Getting credit for our website translations: A good thing, surely. Or maybe not?

Twitter can be a great source of inspiration for blog posts.

I spent some time this afternoon looking at Italian websites for a project I was working on and found only one that included the translators’ names among the credits. Indeed, with most Italian sites if you click the “Credits” link in the footer you’re whisked straight to the web developer’s site. No-one else gets a mention.

Annoyed, I tweeted indignantly about this lack of credit and recognition for translators. But other translators on Twitter were quick to point out that having your name on a website translation isn’t necessarily a good thing. First, because the translations are sometimes the work of more than one translator, so you could be viewed as responsible for someone else’s mistakes (as they could be for yours – not that I, or the readers of this blog, ever make mistakes…). And second, because, as Isabel Hurtado de Mendoza pointed out, “Too many people (non-linguists included) tamper with website text”. Which makes it potentially risky to put your name to your translation.

Chris Durban* recommends that translators should “sign” their translations as standard practice: we should be proud to put our names to our work. But that’s easier to do with printed publications than it is for the web, which is fluid and ever-changing, and more open to interference than print is.

It’s a pity, isn’t it, and a missed marketing opportunity. I sometimes include a link in my marketing material to a specific web-page (an article or speech, say) that I’ve translated (having first checked that no-one’s messed it up).

What about you, readers? Have any of you found a way to prevent people tampering with your web translations?

With thanks to @cbavington @petergarner @PippaSandford @Lingotrans and @pbtranslations (hope I didn’t miss anyone out!).

Up-date: Chris has pointed out in the comments that she does not advocate signing website translations: the risk of interference is too high.

By Marian Dougan



11 responses

  1. Nice post, Marian! The case I had was pretty clearcut – a website with a number of sections, one of which was “Chimie” in French, but “Chemical [noun]” in English (I have to be discreet!). The translation was ordered by Mr no. 3 in the civil service hierarchy; Mr no. 2 helpfully changed “Chemical” to “Chemistry”, because that’s what he learned in school. It was the title page to a whole section of website; I asked for my name to be removed from the credit as translator as my professional reputation was at stake. I was informed it was a great honour to be offered a credit, particularly in view of my mistake over “Chemistry”. Things escalated. I was informed that as I did not go to the correct school, and Mr no. 2 did, how did I feel qualified to quibble with his English? (I kid ye not …). Things escalted. The word “ridicule” was used, I confess. Mr no. 3 went off to work in a fishing village in Brittany, where he was much happier (we kept in touch and I worked for him again). I learned a lot about French hierarchies. My name stayed off the website. A lot of people sniggered about “Chemistry”. They didn’t change it.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write this comment – it’s interesting on several different levels. I feel your pain with respect to hierarchies – Italy’s similar. So many key positions are held by old men (and men they almost invariably are) who are only interested in holding on to their rank and power and probably don’t even know what their organisation’s website looks like. Or any website, for that matter. And they don’t like it when you dare step outside the little box they’d assign you to if they took the time and trouble to find out you even existed.
      There are exceptions, of course, I should add – some of my Italian clients (including some very elderly ones!) are just lovely.

  2. Hi Marian,

    Interesting post and definitely a wise warning about websites!

    I don’t want to defend latin machismo but the UK if far from being exemplary.

    Here, the gender salary gap is 20%. The UK therefore falls in the infamous league of extraordinary sexist men, which also includes Germany (22%), Greece (22%), Austria (23%) and the Czech Republic (21%).

    That’s quite a difference compared with macho Spain (16%) and France (14%)

    And it’s a huge one compared with Poland (5%) and Slovenia (3%) and… Italy (6%) !!!

    These figures were recently published by the EU Commission (2013 – gender pay gap) but the OECD had published similar figures earlier this year.

    So while I think you’re absolutely right in saying there’s not enough women in power, I think we should stay away from national clichés. The real sexists are not necessarily those we’d expect.

    Nighty night!


    1. Thanks, Pierre. I take your point about the pay gap – I don’t think for one minute that the UK can rest on its laurels. But at senior (I mean in terms of rank, not age) levels, power in Italy is held almost entirely in male hands. And “power” is the key word: Italian politicians, company chairmen and all the rest are far more interested in holding on to their power base than they are in getting things done and making the country work. I lived there for over 20 years, and deal with Italian civil servants and business people on a daily basis. Conosco i miei polli (I know my chickens – is there an equivalent French phrase, I wonder?).

  3. Actually, websites are the one “product” I advise translators *not* to sign, for the reason Isabel mentioned: they’re designed to be dynamic, so a variety of contributors are usually uploading new texts all the time. Fair enough. But once you’ve delivered your work you have no control over what appears next… and in my experience the overall drift is generally down, quality-wise, in the case of a translated site. In the past, I’ve suggested that clients pay for a revamp/tweak/adjustment/revision every three or six months, but have never had anyone take me up on it. Until that changes, no website signing for me. :)

    1. Thanks, Chris. I’ll amend the post, for those who don’t read the comments, to point out that you exclude websites from your signing policy. Like you, I’ve suggested to clients a translation “maintenance” service, but they’re reluctant to go there. Clients also don’t seem to realise that, if the source language content is being up-dated frequently, they need to up-date the translated content too or the whole site gets out of sync.

  4. Like other colleagues I quickly realised that I couldn’t count on websites as work references when, for the first website I ever translated, the client took it on himself to translate “compagnie lyrique” at the top of the page by “lyrical company”. Once I explained the problem they changed it pretty quickly, but as there is always tampering go on by non-native speakers I prefer to steer clear of signing it or using it as a work reference!

    1. I translate for an Italian government website and we’ve got a strict policy that every single word published in the English version needs to go through the translators (there are two of us). They’re usually pretty good about following that rule, although the occasional “UE” instead of “EU” slips through when they up-date headings and so forth. Anyway, for that site I’m happy for my name to appear.

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