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What is a bad translation?
Thread poster: juanpablosans

juanpablosans  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 00:17
Member (2011)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 14, 2012

In the light of some misunderstandings you will below, I need to inform this:

This question is only for academic purposes


This is interesting, because I was wondering, how many errors can determine yours is a bad translation? What kind of errors are more likely to be accepted and what others are not? On basis of what a translation agency decides not to hire you any longer? I mean, I suppose it's not the same if you make 3 errors in one page than if you make 8-10 errors in 10,000 words. I suppose a comma is not the same than meaning. And again, how many mistranslations are allowed? 5 mistranslations in 10,000 words is bad? That's interesting because in our industry we don't have like a standard to check errors, and so I would like to know.

Thanks

[Editado a las 2012-06-14 22:17 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:17
Hebrew to English
Zero errors Jun 14, 2012

A translation can have no errors whatsoever and still be a bad translation.

Maybe you misjudge the register, maybe you forget to account for the purpose of the translation or consider the target audience. You don't necessarily have to mistranslate something for it to be a bad translation.

I would also disagree about the comma thing. Commas CAN alter meaning, so punctuation is just as important as everything else.


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juanpablosans  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 00:17
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I agree Jun 14, 2012

Yes, I agree on that. I just would like to know what our margin of error is, and just for academic purposes.

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:17
Hebrew to English
Depends Jun 14, 2012

I'm not sure there will be consensus about that.

I'd say it depends on the type of translation. Surely medical, legal, technical translations have an extremely slim margin of error, if one at all....as mistakes could cost lives or livelihoods.....what you might call "high-stakes texts"

If you are translating something more generic, "low-stakes texts", then a greater margin of error might be permissible.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:17
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Any error is bad Jun 14, 2012

I don't quite see how a translation can be a good one with errors in it. If there are errors, then it is clearly not a good translation, and I don't really care about the nature of the errors. Your translation could be nice and true, but if it contains typos... the you have it.

Or would you pay for a Mercedes-Benz with a dent in the driver door? How many dents are acceptable without a loss in the car's value? Would you pay the full price of the car if it had the dent?

Now, if what you are asking is how many errors are acceptable... I would say NO error is acceptable. If and when we make a mistake that does not get noticed and corrected by ourselves or our reviewers, the only thing we can do is apologise and offer some solution, either in time or in money, to compensate the customer for our bad translation.

Chances of mistakes are inherent to human activity, but as any other professional we must work carefully and implement ways of preventing mistakes to survive until later stages of the translation process.


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juanpablosans  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 00:17
Member (2011)
English to Spanish
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Bad question Jun 14, 2012

corrected by ourselves or our reviewers, the only thing we can do is apologise and offer some solution, either in time or in money, to compensate the customer for our bad translation.

That's my point. How many mistakes can a reviewer take to say: "OK, this translation sucks!"? Thanks

You always try to do your best, but at times the spacebar may not work properly and say "aun" instead of "a un" and things like that. Maybe my question was not well-worded:

How many mistakes and what nature of mistakes can an agency take from a primary translation (no further revision other than the translator's).

Thanks


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Vikki Pendleton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:17
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German to English
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Not listening? Jun 14, 2012

I think the message is both clear and consistent. If you make a mistake that materially changes the translation, it's a bad translation.

The proofreader shouldn't have to pick up errors where you missed the space bar. They may propose stylistic changes (for example more/less capitalisation, use or otherwise of the Oxford comma), they may suggests an alternative translation, but actually if they find something you've missed or done wrong, although they're making themselves worthwhile it still shows that you've made an error.

It's not like an exam, with pass/fail. It's a job you're doing, and you're paid to get it right the first time.


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juanpablosans  Identity Verified
Mexico
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Thanks... I guess Jun 14, 2012

OK, thanks, you didn't have to be rude!!!

I'd better not ask. I just wanted to discuss that with my students and see different opinions. THanks


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juanpablosans  Identity Verified
Mexico
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The only reason... Jun 14, 2012

The only reason why I was asking was because in Venezuela we correct mistakes by grading the "seriousness" of them (grammar is -0,25 points but mistranslation is -1), so I wanted to know if I am training properly my students.

Thanks for your answers (although a little rude)


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Clarisa Moraña  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 21:17
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
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Not being very objective myself Jun 14, 2012

But I studied translation at EIM UCV. As far as I know, is one is the best schools I've ever seen. You can confidently apply what you have learnt there.

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Vikki Pendleton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:17
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German to English
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sorry Jun 14, 2012

Ok, sorry. You seemed like you were trying to excuse yourself for a poor translation and I may have been a little rude on that basis. I apologise.

If you are teaching students for a translation exam, this might be useful - it's the Institute of Linguists marking criteria for their Diploma in Translation exam, see page 8 onwards of this document
http://www.iol.org.uk/qualifications/DipTrans/DipTransHandbook.pdf


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 01:17
Spanish to English
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Quality control and its inapplicability Jun 14, 2012

Without, I'm sorry, enough time to read my fellow Prozians' comments in detail, I would like to add a comment about the way my thoughts went on reading this question: while there are many ways of counting mistakes (terminological, grammatical), it is far more difficult to measure how bad (or how good) a translation is in quantittive terms when it comes to register and collocation.

I've been correcting written work, assessing these features, for the past thirty years, and work against yardsticks and descriptors, but I can never get away from the fact that there is also a factor which I can only describe as "it feels right", or "a sense of style". Perhaps we're talking about talent...


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 01:17
Spanish to English
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Quantity of errors for students Jun 14, 2012

On a different tack, and more in line with what you were asking:
Students MUST be taught that NO ERRORS are acceptable, as Ty says, but then we can only be talking about grammar and terminology, about which we can make definitive pronouncements.

But I do agree with letting some errors through, but only if we are talking about an exam without access to reference tools. If you need them to provide an accurate translations for a university level exam, then how much they slow you down will be a measure of your competence.

For anyone who is going to provide a legal guarantee of accuracy, I am inclined to suggest we need close to zero error tolerance: ideally it would be a question of allowing candidates for accreditation as much time and as many reference tools as they need... then it is up to them to maintain that standard and work out how to charge a fee in line with how long they take. But I don't suppose any academic institution is likely to allow its students to spend 36 hours over a supervised exam.....


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juanpablosans  Identity Verified
Mexico
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Answer Jun 15, 2012

Noni Gilbert wrote:

Without, I'm sorry, enough time to read my fellow Prozians' comments in detail, I would like to add a comment about the way my thoughts went on reading this question: while there are many ways of counting mistakes (terminological, grammatical), it is far more difficult to measure how bad (or how good) a translation is in quantittive terms when it comes to register and collocation.

I've been correcting written work, assessing these features, for the past thirty years, and work against yardsticks and descriptors, but I can never get away from the fact that there is also a factor which I can only describe as "it feels right", or "a sense of style". Perhaps we're talking about talent...


I think so too.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 08:17
Chinese to English
I've used a system like yours, Juan Jun 15, 2012

Two of my agency clients asked me a couple of times to check other translators' work, and they had graduated systems with categories something like:
proofing error (spelling, grammar, no meaning implications) 1 point
meaning error (minor) 5 points
meaning error (major) 20 points

Over a certain length of text, 20 points or more would mean the translator was dropped - so one major error was regarded as unacceptable.

Speaking for myself, I react to texts a bit differently. I'm not sure how to define this, but there are errors which seem like competent translator errors - spelling, grammar, some kinds of excessive intervention in the text; and there are some errors which just scream to me "this translator does not get it". It's usually a sentence that makes no sense in English - a clear sign that the translator didn't understand the source, and tried to hide the fact by mashing words. I find those kinds of errors much less forgivable, because they mean I can't trust this translator any more. That instantly makes the proofreading process twice as long.

In my pair, it's very rarely an issue. There are so few translators who "get it" that they stick out like a sore thumb. And the rest are... not acceptable. There are basically none in that middle-ground of "nearly there".


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