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As you know, the Japanese language allows for things such as the subject of a sentence, the gender of a person, and whether a noun is singular or plural to be left ambiguous. But the frustrating thing for us J->E translators is that such ambiguities usually have to be clarified before they can be translated properly into English. Sometimes these details can be determined from context, but otherwise all we can do is ask the customer for clarification. Since customers often take some time to respond (understandably, since they may be in different time zones), this causes translators to lose valuable time, and causes customers to receive their finished translations later than they would otherwise. I have to admit that I've refrained from accepting a job on several occasions simply because I could see that the text was ambiguous, it was the middle of the night in Japan, and I didn't want to wait around for the customer to answer my questions.

I would like to suggest some sort of measure to prevent this. Perhaps the Gengo system could be set up to notify customers submitting Japanese texts that things such as subjects, genders, and singulars/plurals need to be clear in order to be translated into English? Customers should be made aware that if they do not clarify such things in a comment beforehand, translators will likely have to ask for clarification, which could lead to a loss of time. Of course, I'm sure some things will still inevitably be left ambiguous even if such a system is put in place, and there will always be situations in which we will have to ask customers questions. But I think a simple notification to prevent the most common ambiguities would be very beneficial for both translators and customers.

19件のコメント

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    Lara

    There's a post from last year in the same line ;)

    https://support.gengo.com/entries/22258763-Japanese-sentence-subjects

    Personally, I have been translating for Gengo for almost half a year (since April) and I have never faced problems with subjects (as in establishing the subject of the sentence, you can usually find out pretty accurately from the context or background the customer provides.) When I have had doubts regarding gender or the reading of a name and the context was not enough, I have asked the customer. If the customer takes too long to reply (due to time difference, which I completely understand) I go ahead and submit my best guess, adding a comment for the customer stating that "I decided to go with X option, but if it is mistaken, please let me know and I will be glad to fix it." Chances are it will be right. Actually, every time I have done this, I have never had to go back and correct it (maybe I've just been lucky haha!). However, I find this is a good way to show the customer that you are working hard and very willing to submit the translation on time. :)

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    janalisa

    Yeah, I saw that thread too.

    Lara, I usually deal with things the same way you do. If a customer doesn't respond to my question, I just submit the translation and leave a comment explaining how I interpreted the text. This seems to work for me too, but I just wondered if perhaps there's a better way to handle the issue. And subjects may often be easy to determine from context, but things like singulars/plurals are often unclear in my experience. It's also pretty common for a person to be referred to by last name only, leaving it unclear whether that person is male or female.

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    Lara

    If it is absolutely necessary when talking about a third person referred to by last name only, and you need to use the pronoun instead of the name in the English translation, I say just ask ;)

    I think your idea is bad per se. However, I was wondering if it may not be kind of inconvenient for the customers... they may get the feeling that, besides submitting the text, they have to write another whole paragraph giving explanations. Not that that would be the case, since many texts do not need an explanation and if they did, a simple "Mr. XX is a man/woman" would suffice, but still it may send the wrong message, if that makes sense. 

    On another line, I also have the feeling that in many cases even if given a notification, customers would not even realize which parts to clarify unless asked directly about something, given that Japanese is intrinsically ambiguous and it may seem obvious to them ;)

    Still, if Gengo can do anything about this, it would not hurt trying to! ;)

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    Lara

    SO SORRY! I meant "I think your idea is NOT bad per se"... (><; 

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    janalisa

    Well I don't know, perhaps it is a bad idea. It was just a suggestion.

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    Lara

    I hope you read my second comment apologizing because of the word NOT missing in my first comment! ;) I said I think it is NOT bad!

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    janalisa

    Yes I did, don't worry. :)

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    maynard

    Hello Just my individual feel as a Japanese, and if I were a Japanese customer . . .

    I regret to say that even if Gengo would implement a certain system environment for the comments addition, Japanese customers would/could not do that.

    As you already realize, the ambiguities that relate to subject,  singular/plural, or tense are the characteristics of usually used Japanese language. It might be said that it IS Japanese language. I would feel, therefore, that it might be difficult or bothersome for Japanese customers to put comments on subject,  singular/plural, or tense in the original text. I suppose this sort of ambiguities are not necessarily caused by inconsiderateness or unkindness of the customers. There could be a case that an original text is hard to understand due to the writing ability of the customer, though.

    The bottom line for me is that only experience might improve the situation. Actually, looking at it the other way around, the ambiguities of Japanese language you raise are exactly a sort of barrier for us (i.e. most of the Japanese people) when learn Engligh.

    I apologize if I did not understand your point.

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    maynard

    oops!

    "the other way ROUND" ?

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    Midori

    I think janalisa has a great point that's definitely worth implementing in some way or another. On the other hand, I also agree with Lara and maynard that requiring customers to make clarifications beforehand would make the process inconvenient for them.

    I think it might be nice if, instead of forcing customers to make clarifications each time, Gengo could provide a friendly "tips for getting a better service / getting your translation done sooner" kind of document that educates customers on these ambiguities. It can just be there for customers to read at their own wish, and the ambiguities can be explained using simple sentence examples. I really liked Gengo's instructional PDFs for translators with the cool illustrations; I don't think it would hurt at all to have one of those available for our customers.

    I recently saw one job that was not taken for almost a week because of its numerous ambiguities. I do think that in terms of helping customers get their jobs picked up quickly, educating customers in a non–compulsory way would definitely be beneficial for them.

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    janalisa

    Midori, that's a really good idea. I can see what Lara and maynard are saying about my idea being inconvenient for customers, but yours sounds much better. :)

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    Lara

    I agree with janalisa, Midori, that's a great idea! :)

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    Midori

    janalisa, I'm very grateful that you brought this up, as I have long been troubled by ambiguities myself. Thankfully customers have been very cooperative in answering questions, but I've always wished that something could be done to improve things. :)

    Lara, I really enjoy reading your posts and learn a lot from you on how to provide good customer service. I notice that you are very dedicated to that and I think many others should learn from you also. :)

    I hope Gengo can implement janalisa's suggestion, then we can all contribute our ideas to the list of ambiguities (I'd also add unclarified acronyms)!

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    jkrafft

    I also really like Midori's idea of providing some quick tips to Japanese customers on getting better translations. There are quite a few texts that would be made way easier if the customer specified a few of these things in advance. For example, with a lot of recommendation letters it isn't clear if the subject is male or female, and having that info in advance would make things faster and easier.

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    Natalia Manidis

    So many constructive ideas here, thanks for brainstorming!

    Would anyone here be interested in helping us develop guides like those suggested by janalisa and midori? We're planning to add a resources page for customers soon and we would love to feature something like this there. 

    Let me know!

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    Midori

    jkrafft, thank you for bringing our attention back to this issue!

    Natalia, I am really happy that you are planning to incorporate our ideas into the new resources page! That would be wonderful! I would love to help and contribute what I can.

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    jkrafft

    One other thing occurred to me regarding Japanese texts. Quite a few customers ask for short translations, within a certain number of characters. Some of these are reasonable, but many of them are basically impossible--for example, there was one job with about 125 Japanese characters asking for an English translation of 100 characters or less, which I would say is a half to a third of what a reasonable translation would usually be. So it would be very helpful to mention in the customer guide that an English translation will usually have two to three times as many characters as the Japanese.

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    A-Town-Down
    While I think it is a great idea to implement a "checklist" of sorts, I think Maynard has a point.

    The ambiguity within the Japanese language is indeed a inseparable aspect of the Japanese language.

    While it would make our work easier, having customers fill in extra fields would turn some clients off—especially when it comes to revealing gender. Also, the particularities of tense and singular/plural may be concepts some customers do not understand. As a result, Gengo would have a higher chance of loosing customers if they a) do not want to reveal private information, or b) hesitant to submit a translation request because they are uncertain of the grammatical particularities of a language they may not understand.

    As I sa

    Most of all, I believe that Gengo is trying to sell itself as an agency that provides immediately accessible translation services.

    Hence the, "Connect to people-powered translation in one click," on the homepage.

    Make it simple for the customers!

    Perhaps an optional drop-down menu could help alleviate the problem?

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    A-Town-Down
    ^^^ Aaaand I accidentally hit the "submit" button. On that note, is there anyway to go back and edit you own posts?
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