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What do you do when an agency tells you that your translation stinks?
Thread poster: Karina Perry
Karina Perry  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:18
English to Danish
+ ...
Aug 16, 2006

What would you do in this case (oh and let me tell you the "proofreading stinks too)?

If anyone wants to, I will be happy to forward the smallest of the 3 docs (about 200 words) for anyone who can read Danish to see my translation and the "proofreaders"

I just had just finished a job of 4400 words from English to Danish (my mother tongue) when I received this email from the agent:

" Our Danish reviewer of the files just got back to me. It seems there are just way too many grammatical errors! They finished proofing 5 pages of the X_Bulletin and couldn’t go on. See the message below.

I’d like you to please re-translate (self-proof) the remaining two files and the other half of X_Bulletin. This absolutely have to be done by 5 pm PST today.

If the reviewer still came back with negative comments like below, I’m afraid I’ll have to cut down your payment by 75% this time.

Comment: (apparently from proofreader group)

We have stopped proofing after 2½ hours. We have not even finished one full file. The quality is just too poor, it is too expensive for you to have us carry on. Please see comments from the proofer and see the attached files.

Comments from proofreader:

I have a strong feeling that this is a machine translation. The quality is VERY poor. The text contains misspellings, verbs in the infinitive form when it should have been in the present tense, wrong choice of words, compound nouns are not translated as compound nouns aso, aso. In my opinion, you should have this re-translated."


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Piotr Wargan  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:18
English to Polish
+ ...
Classified - proofreaders do not read below :-) Aug 16, 2006

Hi,

Could there be a template for proofreaders? Like this:

'I have a strong feeling that this is a machine translation'.

... and I have seen a different one like this somewhere:

'The translation could not have been done by a native speaker of the target language'.


Seriously speaking:
1) ask them to provide comments to each item they regard as incorrect in your text;

2) when you have their proofreading with these comments do this:

3) if the situation is that the proofreaders make comments to each 'mistake/error' in your text and these comments are not valid (e.g. contain incorrect information on Danish grammar etc. etc.) you should then write your explanations to each and every comment explaining why your version was correct. You must be 100% sure that you are right and have some refrence (grammar books, dictionaries etc. ) at hand to quote.

If your version is good then you will prove it easily.




Mvh

Piotr


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Stefanie Sendelbach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:18
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Ask them to send you proof Aug 16, 2006

Hi Karina,

I am sorry to read about your situation. But I guess it happens to every translator at some point of time that they have to defend the quality of their work.

I totally agree with Piotr here. They have to show you evidence. Ask them to send you the proofread version. Then you can see what this proofreader's work is worth, and you have a chance to defend yourself. If you don't even know what they consider wrong, how are you supposed to comment on your "errors"?

By the way, there are actually agencies out there who use this method to avoid having to pay their translators the full invoice amount. They just tell the translator that their work was crap, that they had to pay a lot for proofreading, and eventually for re-translating the whole thing. The poor translator feels bad and agrees to not being paid or lowering the amount. And the agency has another good piece of work that they only paid peanuts for...

Ask them to send you the proofread version and continue from there.

Good luck!

Stefanie


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Karina Perry  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:18
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Have been send the "proofread" versions Aug 16, 2006

Thanks for your support.

The agent did, along with the email I quoted, send me the "proofread" versions, first the prrofreader only had "time" to do 5 pages out of 25 because of my poor "machine translation". But the things they are "corrected"????

One place they had changed my "based on" to "on the basis of", I mean it was really silly little things, one place they had even crossed out my word and then "changed" it to the exact same word.

The agent today sent me the fully "proofread" documents and asked me to finalize the translation, I inserted my comments alot of places in the word docs, but I did not accept any of the proofreaders changes, because simply put I would be ashamed to have my name associated with the "proofread" text.

- Karina


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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 09:18
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ask them to send you proof or pay full rate Aug 16, 2006

I cannot believe that anyone would send you an e-mail like the one you mention without attaching a copy of the proofed file.

Who was the proofreader? What are his/her qualifications?

I once had a document comeback to me full of changes made by an "editor". On review, all of the changes were either grammatically wrong, false cognates or mistranslations.

After sending back the document to the agency with support for our translation, I asked them to arrange for a 3 way conference with the editor. Fortunately, our relationship goes back over 6 years now.

When we were put through to the office of the "editor", the office manager said "he is not here, perhaps another public relations representative can help you." That's when we found out that the "editor" was a third generation Latin who had never traveled to these parts of the world.

Always ask for proof of your mistake, or for full payment.
Regards


[Edited at 2006-08-16 21:32]


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 14:18
French to Dutch
+ ...
Just wondering Aug 16, 2006

why someone does a translation of 4,400 words for an unknown agency?
And why does an agency give 4,400 words to a new translator, without "testing" him/her with one or several small jobs?
Next time, take time to know a new client or to establish a relationship, and be cautious.


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Alberto Orengo  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:18
English to Italian
+ ...
Weird Aug 16, 2006

Hi Karina,

I will share with you my experience from the other side. What happened to you is quite sad and embarassing. Before being able to start doing some serious translation, I had to work my way up as checker-proofreader for a long time. Honestly, in that position, I've tried my best to reach a reasonable balance between being humble enough considering I was supposed to be checking professionals' work, and at the same time being assertive enough in case I really thought there was a mistake. But I have never been so cocky as your proofreader. As proofreader I was quite concerned about solidarity with collegues, trying to be as collaborative as I could. Sometimes checkers think that showing off with the editor/agent could put them in better light and get future jobs (the kind of "see how many mistakes I have found, I am the one you are looking for"). It's human, I know, and sometimes frustrating seing that you would actually be as good as the translator whose work you are proofreading but you are still "just" checking and the company doesn't give you any translation job...but this is another story... So, given for granted that your work, like anybody else's, cannot be perfect, still your proofreader's tone sounds to me as arrogant. Accusing you of having done the job with a MT tool is simply outrageous. Just make your point, and at the end they are losing, not you. I have noticed (recently as translator) that agents tend to swallow their pride quite easily as soon as they see that a certain behaviour would in the long term be detrimental to their credibility. Good luck!


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:18
German to English
+ ...
Who is responsible for what? Aug 16, 2006

Karina Perry wrote:

Thanks for your support.

The agent did, along with the email I quoted, send me the "proofread" versions, first the profreader only had "time" to do 5 pages out of 25 because of my poor "machine translation". But the things they are "corrected"????

One place they had changed my "based on" to "on the basis of", I mean it was really silly little things, one place they had even crossed out my word and then "changed" it to the exact same word.

The agent today sent me the fully "proofread" documents and asked me to finalize the translation, I inserted my comments alot of places in the word docs, but I did not accept any of the proofreaders changes, because simply put I would be ashamed to have my name associated with the "proofread" text.

- Karina


I agree with Karina in principle, but I believe that it is the duty of an agency to commission/employ a reviewer/proofreader, who should be responsible for the final product.

If I work with a direct customer, I always use a colleague to check my work. Final QA.

You say that they ask you to to implement "questionable changes", whilst threatening you with cutting the rate? That is neither professional, nor does it make economic sense.

The agency is there to carry the can, irrespective of whether they use a crap translator or crap reviewer. That is what they get paid for. Don't waste time on protracted questions which you are not paid for, and which were possibly sparked off somewhere along the line by someone with questionable knowledge.

If any of the agencies that I work with have any questions, I'm happy to answer them (usually by telephone) but were they to come back with stuff like this, I would respectfully suggest they get a third opinion.

Next time they call you in desperation, I sincerely hope that you can afford to give them an appropriate response.

Good luck
Chris

[Edited at 2006-08-16 23:14]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:18
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Er... Aug 16, 2006

Karina Perry wrote:

first the prrofreader only had "time" to do 5 pages out of 25 because of my poor "machine translation".


Shall I assume they're paid by the hour?

Because - on average, presuming average quality - 4,400 words are proofread in 3.5-4 hours.

If we're going to get finicky about this (3.5 hours, come on), error types should be taken into consideration.

But 5 pages out of 25 in 2.5 hours is, well, very low productivity, indeed.


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xxxPRen  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:18
French to English
+ ...
Uh oh Aug 17, 2006

I hate to be the cat among the pigeons, but... did you consider the fact that their comments may be justified? There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that assumes the translator is always right and the agency is always wrong (and no, I'm not an agency, I'm a freelancer).

I would suggest sending the "offending" translations to an experienced translator in the language pair in question and asking for an honest opinion. I've noted two things about your profile - you offer translations both ways (Danish - English and English - Danish) and you've already put this translation on your list of achievements. Hmmm.....

Paula


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:18
Flemish to English
+ ...
Knee-jerk Aug 17, 2006

"There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that assumes the translator is always right and the agency is always wrong (and no, I'm not an agency, I'm a freelancer). "
---------------------------------------
No, the translator is not always right :
But in order to know what I did wrong I would ask them for a copy and to explain what mistakes I have made against semantics, syntax, terminology etc...
After all, every language has a structure and every text uses a particular terminology. No translator here has ever made a typo?

If they can justify their complaints, there is nothing you can do, but to learn from your mistakes and accept their offer.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
I've noted two things about your profile - you offer translations both ways (Danish - English and English - Danish) and you've already put this translation on your list of achievements. Hmmm.....
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Is there something wrong with offering translations both ways? Isn't it a fact that in the Scandinavian countries children grow up with both the Scandinavian language and English. That ugly mother-tongue monster again?



[Edited at 2006-08-17 06:37]


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#41698 (LSF)
Malaysia
Local time: 20:18
Japanese to English
+ ...
You've got company Aug 17, 2006

This 'machine translation' thing happened to me once and quite recently (earlier this year). Ironically, it came from a company that I had been translating for about a year with jobs coming in every month totaling on average US$1,000 per month without such a hitch before. Coincidentally, it is also located in the PST time zone and the agency name starts with an 'E'. The resultant piece they showed me was full of either superfluous or erroneous changes (in the contextual sense).

To be fair, the piece was actually quite convoluted in the contextual sense and a change of PM resulted in one that wasn't too well-versed in the target language to probably notice.

I didn't put an entry in BB because I had good relations with them for quite some time without problems and I actually got the initial start through another translator's website (not Proz).

But this 'jackpot' type of thing spoilt my interest for working with them again and I either ignored or turned down each and every one of the 5 to 7 jobs (from other PMs though and thru their branches in other countries) coming from the same company ever since. It suited me fine as I had been working almost 7-day weeks for the previous few months prior to the incident and I was in the process of relocating.

There's no doubt that if you just look at the quantity of changes, it would give an impression that the editor is immaculate and did a marvelous job with great attention to details (whether the changes are necessary or not is another issue) compared to one with hardly any changes.

Cheers.


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odlanier
Local time: 08:18
English to Spanish
+ ...
YOUR TRANSLATION STINKS? Aug 17, 2006

Karina, no matter what your translation quality may be just realize that the very rude manners in which they address the issue (either your agent or the client) is what actually "stinks. Please say so and teach them a lesson in manners.

By all means reject what I term an "assault to self steem". Defend every single syllabe from your work if you are sure. Use reference quotes.

It's not about the money, it's about respect. Period.


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Karina Perry  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:18
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hello Cat Aug 17, 2006

Paula Rennie wrote:

I hate to be the cat among the pigeons, but... did you consider the fact that their comments may be justified?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yes, I have. And if you can read Danish, I will gladly send the documents to you, so you can see it for yourself, what a "great" job they have done. More than one time they have "corrected" my words with the exact same words.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that assumes the translator is always right and the agency is always wrong (and no, I'm not an agency, I'm a freelancer).
I would suggest sending the "offending" translations to an experienced translator in the language pair in question and asking for an honest opinion.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I have already done so.
Besides, I do not have a problem with the proofreader correcting my translation, after all if ALL translations were perfect, none of us would use proofreaders.

But when I have done proofreading myself, I have not made comments like that about the translator and/or his/her work. I remember one time, the translator had left out a whole section of the source text (1-2 paragraphs of text) I simply translated that part, added to my proof and told the agency, that it had been missing, that I had translated it and added it.
We are all suppose to be both adults and professionals here, giving comments like the ones I have quoted, shouldn't happen.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I've noted two things about your profile - you offer translations both ways (Danish - English and English - Danish)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
And why do you have a problem with this? Danish is my mother tongue, and I have lived (not just vacationing) in 3 different English speaking countries, not to mention that as Williamson mentioned, that people in Denmark learn English from a very early age.

This comment of yours, to me merely shows that English is your mother tongue, even without looking at your profile.

And I am happy for you, if you want to focus on one way of translation in your language pair.
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and you've already put this translation on your list of achievements. Hmmm.....Paula

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FYI, I have taken them off my list, NOT because it is not one of my achievements, because it is. But because i simply do not want my name associated with that agency, so I will not tell future clients that I worked with these people.


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Nadia-Anastasia Fahmi  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 15:18
English to Greek
+ ...
One more cat among the pigeons... Aug 17, 2006

I have had the experience of my work being overedited, but also of returning an editing job because of the extent of work required, since I work both as an ENEL translator / editor / proofreader.

Let's not be coy, here. We have all most likely come across very bad translations and I don' think that any professional would use kid gloves to say so.

In the first case, I went through the first 5 pages accepting and/or rejecting changes/corrections and documenting and supporting each and every one of them to the client's satisfaction. In every case, I was vindicated and I am happy to say I am still working with these clients. I also remember an instance of a three-way conference call with a hysterical editor at the other end trying to justify the unjustifiable. Boy, did I enjoy bringing that guy down!!

In the second case, again I documented and supported each and every change/correction (a couple of examples that has stuck with me over the ages was the Greek translation of "liquid market" to "wet market" and "face value" as "the value of the face"). And after doing that, I send the translation back saying "Well, this is the extent of changes required and why. Please advise whether I should continue with this job." And if anyone cares to know, yes, I won the clients over and I am still working with them (although they are usually the same clients as in the first case.

So, Karina, if you are 100% sure of your work, just insert the relevant comments documenting and supporting them with dictionary references, Google searches etc. and do this only in the first 2-3 pages and send it back to the client with a polite note saying "you should find a new editor in my languages pairs" or something along these lines.

[Edited at 2006-08-17 15:09]


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