The Gallery of Wrongness – Page 10: (Mc)ProZ’s “native-English-speaking” Italian translators

ProZ.com is famous for allowing translators to claim to be “native speakers” of any language that pops into their heads and for taking no action whatever to ensure that second- (or third-) language translators aren’t defrauding potential clients by claiming to be able to do what they cannot actually do.

But even on ProZ, some people have more chutzpah than others.

Take this translator, who claims to have twenty-three years of experience and to be a “native English translator with Italian parents.” (In other words, arguably, not a native English speaker, but whatever.) She also advertises herself in English as “Dr.,” one of those small Italian scams that Italian translators sometimes try to get away with — in Italy, you’re a “dottore” or a “dottoressa” as soon as you finish you undergraduate degree, but that doesn’t make you a “doctor” in any other language.

Confronted in the past, this translator has argued that the bad translations of websites listed on her résumé were “changed by the client” without her knowledge. OK, here are three perfectly ghastly messes from her current ProZ profile. In other words, she put them there herself.

First, here’s an attempt to render the description of an art exhibition. I know, this is like shooting fish in a barrel. She didn’t even bother to run a spell-check on the piece, her punctuation is shameful, and she never met a calque she didn’t like. Still, phrases like “unctuously aestheticising” and “the state of principal essentially non-event” are evidence of a glaring lack of familiarity with basic English (as is the failure to realize that “Middle age authors” suggests something quite different from “authors writing in the Middle Ages”).

The fact is that Italian clients are frequently in no position to judge the quality of an English translation–they simply don’t read the language well enough. So they count on the translator. And there’s nothing wrong with that; they should be able to count on the translator. But that’s assuming they choose one who knows what she’s doing …

… and not one who slavishly follows every twist and turn of a truly atrocious Italian text to create an equally atrocious (and no less meaningless) one in Inglisc.

Finally, here’s a recipe.

Sure, you can figure out what she’s saying (though that “browny even colour” and “little livers” might give you pause), but the question becomes: How hard would it have been to give this text to someone who could translate it properly, edit out the run-on sentences, and use correct cooking terminology? More to the point, a translation you have to “figure out” isn’t a translation; it’s a hack job.

Perhaps the rationale for all this madness lies in the fact that this translator advertises her services starting at €0.04/word (about $0.05). Despite translations like these, she boasts that she has “developed a good reputation in this field as I am committed to high-quality translations.” She demonstrates that “high quality” once again on a different professional networking site, where her profile includes this description:

Specialized In videogames, tourism, travel, winery, marketing, technical translations, also software localization and subtitiling and websites, i have translated 50 wesbites this year many on Hotels and hospitality, Forex and online casino.

Yes, written just like that: crazy capitals, run-on sentences, “wesbites,” “subtitiling,” and all.

Frankly, this kind of translator — and the collusion of ProZ.com, TranslatorsCafé, and their ilk in finding clients for them — would be less offensive if she were at least honest: “I’m an Italian-speaking translator with a second-rate ability to write in English. My translations into English are neither elegant nor fluent, but they are very cheap.”

The English would still be terrible, but at least it wouldn’t be fraud.

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