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Maximum number of errors allowed in a translation?
Thread poster: Judy Rojas

Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 17, 2007

As we all know, no matter how much we strive to reach it, there is no such thing as a "perfect" translation. Translation being a human endeavor, mistakes are bound to happen, no matter how carefully the translator and editor perform their jobs.

My question is whether there are “official” guidelines or rules that define what is a permissible number of mistakes per each thousand words of translated material.

If anyone know, I surely would appreciate the info, as I’m preparing a white paper on the subject.

Regards


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:35
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Paradox of Errors Jan 17, 2007

http://www.proz.com/topic/1710


\"Myth #22: The Paradox of Errors

This is really not a myth but a paradox. The Paradox of Errors is that while mistakes by lawyers will occur, they are unacceptable. I remember working on a brief when I was in practice with a now-deceased lawyer. He was a crusty litigator in the old mold, who had successfully argued in major cases. While working on a brief with this lawyer, an error occurred. It was early in my career and I was summoned to his office in a very calm and deliberate tone, he pointed out the error. He sensed that I was uncomfortable, because I tend to be a perfectionist, and stopped for a minute to say something that has stuck with me every since. He said, \"I know that errors will occur, but they are unacceptable.\" In the practice of law, as professionals we begin to set for ourselves a standard of perfection that borders on strict liability. We assume that we will not even make the most venial errors. Our learning techniques are oriented toward the notion that errors are simply unacceptable. Nonetheless, we know they will occur. How is it possible to enter a profession whose standard is the acceptance of nothing less than perfect, knowing full well that you will make mistakes and fail to meet that standard? At a certain level, it seems sort of stupid that anyone would ever want to do that to themselves. I guarantee you that at least once in your career you will make one monumental mistake, you may make several...\"

From:
http://www.law.stetson.edu/lawrev/lake.pdf


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
words of wisdom! Jan 17, 2007

TampaTranslator wrote:
\"Myth #22: The Paradox of Errors

From:
http://www.law.stetson.edu/lawrev/lake.pdf


Words of wisdom...thank you for sharing!


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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 23:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you but I need references Jan 17, 2007

Nice posting and reading, but what I'm really looking for here are some "official" guidelines. I looked at the ASTM site, but there were none.

What I need are hard facts. For example:

Maximum number of mistakes per 1000 words for a document to be considered "acceptable":
Objective
Mistranslation 1
Typographical errors 3
Grammatical mistakes 2
Capitalization 2

Subjective
Style 4


Etc.


Regards,
Ricardo


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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:35
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
How many errors Jan 17, 2007

I don't know this myself and would be interested to find out.

However, I think that the "Paradox of Error" is a pearl of wisdom.

If I were you I would try to use it in my paper at some point mentioning the source so that you don't violate any copywrite laws. It would make a nice last paragraph piece right at of before the ending.


Good luck on the paper!
Lucinda


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Lubain Masum  Identity Verified
Bangladesh
Local time: 08:35
Member (2006)
English to Bengali
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NO MISTAKE is acceptable in translation Jan 17, 2007

Thank you for bringing up an important issue.

Once I was contacted by an Indian outsourcer with very large project (500000) where he wanted a reduced rate. As I insisted on my standard rate and focused on the quality of translation, he said whether I am ready to accept monetary penalty if my 'assured' quality falls.

I told him that I can guarantee accuracy in translation but how can you measure the quality, as it differs from one person to another. Some translators stress so much the lucidity and 'beauty' of language that most often they go far away from the original meaning and unless you compare the translation with the original, you cannot understand it is not what the original author means. On the other hand, if you strictly stick to the original phrase without considering the flow of a different language, you translation will be worthless.

Anyway, I think it is an old and continuous debate which translation is better.

I believe and maintain that NO MISTAKE is acceptable in translation whatever the condition is. You can translate however you like and whatever your choice of relevant words is but it must be correct and accurate in sense. I also believe that you can even translate what goes against dictionary meaning or common grammar but you have to justify it in a logical way.

Another important factor is that you must keep the target audience of your translation in your mind. If your target audience do not understand what you want to convey to them, then it is of no use whatever quality of your translation is!


[Edited at 2007-01-17 16:28]


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Laura Bruno
Local time: 23:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
Different Methods of Evaluating Student Jan 17, 2007

I can send you the whole article. Hope this helps you a bit

Different Methods of Evaluating Student
Translations: The Question of Validity
christopher waddington
Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Madrid, Spain

Method A is taken from Hurtado (1995); it is based on error analysis and possible
mistakes are grouped under the following headings:

(i) Inappropriate renderings which affect the understanding of the source text; these are
divided into eight categories: contresens, faux sens, nonsens, addition, omission, unresolved
extralinguistic references, loss of meaning, and inappropriate linguistic variation
(register, style, dialect, etc.).

(ii) Inappropriate renderings which affect expression in the target language; these are divided
into five categories: spelling, grammar, lexical items, text and style.

(iii) Inadequate renderings which affect the transmission of either the main function or
secondary functions of the source text.

In each of the categories a distinction is made between serious errors (–2 points)
and minor errors (–1 point). There is a fourth category which describes the plus
points to be awarded for good (+1 point) or exceptionally good solutions (+2
points) to translation problems. In the case of the translation exam where this
method was used, the sum of the negative points was subtracted from a total of 110
and then divided by 11 to reach a mark from 0 to 10 (which is the normal Spanish
system). For example, if a student gets a total of –66 points, his result would be
calculated as follows: 110-66=44/11=4 (which fails to pass; the lowest pass mark is 5).
different methods of evaluating student translations 313
314 Meta, XLVI, 2, 2001


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
For tests, or for real life? Jan 17, 2007

Here you can find the standards for the ATA grading system, based on what they cite as the "long-established Framework for Standardized Error Marking." It's worth noting that this is the standard applied to a translation test.

In real life, the level of allowable error surely must vary, depending on the circumstance of the translation (purpose, audience, etc.) As others have already mentioned, in many circumstances no error is acceptable.

Such circumstances do not, however, apply universally; there are situations where speed and/or price genuinely take priority over 100% accuracy.

I suggest that this is an important theme to develop in your paper, namely, whatever official standards might exist, it is surely not appropriate to claim that they should apply across the board to all situations.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:35
Dutch to English
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Thanks Jan 17, 2007



Thanks for this link, has come in very handy for a completely different reason!


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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:35
Member (2004)
German to English
Different types of error Jan 17, 2007

This is clearly a huge subject, but if I might make just one point it would be say that I don't how you can simply lump all errors together and tot up the total for a translation to arrive at an estimate of its quality. At one end of the scale are "errors" which may be little more than matters of style or opinion - for example, in placing commas or in capitalisation. At the other end are errors of translation so serious that a single one is damming. It is misleading - and achieves nothing - to regard all errors as equal.

The markers of the Diploma in Translation distinguish between "serious errors" - ones which would mislead the reader of the translation - and "minor errors" (I'm writing this from memory - I don't have their exact terminology or definitions in front of me). One "serious" error will fail you the exam whereas "minor" errors, up to a certain level, are not a reason for failure. If I were evaluating the quality and acceptability of a translation I would definitely apply some sort of weighted standard of that sort.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
are there any? Jan 18, 2007

Ricardo Martinez de la Torre wrote:

As we all know, no matter how much we strive to reach it, there is no such thing as a "perfect" translation. Translation being a human endeavor, mistakes are bound to happen, no matter how carefully the translator and editor perform their jobs.

My question is whether there are “official” guidelines or rules that define what is a permissible number of mistakes per each thousand words of translated material.

If anyone know, I surely would appreciate the info, as I’m preparing a white paper on the subject.

Regards


I know you are trying to be concrete, but I don't think there ARE 'official standards', what there are are in-house classifications of acceptability.

The new translation standard for Europe, in case you are interested, IS a potentially official standard for translation, and interestingly, there is no comment on permissible numbers of errors or classifications of errors. It focuses instead on process, and so requires that every translation should be revised by a second translator/reviser, as a way of guaranteeing quality.

Incidentally, I now remember that what could be used as a near official standard is the one set for the IOL translation exams, which if I remeber, described a classification fo errors for thre purposes of rating translation quality as pass, distinction, merit etc.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:35
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's ultimate function that really matters Jan 18, 2007

GoodWords wrote:

Here you can find the standards for the ATA grading system, based on what they cite as the "long-established Framework for Standardized Error Marking." It's worth noting that this is the standard applied to a translation test.

In real life, the level of allowable error surely must vary, depending on the circumstance of the translation (purpose, audience, etc.) As others have already mentioned, in many circumstances no error is acceptable.

Such circumstances do not, however, apply universally; there are situations where speed and/or price genuinely take priority over 100% accuracy.

I suggest that this is an important theme to develop in your paper, namely, whatever official standards might exist, it is surely not appropriate to claim that they should apply across the board to all situations.


I couldn't agree more, both with GoodWords and with previous posters, NO error is acceptable, and yet there is a permissible margin for error depending on what the translation is to be used for, the price paid and the deadline.

A novice translator I worked with recently, mpreover, interestingly pointed out something that has annoyed me (and probably other translators) for years: why is there such an insistence of perfection from translators when the source texts is often full of ambiguities and typos and poor expression, etc!

As I mentioned in my posting above, assuming that human error is possible (for whatever reason) ensuring the quality of the process is a way of minimising error.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:35
German to English
+ ...
"Text and Risk in Translation" by Anthony Pym Jan 18, 2007

Here is an interesting article by Anthony Pym that doesn't provide precisely what you were looking for, but goes into risk (mistake) management in translation. This is more for background ideas than for figuring out a precise scale of errors.

http://www.tinet.org/~apym/on-line/risk_analysis.pdf



[Edited at 2007-01-18 17:35]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:35
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
SATI's accreditation exam Jan 19, 2007

Ricardo Martinez de la Torre wrote:
My question is whether there are “official” guidelines or rules that define what is a permissible number of mistakes per each thousand words of translated material.


If you were to write the accreditation exam of SATI, you'd fail the exam once you make:
* 2 major errors; or
* 1 major error and 7 minor errors
in any one of three texts.

The classification for major and minor errors is a bit fuzzy, though:

Major errors: Gross mistranslation, in which the meaning of the original word or phrase is lost altogether; omission of vital words or other information; insertion of information not contained in the original; inclusion of alternate translations, where the translator should have made a choice; and any important failure in target-language grammar.

Minor errors: Mistranslation that distorts somewhat, but does not wholly falsify, the intent of the original; omission of words that contribute only slightly to meaning; presentation of alternate translations where the terms offered are synonymous or nearly so; and 'inelegance' in target-language grammar.

I once wrote that exam and left out a sentence -- it was classified as minor error. I also used an accepted spelling not favoured by the examinor -- it was classified as a major error.

I guess the point is that you might have to start by thinking "what is an error" before asking "how many are accceptable".


[Edited at 2007-01-19 07:34]


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Clifton Silvers
Local time: 09:35
Thai to English
+ ...
Great link Jan 19, 2007

^^Hey, great link Daina. Immediately printed to devour tonite!

Thanks!


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