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The end of quality?
Thread poster: Robert Rietvelt

IrinaN
United States
Local time: 10:08
English to Russian
+ ...
It’s all in the eyes of the beholder Nov 30

It seems that many colleagues believe that translation is a thing in itself, and the end goal of all clients is another Shakespeare’s play. Oh, well…

Before proceeding any further, I must emphasize that I agree that there are, always have been, and always will be jobs requiring not just a deep knowledge, but top-notch translation complemented by impeccable, creative writing skills; jobs, for which the appropriate level of quality is an integral part of the end client’s expectations. Such clients allocate appropriate budgets for the task and it’s not easy to find the way to those niches in various fields. But… Let’s talk priorities.

Vast majority of modern clients represent commercial side of the world, and that world, the new world of capitalism, which is now open to the countries and small entrepreneurs who couldn’t dream of it when the oldtimers were just the beginners, revolves at a cosmic speed. These clients don’t give a fly about eloquence, or even minor grammar issues or extra or missing commas. Their end goal is to sell 100 000 toilet bowls or 50 tons of door nails, and they need to sell it today because tomorrow the window will close on them, they already feel the competitor’s breath on their necks. For as long as how much, who and when must pay, and who must receive, is all stated correctly, that’s all they really care about. They do not come home to claim a headache only to trade a night of love for reading our masterpieces on a lumpy couch until alarm does them apart. Translation for them is but an overhead and a delay, and nothing would please them more than getting rid of this line item in their balance sheet or, as a minimum, reduce the number to the lowest possible by any means. Throw in the number of countries with average monthly salary of 200 – 600 euros or the equivalent for people with higher education and you’ll get the full picture. “Who could resist 200 euros a day?” Not many. Welcome to globalization.

When was the last time you saw a modest middle-class retiree or a student rushing from a modest room turned B&B on the beach screaming: “Honey, water, for God’s sake! We are leaving for Ritz now! English translation of their brochure is awful!” 😊. To think that the owners of that B&B, likely also a modest retiree or a couple of retirees renting a room for 25-40 bucks/night in hot season only, or a family who invested their last nickel and borrowed a few from relatives to open a small eatery, will pay an elite translator 15 cents a word for their brochure or menu, would be pretty naïve. When was the last time you’ve heard about a top-notch translator returning great stove or dishwasher because of the ridiculous manual translation? Guess who is laughing all the way to the bank. Market is as market does.

I do hope that present company believes that I am not promoting acceptability of 4 errors in a 3-letter word and the like😊. Readable, mediocre translation can still be accurate in terms of the main points of the content and suffice in more cases than we would like to permit or admit. Tough, maybe even cynical and disgusting in the eyes of many but I live on Planet Earth.


[Edited at 2018-11-30 14:23 GMT]


Chris S
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Why the outrage? Nov 30

I typically spend more than half my time on a job polishing my English as opposed to actually translating, and sometimes that's time clearly wasted. So, why not?

Thomas T. Frost
IrinaN
Sheila Wilson
Christine Andersen
Barbara Micheletto
Michele Fauble
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
barefaced pigs in clover raiding Nov 30

While I can understand profiteers and scums, but why seemingly normal clients, translators, or agencies bow to the wishes of the greedy to fill in the chasm (niche?) between human translation and machine puzzling, depicting it as if almost-human?

The absolute bottom of human translation is a provisional [preliminary, initial, temporary, transient] translation without proofreading/editing.
Even nicely decorated pigs with horse's manes and tails in a stable are still but pigs, not horses...


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:08
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Robert Nov 30

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
What are basic/unpolished translations anyhow? I wouldn't even know how to make a bad quality translation, at least not on purpose.


Some translators do translation in two steps, namely (a) first transfer the meaning using syntax that is close to that of the source text, and (b) change the syntax to reflect target language norms. If you're not such a translator (i.e. if you write your translation using target language syntax directly from the beginning), then you should explain this to your client.


Chris S
Christine Andersen
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:08
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
There's at least a third way Nov 30

Samuel Murray wrote:
Some translators do translation in two steps, namely (a) first transfer the meaning using syntax that is close to that of the source text, and (b) change the syntax to reflect target language norms.

Some translators (well one, anyway icon_wink.gif ) do translation in two different steps, namely (a) first transfer the meaning using the syntax of the target language, and (b) polish it to reflect a better target language writing style. You might find that the text reads better if half of the words in Sentence #2 are totally rephrased and inserted into Sentence #1, for example. It's likely that there was nothing at all grammatically wrong with the translation after step (a), and it had been checked for errors, omissions and typos etc. Step (b) is essential, IMO, for all texts intended for publication - after all, we only want to publicise our best work. But it's actually superfluous IF the translator and the client have previously agreed that in this particular case the purpose of the translation doesn't warrant the extra time and effort, aka money.


Chris S
Christine Andersen
Philip Lees
Vesa Korhonen
IrinaN
Julia Steiner
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
So where does this leave interpreters? Nov 30

Chris S wrote:

I typically spend more than half my time on a job polishing my English as opposed to actually translating, and sometimes that's time clearly wasted. So, why not?


I dictate my translations. The initial dictated draft is unpolished, but mostly accurate. Exactly what you'd expect from an interpreter.

If an unpolished dictated draft is good enough for world leaders in Davos, it's going to be good enough for lots of translation customers.

That said, almost everything I do goes into print, so it's not something I would ever do...


Sheila Wilson
IrinaN
Christine Andersen
 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Davos Nov 30

Chris S wrote:

If an unpolished dictated draft is good enough for world leaders in Davos, it's going to be good enough for lots of translation customers.


Just look at the resulting world economy, deficits and debts. icon_smile.gif


Chris S
Kay Denney
 

B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:08
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Quality or cobblers? Nov 30

I don't know about others here, but I spend relatively little time polishing my translations, because I write them well in the first place. I proofread and correct any errors and sometimes make stylistic improvements. However the time spent on stylistic improvements is generally minimal and it gives me job satisfaction and makes for satisfied clients.

Re IrinaN's argument that clients selling toilets don't care about translation quality: they would if they got sued because of an error in the specifications of their product, or if a rival with properly translated brochures and advertising drove them out of business. Irina wrote "Readable, mediocre translation can still be accurate in terms of the main points of the content and suffice in more cases than we would like to permit or admit." Clients who think like that can get free translations by using Google Translate or DeepL Translator. That's your capitalist competition Irina, and they are cheaper than you. Indeed, many do just that and I've certainly seen products advertised on Amazon that I and many others might have bought if the product description had been properly translated and made sense. I assess applications by would-be translators to translate for a charity, as a way of getting their foot in the door, and I can assure Irina that the mediocre rubbish produced by most applicants is neither readable nor accurate and it would be downright dangerous to accept many of those applications.

The translation market is changing and MT threatens to drive the bottom feeders out of the market, which might not be a bad thing.



[Edited at 2018-11-30 17:20 GMT]


Sheila Wilson
Kaspars Melkis
mughwI
 

IrinaN
United States
Local time: 10:08
English to Russian
+ ...
The reverse is not necessarily true Nov 30

The subject of price is only a side effect of my point. I value every tiny piece of advice, especially in legal and technical fields, of some of my Russian and Ukrainian colleagues and fellow Prozians, who reside in their respective countries and, likely or for sure, charge a bit less (trust me, they are not 2-centers) and at the same time, in 30 years in the States I've met 12-centers and an interpreter or two who were paid my rate but should not have been allowed to sweep floors in the translators' office...

Also, there is a big distance between "readable and mediocre" and sueable, if this is an English word at all:-)

Respectfully,
Irina


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:08
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
How about just offering to do a summary? Nov 30

Why not offer to give a summary of the text? Say it's instructions for an appliance, they maybe only need to know whether they can use it in a certain context, or what that red button does.

I remember having a sworn translator translate a birth certificate for the agency I worked at. He literally only put the essential information (name, date and place of birth, name and profession of both parents). He didn't bother with any of the little bits such as the date the certificate was issued, the name of the clerk who filled the certificate in and so on. I added all the extra bits in and asked if he could please stamp the corrected translation and he said, sure, it's not like you've changed anything. Now, I don't think he's the person to decide whether or not a piece of information on a birth certificate is important or not. It may have been that the clerk in question had been accused of not keeping the register properly, rather than someone needing to prove when and where they were born. However if the client tells you that it's just so that some authority has the correct info about the person's place of birth, what that translator supplied me with was very probably fit for purpose.
(We still didn't work with him any more though because we prided ourselves on being an upmarket agency and produced translations that were as near to flawless as was possible)


 

Gloria Teixeira
Brazil
Local time: 14:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Content to preserve. Nov 30

There is much more to translating than simply typing in a foreign language. unfortunately, some people ignore this issue that translation is an art and poor translation puts their reputation at risk. good luck

 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:08
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Purist... Dec 1

you don't have to be one all the time. Be flexible and do what your client is asking you to do. Just an unpolished translation... what's so difficult about it? Pigs pretending to be horses and toilet rolls... that's a good combination. There's room for everything.

IrinaN
 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Smith field bargain: He who pleased everybody died before he was born Dec 1

@Giovanni, while translators (as others) must rely on clients' guidelines and consider preferences, meeting the agreed conditions; I hope they are not slaves and stay sensible: No matter how hard you try for you just can't please them all--nor must.

As far as buyers pay for things they name, some "cunning" customers prefer inventing new names and cheap gimmicks tricking translators into lowering the rates even lower. For instance, how fair when a client sees a new Ferrari and says: 'Hey, it's not a new Ferrari for $1.2M, but a used Ford for $300, so here is $305 and it's a deal!'
This is the very idea behind such a notorious "almost human" translation: it's but a FAKE.

Any PEMT--especially without original and proofreading--is but a FAKE, not translation. However, some profiteers keep trying to fill the niche up--with the needy and the gullible, bring closer the day when 'reading by a human' or 'intended for human' would be considered as a 'human translation'.

Furthermore, a composition (an essay, but not translation) based on MT, which must have no MT matches, is but a bottomfeeders' hell, because one should constantly recheck MT... not to translate or word it similarly!


 

Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:08
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
that would not be ethical in most cases Dec 1

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

you don't have to be one all the time. Be flexible and do what your client is asking you to do. Just an unpolished translation... what's so difficult about it? Pigs pretending to be horses and toilet rolls... that's a good combination. There's room for everything.


Granted, there are “for information only” translations that are read once internally. But in many cases the interests of the client are not the same as the interests of the readers. Ethics unfortunately are not high on the list of priorities of many translators.

Even putting ethics aside, translators will be judged by these draft translations. Readers will not think that these translations just serve the intended purpose. They will criticise them harshly and translators' reputation, or rather what is left of it, will be completely gone.


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:08
Member (2004)
English to Italian
that would not be ethical in most cases Dec 1

what's ethics has to do with it? You do what your client asks you to do. You think that the client doesn't know what he/she is doing? That's not your job...

Kaspars Melkis wrote:

Granted, there are “for information only” translations that are read once internally. But in many cases the interests of the client are not the same as the interests of the readers. Ethics unfortunately are not high on the list of priorities of many translators.

Even putting ethics aside, translators will be judged by these draft translations. Readers will not think that these translations just serve the intended purpose. They will criticise them harshly and translators' reputation, or rather what is left of it, will be completely gone.




[Edited at 2018-12-01 12:39 GMT]


 
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