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Translation quality labelled "weak" by two reviewers
Thread poster: queen123
queen123
Local time: 18:50
English to Arabic
+ ...
Aug 23, 2013

I translated 5 different food leaflets from English into Arabic for a translation agency. The latter delivered the translation to the client and after a couple of weeks I received an email from the agency saying that the client wasn't satisfied with the translation and thought it was "weak". I asked to see the comments of the reviewer. Unfortunately there were several typos in the Arabic texts but no inaccuracies, inconsistencies or syntactic mistakes. I wrote back to the translation manager explaining that there were indeed typographical mistakes, which I regretted, but labelling the translations as "weak" is exaggerated and, in my opinion, unprofessional. The TM wrote back saying that this was the opinion of not just one reviewer but two!

I understand that the TM is incapable of judging the quality of my translation given that she cannot read Arabic and that she is more likely to go along with the opinion of the two reviewers. I now started doubting my own translation abilities, which is not a good thing.

My question to the colleague translators Arabic is whether someone will be willing to have a look at one of the documents (as many words as he/she can read within the time he/she is willing to spend on this review) and perhaps let me know what he/she thinks of the general quality of my translation.

I would be eternally grateful.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:50
English to Polish
+ ...
Don't worry too much Aug 23, 2013

Hi. I don't know Arabic, so I can't help you directly by looking at your translations, but I wanted to reassure you that yes, unprofessional practices exist abundantly in the translation 'industry'. It is even possible to be unjustly failed by two reviewers, why not, if they're both at or around the same level of competence that's below yours. I'm not saying that's the case in your situation, as I have no way of verifying that, but it's possible. It has actually happened to me.

Speaking of which. Some years ago, an agency owner wanted to me to translate a legal sample to get a nice contract. It was a legal one, but I don't remember which direction it was in (PL-EN or EN-PL, at any rate). There were two reviewers on the client's side (or 'client's', as I refuse to call agencies, let alone MLVs, clients like they're supposedly entitled to act like spoiled brats, consumer-style), a linguist and a jurist, and they actually concluded that my translation sample looked as if it had been done by two separate people or something like that.

Well, as far as I can recall, I probably addressed the little predicament with my usual charm in that type of situations, or perhaps I mitigated it just a little, and the client (or 'client') actually took the matter seriously and ordered another round of review. The agency owner and I received an apology in the end.

Well, anyway, they said 'weak', not 'bad'. It's possible for a translation to be weak without any sort of grammatical error, simply on account of fuzzy equivalence or significantly less writing skill than in the source (which is why most of us don't translate literature, for example), basically the opposite of a strong translation, i.e. one that's confident and resolute and goes down well. Even a talented and experienced translator can deliver a 'weak' translation like that when translating outside his comfort zone, e.g. where not familiar with the field or dialect. That's not the end of the world, even if it's actually true.

For the record, it's possible that you and the reviewers read the 'skopos' differently, which is no wonder if the reviewers had access to more background information than you did, not to mention being more intimate with whatever subjective preference the client may have had, domestication vs. 'foreignisation' being the most obvious suspect.

Also, you seem to be native in Arabic. Were the reviewers?


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 20:50
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
It is a new scam scheme Aug 23, 2013

I am afraid this is a new scheme of scam. And I think so because during the last couple of year (for a dozen of years never had any quality issues, and suddenly somehow became "almost illiterate"), there were many situations on my side like this too. In your case, you made a couple of typos, and in my last case, my language pair was sent for proofing to some agency from India, they told me it was so bad and needs to be "translated again". However, no one could even explain or clearly identify a single mistake or a real quality problem.

How I think it works:

1. some second-sort agency takes a job (usually something very urgent, complicated, etc. where, under normal conditions no one would take);
2. they send it to some translators for their "best rate";
3. then they work a little bit on psychology to damage the self-esteem of the translator - "the client was not happy with your translation", "some mystical proofreader (or even several ones) found so many problems" ("sorry, but we keep the contacts/names of our proofreaders confidential"), etc. etc.
4. "based on this we cannot pay for the translation" or "will reduce your payment substantially" (at the best)...

OK, one thing is improvement of the work, and yes, EVEN TRANSLATORS can make some mistakes (we are all humans, esp. when working under pressure, overnight, etc., and this is why the revisers are needed)...But this is not the case. Let alone, if there are some problems (real or supposed), the agency shall inform about this BEFORE sending to the client. And must provide a reasonable period of time to eliminate them (or to defend yourself if such problems are not problems at all, and just the imagination of an incompetent reviser)...

And whatever they say ("weak", "bad", "does not look nice") - demand for OBJECTIVE explanations - what, where, why? At least for several examples. And try not to get involved into any "philosophies" - when/if they send revision done by a competent person, with all (or, at least, part) of the things explained (what, where, and why), then revise. After such a strict position, those scams step back and as a rule they cannot send anything. And if they send something (as a rule done by some incompetent person who himself/herself inserts dozens of serious mistakes), take several examples, and explain why you cannot agree with such claims.











[Edited at 2013-08-23 22:24 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I disagree Aug 24, 2013

queen123 wrote:
I now started doubting my own translation abilities, which is not a good thing.

I disagree. In my opinion, putting our knowledge and abilities to a test and getting to know our real quality based on what other seasoned professionals have to say is a very healthy exercise.

Personally I would encourage you to look for a couple of very seasoned, trusted professionals and pay them to review several samples of your past work. This way you will be able to pinpoint any areas of development --we all have them-- and work on them.

Good luck!


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:50
English to Dutch
+ ...
Hate to say this... Aug 24, 2013

...but a translation that contains several spelling errors or typos is indeed weak.
Of course it depends on the amount of errors versus the total length of text - 5 errors in 500,000 words is not bad at all, but 5 errors in 500 words is a definite fail.
Learn from the experience: doublecheck your translations on these issues.


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 17:50
Japanese to English
Be grateful for the feedback Aug 24, 2013

If the reviewers hadn't caught your typos, they would have gone straight into the final leaflet, right? Then you should thank them for their work and not say "Well they were just typos, at least the material was well-translated." That's not an acceptable attitude.

I don't speak Arabic, so I can't help, but I hope you have luck finding someone to review your work. It's fashionable to lash out against reviewers on ProZ, but sometimes they do have a point.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:50
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The acid test for reviewers Aug 24, 2013

TransAfrique wrote:

It's fashionable to lash out against reviewers on ProZ, but sometimes they do have a point.


From my experience, the translator/reviewer relationship works as long as both have no objection to swap positions any time.

Assumptions made here are that reviewing pays 1/3 of translation rates per word, and that indeed it should involve 1/3 of the work as well.

I work most often with two specific reviewers for one specific agency. That agency introduced me to one of them, and I introduced the other one to them. These two also work together in some projects, without having me involved. Despite our differences in age and background, the three of us consider each other equivalent in terms of translating competence. We swap roles as needed, depending on each one's availability. Sometimes, on large projects under a short deadline, we split the job, and cross-proofread each other's translation.

Anyone in the reviewing position, if determined to assert that s/he should have translated that instead, will do their darnedest to bash out the appointed translator's work, and quite often will succeed, as writing involves personal preferences. In this case, competition may be a killer.

On the other hand, once a new agency sent me a translation to review, stating as having been done by one, and successively proofread by TWO other translators. It was still sooo disparagingly bad when I got it, that it made me wonder... That agency had ostensibly hired the most incompetent amateurs around and, though I charged them my standard rates, the troubles I had getting paid evidenced that. I was merely used as a Cyrano-translator to spare them from losing a high-potential client.

So, as they say, your mileage may vary considerably.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:50
English to Polish
+ ...
It's probably even better where the reviewer is better Aug 24, 2013

José, I know that your opinion was probably formed over more years than I've spent in this 'industry' altogether, so I have no wish to be a critic, but I think it's better when the reviewer is the stronger of the two. I'd rather my reviewed by my betters than my equals, who'd be better in some regards, resulting in useful corrections, while worse in other regards, resulting in time wasted as I needed to explain where they were wrong, for a roughly equivalent total amount of translation skill. Someone superior throughout all or most aspects of translation prowess would be preferable, at least as long as we don't want to kill my liver with paracetamol or the more traditional stress-relieving substances that trouble the liver.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 14:50
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Who is a "better" translator? Aug 25, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

I think it's better when the reviewer is the stronger of the two. I'd rather my reviewed by my betters than my equals, who'd be better in some regards, resulting in useful corrections, while worse in other regards, resulting in time wasted as I needed to explain where they were wrong, for a roughly equivalent total amount of translation skill. Someone superior throughout all or most aspects of translation prowess would be preferable, at least as long as we don't want to kill my liver with paracetamol or the more traditional stress-relieving substances that trouble the liver.


You may have missed a remark here:
[quote]Jose Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
Despite our differences in age and background, the three of us consider each other equivalent in terms of translating competence. [/b]

We have quite diverse skill sets, epistemologically, so we tend to automatically let the most SME-ish of us take the lead in each specific case, depending on the nature of the content.

I've had partnerships with other translators, and the key is that we never compete against each other. At best, we'll learn from each other, while striving to deliver OUR joint top performance.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:50
English to Polish
+ ...
... Aug 25, 2013

[quote]José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

I think it's better when the reviewer is the stronger of the two. I'd rather my reviewed by my betters than my equals, who'd be better in some regards, resulting in useful corrections, while worse in other regards, resulting in time wasted as I needed to explain where they were wrong, for a roughly equivalent total amount of translation skill. Someone superior throughout all or most aspects of translation prowess would be preferable, at least as long as we don't want to kill my liver with paracetamol or the more traditional stress-relieving substances that trouble the liver.


You may have missed a remark here:
Jose Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
Despite our differences in age and background, the three of us consider each other equivalent in terms of translating competence. [/b]

We have quite diverse skill sets, epistemologically, so we tend to automatically let the most SME-ish of us take the lead in each specific case, depending on the nature of the content.

I've had partnerships with other translators, and the key is that we never compete against each other. At best, we'll learn from each other, while striving to deliver OUR joint top performance.


This is what I was referring to, the general claim at the beginning of your post:

From my experience, the translator/reviewer relationship works as long as both have no objection to swap positions any time.

By 'better', I mean overall better: equivalence, correctness, writing style.


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queen123
Local time: 18:50
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Other possible reasons for difference of opinion Aug 25, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:


For the record, it's possible that you and the reviewers read the 'skopos' differently, which is no wonder if the reviewers had access to more background information than you did, not to mention being more intimate with whatever subjective preference the client may have had, domestication vs. 'foreignisation' being the most obvious suspect.

Also, you seem to be native in Arabic. Were the reviewers?



Thanks Lukasz for taking the time to look at the issue in more detail and point out these other possible reasons that sometimes make reviewers judge translations differently from a translator. If that is the case the "harsh" verdict of the reviewer would make more sense and become more palatable.

As for your question regarding whether the reviewer is a native Arabic, I didn't ask the TM, but I would assume s/he is.


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queen123
Local time: 18:50
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Aug 25, 2013

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:


I disagree. In my opinion, putting our knowledge and abilities to a test and getting to know our real quality based on what other seasoned professionals have to say is a very healthy exercise.

Personally I would encourage you to look for a couple of very seasoned, trusted professionals and pay them to review several samples of your past work. This way you will be able to pinpoint any areas of development --we all have them-- and work on them.

Good luck!



Thanks Tomas for your advice. The thing is that I do not have a problem with putting my knowledge and translation abilities to a test, not in the slightest. The problem here is that the reviewer didn't provide any meaningful feedback regarding accuracy, consistency, style, syntax or otherwise; the only thing s/he mentioned is typos and said that the translation was weak. That doesn't convince me as a translator, a review of a translation I work on hard needs to be thorough and offer me something concrete to help me to improve. This was the reason I started this whole discussion


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
There is a forum... Aug 25, 2013

...somewhere on ProZ that lets you submit your translations for assessment. I asked for it to be created, and it was, though I can't find it right now. I think you have to be a ProZ member to use it, but you could always pay for membership or get a member to submit it for you.

I wouldn't worry too much about this one incident, though. We all get criticism sometimes, often unjustified and from people who don't even speak the target language, but if customers keep coming back you must be doing something right.

[Edited at 2013-08-25 19:36 GMT]


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queen123
Local time: 18:50
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It is NOT lashing out Aug 25, 2013

TransAfrique wrote:

If the reviewers hadn't caught your typos, they would have gone straight into the final leaflet, right? Then you should thank them for their work and not say "Well they were just typos, at least the material was well-translated." That's not an acceptable attitude.

I don't speak Arabic, so I can't help, but I hope you have luck finding someone to review your work. It's fashionable to lash out against reviewers on ProZ, but sometimes they do have a point.


Of course I am thankful to the reviewer for pointing out the typos, but you are missing the point here. The reasons I thought the reviewer wasn't acting professional are the same I gave Tomas (and I will repeat myself): The reviewer didn't provide any meaningful feedback regarding accuracy, consistency, style, syntax or otherwise; the only thing s/he mentioned is typos and said that the translation was weak. That doesn't convince me as a translator, a review of a translation I work on hard needs to be thorough and offer me something concrete to help me to improve. So I am not lashing out at anyone here.


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queen123
Local time: 18:50
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great tip Aug 25, 2013

Philgoddard, thanks a lot for your great tip, I will explore that forum.

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