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Clients say the funniest things...
Thread poster: Phil Hand

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:02
Chinese to English
Jul 11, 2015

I thought I'd start a thread about how communication with clients can sometimes be difficult even when they're being quite professional and helpful. I've had a couple just recently that made me puff in exasperation!

1) Telling me which are the difficult bits, and which are easy.

This wasn't the whining of the low price brigade. The client, an art gallery, had accepted my price, for some essays and some artist bios. The essays are quite tough, my contact told me, but the CVs are easy. "Actually," I replied, "CVs are some of the hardest work - it's all names of institutions and shows, and every one has to be looked up." No, no, my contact replied, these ones are easy.

Cue puffing on my part.

This is a great client, and they were just trying to be helpful. But I promise that I know better than you which bits of my job are going to be difficult and take the most time.


2) You don't need to change anything, just fix the mistakes.

This is a regular client giving me some editing to do, on a document that has been through several iterations, so it has some new parts and some old parts. Again, the client was actually just being helpful: telling me that the highlighted parts are new, so they will probably need more attention. But the way my contact expressed it was a bit funny:

"How come it's taking so long?"
"Well, there's quite a lot to check, and there are errors that need fixing all the way through."
"The non-highlighted bits are basically OK, just check them for grammar mistakes."
"Er... that's what I'm doing for the whole thing. I'm not rewriting it, just fixing the problems. What did you think I was doing?!"


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 16:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
That's what always starts the red light flashing for me.... Jul 11, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:

You don't need to change anything, just fix the mistakes.
...

"How come it's taking so long?"
"Well, there's quite a lot to check, and there are errors that need fixing all the way through."
"The non-highlighted bits are basically OK, just check them for grammar mistakes."
"Er... that's what I'm doing for the whole thing. I'm not rewriting it, just fixing the problems. What did you think I was doing?!"



Clients have no idea how long that takes... and they are often quite unhappy when they see the results. Especially when some non-professional has tried to write English, and pored over the little red dictionary for hours (or peeked at Google Translate these days!) and found all the wrong things.

Then they say
"It won't take you long. It's in English already."


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Off topic Jul 11, 2015

This one was not from a translation agency, nor was it from an end client. I am still laughing, however, even though I read it two hours ago.

My wife was looking for a hotel in Tenerife Canary Islands. We have a dog and she was obviously looking for a hotels where “se admiten mascotas” (pets are allowed). However, she stumbled at a hotel that proudly announced on its services area: “se admiten niños” (kids are allowed)...

No translation has been involved, whatsoever…


 

Andrea Garfield-Barkworth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:02
Member (2015)
German to English
one very sweet client Jul 11, 2015

did ask me how long it would take me to count all the lines so I could give a quote.

 

MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 17:02
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
LOL :D Sep 24, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:


2) You don't need to change anything, just fix the mistakes.



Let me re-word this a little bit - "You actually don't need to do anything, just translate the text"...


 

Roni_S  Identity Verified
Slovakia
Local time: 16:02
Slovak to English
My favorite line Sep 24, 2015

used more than once by one particular client in response to my request for an explanation of a difficult point in the source text: "I really don't know what that means (in the source text), just translate it as best you can". Will do.

 

Andrea Garfield-Barkworth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:02
Member (2015)
German to English
or even.. Sep 24, 2015

I have no idea why I wrote that or what it means....

...just cross it out.


 

Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 22:02
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
It happens Sep 24, 2015

englishpartner wrote:

"I really don't know what that means (in the source text), just translate it as best you can". Will do.


This is a really awkward part in translation, and it happens a lot.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:02
Member (2008)
French to English
Dictionary Sep 24, 2015

"Why do you need to use a dictionary, I thought translators already know all the words?"

 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:02
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Minimum fee Sep 24, 2015

"This 100-word project falls under your minimum fee, so we'll just wait to see if we have any other projects over the next few months and then add them to this project."

 

TranslateThis  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Minimum fee #2 Sep 24, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

"This 100-word project falls under your minimum fee, so we'll just wait to see if we have any other projects over the next few months and then add them to this project."



That's a good one, Jeff. In the same vein:

"I know your minimum fee is XXXX, but because this job is so tiny, could you accept X? It would help a lot."


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:02
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Just grammar Sep 24, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:
"The non-highlighted bits are basically OK, just check them for grammar mistakes."
"Er... that's what I'm doing for the whole thing. I'm not rewriting it, just fixing the problems. What did you think I was doing?!"


Perhaps the client thinks that normal editing is polishing the text (i.e. comprehensive edits, changing the style, etc).


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:02
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
"just translate the grammar" Sep 24, 2015

I do get disgruntled when I'm told a text is "easy". Yes blurb to entice tourists to your resort hotel is easy to understand, because you don't want to eliminate idiots, that would be a suicidal business plan. But it is *deceptively* simple: it has been very carefully worded to make it sound like the beach is right there when in fact you have to cross a couple of busy roads, without you being able to sue for misleading advertising.

I was once asked to translate a book on dentristry. I was still teaching a few hours a week at the time, it was a student who asked on behalf of her husband who had bought a book in English then couldn't understand it properly. I told her I knew nothing about dentistry so would have to decline. Next lesson she came back saying "no but he understands the long words, just translate the grammar around them."

And after struggling to translate the interface of some accounting software (when working in-house at an agency), I finally gave up on a particular word and asked the client. He laughed and said there was a typo. "Well you know it was the software developer who typed it in, they're not too particular with spelling"


On the other hand, translators can come up with gems too. As a PM in the same agency, when pointing out some spelling mistakes in a sworn translation (including the name of the person whose birth certificate it was), the translator came back with "but you know, translators are intellectuals, we can't be bothered with such details".

Another translator, doing a long, complex legal translation which also had to have an official stamp on it to be presented as evidence in court, when I explained that I first wanted to proofread it before he printed it up and stamped it, calmly explained that his work was always perfect. To which I replied that no, it wasn't, he had a tendency to leave words out. When he started blustering, I showed him the corrections I had made to a previous translation: "you see you did miss the word 'not' out in that sentence".


 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
From a conversation I had last night with a client Sep 24, 2015

Client: So, what do you actually do?
Me: I'm a translator.
Client: You mean like languages and stuff?
Me: Yeup.

This person found me through my YouTube channel about translating video games :/


 

TranslateThis  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
"How come it's taking so long?" Sep 24, 2015

I think I read the funniest one a couple of years ago here on proz.com. It was a long document or a set of rather complex documents in Russian and the client expected the translation almost instantly.

"Just type up these documents. In English."


 
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