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English source texts - they are getting worse and worse
Thread poster: MariusV

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 10:29
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Sep 16, 2010

I have noticed one tendency. During the last couple of years, I receive worse and worse quality English source texts. These cover lots of areas - from "almost untranslateable" senseless marketing texts (poor level not only from the linguistic point of view, but from common sense point too) up to some really strange technical texts (esp. user manuals). I have an impression that these texts are made not by human beings...Because there are such things which human beings will not put like that...Is that possible that people are now saving money and using some "robot software" to generate texts?

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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:29
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I don't know Sep 16, 2010

But I've been getting some texts that don't make much sense as well. I think most of them originate from templates.

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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:29
Spanish to English
I don't know about English texts Sep 16, 2010

But another translator told me that she once asked a client why the texts were so bad and he answered that it didn't need to be well written as it was going to be translated.

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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:29
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
That's funny Sep 16, 2010

Lesley Clarke wrote:

But another translator told me that she once asked a client why the texts were so bad and he answered that it didn't need to be well written as it was going to be translated.


I wonder how I'd react to that.

[Edited at 2010-09-16 23:54 GMT]


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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 04:29
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
That's funny Sep 16, 2010

Lesley Clarke wrote:

But another translator told me that she once asked a client why the texts were so bad and he answered that it didn't need to be well written as it was going to be translated.


How did you react to that?


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Rifraf
Local time: 09:29
non native speakers Sep 17, 2010

MariusV wrote:
...Is that possible that people are now saving money and using some "robot software" to generate texts?


I know for a fact that many companies in the Netherlands write their own English text; these are of course non native speakers writing English, hence the growing problem of bad English websites, marketing material and user manuals.


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Oana Popovici
Italy
Local time: 09:29
Member (2008)
English to Romanian
+ ...
"Handless" Sep 17, 2010

Oh, yes, I sometimes take a good laugh when seeing some of the "marvellous" things my source texts contain. But sometimes I'm close to tears!
As the topic starter says, the user manuals are usually the worst.

Here's an example from a leaf blower manual:

"Never douse or squirt the unit with water or any other liquid. Keep handless dry, clean and free from debris."

Well...I do manage to put two and two together and conclude that the "handless" thing obviously should have been "handles". But sometimes I get a strange urge to translate the things as they are, without any interpretation at all.

Oana


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:29
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
How much did the writer get paid? Sep 17, 2010

I think many of these texts are written by freelancer copywriters who register on certain sites, such as those designed specifically for freelancers (:-)) where the jobs proposed are mostly for quite ridiculous rates. (I know that description could apply to ProZ but I'm talking here of sites that are for all freelancers - writers, programmers, artists, ...)

I recently registered on one as I thought there might be something useful but I don't think there's much point really. There do seem to be one or two jobs that accept sensible quotes but mainly if your quotes is not 10 times lower than mine then you are excluded from the bidding.

Now I know why there are so many awful blogs: article writers getting a few dollar cents for 500 words, 50 articles at a time requested, no experience necessary. And all those people who "spice up" forum threads with contentious postings? Perhaps they don't care less about the topic - they're just earning a few sous to stir up feelings.

It's really sad what you can buy nowadays.


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svenfrade  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:29
French to German
+ ...
English source texts Sep 17, 2010

I have done a few translations from "English" source texts in the past that really were no English source texts but translations from Swedish or Russian into English. I once worked on a translation for an airline with a huge amount of text to be translated from English into German. The first part was very well written and if it was a translation from Russian, it was definitely done by a native speaker (and a good writer). Then came the second part... which was partly incomprehensible so I had to resort to the original Russian text and use MT (since I don't know Russian) to translate it into German to try and make sense of it.

Manuals seem to be translated from Chinese or Korean into English first and it is often quite obvious that the translator was not a native speaker of English in order to save money I presume.

So at least in some cases chances are that your English source text is a translation from another language done by a non-native speaker, which would explain why some texts seem to be so badly written.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:29
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
They are OK... if you know what they are talking about Sep 17, 2010

I translate a lot of technical and marketing texts from European corporations who have English writers. Yes, the texts are not perfect (well, who am I to judge them if I am not native in English anyway...), but if you know the matter at hand you can well know what they mean.

Texts from European companies are beautiful, compared to texts coming from China (or even Japan)!


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Miranda Drew  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:29
Italian to English
Not just English texts are getting worse Sep 17, 2010

A lot of English texts I have seen my Italian colleagues translating into Italian have been written in directly in English by non-native speakers, this is one reason they are so bad. I don't know if this a global thing, too, because definitely in the past few years, the quality of the Italian source texts that I translate has decreased dramatically. I dream of getting a text to translate that is not full of grammar and spelling errors, and phrases that just make no sense...

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Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 08:29
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
Not only re-translated Sep 17, 2010

That's true, some "originals" really make me laugh. My pearl of pearls is:

"Service bundles for lover prices"

I've already shared this in the Russian forum and I always remember these "lover bundles" when my day becomes too grey. It does help !:)

Sometimes I even ask my clients whether they have the real original in another language but often I hear "that" is the original.

But not only re-translated or non-native texts are to be blamed. I happen to translate documentation by some British authorities and... I know non-natives that write more accurately.


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xxxDesdemone
Local time: 04:29
French to English
Good point Sep 17, 2010

inkweaver wrote:

I have done a few translations from "English" source texts in the past that really were no English source texts but translations from Swedish or Russian into English.


And given the number of non-native English speakers translating into English, is it any wonder?


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:29
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
All texts are getting worse... Sep 17, 2010

The Dutch language itself is getting worse, mainly because children don't learn proper Dutch in schools anymore,... I've even seen my kid's report cart with corrections made by the teacher of his own writing, where he INTRODUCED errors...

So if our teachers can't write proper Dutch anymore, how can our kids??

But for translated texts, yes, sure - everybody is trying to safe money (who planted the idea of a global resession?) so now professional writers and translators are replaced by bilingual secretaries, school leavers, and their neighbours who have one foreign parent...
Or the stuff is outsourced to cheaper, less experienced translators in cheaper countries,...It seems a lot of those outsourcers seem to have won European tenders for translations - purely on the price - quality is not an option!

But voices are raised in protest, because translation services simply cannot be compared to buying office furniture or window cleaning...

===
Ed


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 09:29
English to Croatian
+ ...
Actually... Sep 17, 2010

Paula Rennie wrote:


And given the number of non-native English speakers translating into English, is it any wonder?



We shouldn't be given translations to translate even when done by native speakers. It is as much a professional requirement as it is to translate into one's native language. Unfortunately, native speakers are also very much capable of producing literal, unadapted translations that don't make much sense.

We must be sent original copies, for maximum accuracy of translations. Hopefully high-quality copies, of course.

On-topic:

Yes, it's definitely getting worse and worse. Maybe we should all change our language pairs into this:

Anemic English > ( insert your target language here)

[Edited at 2010-09-17 20:35 GMT]


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