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The end of quality?
Thread poster: Robert Rietvelt

Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
that's exactly the point Dec 1

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

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...


Clients very often don't understand what is involved in translation and what impact poor translations can have. It is exactly translator's job to explain and clarify to the client what can and cannot be done.

Providing medical translations that can be harmful to the public is something I could never ethically do. Well, I have certainly been pushed to allow substandard translations in this field and I have seen such translations. Luckily, there are regulators that will limit this kind of intentional or unintentional damage. But they cannot check every translation and translators have to be guardians too.


Doaa Elrefy
 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Good enough for Davis but not G20 Dec 1

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.


Trump drops translation earpiece during G20 meeting with Argentina president

"As the Argentinian president greeted him in Spanish, Trump took his translation earpiece off telling Macri 'I think I understood you better in your language than through the translator'."


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 17:12
German to English
+ ...
Ethics (Giovanni) Dec 1

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

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...

I was surprised to read this. To start, I signed a code of ethics with my professional organization and if I violate it, I can lose my certification, and rightly so.

That aside, translation is my profession where I have expertise and training. There is no reason to expect that any client has that knowledge. Why should he necessarily know what he is doing? I get end clients with things they translated themselves, with errors they can't see, asking me to just put my certification stamp on it. They might pay me $20 to do 5 minutes work. But they don't know what they are asking, what is illegal, what is incorrect - I do. I bear a responsibility. I would expect a lawyer or accountant to tell me if I'm asking for something stupid. I think it is very much my job.

If the client is a middleman, he may be knowingly or unknowingly cheating the end client through the proposed practice. The end client won't know. I do, and won't be a part of it. I don't do what my client "tells" me to do if it's wrong.


Kay Denney
Doaa Elrefy
B D Finch
 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 17:12
German to English
+ ...
It's not about Shakespeare (Irina) Dec 1

Apologies for only quoting part of the post. I read all of it.
IrinaN wrote:

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, ..........


I will only do professional quality translations, up to certain standards, but this does not mean elegant Shakesperean type translations with a wonderful flow of language in all instances. It means doing what is necessary for the purpose of that translation, without skipping anything that is essential. If it is a legal contract, there are certain priorities. If a product description going b2b, there are other considerations, and if it's for advertising to consumers, you may need to know trends, which target country, and work more hand-in-hand with your end client to tweak things. If your client is in such a rush that the risk is of producing garbage, that will lose him customers and sales at the end (if this is for sales).

I don't know if it is actually true that the vast majority of clients nowadays represent the commercial side of the world. If I think about it, very few of the projects I've done actually do come from that side of it. The fact of people being hurried and rushed, more than before, is true. But if you can do a proper job that still delivers quality where it counts, I think clients are looking for that - and that it is becoming increasingly rare. I know that in other fields where I'm the customer, I'm hunting for this and am finding hard to find. Shoddiness wastes inordinate time for the customer.


 

IrinaN
United States
Local time: 17:12
English to Russian
+ ...
Why such extremes? Dec 3

[quote]Maxi Schwarz wrote:


I will only do professional quality translations, up to certain standards, but this does not mean elegant Shakesperean type translations with a wonderful flow of language in all instances. It means doing what is necessary for the purpose of that translation, without skipping anything that is essential. If it is a legal contract, there are certain priorities. If a product description going b2b, there are other considerations, and if it's for advertising to consumers, you may need to know trends, which target country, and work more hand-in-hand with your end client to tweak things. If your client is in such a rush that the risk is of producing garbage]

So do I. Maxi, I read your entire post too, and it's all fine with me except for one thing. Not perfect does not mean garbage. If we were to discuss, say, world famous figure skaters, we would not be questioning their general ability to skate; it would be implied. I was hoping that the participants will be building on a raised foundation as well.

Most of my work time is spent in the middle of some action. Say, I do the telecon, then I may have something to translate as a result of that telecon, then translate the response, and then, on the same evening engineers and techs at the shop would implement the decision made based on all that international exchange, during second shift. When I look back at some of those "quick and dirty" translations, sometimes I feel like it certainly could have been polished in both languages, but the most important thing is that no one had drilled an extra hole, used the wrong material or sealed a hatch before connecting a sensor. On a global scale, not too many translators, unless they, like me, are also the interpreters, work hand-in-hand and face-to-face with their clients as close as me and my colleagues do.

As far as understanding the responsibilities of delivering the information in a different language... I was interpreting real-time repairs of the failed main computer onboard the ISS when the station could go into the uncontrolled spin, and real-time failure of Luca Parmitano's space suit when he was under the threat of literally drowning inside his helmet during the space walk before the rest of the crew brought him back in. I've translated multi-million dollar contracts with monster corporations. I must admit though that my experience with "suites" and endless speeches resulting in nothing but more speeches is very limited:-)

On a lighter side - Lord Almighty, deliver me from purists and perfectionists! They always cast the first stone... and rarely stop before the victim stops breathing:-).

“Philanthropic people lose all sense of humanity. It is their distinguishing
characteristic.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 17:12
German to English
+ ...
no extremes intended Dec 3

IrinaN wrote:

So do I. Maxi, I read your entire post too, and it's all fine with me except for one thing. Not perfect does not mean garbage.


I read your entire post. Part of what I wrote was "It means doing what is necessary for the purpose of that translation, without skipping anything that is essential." The work you described involves doing what is essential.

When I look back at some of those "quick and dirty" translations, sometimes I feel like it certainly could have been polished in both languages, but the most important thing is that no one had drilled an extra hole, used the wrong material or sealed a hatch before connecting a sensor.

That extra hole or wrong material would be the sense of "garbage". And doing the essential means knowing what is essential and what isn't. Knowing what needs to be done, and what doesn't. Everything you describe suggests that you know what you're doing, and make the right decisions. If otoh a a middleman wins a contract by promising a polished translation in an unrealistic short time, of a kind of text that needs to be polished, anyone trying to get that done might indeed end up producing unusable garbage that won't serve its purpose. That is the kind of thing I meant in my original writing. I suspect that we're pretty well on the same page.


IrinaN
 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2004)
English to Italian
yes... Dec 3

so, you also act as a "consultant"... you can warn your client, but pushing it to say it's an ethical matter, seems rather extreme to me... icon_wink.gif


Maxi Schwarz wrote:

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

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...

I was surprised to read this. To start, I signed a code of ethics with my professional organization and if I violate it, I can lose my certification, and rightly so.

That aside, translation is my profession where I have expertise and training. There is no reason to expect that any client has that knowledge. Why should he necessarily know what he is doing? I get end clients with things they translated themselves, with errors they can't see, asking me to just put my certification stamp on it. They might pay me $20 to do 5 minutes work. But they don't know what they are asking, what is illegal, what is incorrect - I do. I bear a responsibility. I would expect a lawyer or accountant to tell me if I'm asking for something stupid. I think it is very much my job.

If the client is a middleman, he may be knowingly or unknowingly cheating the end client through the proposed practice. The end client won't know. I do, and won't be a part of it. I don't do what my client "tells" me to do if it's wrong.


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2004)
English to Italian
in some fields... Dec 3

it can be an ethical matter... I agree. But mostly, it is not. We are talking about internal documents, here...

Kaspars Melkis wrote:

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

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...


Clients very often don't understand what is involved in translation and what impact poor translations can have. It is exactly translator's job to explain and clarify to the client what can and cannot be done.

Providing medical translations that can be harmful to the public is something I could never ethically do. Well, I have certainly been pushed to allow substandard translations in this field and I have seen such translations. Luckily, there are regulators that will limit this kind of intentional or unintentional damage. But they cannot check every translation and translators have to be guardians too.


 

Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 17:12
German to English
+ ...
Giovanni Dec 4

I was addressing several of your points. re:
so, you also act as a "consultant"... you can warn your client, but pushing it to say it's an ethical matter, seems rather extreme to me.

In regards to 'ethics' I wrote that I have signed a code of ethics, so as a translator I am bound by a code of ethics.

Then separately - You had written
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...

Trying to get at this again, because I think what I wrote did not come across right.

There is no reason to expect that my client knows what he is doing when coming into my field of expertise. But it may be that we are talking about different kinds of clients. A lot of my customers are end clients, ordinary men and women, sometimes companies, sometimes law firms. A number of them have never had a translation done before. I do not expect them to know about my field.

As well, a lot of my translations are certified, bearing my seal, certification number, and name. My reputation is also on the line.

I do not act as a "consultant". But discussing the work, making decisions is part of it. I do not "warn" clients - I tell them when I can and cannot do, and why. That also translates into what I will and will not do. I won't do a certified translation destined for Germany, because I know it will be rejected for not being done by a German sworn translator. My client won't know that (re: knowing what they are doing). Some agencies don't know these things.

It's like I don't want my accountant to do "what I tell him to do" if he knows something I should be aware of.


 

Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
what exactly now makes internal documents less important than before? Dec 4

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

it can be an ethical matter... I agree. But mostly, it is not. We are talking about internal documents, here...


Even internal documents could be important policy documents with great impact on company or standard operating procedures that ultimately determine the quality of products sold or services provided.

Maybe a report about market dynamics in some other country could be rush-tranlated. But when I mentioned this example in one recent discussion, my oponent disagreed. So, I am not sure what is a good example anymore.

Obviously, there are times when even google translate will suffice. Even translators use them now and them. I am gradually realizing that if something is of little importance that google translate is enough, then it is so unimportant that there is almost no difference if I use it or not. I remember that there was a time when a lot of websites had implemented a tool for automatic page translation of static or dynamic content, usually powered by google translate or similar MT. Now they all have disappeared because site owners realized that it is not worth it. If the new “AI powered” MT systems were much better, why they are not being marketed for automatic translation of these websites? Apparently they still don't work that well.

If internal documents previously were translated at comparable cost and effort, why suddenly there is a request to do it cheaper? Couldn't it be that it is just an idea of a new manager with a mission to reduce operating costs and who starts with randomly cutting things they don't understand well? The cold truth is that there was a reason why these translations used to be done properly and that reason probably hasn't changed.


 

Doaa Elrefy
Egypt
Local time: 01:12
Member (Mar 2018)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Tell your agency that you are a translator not a typist Dec 4

There is a wide gap between the reality of our job as translators and the perception of it in the minds of people who do not realize what does translation mean. Therefore, in my humble opinion, I think that a translation agency has to be ashamed for asking such a question to a professional translator because he/she has to realize the meaning of translation. He/ she had to tell clients that what they want is unacceptable and tell them that they just have to receive a source text from a client and send it to a translator in order to be turned to a target language, not to polish the text. A translator does polish texts because texts are not the windows of cars or any other windows.

Mohammed Mahmood
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Actually... Dec 4

Kaspars Melkis wrote:
If internal documents previously were translated at comparable cost and effort, why suddenly there is a request to do it cheaper? Couldn't it be that it is just an idea of a new manager with a mission to reduce operating costs and who starts with randomly cutting things they don't understand well? The cold truth is that there was a reason why these translations used to be done properly and that reason probably hasn't changed.


I don't think they were ever done properly!

25 years ago, internal (and often external) translations used to be done by anyone who knew a bit of the foreign language, often a "bilingual" secretary.

Now that secretaries are a thing of the past, more of this work is being outsourced because this is cheaper than paying non-secretarial staff to do it.

And most of this is doubtless being done by low-quality translators because the good ones are still busy translating the important stuff.

I know I would rather have a rough-and-ready but accurate translation from a good translator than a polished turd from a more inept translator.

So no-frills requests are quite a good idea in theory. The stumbling block is that the good translators may not be willing to stoop so low.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Contradiction Dec 4

Chris S wrote:

...I would rather have a rough-and-ready but accurate translation from a good translator than a polished turd from a more inept translator....


If a translation is accurate it cannot also be "rough and ready".


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Unpolished Dec 4

Tom in London wrote:
If a translation is accurate it cannot also be "rough and ready".


OK, "unpolished" then. Not the best English (in our case), but conveys the meaning.


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:12
Member (2004)
English to Italian
@Kaspars and @Maxi Dec 4

For internal documents, I have no problem. This is the topic of this post. Of course you can always talk with the customer and advice. I do it myself. But I still believe that making it an ethical problem is pushing it a bit too far.

 
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