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If you are a bilingual professional and your office outsourced translation services, what was your demeanor when the translation was received?

Why do you think that your company thought they should outsource it, rather than give the work to you?

Views: 43

Comment by Lisa Siegel on April 8, 2009 at 7:59am
I just found this article in the AMerican Translators Association (ATA) website. It happens more often than you might think...

Business Smarts

Preserving Your (and the Client's) Reputation

Dear Business Smarts:
A few weeks ago, I delivered an English translation of a German company newsletter to an agency customer. It was a demanding source text, and I felt I had done a very good job of producing an idiomatic and persuasive translation. But just yesterday the agency sent my text back for review after it had been “edited” by someone at the client’s office in Germany. It was a disaster: the “editor” was obviously not a native English speaker and had ruined my translation with misspellings, inappropriate capitalization, and awkward syntax. Is there anything I can do? Or should I just grit my teeth and let the end-user make a mess of what is now their text?
— Frustrated in North Carolina

Dear Frustrated:
Regrettably often, nonnative speakers of a target language (especially, it seems, those in positions of corporate authority) overestimate their expertise and believe they can improve on a text produced by an experienced professional translator. There are several things you can do in this situation.

First, decide whether you want to spend more time on the issue and think about possible consequences. If the text now belongs entirely to the customer, further corrections may be beyond your control. The risk you run, however, is that some day the same text will come to light with your name still attached to it, with consequent damage to your reputation as an expert translator. Bear in mind also that the agency sent the “edited” text back to you, which implies some expectation of feedback on your part.

For both reasons, it is better not to let the matter lie. First, to verify why the translation was returned to you, find out whether the German client has sent any comments about your work. Is the client complaining about the quality you delivered? Then, using the “compare” function in Word, find out exactly which changes were introduced to your translation and analyze those changes with as much emotional detachment as you can muster. Send the “edited” text back to your project manager with your corrections and comments, pointing out specifically (and courteously) exactly where and how the “editor” has damaged the effectiveness of the translation. Remember that although you will thereby be upholding and enhancing your professionalism, you are also doing the client a favor by keeping them from being associated with a piece of bad English. It is precisely that aspect—preserving the client’s reputation and prestige—that you should emphasize in all your correspondence. You can also point out that a poor translation at any stage of the process puts the agency’s reputation at risk as well. To enhance objectivity, you might also suggest sending both your original translation and the edited text to a competent and neutral third party for evaluation.

If the client nevertheless insists on using the “edited” text, you should still take action. You can first make sure the agency understands, and conveys to the end user, that having done your best to rescue your translation (and both the agency’s and the client’s reputation) from mangling by an unqualified editor, you take no further responsibility for the target text. You can also inform the agency that because you feel an ethical obligation to provide the best possible work in every circumstance, you would prefer not to accept future assignments for this particular end-user if the same interference with your work will occur. For your own protection, keep printed copies of all this correspondence in a folder.

Although it may be upsetting to see your work disfigured or altered, it is of crucial importance to keep your communication professional and balanced. The fact that you have taken the time to write a detailed response, and are doing so out of concern for the client’s reputation, will leave a lasting positive impression.



Reprinted from The ATA Chronicle: August 2007, p 42

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