What do you do if a client sends you a partly 'translated' text
Thread poster: lexical

lexical  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:36
Portuguese to English
Jan 9, 2007

I would be very interested to know if other Proz colleagues have had this experience and if so what you did about it.

An outsourcer who is a good, longstanding customer has recently started sending me the occasional text with certain parts already translated into the target language and marked in colour, with the comment "We have already translated these parts". The implication is that I don't get paid for those parts.

The problem is not only that the 'translated' parts are sometimes badly translated (though clearly not as bad as MT), but that sentences are often interspersed with a word or half a dozen words still in the source language. So I'm expected to translate the few missing words - in situ, I suppose - when these additions change the grammar or syntax of the original text.

To be fair, 90% of the text is usually straightforward source text - only a small minority of it is like I've described. When I queried this, they said "The end client doesn't want to pay twice for these parts". Another explanation, of course, is that it is the outsourcer who wants to save money.

My dilemma is this: the professional part of me says I should revise and re-arrange the highlighted parts; the freelance, "my time is money" part says I won't get paid for doing so, so why should I bother? If the original text were by me, I'd revise it happily, and charge my revision rate for those parts. These little bits of prior translation also make the job more difficult because I don't get the whole flavour of the text.

I don't want to tell the outsourcer to stuff his documents because they account for 20% of my turnover, but I feel that neither my nor their purposes are best served in this way.

Does anyone have any advice to offer?


Francesca Pesce  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:36
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
Maybe my question is a bit stupid... Jan 9, 2007

but have you tried asking the outsourcer how you should consider the parts that are already translated? When I receive partly translated texts, I always ask the client if they consider their translation final and if I should use it as reference for the parts I have to translate (glossary, etc.). (if they say no, then it means they are not so sure of what they already have and would appreciate a revision).

If necessary, I also tell them if I find the translation is not well done, asking whether they want me to go through it and correct it (they usually accept).

Then, if they tell me to leave it as it is, well ... too bad for them. But if I leave it as it is, I probably won't even read it to align my translation to theirs.
In these cases, when I deliver the work, I always explain the problems they will find having two parts that sound quite different.

For the intermingled sentences, it also depends on how you get paid (per word, line, page, etc). I believe that if you have to change the whole sentence in order to fit in the missing words, you should charge for the whole sentence you changed. But, as you say, at that point you are probably talking about a few cents, so it doesn't make much difference.

Overall, I think clarity is the best strategy.
Good luck!


Tina Vonhof
Local time: 06:36
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Similar experiences Jan 9, 2007

I've had similar experiences with translations and sometimes people ask me to certify already translated documents (at a reduced rate of course!). Very rarely are these 'already translated' documents helpful and often it takes more time to 'fix' a poorly translated (or formatted) document than to start from scratch.

My overriding feeling is that I hate to deliver a document that is not up to my standards. On the other hand, I don't want to spend a lot of time that I'm not getting paid for. So I understand your dilemma.

If it is a valued client/outsourcer and the amount of 'already translated' text is relatively small, I deliver three documents (without extra charge): one translated exactly as requested, one with additional changes indicated in 'track changes', and a 'clean' copy of the latter. Hopefully the end client can then see for him/herself that my version is better and not make a similar request again. Sometimes I write a note with a few examples of the differences. In any other case and with new clients, I have decided to stick to my guns and say that I will only translate the whole document.

As I'm writing this, an analogy comes to mind: if a home owner has painted 1/4 of a wall in his living room and then decides to call in a professional painter to finish the job, would he expect the professional to paint only the remaining 3/4 (which will leave a visible line or course) or would he expect him to go over the whole wall again?


Silvia Calderón  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:36
English to Spanish
+ ...
Same case Jan 9, 2007

One of my clients -a doctor- sends me partially translated texts. He is a great help, specially with medical terms (he can read both languages).
However, I almost never leave it as it is. I work with the text as a whole. I don't think you can get a good result if you cut the text into pieces.
And, of course, I don't offer any discounts.


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:36
English to Spanish
+ ...
Ask for the complete original Jan 9, 2007

...and translate it all from scratch.


David Brown  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:36
Spanish to English
Partial translations Jan 10, 2007

[quote]Silvia Calderón wrote:

One of my clients -a doctor- sends me partially translated texts.

My medical clients tend to do this often--they are very faithful clients and pay me well, but I charge them for proofreading/editing their English text. These are often copied, cut and pasted from other English sources.


Sarah Brenchley  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with David Jan 10, 2007

This often happens to me as articles are changed and resubmitted to other journals, etc. I count the words needing to be translated and charge the translation rate per word and then count the words that need correcting (grammar, style, etc.) and charge these words at my correction rate.
All the best,


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:36
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Telling the client is always the best policy Jan 10, 2007

Don't forget to make allowances in your rates for editing passages like that.

Occasionally clients do have their reasons for the odd ways they express themselves, and the terminology is sometimes a help, but as a rule expect to edit.

I tell the client in advance if there are passages like that, and I charge them my proofreading rate (for at least half an hour) unless we agree on something else.

It happens all the time with English (or Globish or whatever you call it!). As professionals we cannot accept amateur standards. Some clients can write professionally, but it is our responsibility to insist on quality if they can't.

If you get machine translation or really bad human translation, draw the line and insist on having a decent source text that you can translate from scratch.

It honestly takes longer to 'edit' bad translations than to translate them from scratch, and the result may still not be what the writer intended
- and YOU NEVER KNOW for sure. It simply invites complaints and trouble.

You would never dream of half-repairing your car yourself and expecting a car mechanic to accept it, or insist that your lawyer just took over dubious clauses in the deeds to your house or your will.

You're the expert, so make sure you can explain your point, then let your client know.

Best of luck

[Edited at 2007-01-10 08:23]


Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:36
Member (2004)
English to Italian
In my experience... Jan 10, 2007

in these instances, the client is hell bent on saving money and debating the matter is just a waste of time. I just don't touch them. It's their problem, isn't it?



Alan R King
Local time: 14:36
Basque to English
+ ...
Okay, here's a suggestion (further discussion welcome) Jan 10, 2007

I have had this kind of problem sometimes too. Probably most of us here have! I admit I haven't found the perfect solution that I'm happy with, so it remains an unresolved problem as far as I'm concerned. I'm therefore reading this thread with great interest to see if someone has thought of something I haven't!

As a matter of fact I have one that is similar to that at this moment except that in this case, 80% is already either translated or "translated" (i.e. well or badly translated) and the remaining 20% is for me to translate; sometimes it's only three words or half a sentence! I'm thinking of doing the following (haven't decided yet), and I'd love to know what others here think of the plan or can suggest a better one:

1) First, indicate briefly to the outsourcer that this problem exists, just to give them a chance to change their minds. Assuming they stick to their guns (in my case they already have)...

2) I'll just translate the bits and pieces I've been asked to, (almost) totally ignoring the already (")translated(") bits.

3) I'll hand in that job, charging per word for the words I've just translated, together with a (short) note point out (remininding, actually) that there is now a problem with that text. If they don't mind, okay, end of transaction; but I will also at this point offer them one (1) further option for them to take it or leave it, namely, if they like, I'll PROOFREAD the WHOLE document for them (making no distinction between who previously translated what) and charge for that at my usual proofreading rate. It should be clear that that will be in addition to and separate from the translation task I've already done.

Do you think it'll work? Is it a reasonable way to handle this?


lexical  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:36
Portuguese to English
thanks to everybody Jan 10, 2007

...for your thoughtful comments. I feel better for knowing that I'm not alone in facing this problem.

Francesca offered a sensible solution by suggesting talking it through with the client. I admit I've been remiss in not challenging this practice properly. I liked Tina's analogy of asking a painter to finish an amateur job - it's precisely that "visible line" that offends my (not excessively developed) sense of professionalism.

Henry - as always - talks a lot of horse sense (ditto Giovanni) and if it were a new or occasional client, I'd do what they recommend. However, this is my third biggest client and the vast majority of their texts don't suffer from this problem. I'm not about to drive them away for the sake a minor irritation. We have to be a bit flexible and accommodating sometimes. As for agreeing to deal with a machine or bad human translation (Christine), I too flatly refuse to do that, even for my best clients. It's a recipe for disaster.

I could wish that these 'already translated' parts gave me insight into terminology that I'm not familiar with (Sylvia); that would be welcome. Alas, that's not the case here.

I think I may use Tina's idea of writing a note explaining the deficiencies of the 'already translated' parts, or even appending an improved translation at no cost. And I might just gently remind the client that they happen to be quality certified to ISO 9001: 2000.

Anyway, I hope this discussion has been as helpful to others as it has been to me.


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