How do you deal with bad ST grammar?
Thread poster: Daniel Erlich

Daniel Erlich  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
Member (2011)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Feb 2, 2010

What do you do when the source text has grammar that is absolutely inconsistent with the type of document? For instance, a legal text (an appeal to a higher court) where the author has a penchant for writing sentences without any verbs? Or sentences that technically *can* be translated section-by-section, but after half an hour of inspection you realize there is a word missing, or one of the grammatical agreements is probably wrong...

When the error is small, I usually correct it and move on, but it sometimes gets in the way of my efficiency... It breaks my heart to submit something that doesn't make sense or lacks "Quality". Am I to "suck it up" and translate the mistakes, too?

Do any of you have a strategy for handling this sort of problem?


Sumit Sarkar  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:26
Member (2009)
English to Bengali
+ ...
Do the necessary corrections with supplimentory comment to your client Feb 3, 2010

Dear Friend,

If your are confident enough that the text contains many mistakes, then do correct them. Only when u are translating BT texts, u avoid to do that. If u are in touch with your client, u better ask his opinion about that. Otherwise, do whatever is necessary and correct. After u are complete, add a comment about the quality of the source text and mention the main mistakes that u corrected.


Grayson Morr (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:56
Dutch to English
Always ask Feb 3, 2010

I would go one step further than Sumit and say, always ask your client. If you find factual errors: inform your client before changing. If you find grammatical errors: discuss with your client how they want them treated. Some clients may want an exact replica of the source text, faults and all, for whatever reason. Better to know in advance than to find out at the end. You know what they say happens when you assume....icon_smile.gif

(for those who aren't familiar with this expression: when you assume, you make a long-eared member of the equidae family out of you (u) and me.)


Jacques DP  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:56
Member (2003)
English to French
Change and document if necessary Feb 3, 2010

If it's only a problem of bad grammar in the source text, of course you must correct it! The grammar in your translation must be faultless. I would also include a note in the delivery email saying that there are grammar issues. If the issues are severe and not too many, your client will appreciate that you document them, though this is somewhat beyond your job and is a complimentary service. (I usually do it.)

You should ask when you don't understand something, or when you need to make a choice that will have many consequences in the translation and for which you need more information.


Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:56
Danish to English
correct bad grammar!! Feb 4, 2010

I find that very often the texts that I receive are full of bad grammar and, even worse, stupid cliches or idioms. I almost always correct these, i.e. I go beyond simple translation, and do an automatic proofread. I just can't turn in garbage.
If I believe there is a concrete or factual error that is outside the scope of language, I make a note of this, and suggest an alternative formulation, that can be used if I am correct.
This is true of business correspondence. If you are translating literature you don't have the same freedom.
That, at least, is my method. I know there can be a lot of different opinions, and the original authors, and agencies, might have different ideas. Generally, people have been grateful to have their texts improved.

[Edited at 2010-02-04 00:58 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-02-04 00:59 GMT]


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