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What do you do if the source is full of mistakes ?
Thread poster: Liviu-Lee Roth

Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 20:15
Romanian to English
+ ...
Aug 11, 2013

I receive official documents from an agency that has a contract with the Dept. of Justice.

Recently I received a 60-pages Indictment full of mistakes. I am copy/pasting some :

"... implement and authentication feature was in and affected interstate and foreign commerce, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028 (a)(5).

... in and effecting interstate and foreign commerce, without lawful authority,

... and use in and affecting interstate commerce, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(2).

in and affecting interstate __and foreign commerce, _w_itheach instance set forth below constituting a separate violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029(a)(4), and (h)
possess and use, in and effecting interstate and foreign commerce, without lawful authority, one or more means of identification of other persons ..."

I told the agency, and their answer was : "translate exactly as in the source !" and I am not allowed to contact the client directly to have them fix the mistakes.

What would you do ?

Lee


 

Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 19:15
German to English
Source full of mistakes Aug 11, 2013

My first instinct would be to refuse to translate the text. But if that's not an option for you, you could try to reconstruct the meaning. Here's one example I found online:

On or about December 25, 2011, in the Dallas Division of the Northern District of Texas and elsewhere, defendant Barrett Lancaster Brown, aided and abetted by persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, in and affecting interstate commerce, did knowingly traffic in more than five authentication features knowing that such features were stolen and produced without lawful authority …

http://www.scribd.com/doc/115935771/Barrett-Brown-Indictment-Dec-2012


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:15
German to English
Give them what they ask for Aug 11, 2013

As annoying as it is to deliver a job that reflects the errors of the original document, your client (agency) has indicated that you should translate the text with all its warts and deformities. A translator's note takes you off the hook in my opinion. The burden is then on the PM/agency to notify the end client.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:15
Russian to English
+ ...
If the source text is full of mistakes you have to reject it, however Aug 11, 2013

what do you consider mistakes in this text? Affected is the right word here "X affected the commerce". I saw one "ed"missing" so far. Some court papers don't sound like regular everyday language, which does not mean they are always free of mistakes. The only scenario that I can imagine is if the court reporter took it wrong. Otherwise, there is very little chance that a prosecutor would make mistakes like that -- they are highly skilled lawyers.





[Edited at 2013-08-11 14:09 GMT]


 

Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 19:15
German to English
Mistakes in source text Aug 11, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

what do you consider mistakes in this text? Affected is the right word here "X affected the commerce".



Are you seriously saying "implement and authentication feature was in and affected interstate and foreign commerce" is intelligible?


 

Liviu-Lee Roth
United States
Local time: 20:15
Romanian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
the issues Aug 11, 2013

To answer to your questions/suggestions:

I have been translating these documents for over 5 years and I am very familiar with the lingo.

Did you notice the "affect - effect" ?

I don't have the option to opt out.

Together with the translation I have to submit a signed certificate that the translation is accurate.

In the past, I corrected the mistakes in the source and the PM admonished me for doing so.

There is another problem: the documents are time sensitive because these Indictments come

together with International Warrant for Arrest or Extradition, therefore there is not enough time

to go back-and- forth.

Lee

[Edited at 2013-08-11 14:50 GMT]


 

Helen Shiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:15
German to English
+ ...
Editing Aug 11, 2013

I have sent documents back to the client asking for them to be edited thoroughly before I can translate them. It is so easy to spend far more time trying to work out what can possibly be meant than just translating. How can anyone translate nonsense?

 

Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:15
English to Dutch
+ ...
You did everything right Aug 11, 2013

If the source contains mistakes, you report it to the client. You then follow the client's instructions, even if they are ridiculous. 'Client is king', even if he's wrong.
In other words, you did exactly what you should have done. The burden lies now with your client. Don't worry and just do the stupid job. It's not pleasant, but it's bread on the table.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:15
English to Polish
+ ...
If you can't refuse Aug 11, 2013

If you can't refuse, it means you're in some sort of strictly official situation, basically within the government's chain of command. That, in turn, means you should have some channels to voice your complaints. I would definitely make use of such channels.

Personally, without being a pedant, I'm a rather strict grammarian, and I believe that it's unacceptable for a college grad to write the way your source did in one's own father tongue or a long-term L2. However, the case at hand is not one in which the bad writing merely reduces the reader's comfort. It's actually so bad that it prevents the reconstruction of the logic of the author's intended message, and that's bad because it makes understanding impossible at worst and unreliable at best.

The responsible official needs a slap on his wrist. Either the author or, when a dyslectic official was left to write unsupervised, that official's superior. At any rate, the situation needs to be rectified before those guys blow up something big.

I'm a sworn translator in my country, and if something like that occurred more than once in a while, I'd definitely lodge a formal complaint with the appropriate higher authorities (and possibly their own higher authorities further on to litigious stages, but I'm not saying that everybody else should take it that far).

In fact, I complain to professional translation agencies whenever they fail to screen badly written sources.

Kevin Fulton wrote:

As annoying as it is to deliver a job that reflects the errors of the original document, your client (agency) has indicated that you should translate the text with all its warts and deformities. A translator's note takes you off the hook in my opinion. The burden is then on the PM/agency to notify the end client.


Yes. I sometimes make translator's note detailing the impossibility of translation.

Jan Willem van Dormolen wrote:

If the source contains mistakes, you report it to the client. You then follow the client's instructions, even if they are ridiculous. 'Client is king', even if he's wrong.


Absolutely not. A translator is a translator – a substantive professional like a lawyer or medical doctor – and not a typist that has to type whatever he is dictated.

It is actually unethical to introduce error into one's translation merely to please a client (at least without indicating disagreement via translator's notes).



[Edited at 2013-08-11 15:09 GMT]


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:15
Russian to English
+ ...
What goes before implement -- it may not be Aug 11, 2013

Kim Metzger wrote:

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

what do you consider mistakes in this text? Affected is the right word here "X affected the commerce".



Are you seriously saying "implement and authentication feature was in and affected interstate and foreign commerce" is intelligible?


"implement and authentication feature". It may be"X to implement, and the authentication feature was Y and affected the interstate and foreign commerce".

It is hard to tell. There is definitely something a little bit wrong with it, or at least odd, but also the excerpts look like they have not been properly quoted, which happens a lot at Kudoz, that excepts are cut off in the wrong place. You can skip some of the article in legal writing, not all.


It is definitely "affect" not 'effect" in your context.

I think you really should have an American lawyer read it through -- an American criminal lawyer, not just any lawyer. You have to tell the client that the document should be checked first by a lawyer.

[Edited at 2013-08-11 15:42 GMT]


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
I would just correct the errors Aug 11, 2013

Based on the examples you've given, the text isn't always very well written, but the meaning is reasonably clear. "Implement and authentication feature was in and affected interstate and foreign commerce" makes sense to me, though of course we don't know what an implement and authentication feature is.

 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:15
Hebrew to English
Translate what it actually says, but use a comment/note to client Aug 11, 2013

I had this the other day in a legal document in which they kept mixing up the names of the parties (i.e. they'd use "Respondent" when they should have said "Applicant" and vice versa). I translated what it actually said and they left a comment noting the source text error and what it should have said. This way I've brought attention to the error, stating my opinion that it should be changed (or at least acknowledged), if they then choose to ignore it or keep the error, they do so at their own peril. My back is well and truly covered.

I have no expectation of source texts arriving on my desk error-free, there are just too many bad writers out there (and good writers forced to write quickly and carelessly).

If they've told you to slavishly stick to the source text, warts and all, then it doesn't give you much wriggle-room to correct the errors, especially if you are signing something to attest to the "accuracy" of the translation to the source text. However, complying with their request doesn't preclude a bit of back-covering on your part, you could still leave translator's notes (and if they choose to ignore the professional advice they have paid for - their funeral, not yours).


 

Srini Venkataraman
United States
Local time: 19:15
Member (2012)
Tamil to English
+ ...
Legal documents Aug 11, 2013

Some legal documents are so convoluted for 3 or lines for a single sentence, that I have stopped thinking about them and simply translate them.
Apart from the legalese, in the above case the court reporter may have typed wrongly.


 

Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mistakes in the source text??!!! Aug 11, 2013

I can fully understand these sentences, just like Phil. I really don't think that there are any errors in the source text. You should translate the text as is, just as the agency has told you to do (they probably don't see any problem with the source text either), which is sound advice in this case.

To effect something means to perform, carry something out. Look up the relevant article of the code that has been cited and see if you can make better sense of it that way.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:15
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, I originally did not see too many errors there either Aug 11, 2013

but then this one, particular sentence got me wondering whether it was really correct, or not (especially that some people had a real problem with it), and I invented a slightly different version of it. I agree -- there is nothing seriously wrong with the sentences -- maybe just the legal style is not at its best-- but it is all. You can have it checked by a criminal lawyer -- just in case, since it is a very serious international matter, from what I can see. People don't get extradited everyday.





[Edited at 2013-08-11 17:34 GMT]


 
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