How to deal with proofreaders' modifications?
Thread poster: Stefan Blommaert
Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:06
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Dec 20, 2011

Dear All,

the situation is as follows: as an engineer and linguist, I have been working in the field of intellectual property for 20 years now and mainly carry out translations of patents and technical manuals.

My question is with regard to these patent translations.

Although we all (and I mean ALL of us) make mistakes, I am pretty sure that my translations of patent texts are good, both linguistically and technically speaking, but also from the point of view of patent law (I worked as a patent examiner for many years).

I have a client (an agency) who is a dream to work with but who (apparently) gives my texts to a patent lawyer for proofreading. So far, so good!
I then get the modified translation back so that I can have another look at it. Perfect, as this is what feedback is all about!
Unfortunately, there seems to be one of these patent attorneys (I think it is the same, as he or she keeps coming up with the same type of "modifications") who really makes a mess of things.
Almost without exception, his or her modifications can be classified in one of the following: linguistic errors, grammatical errors, inconsistencies with previous similar texts, use of synonyms and equivalent expressions, and the worst of all: technical nonsense.

As client is king, I tend to "accept" the tracked changes in the translation, and send it back to the agency with a short explanation that I accepted the changes but don't necessarily agree with them.

I am beginning to wonder whether this is a good approach, for the simple reason that I basically disagree with 99% of the changes that sometimes turn the translation into linguistic, technical, and legal nonsense. If I "accept" these modifications, could it come back to me like a boomerang?
Also, I am getting tired of having to write these explanations. As if I had plenty of time so that I could justify over and over again that these modifications are cr*p.

Perhaps I am in dire need of holidays, but I would welcome people's input.

Many thanks in advance!


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:06
Italian to English
My 2 cents Dec 20, 2011

I would tell the client exactly what you have told us -
• that you wonder whether the same proofreader was responsible for projects X, Y and Z as the comments show a degree of consistency,
• that while the majority of the suggested changes have not been bad enough to engage in extended argument, they have resulted in a poorer translation,
• that this has been in distinct contrast with the quality of proofreading on many other projects and
• that you hope they find your feedback helpful.


Alternatively, spend a bit of time on the next such case and question everything.
They must have an interest in the quality of the work they are sending to their clients, especially when there is unlikely to be much, if any, cost implication.


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Leanne Young  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:06
Italian to English
Proof reading changes Dec 20, 2011

I think that yo must say something ...perhaps you could just send a few examples of the changes that you don't agree with, explaining why. This is a mine field...direct clients can be a dream but a lot of the time cannot judge for themselves. I definitely think that you need to say something, otherwise it appears that you were "wrong" in the first place. All the best.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 04:06
English to Croatian
+ ...
"A dream to work with"? Dec 20, 2011

So you keep doing an additional linguistic revision and elaboration for free ( that's a separate job that you are not paid for). I'd probably try finding a way out of this pressing situation, if I were in your shoes, by dropping them as a client.

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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:06
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not quite Dec 20, 2011

Lingua 5B wrote:


So you keep doing an additional linguistic revision and elaboration for free ( that's a separate job that you are not paid for). I'd probably try finding a way out of this pressing situation, if I were in your shoes, by dropping them as a client.


Not quite; I did that, in the beginning, clearly indicating why I didn't agree with changes that were carried out, as well as quoting references why I thought these changes were wrong. Now, I simply accept all the tracked changes "en masse" and send the file back. That is precisely why I asked the question in the first place; if I send the file back with everything "accepted", I don't want to run the risk of being held responsible for the mess that was created after me.

I have already explained this a couple of times to the agency, but they keep sending me these modified files back so that I can "accept" them. If the patent attorney knows better and thinks that he or she needs to change my work, let them do so, but I frankly don't want to be bothered anymore and definitely do not want to accept responsibility if something nasty should happen based on these more than dodgy modifications.


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:06
Italian to English
"Not bovvered" Dec 20, 2011

SBL_UK wrote:

If the patent attorney knows better and thinks that he or she needs to change my work, let them do so, but I frankly don't want to be bothered anymore


The process this agency is adopting seems to me highly professional. They are giving you last say on the job, after giving it the benefit of a second pair of eyes. It is your job to "be bothered" with it and, if it involves more work than with less meticulous clients, you should consider adjusting your rates accordingly.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 10:06
Chinese to English
Don't accept Dec 20, 2011

It's the one weapon you have - you've already pointed out the errors made by this proofreader. The agency have failed to act on the information you gave them. They are persisting in sending you bad "incorrections". You should just send the files back, saying, "No. For reasons previously explained."
There is a risk that the agency/client will throw a tantrum, of course, but they'll probably just look at your track record, decide it's not worth annoying you, and not use that particular proofreader for your work ever again. Problem solved!


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:06
Member (2008)
French to English
Client isn't king Dec 20, 2011

SBL_UK wrote:

....
As client is king, ...



No, in this case you are a professional whose advice and opinion the client is seeking. The fact that the client is sending the revisions back to you for further review is evidence that they are not take the reviser's word as gospel.

If you have reservations about the revision, I think you should express them, and only "accept" the change if you truly accept it.

I have had similar situations with non-English end clients who think their knowledge of English is "pretty good" and undertake to change the translation, only to make it quite a mess. I've found that telling them exactly what's wrong with their revision, politely but authoritatively, has led them to having more confidence in my work. Clients generally want to be reassured that as a professional you believe in your own work.


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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:06
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you and some further explanation Dec 20, 2011

First of all, thanks for the input. I really appreciate that.

Secondly, a further word of explanation.
The situation is somewhat unusual in that the agency I am dealing with, is the "internal" translation agency for the company of which the proofreader (the patent attorney) is part. They have a lot of translation work going on and apparently have created their own language department (which works pretty well!).

So, on the one hand I am pretty glad that they are professional in dealing with giving feedback. On the other hand it complicates things, as the proofreading seems to be an internal thing done by their own end client.

[Edited at 2011-12-20 21:56 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-12-20 21:56 GMT]


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Valery Kaminski  Identity Verified
Belarus
Local time: 05:06
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
To accept or not to accept... Dec 20, 2011

I had a similar problem: three times an agency sent me my translation for a certain client which had gone through the client's 'proofreader'. I know for sure it was the same guy every time (you know - File - Properties - Author...). Lots of changes that were not necessary in 99% of cases. Moreover, he would make a change on page 2 but will let the same term remain unchanged on page 3. Or even worse - he would introduce grammar and punctuation mistakes with a sloppy change as Russian is very sensitive to such things, especially when the term was, say, in masculine and the 'change' is in feminine - words around need taking care of, too, which he often forgot about.

First time I accepted whatever was innocent like synonymous expressions, marked the mistakes that were introduced and wrote to PM with some comments.

In the second and third cases I just read it through and did not accept the changes as they were not necessary.

Fortunately, this agency is also 'a dream to work with' and they instruct me 'to accept or NOT accept changes'. I just wrote a few comments very similar to what I mentioned above and that was that.

As for accepting somethin that is wrong - that is wrong! One thing is to accept synonyms to make it easier for a PM to complete the project and forget about it. Another thing is sending a 'wounded' by proofreader text without 'healing' it back to normal.


If the agency asks to justify not accepting changes - tell them that they should first ask the 'proofreader' to justify the changes s\he has made


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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:06
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not a bad idea... Dec 20, 2011

Valery Kaminski wrote:


If the agency asks to justify not accepting changes - tell them that they should first ask the 'proofreader' to justify the changes s\he has made


...not at all a bad idea. Why didn't I think of that?

I will do that next time; puts the ball back in the other camp and rids me of this annoying feeling I had accepting things with which I actually didn't agree.

Thanks!


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