Poor quality translations made by someone else - to tell or not to tell to the client?
Thread poster: Arina Evtikhova

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:21
English to Russian
+ ...
Apr 2, 2011

Hello all,

I am sure this topic must have been raised here previously, but it'd take years to search through the whole forum and anyways, new opinions are always interesting.

The matter is that over the past few months I've come across a few poorly made translations - by poorly I mean texts containing either grammar or spelling mistakes (and those are not typos), awkward language, and true translation monstrosities. I've seen those in glossy magazines, in cosmetic products package leaflets, booklets, some of my direct clients' websites translated before they turned to me, etc. - not surprising, there are many Russians on the French Riviera, and very often they become "translators" through a mere acquaintance which has nothing to do with their professional skills.

Each time I see something of the kind I have an urge to contact such magazine editor or client to inform them of the poor quality of their translated texts - firstly, because it almost hurts to see my native language mutilated, secondly, not without a little thought in the back of my mind that this might bring me some dividends in the form of an editing job and, perhaps, a new client.

And each time I don't know how to approach the matter. Overt criticism seems too harsh, then there's also a conflict of interest issue, as most clients are incapable of assessing the translation hence cannot know if I'm perhaps simply fishing for a job trying to slander a colleague (??) translator.

Has anybody encountered this issue? How did you cope with it?


 

David Russi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
Depends, but generally I would tell Apr 2, 2011

Depending on the degree of severity, the relative importance of the material, and my willingness to take the time, yes, I do point out these types of issues from time to time. However, when I do, I always give examples they can understand, and I state clearly that I am not looking for work, but I can assist them in identifying a professional to work with. They can then choose to work with me or with someone else.

 

Elvira Daraban  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:21
French to Romanian
+ ...
if it is a client, please do Apr 2, 2011

I usually tell my clients, when working on projects others have worked on before me, if the previous translation has more than, let's say, four mistakes per page. Last time I was told that the previous translation was not provided by my client and that their client is not willing to pay for a serious rewriting of it, so 'let's do our share properly, and leave the rest as it was'.

However, as poor as magazine translations may be, I must admit that I do not feel the urge to let them know about it. And believe me, there are many misstakes in Romanian magazines, too. Wrong names, wrong choice of words, the fact that those 'friends of editors'-translators have no idea that Russian names of people and places should be transliterated with Romanian letters, and so on and so forth...

Maybe it's just a Romanian habit, but I'm convinced they'd pay far less than my regular clients, to be honest, and that shows, quality-wise. Therefore, I just 'shame' them on a dedicated topic on the Romanian proz.com forum.icon_wink.gif


 

Milana Penavski  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:21
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Delicate situation Apr 2, 2011

I usually tell the clients about mistakes, especially when the amount of mistakes is significant. But I can't help feeling like they might think I'm trying to steal someone else's job. They never asked me to stop though, and some of them have expressed appreciation for my comments.icon_smile.gif

 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:21
English to Polish
+ ...
hey Apr 2, 2011

Milana Penavski wrote:

I usually tell the clients about mistakes, especially when the amount of mistakes is significant. But I can't help feeling like they might think I'm trying to steal someone else's job.


It's not like you're climbing the corporate ladder and trying to discredit a peer. It's competition. Capitalism. Makes perfect sense. Your credibility is maybe a bit diminished by the fact that you may benefit from the client taking action. But there is absolutely no reason to feel uncomfortable, in my opinion. Remember - as long as you're making them aware of the issue (i.e. they didn't already know), it's the client who was getting screwed (by that other translator).


 

Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:21
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Make a clear division between clients and prospects Apr 2, 2011

Hi Arina,

Both clients and possible clients hate to be criticised. In the end your remarks will probably end up at the desk of the very person that gave the go-ahead for publication of the translation in the first place.

I've never gained a new client by pointing out (blatant, ridiculous, lethal) mistakes in translations I had found on the internet.

After two or three jobs for a specific client, when you feel you're in a position to speak more freely, you might propose to 'align the terminology' or 'make the translations more consistent' or something of the kind. But first make sure your client wouldn't object by asking a short question: On your website you use House where Home would be more appropriate. Do you want me to stick to House in my translations?

Cheers,
Gerard


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:21
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
One option: Ask your client if they want your opinion Apr 3, 2011

That way, you won't appear too aggressive, simply helpful.

Most clients will respond "Yes, please let me know what you think of the quality."

[Edited at 2011-04-03 02:33 GMT]


 

Ditte Duclert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:21
Member (2011)
English to Danish
+ ...
Suggest support Apr 3, 2011

This answer is more for when I am already in touch with clients, than for when I notice errors in already printed material, so I am not quite answering your question... I hope that's ok.

Every so often, well quite often really, the source texts I receive are full of errors and I usually contact my client and ask politely if they have had it proofread, and if they haven't I can include this by adding X amount to our already agreed fee.

Sometimes they reply that it's being done by someone else, but often they say thaks for letting us know, and yes, please do the proofreading too. And because I am already so familiar with the text, the charge I suggest is very reasonable, as it won't take me that much time.

But when they say no thanks, that's completely fine - it was only a suggestion.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:21
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The price/quality scale Apr 3, 2011

All too often a translation client is unable to judge translation quality. Either they simply don't know the target language at all, or they are experts in something else than translation.

Translation quality spans a whole gamut, say, from 0 to 100, and rates ideally should reflect it as close as possible. My view on this can be put in figures, assuming that the quality/price relationship is linear and accurate.

Using the 0-100 scale, this could be a model:

  • 0-50 = In this range, human and machine translation (MT) compete directly. Levels close to 0 would be really bad MT competing with a "translator" that has extremely basic knowledge of the target language and a dictionary. Levels close to 50 would be the best MT engines available vs. 'translators' who are relatively bilingual in that pair, however they completely lack both training and any experience in translation whasoever. Such 'translators' often learn a lot in the process, but never go back to implement their new learning on the previously translated part, and - if the text is long - often forget, or 'unlearn' several things before they are through. MT, on its turn, is thoroughly consistent in its flaws.
  • 70-90 = In this range, translation gets gradually better, however it embodies a green neon flashing sign that says "TRANSLATED!!!" all the time. Technically, it simply doesn't flow well. It's text in the source language using target language words and grammar. The major difference between 70 and 90 is the increasing absence of spelling and grammar mistakes. However the bilingual reader is unable refrain from involuntarily back-translating everything to understand the ideas. Monoglot readers are often baffled, as they simply don't get it.
  • 100 = This is the standard professional translation. It accurately conveys the source text content, yet it sounds and feels as if originally written in the target language.
  • 110 and above = This is the standard professional translation if the content calls for a translator's technical expertise in some specialized area.
  • 60 = The missing slot. This is turning into a chasm, a desert, whatever you prefer to name it. Clients/outsourcers are discovering that they can get about the same quality for less, so they don't pay that any more. Translators who offer a higher level of service re learning that they can earn more.

I use all this to explain to some prospects why my rates are 100 on this scale, and what they'll get from someone in the 70-90 range.

When I am asked for an opinion, I grade whatever sample is provided using this scale. Now and then I get hired to 'fix' or 'redo' something visibly done at a lower level than expected by the end client, so I know from direct experience what each level looks like.

A few clients are lucky to get 'bargains' now and then, some buy expensive junk, however the natural trend is for them to actually get what they pay for.

Whenever I see good translation work, I am not shy from praising it. Recently, an outsourcer sent me a job and a translation memory used on another job for that same client. As the subject was completely different, there was absolutely nothing I could use from that TM. Nevertheless, from what I was able to see in that TM, I was able to tell that client to rest assured, that whoever created it was a competent translator.


 

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:21
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Alright Apr 3, 2011

"However, when I do, I always give examples they can understand, and I state clearly that I am not looking for work, but I can assist them in identifying a professional to work with."

Wouldn't that be too generous time-wise? I mean explaining the mistakes in the language a person is not at all familiar with actually means going in depth into grammar, syntax, and lexical nuances of the language. All that just to suggest using another translator to correct the text eventually? mmm...

Jose, thank you for the scale - I think that's a great one! And I was actually talking about the 70-90 kind of mistakes, especially when it concerns marketing/ advertizing/ promotional texts which IMHO are especially important as they are meant to 'sell' the product or services to someone. Personally, when I get on a professional website full of silly mistakes I immediately feel like refraining from buying this company's services or products. There are probably plenty of people who don't care about it though, that might be the reason why companies and entrepreneurs let it be too.

Anyways, the 'what to do' part is more or less clear - a client or whoever deserves to know that the product they bought (translation) is faulty. The question now is 'how to' approach the end user with this kind of 'knowledge' and let them know about it without being too pushy.

Unlike Milana I don't feel like I'm stealing someone's job but I don't like coming up with overt criticisms. On the other hand, what Alexei suggests (ask if the client wants my opinion) seems to be not a bad if a bit too humble a way.
I was rather thinking along the lines of asking the client for this translator's contact details and if they ask me why I want them - to explain that it's to avoid any possible collaboration with this person translation-wise in the future.
Gerad, thank you - I like your suggestion as wellicon_smile.gif It's good when the new translation is related to the website - but what I did was a contract hence, nothing to do with their site...


 

amurati
Local time: 14:21
English to Albanian
+ ...
some time ago I had a translation package to do Apr 3, 2011

and my eyes picked up a message mistranslated, inconsistent translation. That part of messages were already translated by another translator (no idea who he/she might be).

I went quickly through other messages and then I noticed that about 49.95 % of messages were translated inaccurately. I contacted manager by email stating this and then next day I got a message that I have to re-translate all inaccurate massages.

I am attaching few messages

English: Click to play
Albanian: Kliko për ta shkarkuar - meaning "Click to download"
English: Page top
Albanian: Ikona e faqes - meaning "Page icon"
English: Share page
Albanian: Ruaj faqen - meaning "Save page"
English: Disabled
Albanian: Nuk pajtoj - meaning "I don't agree"


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:21
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Report it! Apr 4, 2011

Arina Evtikhova wrote:
And each time I don't know how to approach the matter. Overt criticism seems too harsh, then there's also a conflict of interest issue, as most clients are incapable of assessing the translation hence cannot know if I'm perhaps simply fishing for a job trying to slander a colleague (??) translator.


Reporting bad translations automatically helps teaching customers to be more careful about who they choose for their work. Definitely report the issues! You will help improving the marketing materials and hence sales among the target audience. This can only be good for the profession.


 


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