Jul 5, 2012

Pride goeth before....

Yesterday a friend passed on the link to his new web site in English, which I had localized recently. The revolving graphic banner of heavy equipment loading cargo for shipment around the world looked brilliant. Of the various suggestions my copywriting friend and I had made for the slogans he had chosen the best. A good job for a deserving company which provides excellent international service. And then I looked closer.

When I discovered that his service provider uses the Open Source content management system TYPO3, I thought the little request he had made would be an easy one with a guaranteed good outcome. After all, memoQ, my translation environment tool of choice, has special XML filter configurations for TYPO3. But it seems that things are not so easy in the world of German CMS service.

Vee haf vayz off enterink ze kontent I was told, or words to that effect. I was dutifully informed that an XML export would contain "unnecessary information" of no interest to a mere translator and that I was to translate from an MS Word file provided. When I expressed my concern that copying errors might result from this procedure and encouraged the use of the free plug-in to export content from TYPO3 for translation, I was informed that his service fee for such frivolous nonsense would be
EUR 95,00 zzgl.MwSt bitte schön. Welcome to Servicewüste Deutschland.

After a few days of negotiation on the technical aspects of this three page translation, I finally decided to heed that old advice about not arguing with fools (who can tell the difference?) and simply sent the translation, albeit as a bilingual draft for simpler review. And I awaited feedback before issuing the final translation. Apparently all was well, because the draft was used to enter the content straightaway.

So far I've found four errors on the two pages I've looked at. All from copy/paste carelessness or retyping things and doing so with a bit too much Teutonic flair in ze zpellink. The thought of the potential damage to the image of my friend's business makes me decidedly queasy. God help him if they decide to do other languages like Chinese, Russian or Arabic, which is a possibility.

A good translation is more than just the right words for an occasion. It is a process. A process of communication among people, which sometimes involves technology. Humans are prone enough to error; even the best of us can overlook small but important details in a familiar text, and it's usually wise to stack the deck and deal with processes that minimize the risk of errors. Like providing translation content in a format that will minimize the human intervention required for information transfer. Please. Our customers deserve that at least.


  1. Did you mean to say "Pride goeth? :-)

    That happens to be the canonical version: KJV, Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

  2. But as you said: Don't argue with fools.
    What is one to do if people are so stubborn??
    Did you contact them and tell them about the four mistakes you found?
    Grüße aus Österreich

  3. Of course I told my customer, Hattie, and I'll tell him anything else I find with more careful inspection of the results. My customer is great - and fully appreciative of the need to get details right. The difficulties arose with a service provider who knows it all (like yours truly one might say, though in this instance I happen to be right). I'm sure the guy is good at what he does - I was very impressed with the graphics work, really beautifully done. It's just a shame that he fails to appreciate the risk of errors when dealing with other languages.

  4. @Anonymous: indeed. It's been a while since I cracked the KJV, too long apparently and to err is human as some Pope put it ;-)

  5. How very true and familiar, Kevin, although in my case it is usually not Typo3, but InDesign or Quark files, which the designer doesn't trust to let go, even if means double work for him/her and me (making changes via Acrobat and updating the InDesign or Quark document afterwards). Well, the line between "Don't educate your customers" and "don't argue with fools" is thin and errare humanum est...

  6. I just stumbled across this blog and I have to say that I come across this problem all too often. Especially when working with right-to-left languages, but also with others, clients often underestimate the potential for introducing errors at the input stage. Thanks for your insights!


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