I’ve been following this blog, Translation-Language-Culture, for some time now, where Werner Patels describes many thoughts that I’ve also had over the years, sometimes in much stronger terms than I would ever dare to use.
Apart from the heading, I could have written a very similar post to this recent one: Moron Clients. His point is very clear, but I tend to think that this kind of mishap is often due to dangerously inexperienced young clients. I had a short-lived bad experience with an Excel file once, until I sorted out what exact problem the project manager was having with my file (there was no problem, in fact). The irony of it is that you probably couldn’t find someone who knows less about Excel than me. (I mean, about the real Excel, the spreadsheet, not the fake ‘word processing‘ Excel.) Well, as it turned out, this was not true.
Another case in point was a Powerpoint presentation that I was asked to translate. Powerpoints can be hard, because people often try to cram too much, not always well-written information in the bullet points. By the time the copy has been translated, the slide is full. I think it’s a real shame that people who need to share about their own companies, interests, findings, can make such a poor job of it.
So after sweating over that translation, I was approached by the people in charge of ‘QA’. They had some queries and I found that an editor had transformed one of the bullets that I had painfully translated so as to make it readily understandable without losing any of the meaning, into a mangled sequence of words, making it totally unintelligible, and introducing a few spelling mistakes for good measure.
I e-mailed them back within 2 seconds, telling them that since this was not my own translation, and it was very bad, there was nothing I could do for them, ‘I’m very sorry, but…’ Because they trust me, they backed off immediately and used my original translation, but that didn’t solve the problem. I shouted them down, but nothing had been learned from that experience.
I admit that I’ve almost given up on trying to educate clients. Translation is a field that few people really understand, or care about, or simply have time to care about.
Maybe I should simply use the disclaimer that Werner Patels suggests:
My advice to all translators: always keep copies of everything and, perhaps, include a clause in any agreements or contracts that you will not accept responsibility for any changes or modifications made to the document after you have delivered it.