overcoming unclear statements
Thread poster: zabit2005

zabit2005  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:43
Member (2014)
English to Turkish
+ ...
May 13, 2015

Hi everbody,

I often face with some unclear statements, especially adjective clauses in which introductory words(who, that, which, etc.) are omitted as in the example below. And i really have difficult times as trying to find some hint to guess what the author really wanted to say. The sample source sentence is as follows:

"Surface is optimized by vertical storage equipments and/or bag piles integrating product constrantes in handling"

Here, disregarding the wrong-written "constrantes" which i guess it is probably "constraint", i am confused with that:

WHAT integrating product constraints in handling? The optimized surface or the bag piles?

I think a comma could have made it easier, say "Surface is optimized by vertical storage equipments and/or bag piles, integrating product constrantes in handling" then it would be clear that what integrates product constraints is optimized surface, am i wrong? Or more correctly, the optimization done for the surface.

Or if it were : "Surface is optimized by vertical storage equipments and/or bag piles which are integrating product constrantes in handling", then it would be "the bag piles" what the subordinate clause gives information about.

Waiting for your comments on my this specific issue and how you generally overcome similar situations.

Thank you.

[Edited at 2015-05-13 17:27 GMT]


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Silken purses... May 13, 2015

I occasionally have to deal with texts like this and I often simply have to guess what the missing words might be.
The sample sentence is badly written and rather telegraphic in my opinion. A more understandable version of the sentence might be something like "Surface is optimized by vertical storage of equipment and/or bag piles, to allow for product handling constraints".


Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
German to English
Dilemma May 13, 2015

What to do with a text poorly written by non-native speaker of the source language? I wouldn't accept the job in the first place. I would politely tell the client that I'm not a mind reader. By the way, the plural of equipment is equipment, not equipments.


Paula D  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:43
Member (2013)
Turkish to English
agree with NeilMac May 13, 2015

I think it's a terrible sentence and you should not feel bad asking for clarity from the client. It has other weird grammatical errors in as well - such as equipment(s). My guess is that it's written by a non-native speaker of English and that the use of the word "integrating" is a bit out of context. (That is not to say that native English speakers don't also write terrible sentences but "equipments" is generally a non-native speaker mistake!)
I agree with NeilMac's answer and am very impressed by anyone who could fathom out such a bizarre sentence!

My general approach to confusing sentences is to ask a colleague who is a native speaker of the source language (Turkish in my case). If they say it doesn't make sense - I ask the client to confirm or I put a note in comments.


James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:43
Russian to English
+ ...
When in doubt, ask May 13, 2015

During my first year as a freelance translator, I collaborated with an author to translate a popular science book on medicine. Most of the book was written in very clear and easy to understand Russian, but occasionally I would come across a sentence that either didn't make sense to me or was ambiguous. In each instance, I queried the author about exactly what she was trying to say, and almost without exception she rewrote the sentence to make it more understandable.

More recently, I was working with a Russian company to localize the pages on their website where customers placed orders. They typically would send me sentences or paragraphs taken out of context. Most of the verbiage was clear and I could relate it to similar language on English-language sites I'm familiar with, but I came across this one sentence that translated literally as "The action period for notification of receipt has expired." I had no idea what circumstance that referred to, so I asked my customer, who said it was a notice given when an item was out of stock and the customer's order had expired. So instead of translating the sentence as written, I crafted it to be consistent with the explanation.

Obviously, if a document is poorly written and the meaning of much of its contents is unclear, you should decline the job. But it isn't unusual to have a problem with a few sentences in an otherwise well-written document. When that happens, just ask for clarification.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:43
Chinese to English
Context is king May 14, 2015

I've got a few texts like that at the moment. They're internal memos at a very large tech company, which has its own technology, and its own internal abbreviations for those technologies, and its own terminology for all the corporate gubbins - departments, units, sectors, training days, internal hiring programs, all that good stuff. Mostly I can work out what the author is saying, but it's a case of reading through the text to the only logically possible meaning, rather than actually understanding the language. Once you've translated a few hundred of them, it starts getting easier...

To the OP: I agree with your reading of the sentence, for what it's worth.


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