November 2011


Email from a “professional” translating firm…

View from Yerevan's Cascade

View from Yerevan

Over the weekend I received a request from a professional translation agency to use one of my photos out of my Flickr stream on their new website.

Unfortunately my initial thought was that the professional translating firm should work on improving their English before they work on their website. I wouldn’t hire them based on a few errors in what I read, including the very first sentence:

I came across a picture of yours taken from the skyline of Yerevan, I like it allot!

Actually, first of all, the picture was taken from the top of the Yerevan Cascade. It is of the skyline of Yerevan. Second of all, you actually like it “a lot” because “allot” means,

to divide or distribute by share or portion; distribute or parcel out; apportion: to allot the available farmland among the settlers. (dictionary.com)

I don’t want to spend every second digesting this request from a professional translator, but to me the worst mistake in the email was the repeated use of


From the context it is clear that the writer, meant multiple photos, not something belonging to a photo:

We prefer to use photo’s that are more personal….

As it is oft said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

5 comments to Email from a “professional” translating firm…

  • Had it been some sort of small business, an individual, etc. I would likely approve the request. I think you’re correct to deny it in this case.

    It’s one thing to be a non-native speaker, entirely another to say you are a professional translation service with these mistakes.

  • Here here!! Ah, darn it…

  • Tormuk

    I often notice that we westerners are used to a high level of professionalism, probably thanks to a stable and mostly fair political system and a high standard educational system. I guess this point of view is not applicable to all the countries in the world. The foreign language knowledge of the person who wrote to you might still be a strong asset in his or her country. And his expertise might still be very useful if you needed help with an armenian document, translation works in two directions and there are very few translators in this world who can do both directions equally good. (As you will have noticed, I am not a native english speaker (but not a translator either) and therefore apologize for my mistakes but I think I got my message accross ;-). And by the way: why did you not keep up posting in german once in a while?

  • 🙂 the from failure could be mine *sigh

  • Cynical Queer – I do believe it is a small translating firm out of the Netherlands (the website was going to be in Dutch). I’ve gotten to a point where most of the time these kinds of mistakes don’t bother me — except in professional settings where it matters.

    Irish Berliner 🙂

    Tormuk – I’m not going to correct your English — it’s fine. Actually the English in the note to me was fine, save for the fact that it was representing a Translation Firm. Had the firm been Armenian, I probably wouldn’t have been as harsh, but given that my impression is that the firm is Dutch, there are no excuses. (And, I might note, that if the firm was Armenian, and they liked my photo, they could have generated the same photo for themselves — and it would probably not have the huge glob of dust that appears in mine because I hadn’t noticed it and had not cleaned the lens…)

    As for your other question — it’s a good one. I stopped the periodic German postings because (1) they took a lot of time to write, and (2) at the time they stopped I was under a lot of personal family stress and simply did not have the energy to focus (See my low light here — understand that the stress started six months before the low light…) I meant to restart but my life has been full of late with lots of stuff going on and I’ve been blogging less in general.

    martin – and I wouldn’t have pointed it out, had you made the mistake.