Some (non-native) customers’ reactions to English expressions (some stolen anonymously from a list):

Don’t like façade – ‘doesn’t sound very English’ – prefer facade.

Don’t like well (for drawing water from) – well is the adverb from good.

A German reviser forbids an English translator to use the word erection (of an installation) in English, because the word has other meanings in German.

(That one reminds me of being told not to translate Glaubhaftmachung using prima facie evidence because prima facie has a different meaning in legal German). Glaubhaftmachung is the relatively generous minimum evidence you need to get an interim injunction rather than a final decision.

Don’t translate Klausenburg as Cluj this time – the American official said it doesn’t exist.

A few more from an old entry (August 2004).

Client says, ‘The translation was first-class. But just one thing – why did you write express agreement and not expressive agreement?’

Author’s English expert (a native German, Leipzig): ‘I have the impression the translator has researched the terminology very well, but her grammar is certainly not that of a native speaker, as I can tell from my university study of English.’ Translator spends several hours refuting grammar ‘errors’ that never were errors except to a non-native speaker (can anyone suggest a better tactic?). A couple of the errors were content errors though, but only 1%. The author, a clergyman: ‘This has been a helpful exercise, as the translation is now improved’.

Author’s quote: ‘The translator’s English is unreliable. In English, there are never commas before relative sentences (sic), nor before but or that.’The painting is said to date from’ should be ‘The painting allegedly dates from’. ‘It was known as the chapter-house’ should be ‘the so-called chapter-house’.

LATER NOTE: Forgot this one:

German client objects at great length to translating Lebensziel as ‘goal in life’, because ‘as we know,
goal is used in English in the context of football and football only’.

And two entries on Peter Harvey’s blog on the same topic: here and here.

8 thoughts on “Customers/Kunden

  1. Oh, this is nothing… Try answering nicely to a client who thinks your sentence in Italian is not complete, because it has less words than the original Dutch sentence.

    • I must admit I haven’t met that with English. But translators who certify translations are definitely recommended to use the same number of terms as the original, presumably because criticisms have been made by authorities.

      • “But translators who certify translations are definitely recommended to use the same number of terms as the original, presumably because criticisms have been made by authorities.”

        Sorry, but that is nonsense. Hebrew-to-English, for example, expands by 33%. It is a physical impossibility to match the word-count.

        My favourite example is that of a German academic who objected to my phrase ‘his goal in life’, because “as we all know, goal is a technical term that is used exclusively in football”.

  2. When I do a translation about agriculture I add a note to the effect that, yes, it really is agricultural produce and not product.

    A couple of months ago I did a medical translation for a doctor student. It came back from the journal with the comment that it had not been done by a native speaker. My student told me not to worry. ‘We’re used to it,’ he said. ‘North Europeans always find fault with anything that Mediterranean people do.’

    And then there was the client who complained about Catalu

    • Yes, ‘initial showing’ is definitely a good rendering for the USA.

      Usage appears to be: as a noun, use ‘prima facie evidence’. In other contexts, vary it with ‘Defendant must make an initial showing’.
      ‘Prima facie showing’ is also quite common.

      • As far as I can tell, “prima facie evidence” seems much more popular in the rest of the Common Law Universe. I see it a lot in British opinions.

        I once had a client (agency), which had a native speaker of Italian go over my IT-EN translation of some tax law documents. I received an e-mail a couple of days after delivering the job, in which the PM told me that the document was “full of problems”. When I went through it, it turned out that this editor did not know the difference between “intra-” and “inter-” (my “intranational” had been changed to “international”), and in general went through the translation turning perfectly good legal English into bizarre literal renderings of Italian (and if there is one legal language that absolutely cannot be rendered literally in English, it’s Italian).

        So I pointed out the problems, thinking that that would be the end of it. The PM, also a native speaker of Italian, instead just threw up her hands. “The editor says there are errors, and you say there are errors in the edit. What am I to do?” (Show it to someone who actually speaks English, perhaps?)

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