meant in English. And when there was something that I just could not understand I clearly highlighted the issue saying that this can have 2 or 3 meanings, or just does not make sense at all.

IMO it would not solve the customer's problem just to send the job back to them and say - get this stuff in proper English or I won't translate it (however kindly you can rephrase that). At the end of the day they (or actually a specific person in an organization) would be left with the problem their manager asked to solve. And nobody wants problems, just solutions.

Maybe wrongly, but I use the same approach in other cases. Unless the text is to be published in print. If that is the case, and the customer (agency?) refuses to give me more information or let me consult with the author what was in mind, I say - 'OK, this is the best I can figure out. But don't tell anyone it was me who translated this and don't put my name as the translator. And I will refuse to confirm I did this job.' And you know what? It actuall works
I don't hesitate to rewrite to make a document readable.

Absolutely! After all that's the ultimate goal - the text must be easy to comprehend, naturally in the original register.
What I never do it waste time thinking about it for too long or bother the agency or client

Spot on! The people in between will have no clue anyway. Why waste your or their time?
HTH
Marek


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:40
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Artb*lls Sep 3, 2009

Yes, I've occasionally had to translate "art-nonsense" or, as I call it, artb*lls.
I live in a part of England where there are many artists and art galleries. Look at the brochures or announcements of almost any art exhibition written in English for an English-speaking audience. They're usually meaningless. So, when translating such stuff, it's garbage in, garbage out. I think it's partly because artists think that obscurity makes them sound spiritual and clever, and also because artists are (or used to be) painters and draughtsmen and can't write. If they could write, they'd be writers.
In the case of non-arty texts that don't make sense, I've sometimes found that the problem is an omission or typo (or series of omissions or typos) in the original text. If I can't work out the meaning in such cases, I usually put a translator's note in a footnote to explain the incomprehensibility of the original. I haven't yet received any
adverse comments from the client when I've done so.
Best of luck,
Jenny


[Edited at 2009-09-03 08:42 GMT]


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


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


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

What is the best course of action when the original text makes no sense?

Advanced search







Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »
Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »



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