When You Are Hired As a Translator But You End Up Being A Guesser What happens when the source text was written in a "What is this???" odd type of English




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    This happened to me many times over the years. I guess most of you have found yourself there too. As we usually work for worldwide clients, it´s not unusual to be hired to translate a website from English to Spanish by the customer that may be located anywhere in the world where English is not the native tongue. They are probably web site developers or web admins who run e-commerce shops and blogs or created an app, set a web portal and now want you to do the translation and localization.

    They expect the best from you, and that´s what you try to do. So there you go, ready to start translating from Eng to Spa. Until you open the first .doc file!

    You start reading, and you can´t simply understand what the original writer (writer?) tried to express. Probably that person burned the midnight oil trying to come up with such content. But he is not an English speaker, and you find yourself guessing what that hectic wordiness is supposed to mean.

    Many times my imagination allowed me to find a solution, I became a “guesser” trying to figure out what the original idea was. Other times, I had no other option than diplomatically asking the client what the intention of a certain sentence or paragraph was.

    Recently, I have been working on a large project. In the beginning, what I had to translate were just the files for an app. Then the blog articles arrived in my inbox. No sooner did I open them than I realized that the grammar and spelling mistakes were simply overwhelming. It looked like if I had written them while on my intermediate course of English language but using a sometimes pretentious vocabulary.

    Once again, a dilemma. Do I just translate or do I warn my client about the original text? Although proofreading and editing the source text was not my job (someone had been previously hired for that!), I felt that if I didn´t inform my client that there were some “grammatical and spelling horrors, I wouldn´t be doing a good job.

    So, what did I do? I politely informed my client that I had found some “typos” and “grammar errors” I could fix for him free of charge, considering our long-term relationship. The point is, I felt good doing the right thing for my client, while I felt sad thinking that someone out there would not get any more writing tasks- at least from him.

    Andrea Warschun

    About Andrea Warschun

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