The Ethics of Using a Poor-Quality Previous Translation
Thread poster: Dylan Jan Hartmann

Dylan Jan Hartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Nov 13, 2015

I've had to use the 'Ethical Standpoint' with a client today and refuse their (albeit rewarding) business. What would you do in this situation?

The issue arose when, trying to reduce the cost of a 10k mechanical safety translation, the client produced a previous translation for the outdated model of machinery.

Browsing through the previous version, he was right and most of the content was mirrored in the job that he wanted me to complete. Upon further inspection, my suspicion of poor quality was confirmed and every page contained small but noticeable errors such as:

"The rotary may change using parts for improvement. A part of illustrations, pictures and contents etc. may be different from the actual rotary"

or

"During rotary tilling work, the tractor may dash suddenly in a field of hard soil condition, and/or there are hard object such stones, wood or stump, or much straws etc. in a field. The rotating blades push the tractor when blades hit hard objects."

Being pragmatic, I contacted the client with the following suggestion:

"As I feared, the previous English version is very poor quality and many sections have been paraphrased rather than translated accurately according to the source.

I can use this as a guide, but most of its content needs to be edited.

What I suggest is that I use the word file you sent as a template, tracking changes, and I’ll only charge for the new words in the document. You will then be able to see the extent of my work compared to this previous version."


I thought this was fair enough, but the problem is that the client (poor English) doesn't believe that their previous translation has any problems because there were no spelling mistakes! #facepalm

From agent: "client wanna use the sentence as it is, if there's no spelling miss."


My final response to this outrageous suggestion was that:

"If the client wants to use my services, I cannot allow the final job to be full of basic errors. This will be a bad reflection of my ability.

I offer premium, accurate translation and cannot allow the final product to be less than top quality."


What do you think? Was this the appropriate outcome?


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 15:33
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Test translation Nov 13, 2015

DJHartmann wrote:

I've had to use the 'Ethical Standpoint' with a client today and refuse their (albeit rewarding) business. What would you do in this situation?

The issue arose when, trying to reduce the cost of a 10k mechanical safety translation, the client produced a previous translation for the outdated model of machinery.

What do you think? Was this the appropriate outcome?


I was told to to test translation.
I told the agency that many of my translation samples are available online to observe my quality, and told them to send me the expected quality to save time.
They sent me a poor quality example.
I declined the job by saying "I cannot translate into such poor quality. I can do better."
The agency never got back to me.
I am happy I did not destroy my professional codes of conducts.

Soonthon L.


 

Joseph Tein  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:33
Member (2009)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The ethical and professional response Nov 13, 2015

It doesn't sound like the type of client you want to keep working with.

I think you did the only reasonable thing, which is to tell them that as a professional you will not deliver garbage.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:33
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
A professional response Nov 13, 2015

DJHartmann wrote:
What do you think? Was this the appropriate outcome?

Yes, I think it was. Your offer to charge only for new words was pretty generous given that the old translation probably had no more utility than a client-specific glossary.

Even then, some of the terms in that "glossary" would likely have been mistaken - you wouldn't have been able to trust it. It was a nice goodwill gesture on your part to appease the client, but it would have been a horribly inefficient job.

If a translator is aiming at the high end of the market they need to establish clear boundaries as to what they will or will not do. It looks to me as if you're doing exactly that. If the client can't respect that, you're better off without them. You're not their flunky, you're a highly skilled partner, but if you behave like a flunky you'll eventually be treated like one.

And finally, this incident shows again the dangers of using somebody who is not native in the target language to translate a source. For example, Japanese that is 99% correct and can be easily understood by the reader (I can do that) is not the same Japanese written by a native speaker with a good feel for words (I can't do that). So I don't do EN->JP. Simples.

On this forum I regularly see non-native speakers of English claiming to be able to translate into English yet in nearly all cases their forum posts contain basic grammatical errors. There are exceptions, but very, very few.

Regards
Dan


 

B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:33
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
You are too generous! Nov 13, 2015

It is an extreme understatement to describe the document as containing "small but noticeable errors" and I think that your offer to "only charge for the new words in the document," was over-generous. The previous version needed to be filed in the shredder.

You did the right thing in turning down this client. You and your reputation are better off without them. Their client is likely, sooner or later, to be made aware of how ridiculous people find the English versions of their documents. When that happens, you wouldn't want to be involved.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:33
Spanish to English
+ ...
Send them packing Nov 13, 2015

Yes, you did the right thing. I'd have no qualms about telling them to take their business elsewhere.

 

Elif Baykara Narbay  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 11:33
German to Turkish
+ ...
+1 Nov 13, 2015

Joseph Tein wrote:

It doesn't sound like the type of client you want to keep working with.

I think you did the only reasonable thing, which is to tell them that as a professional you will not deliver garbage.



 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:33
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
there is of course also another way :-) Nov 13, 2015

While I agree with pretty much everything everyone has said so far, there is of course also another way: if they are satisfied with garbage ("client wanna use the sentence as it is, if there's no spelling miss.") you could also choose to give them garbage. That is, speed through it, deliver a shoddy job and get paid. However, make sure your name doesn't end up on any of the documents or in TMX properties, etc.icon_wink.gif

However, this is all purely academic for me personally, as I either translate things very well (and not particularly speedily), or not at all – but I thought I'd mention this option for those reading this who may be that way inclined and capable of lowering their standards and working faster in certain cases.

I occasionally toy with the idea of employing two rates: one the real ‘Michael Beijer Rate’ (max. 2500/day, high quality, problem terms discussed with knowledgeable colleagues, carefully proofread, etc.), and the other the ‘Garbage Speed Rate’ (10,000 words of complex legal material for tomorrow morning @ €0.06? sure, no problemo!). Sadly, I have never managed to implement my ingenious plan, as I just can't seem to speed things up or do them any worse.

GIGO.jpgGIGO.jpgGIGO.jpgGIGO.jpg

Michael


 

Dani Karuniawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 15:33
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Native translator Nov 13, 2015

Why did you not employ a native translator?

If you want higher quality, translators should be native in target language . They are more expensive and better.

I guess, you pursued the lowest possible rate, overlooking the best way to get the best result. If it is the case, you just reap what you sow.

You have to pay the translator as agreement in advance, if you don't want to tarnish your reputation.

[Edited at 2015-11-13 10:21 GMT]


 


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