Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
How much do you assume that someone else will improve your text?
Thread poster: Jackie Bowman

Jackie Bowman

Local time: 17:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nov 3, 2006

Various recent threads have spawned a lot of truly interesting discussion about the quality of translations, and about the quality of the answers that are sometimes suggested on ProZ.

The ‘quality-of the-translations’ debate has sometimes emerged from discussions about the nature of a native language. The concerns about the quality of answers on ProZ has often prompted suggestions that the ‘disagree’ option should be used more often. Recently, the latter debate spurred a fascinating exchange about whether the quality of ProZ answers has declined. For the record (I didn’t participate in that discussion) I don’t think it has.

Both of these discussions, I think, are related to a matter that has always interested me. It’s this. As a professional writer, at what point do you assume that what you’ve done is ‘good enough’, and that someone further down the line will take care of anything you’ve missed?

To be honourable, I must concede that my question is sparked by a very recent question posed in the Spanish-English pair. I suggested an answer to that question. The asker chose another answer. That is perfectly fine. Let the record show that I am not now and never have been what, in the various threads mentioned above, have sometimes been referred to as a ‘points hunter’. I cannot ‘use’ ProZ on a daily basis because of pressure of work. I pop in from time to time.

Anyway, in this particular case, the asker chose an answer and then indicated how she would render the term for her client. The question was closed, but I thought it would be helpful to point out that the asker’s rendering of the chosen answer was not, strictly speaking, grammatically correct English.

The asker (remember, the question is closed at this point) thanked me for being alert but asserted that she would ‘let the editor make the necessary corrections’.

What interests me is how widespread this attitude is among professional translators. And this is a genuine interest on my part. Last week I finished translating a book on integration in Latin America. I looked at the other published books on the client’s website and concluded that that they were published in very mediocre English. But on the day before the deadline I stayed up most of the night to polish and re-polish the sentences in my translation.

To reiterate: this is a genuine question, and I am genuinely interested in answers from colleagues. I have no agenda and I’m not looking for support. I want to know. Do you knowingly submit stuff with mistakes in it and assume that someone else will fix what you didn’t?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Fan Gao
Australia
Local time: 08:43
Member (2006)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Interesting question. Nov 4, 2006

Jackie Bowman wrote:
As a professional writer, at what point do you assume that what you’ve done is ‘good enough’, and that someone further down the line will take care of anything you’ve missed?

Hi Jackie,

This is a really interesting question and I am very interested in hearing other's opinions on this matter too.

Personally, I make the assumption that the work we send will go straight to the end-client and that the intermediary will just quickly give it a scan to make sure everything is there and that the layout looks as close to the original as possible. When it comes to the grammar, spelling, punctuation and style of writing etc I feel 100% responsible for it being as close to perfection as possible. Everyone has a different idea of what makes something perfect in their eyes, especially when it comes to translating between eastern and western languages. Translating the text is one thing but to succesfully cross the huge cultural divide between east and west whilst staying true to the original text can sometimes be really challenging so it's not just translating but also transadapting. In this respect, my/our work is "good enough" when it can be delivered directly to the end-client with perhaps just slight changes being made for the American/Australian or any English speaking country where the English is different to British English.
Do you knowingly submit stuff with mistakes in it and assume that someone else will fix what you didn’t?

Absolutely never and in my opinion, anyone in any profession who "knowingly" does that, does not deserve the title of being a "professional".

Translation is a serious business and just like any serious business, mistakes can spiral and cause untold problems further down the line. Some people may think it's just words but as the saying goes, "the pen is mightier than the sword". I always assume that anything I write will be final and from the point of sending, it will be set in stone. If there are repercussions then it is down to me and my responsibility. Of course agencies are there as a barrier and the reason they pay translators a percentage of what they get, aside from just the business side of things, is because they are taking that responsibility away from you. However, I refuse to lower my standards or let work slide just for that fact. Once a professional, always a professional:)

Best wishes,
Mark


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Publishing is a frustrating world... Nov 4, 2006

Jackie,
Thank you for raising this question. Those of us at ProZ.com who produce books have to remember that many of our colleagues work in industries that do not apply the standards that are found in publishing or certain other venues. Lawyers aren't known for writing delightful prose, and MDs scrawl their notes (or at least, they used to). Accuracy and polish, in my mind, are two distinct criteria.

For work that is to be formally published, quality (in terms of polish) does count. At the same time, reality dictates that time and financial constraints will impinge on the level of quality produced.

I wonder if the person who so easily dismissed the error you pointed out was either under a deadline, or realized that her job was compartmentalized. Perhaps she was supposed to return a draft that others would be paid to polish? That's not beyond the realm of possibility.

On a more personal note, I was an editor of English language texts before becoming a translator. Although my "eye" is far from perfect, I'm compelled to labor over my translations, sometimes for weeks, doing all the things that I would do as an English-language editor. Because I have an MA in Latin American Studies, and work almost exclusively in that field, when I can communicate with the author (or the volume editor), I even include substantive notes with my translations.

Why do I bother? I've decided that it is one thing that sets me apart from competitors (creating a niche market for myself)--and with old age, I've become compulsive!

However, in some situations, time simply runs out. This happened on a book I finished last month--the publisher had a ridiculous deadline that, for a variety of external reasons, had to be met. We all did the best we could; we all felt we could have produced a cleaner manuscript.

Sometimes, there just isn't enough money. University presses pay their editors a standard per-page fee. The production demands are many and stiff. In such situations, I have to sacrifice the third read-through of the manuscript, or I would (and I mean this literally) find myself earning less than minimum wage. It hurts, but what I can do?

In my little niche market, I'm gradually finding clients who recognize and expect quality (and sometimes will actually pay for it!). So, I believe there are clients who will seek us out on our own terms. For that reason, and to the best of my abilities, I won't sacrifice quality simply because others don't care (although when they run out of time or run out of money, I may have to cut some corners).

Well, thanks for listening to my rambling. I hope others will respond to your post, too.



[Edited at 2006-11-04 02:55]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Patricia Lane  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:43
French to English
+ ...
Great question! Nov 4, 2006

Jackie Bowman wrote:

Do you knowingly submit stuff with mistakes in it and assume that someone else will fix what you didn’t?


The key word is "knowingly". If a writer or translator submits work knowing full well what mistakes, questions or uncertainties are left in a text and somehow relies on the agency or the client to "play fix", that to me is totally unprofessional - regardless of whether the translation is supposed to be "for content/internal use/comprehension only" or, the other extreme, "print ready".

On the other hand, some clients make clear that what they need is to undertand the content of a document they have entrusted to you. In that case, while it is laudable to make one's translation "publishable", this investment of time and diligence can steal time away from another project that does require that level of polish and attention to detail.

If a client seeks near perfect (perfect in my book is not possible, it is function of intersubjective agreement and thus not impartial!) or ready to be published material, then the time and budget need to be in harmony with the expectations. If that is not the case, personally I will refuse a project if I am not confident I can render spotless work in the given time frame. A good reputation takes time to build up, it can be damaged with one poor performance. The risk is not worth taking just to have one more invoice under one's belt.

Moreover, many clients and agencies -- and publishers!, sigh - do not allow sufficient time for us to let the piece rest a day or two to return to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind or to entrust a final proofreading to a third party. Many agencies claim that all work given to a translator is then proofed by the agency or other translator before being sent on to the client. In my experience, that is often not the case and I will always assume that whatever I submit is what the client is going to see, period. In whatever time I am given, I will strive to polish the text and catch all the typographical and punctuation mistakes before sending it in.

Some glitches can, unfortunately, sneak in. Many years ago, I used to work for TIME. We were several people each Thursday and Friday night proofing the following week' s issue until 10 PM or midnight before "putting the magazine to bed", ie, sending it off for printing. Every Monday morning, we'd all hold our breath; almost invariably, at least one mistake of some sort would have slipped by our numerous pairs of eyes. We'd be mortified, but we could not have done more or better than we had.

After this long diatribe, to get back to to Jackie's excellent question, handing in work while knowing there are mistakes in it is unprofessional behavior, pure and simple.

My two cents!

Patricia

[Edited at 2006-11-04 08:12]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 00:43
Turkish to English
+ ...
I never assume that my translation will be editied Nov 4, 2006

I assume that the text I am producing will be the final version and take pride in submitting a translation that is free of errors and reads like natural English. I am careful only to accept source texts in subject areas with which I am familiar so that I can be sure the terminology I use is correct. If there are any points of which I am unsure - and these may be due to reasons beyond our control such as an ungrammatical sentence or mis-spelled term in the source text - I make sure that I include notes about these in my covering e-mail and explain why I have dealt with them as I have.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:43
English to French
+ ...
I also polish what I translate... Nov 5, 2006

...and often feel I didn't have enough time to go deep enough and that the 'mean' client is taking my baby (read: translation) away too soon. Do you people ever feel this way?

However, I too have noticed the growing tendency to leave it up to the editor - this tendency grows more or less in proportion with the number of proofreaders complaining about the nightmarish translations they have to proofread, edit and/or correct, and sometimes even rewrite from scratch. I've had my share of these nightmares to the point where I am very reluctant to take on any proofreading work.

On the other hand, I won some clients' esteem specifically with this. I have received work to proof/translate from clients wherein I noticed either that the supplied TM contained lots of errors - and took some time to correct the units that occurred in the text I was working on - or that the translator was clearly not in the mood to translate - in which case I compensated by rewriting whole paragraphs BUT also letting the client know how much time I had to invest in correcting the translator's errors. In several cases, the client started to value my work more and some clients put me at the top of their freelancers list for certain clients of theirs or certain subject areas.

I think this is a shame and I can understand - to a certain point - some clients not wanting to invest too much in the translation. After all, it will cost them a ton more money to correct that translation...

All this to say, yes, Jackie, I agree

[Edited at 2006-11-05 08:13]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
Italian to English
+ ...
Very interesting question, but ... Nov 5, 2006

who's going to hold their hands up and say "Yes, I hand in work that I know is sub-standard" ?


In answer to your question Jackie:
Do you knowingly submit stuff with mistakes in it and assume that someone else will fix what you didn’t?

With mistakes, never.
With sentences that aren't exactly Evelyn Waugh, yes, because it depends on the client, the deadline, and the target. And the Trados memory of course, for which I agree payment terms beforehand. If the client's memory is full of mistakes and they say "oh but our client has authorised it", then it's their problem.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Jackie Bowman

Local time: 17:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Many thanks ... Nov 6, 2006

Dear Mark, Patricia R., Patricia L., Tim, Viktoria and Claire,

Thanks a mill for replying to this post. I’d been wondering if I was becoming a dullard pedant.

I’d been seeing Patricia R’s care for this stuff on ProZ for quite some time, in silent admiration. At the same time, I’d found myself burning the midnight oil with the ‘possessive-with-a-gerund?’ struggle too many times.

By which I mean … I’d come to doubt how much anyone cares about possessive-with-a-gerund, or the proper use of the subjunctive mood in English, or whatever. So I read the client’s other books on the client’s website (I only ever work for the client) and see pretty poor prose.

And so it gets late (often, very late) and I think: how many readers of this stuff actually care? Do I change ‘based on’ to ‘on the basis of’ AGAIN? Do I change the useless and unnecessary ‘primarily’ to ‘mainly’ AGAIN’? Why not let it slide? It’ll take me another four seconds to correct that and, in the end, who gives a shit?

And Claire -- No. Hand on heart, I have never knowingly submitted anything I knew was wrong. What I have done, amid the midnight oil, is wonder who cares if I do let something slide.

And now, for now, I know. You do, you care. You six people. And that’s enough, frankly. Because I have to hope that if you were editing my stuff, you’d get out the blue pencil and strike out obvious stylistic monstrosities, and tell me why.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:43
German to English
+ ...
Many translators rely too heavily on editors Nov 8, 2006

In my experience, many translators do rely too heavily on editors. In the proofreading I've done for clients of other translators' work in the past year or so, quite a few of the jobs ended up being heavy editing jobs instead of a quick proofread.

Granted, I work in financial translation, where the deadlines are merciless. However, the text I get should be basically clean, if not in perfectly polished style. It's annoying when client glossaries aren't followed, no effort was made to look up technical terms, etc. Maybe the thinking is that the editor will clean it all up, so why bother being too careful, I don't know. I think that attitude just adds another layer of risk of mistakes being made.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Normal circumstances, and in our office... Nov 8, 2006

Jackie Bowman wrote:
Do you knowingly submit stuff with mistakes in it and assume that someone else will fix what you didn’t?


Well, for freelance clients I consider myself responsible for the end-product. This means that if I'm uncertain or if it had been a rush translation, I would submit it to an editor/reviewer at my own cost.

However, a client who needs something in a hurry should be prepared to contend with more errors than would otherwise be the case. I recently had to translate four pages of financial text for a certain client in half an hour. That meant almost no time to proofread/edit/review it. I had some TM, which helped, and I'm very familiar with the field and the terminology in both my source and target languages, but ultimately it was a rush job and my arms ached when I was done. When I reread the translation two days later, I discovered six errors (two typos, three slight errors and one gross error) -- that's six errors in 1200 words. Normally I would consider that to be unacceptably bad, but this was an extremely rushed rush job, and I believe the client has no cause for complaints.

But the point is that under normal circumstances your product should be error-free.

As an aside, just to tell you how we do things in my office:

I work in a translation office with between 4 and 7 colleagues, and our workflow is as follows: (1) a translator does the translation, (2) then he does his own reviewing/editing, (3) then another translator does an independent proofread/review/edit, (4) and then the first translator decides which suggested changes to implement, (5) and finally when the artwork is done, the first translator proofreads the translation again. Ideally there should be no reviewing/editing at step #5, only proofreading. Well, we have 3 vacancies at the moment, so during busy times step #2 is often skipped, which means that the text is reviewed by only one translator, and sometimes the text isn't proofread during step #3 at all (only reviewed). Still, very few errors slip through, because we all try to do it right the first time.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some translation types lend themself to it Nov 8, 2006

Daina Jauntirans wrote:
In the proofreading I've done for clients of other translators' work in the past year or so, quite a few of the jobs ended up being heavy editing jobs instead of a quick proofread.


In localisation, where translations are often done with very little context, translators often simply translate as best they can and hope that the client will have some sort of betatesting phase in which mistranslations will be corrected. This is inevitable. Even with a prescriptive glossary, it isn't always possible to translate first-time-right in such cases.

However, I do expect such translators to at least (a) follow the prescriptive glossary as far as possible, and (b) not make any typing errors or spelling errors.

I have had people help me with l10n translations and when I got the stuff back, it was full of typos, evidence that the work was done at speed. In my opinion, even if a translator knows that his work will be checked and double-checked by a second translator, and even if he knows that he is expected to do a quick-and-dirty translation instead of a polished final product, he should still have the decency to do a spell-check (if his tool doesn't spell-check automatically).


[Edited at 2006-11-08 17:32]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:43
German to English
+ ...
I agree - it depends on the situation Nov 8, 2006

Of course, you're right, it depends on the situation.

I agree about l10n, too! I have done some similar work and the lack of context is maddening, but luckily I have a very linguistically aware customer who will answer any questions that come up.

4 pp. in 30 min.? Can't imagine! Even financial translators don't have it that bad!

The work I am talking about has ranged from quite good, but sloppy (spelling, following glossaries, weird wording and style conventions) to abysmal - this case was referred back to the end client with a strong recommendation to have the text looked at thoroughly. It was dangerously bad. But in the first type of case I feel that the translators could have been more careful the first time around.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
Member
English
+ ...
The buck stops here! Nov 8, 2006

I agree that we should aim to produce something which is as near perfect as we can get it.

However, I regularly work with agencies which get every translation proof read and then return it to the author with the changes for their approval.

This can occasionally lead to you realising that you have let something slip in that you just cannot believe you were capable of. (Perhaps due to tiredness, looming deadline, or just a moment of sheer brain dead carelessness). When I see one of those, I am just glad there was a safety net.

Let me give you an example. In an article about some musicians I was working on recently I used the sentence "They have been busy “recuperating” their medieval repertoire". The proof reader changed this to the much more accurate and satisfying "reviving" – I had obviously been lulled into a false sense of security by over familiarity with the source language’s use of a false friend. Happens to the best of us, at one time or another.

The problem with the proof reading system comes when the differences are merely stylistic. Then you just hear differences in register, or voice, that do not sound comfortable to your ear and this can lead to cross mailings about unnecessary interference.

If we have to tight-rope walk without a safety net, then we should. But I don’t mind admitting that having a net, or being someone else’s can be satisfying. It makes this lonely job a bit more of a team effort. After all two heads are better than one, so they say.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
Member
English
+ ...
Awful "house" terms! Nov 8, 2006

As for accepted house terms… they are one of my pet hates. I once worked on a project in which the glossary provided was inaccurate and just plain wrong about 20% of the time. I went to all the trouble of suggesting industry standard alternatives, backing them up with URLs of the word being used in context… and was told: “Mind your own business, that’s not your job! We know what we are talking about. We have always used those vocabulary items to talk about this!”

I could not continue to turn in work I considered to be 20% crap, so I just replied: “Find yourself a different translator next time.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:43
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I don't normally do it that fast Nov 9, 2006

Daina Jauntirans wrote:
4 pp. in 30 min.? Can't imagine! Even financial translators don't have it that bad!


Usually we have several hours to do it in, but this particular client was *late* with his delivery of the source text and his deadline wasn't flexible.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How much do you assume that someone else will improve your text?

Advanced search







SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »
CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search