Client wants notes re translator's translation choices
Thread poster: Agneta Pallinder

Agneta Pallinder  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Apr 30, 2015

A direct client - with whom I have a very good relationship - is asking me to provide translator's notes if/when I have several choices as to how to translate a word or passage, and to provide these other choices, and to do this if having made a different choice the text would have a different meaning.

I am finding it extraordinarily difficult to give an answer to this, essentially because I have not found any such uncertainties in the texts I am translating for them. The texts are transcripts of audio-recorded interviews, warts and all - repetitions, hesitations, uhms and ahs etc., and of course with a great deal of redundancy which actually makes the meaning pretty clear.

Colleagues out there - do you have any thoughts and/or experiences that might help me?


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 14:30
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Why not agree? Apr 30, 2015

No ambiguity, no translator's notes. Agree!

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 13:30
English to Polish
+ ...
Explain it to them Apr 30, 2015

IMHO they're acting very professionally in asking you to provide translator's notes. It would be a shame to discourage that. At the same time, just tell them there's not normally anything to write notes about in the materials you translate for them, hence they won't see many such notes.

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mariealpilles  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:30
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
explanations for a translator's choice Apr 30, 2015

A big definite NO. When you go to the butcher, if you ask him to justify, he would either throw the knife at you or kick you out of his shop.

A professional should be trusted. If the client wants a linguistic analysis, he has to ask for it and pay three times the price for the time wasted. He is not a professional, or would do the job himslef, so he is very unlikely to understand your explanations in a professional jargon. Everybody in their place and the world may start turning in the proper way again. Would you dar meddle with a doctor's report?


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:30
German to English
+ ...
I would agree, but explain Apr 30, 2015

that it would mean increasing your rates for the extra time involved. Of course, this can be done in a nice, diplomatic way, but it's mostly up to us to educate our clients who are not aware of what goes into translating their texts.

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:30
German to English
How uncertain? Apr 30, 2015

Obviously, it depends on the specific project, but I would say that I hardly ever translate a sentence where there aren't a few words that could be translated in different ways with at least slightly different connotations or that I have ever translated a text without several sentences that could theoretically be translated in substantially different ways.

If you are 99% certain about your interpretation, do they want a comment? What about 90%? How significant does the difference in meaning need to be? I avoid adding comments as much as possible, but sometimes even within the given context, I just can't be certain beyond a reasonable doubt and have to include an MS-Word comment suggesting a possible alternative.

It would drive me crazy to work according to those instructions and it would take a lot of time (and cost a lot of money). Dissecting and explaining every one of my decisions would take a long time.

I certainly have no problem with clients questioning my decisions: Most of them have a very nuanced understanding of English and almost all of them have more knowledge than me about the content of the given text and about the specific niche it covers within our shared general field. However, it's important that I react to those questions and not drive myself crazy trying to anticipate every one of them.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Member (2014)
English to German
Why are they asking this? Apr 30, 2015

Do they simply want to know, if there any ambiguities in the source text, if it could be interpreted in several ways or do they want anything more detailed?

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:30
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think that this is one of those times where... Apr 30, 2015

.. the client wants something, but isn't real too sure themselves exactly what they want. What I would do is send the client a separate half-page of random notes and thoughts about the translation (the type of stuff you used to write in school - lots of words without saying much), being careful not to bring up any areas that may possibly result in further questions and/or rewrites from the client. It shouldn't take you more than about 15 minutes.

Example:
"The speakers use a very casual tone when speaking. These pauses and hesitations were translated using traditional English filler words such as "um." or "uhh". In some cases, these Spanish filler words are identical to English or understandable by an English speaker. In those instances, the Spanish usage was retained for the sake of authenticity.... In some cases, there is redundancy when the speakers either repeat exactly what they have said or rephrase things in order to make them clearer. This repetition or rephrasing is mirrored in the English translation accordingly... There are a few instances where the speakers voices overlap or where the spoken words were inaudible due to mumbling, environmental acoustics or general poor sound quality. Every effort was made to convey this situation by including cues for the reader such as "inaudible" or "speaker A cut off"... etc. etc. etc.

If the client accepts this, then large portions of the text can be revised and recycled for future translations.

[Edited at 2015-04-30 14:18 GMT]


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Agneta Pallinder  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all Apr 30, 2015

Thank you for your comments - they have helped me clarify my own thoughts on the matter.

I am already providing some translator's notes - most of them are to do with probable errors in the transcription - a misheard word, or a typo.

Regarding the translation choices - I think I'll follow Mikhail's suggestion and just say that I will provide such notes if there is ambiguity and different choices would create different meaning. Doubt there will be (m)any though.

Re Jeff's suggestion of more general note - yes, we have already gone over these considerations in email communications and I think there is a general good mutual understanding.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 19:30
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Where reasonable Apr 30, 2015

No need to go out of your way to provide explanations, but it's common etiquette to give them where necessarily.

I'll say this though - if one wants to have a question answered, they have to ask them. I'm usually happy to answer the client's questions or provide explanations if they ask for it. I'm not all that inclined, however, to actively provide them on my own.

Would you dar meddle with a doctor's report?

I frequently ask my doctor about any medication that I get, and my doctor answers them. To not ask these questions is a very good way for a patient to improve the brevity of their life, and to not answer these questions is a very good way for a doctor to improve the brevity of their career.

A big definite NO. When you go to the butcher, if you ask him to justify, he would either throw the knife at you or kick you out of his shop.

Perhaps the butcher's life will suit you better than the translator's.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:30
Russian to English
+ ...
Why don't they learn the language and translate the text themselves May 1, 2015

if they don't trust the translator? Too much is too much.

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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:30
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
No notes May 3, 2015

A lot of choices a translator makes are intuitive. Other options may flash across your mind briefly but you quickly zero in on the right one without even thinking about it. Usually it's not a conscious process of focusing on each possible translation and then making a choice. Making notes is like asking an artist to explain how he/she decided to paint a painting just so.



[Edited at 2015-05-03 01:21 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Not surprised May 3, 2015

Agneta Pallinder wrote:

A direct client - with whom I have a very good relationship - is asking me to provide translator's notes if/when I have several choices as to how to translate a word or passage, and to provide these other choices, and to do this if having made a different choice the text would have a different meaning.

I am finding it extraordinarily difficult to give an answer to this .....


I'm not surprised ! Your client doesn't seem to understand that in the act of translating, enormous numbers of options, along with all of the implications of each, are processed extremely rapidly in the translator's brain. To explain how each decision is taken would require an amount of explanation that could take weeks, months, or even years!

[Edited at 2015-05-03 08:35 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Member (2008)
Italian to English
:) May 3, 2015

mariealpilles wrote:

A big definite NO. When you go to the butcher, if you ask him to justify, he would either throw the knife at you or kick you out of his shop.


Ha ha


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