translation vs adaptation
Thread poster: Kobe Vander Beken

Kobe Vander Beken  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 07:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
Mar 22, 2007

Hello,

I am currently translating one of those texts that simply consist of various sentences. This text, if you can call it a text, has no linking words or logical order. it's obvious that someone who's not used to writing wrote it. Although the "text" is very sloppy I perfecttly understand what the writer wanted to say.
Now as a translator you can't just follow this 'style", so you make the translation better.
However, I was wondering how far you can go. There are several paragraphs which I could easily alter and rewrite so that the message becomes much clearer.
Am i allowed to do so? What would my client or proofreaders think of it?

Any experience you want to share?
Thanks,

Kobe


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Rodrigo Mencía  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:47
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Ask first Mar 22, 2007

I think you should always ask the client first. If the client is not really concerned about it, I would go for the "adaptation", as I believe in the translation of meaning, not words. What's the use of translating "words" repeating mistakes or creating unclear sentences? If you write say something in a fabulous way, do it. We are authors who get the inspiration from the original authors.

Of course, this is just my personal opinion.

Good luck!

R.


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:47
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Do your best + check out with the client Mar 22, 2007

Hi Kobe,
Although many will disagree, I am convinced that translation starts with editing the source text if necessary (i.e., very often). Since your aim is to give a perfectly understandable and well written text to your readers, you have to improve the source text if it is not up to the standard. Lots of texts are written by people who are experts in their field but do not possess exceptional writing skills. We have to help them out.
As for style: the translation will bear the stamp of the translator's style. Of course, you are supposed to keep the register of the text, but I do not see anything wrong with improving the style as far as awkward repetitions, redundancies, imperfect logic, and the like are concerned. But this is quite a sensitive issue, so it should be discussed with the client.
However, your text seems to be really off the mark, so I would definitely check out with the client. Are you sure it is not a machine translation? Make a list of the most striking problems, explain what you can do to improve it, and evaluate the extra effort that is required compared to a well-written source text.
Good luck!
Attila


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
Ask the client (and bill him accordingly) Mar 22, 2007

Ask the client what he wants, and explain that improving the source text is tantamount to the work of an editor. In other words, you won't be just translating the text, but editing it as well. These are TWO jobs, and should be paid as such.
Make an estimate of the extra amount of work this will cost you, and tell the client the outcome of the calculation (extra work x hourly rate).
Then accept whatever the client chooses. If he doesn't want to pay the extra mile, don't travel it.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:47
Spanish to English
+ ...
readers? etc Mar 22, 2007

Kobe_vb wrote:

Hello,

I am currently translating one of those texts that simply consist of various sentences. This text, if you can call it a text, has no linking words or logical order. it's obvious that someone who's not used to writing wrote it. Although the "text" is very sloppy I perfecttly understand what the writer wanted to say.
Now as a translator you can't just follow this 'style", so you make the translation better.
However, I was wondering how far you can go. There are several paragraphs which I could easily alter and rewrite so that the message becomes much clearer.
Am i allowed to do so? What would my client or proofreaders think of it?

Any experience you want to share?
Thanks,

Kobe


First of all, consider who the readers are, and the more important the reader as opposed to the author-writer, the more important a readable target text.

Secondly, the translation will be your writing, so irrespective of whether you are credited or not, you will probably want to feel proud of your work as opposed to ashamed of it.

Thirdly, consult the client anyway, and discuss the issue with them.

I had a similar dilemma yesterday - a very badly written and 'unscientific' article. I felt I couldn't reproduce the sytlistic and information errors, so asked the agency if it would be OK to do my interpretation and comment any radical changes. So I produced a better, if not perfect text in EN, with 2 major types of changes: a) correction/indication of factual errors, and b) interpretation of sense rather than words in a very broad sense, e.g. the title was rubbish if translated literally so I based the translation on the article context.

And if they don't like it, that's a problem for them, but I couldn't and wouldn't send in something I would be embarrassed to call my work, even if teh problems originated with the source:-)

PS: I don't think you should necessarily charge more, as I think that's part of a translator's job, and we take the rough with the smooth.

[Edited at 2007-03-22 15:07]


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Kobe Vander Beken  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 07:47
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
client's reply Mar 22, 2007

In the mean time the client (an agency) wrote me to ask how the project's going. I told him that the author didn't seem to be someone with great writing skills, but that I can manage it. I didn't really opt for asking more money (for the extra editing) because the text is badly written, but it is not horrible either. My translation will be better than the original text, without a doubt, but maybe that's what translating is all about. We are trained to wrinting and playing with words, sentences etc...

However, this is what the client (agency) responded:

"No comment. The client is strange on every point so I’m not surprised me…[sic].

I’m here if I can help you."

I think I'll just translate the text, not literally of course. Translating is putting the main idea of a text from one language into another... But i won't be changing too much either.

When I read the text I really wanted to rewrite it, but then again, that's not what my client asked me to do, and if the author of the text is satisfied with his version, he'll surely be satisfied with mine. It's not my task to function as a goast writer (unless they ask me to).


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:47
English to French
+ ...
I always wonder Mar 23, 2007

In my opinion, you are supposed to improve the text as that is what translation is all about. If we were to define translation, it would be the rendering of ideas into another language. Please note, we render ideas and concepts, not words and sentences.

I am constantly surprised at the number of translators working like machines simply rendering the sentences into the target language. It is not because you were asked to translate a text that that particular text is good and ready for translation. Sadly, too many clients don't understand that it is not worth translating a text that is not perfectly what it was meant to be. Too many clients have no clue of what translation is all about and don't understand that if a sentence is ambiguous, badly written, contains all kinds of errors or was written in a poor style, then if we were to merely render it into another language, it would be hard for end users to understand. You can try all you want to to educate clients about this, they just don't have the time to ponder this. We therefore have to compose with the jobs available on the market, however badly written the source text may be. This means that if you want to do a good job (that is, be happy and proud of your work and make the client happy so s/he comes back for more eventually), you will have to compensate for this. When we translate, perhaps the biggest consideration needs to be given to the target audience. If said audience needs a text to make a good impression and be fun to read (marketing), we have to improve the style of the text. If the audience needs to understand the text perfectly (education, technical documentation), then the clarity of the text needs improvement.

Lately, I have been working on technical projects that were clearly not written by professional technical writers. I transated many sentences that already didn't make sense in the source language, so it would have been even worse in the target language. I sculpted the text (I kept it at a minimum as we don't want to go overboard with such stuff either) and submitted the text to the editor. When my text came back edited, I was astonished at the number of things that were edited back to what the sentences would have turned out like if I had not improved anything. Needless to say, the edited sentences made no sense. I tend to get angry, first because such unnecessary corrections only add to my workload, second because I find it frustrating that the editor can be - excuse the expression - dumb enough to not understand that somewhere down the line, someone will actually need to understand the text. I even sometimes feel like the translator/editor doesn't give a d@mn about customer satisfaction. Finally, I also get worked up about this because people who work this way give us a bad name. I do have demanding clients, willing to pay good money, who expect translations to read nicely, not just render sentences in another language. If I have such clients, then others probably do, too. There are people who not only appreciate but expect such polishing of text. If you can't give it to them, how can you expect to make decent money or get return clients?

In your case, Kobe, I would have told the client right away about the problems with the text, offered to polish it, asked to what extent I can do so and done the job accordingly. You are right, if the text is just not as good as it could be without being bad or, as you say, horrible, it is unwise to charge extra. In fact, this is one of the little extras you can use to add value to your work - it will give your client a reason to turn to you the next time s/he has work that needs to get done, over someone who works like a machine, looking up words in dictionaries and implementing them without caring the least about the end result. But if your text was downright bad, I would have negotiated. In any case, communication is extremely important, no matter what the object of the communication is. Ask questions, advise about preoccupations. As long as your client agrees with your recommendations, there is no reason why you shouldn't modify things. Sell the idea to the client, give reasons why you recommend work to be carried out in that manner. In the end, what you may have thought was bad for your relationship with your client or extra work could turn out to be specifically the reason why your client will treat you well. This has happened many times in my case and I don't regret it.

All the best!

[Edited at 2007-03-23 04:36]


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Atacama
Australia
Local time: 20:47
English
+ ...
No improvement Mar 23, 2007

Sorry, but I cannot agree with the idea that we are supposed to "improve" anything that we translate. In translation, the aim is to translate the idea or the words (as is frequently the case in technical texts) but it is neither our job nor our right to "improve" on anything. If the other person is a damn fool, for example, that is patently incapable of expressing themselves in their own language, then that also should be conveyed as clearly as possible to the intended readers of the translation. In the event of a novel for example, do you think that, by improving the text, you would be entitled to a proportion of the royalties? Obviously not. Likewise, in the case of a technical report, the manager that is going to be reading such a document has the "right" to be aware of the disorganised nature (for example) of the thought process of the "engineer" (or other) that produced the report. Therefore I believe that any "improvement" is not only unnecessary but also ill advised and totally unacceptable in our profession.

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Carolin Haase  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:47
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Translation always is adaptation Mar 28, 2007

but the extent to which it needs adaptation depends on the type of text you're working on and several other things.

In your case, however, I'd polish the text so that it doesn't hurt to read it. I wouldn't rewrite it, because that's not what your customer wants you to do.

Just my 2 cents.

All the best,
Carolin


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whizwordz whizwordz
Local time: 20:47
English to zzz Other zzz
See from the reader's point of view Mar 30, 2007

I guess from the reader's point, it is necessary that the translation is accurate. It wouldn't hurt just to let the client know that they are giving you trash. And if they still insist and will pay you accordingly, then just go ahead. Otherwise I think it is important that we deliver as appropriate as possible.

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gulperi
France
Local time: 14:47
English to French
+ ...
Yes, a difficult question Mar 31, 2007

Hi,

I've recently translated a legal document from Turkish into French.

Imagine a document where you have 30 lines without any punctuation!

French language would never accept such a thing (except if voluntarily done for style e.g novel), so I had to change the punctuation and even had to add connective words.

I explained it to the agency before delivering the translation and they totally agree with my choice.

I think that it is possible to adapt (I won't use the term "change") a translation as far as you do not change its meaning and you respect the grammar, style and syntactic rules of the target language.

You also can discuss it with the company, explain your idea and exchange opinions.

I hope that it helps...


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