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How do they get away with it? ....the lack of quality, the measly price?
Thread poster: Bernhard Sulzer

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:08
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
Apr 30, 2008

Dear Colleagues and Job Posters,

I am just venting my anger a little but I feel that many think along the same lines.

Typical example: Job posting for a literary text (of sorts- a self-portrait of an artist with her very interesting albeit deep thoughts and opinions), 7-8 pages, needed in a few hours, sample text to be translated.

You translate the sample, find it pretty challenging, and you think - in a few hours? You take the time to do the sample right, and then get ready to send it off. Woops, the job has been closed - of course, it was needed within a few hours, duh!
Considering the country it was posted from, the expected rate couldn't have been anything I would have agreed on anyway.
But that's how it is. The translator who carries out the translation will have to be Mrs./Mr.. Rich Supertranslator her/himself but is, more likely, the average translator who will give a rather bad rendering and do it for peanuts.
In this case, I actually sent off an e-mail to the poster telling them how unrealistic the request was.
What bothers me about it? The request itself. Why do you think you can get a good translation of a sophisticated text in about an hour? Don't you care what you sell to your client? It should never be a race against time but it often is. Will this ever stop? How could it? What to do about it? And why apply for such a job if you know you can't do it right within the time given?
My self-given answer is somewhere along this line: somebody messed something up, and now needs it fixed right away. But it's not going to get fixed! So don't expect it to be fixed. Tell your client it will take some time, and that's that.

More often than the time allotted it's the price that is ridiculous. I remember when I started out ten years ago, I had no problem charging USD .15/word for a text that was a bit more difficult then your average letter. Nowadays, after the world has been flooded with translators galore, it seems that especially agencies expect you to work for less and less if you consider inflation, the absolute shameful decline of the dollar versus pretty much any other currency, and price increases for all kinds of products in general. That's why I hardly work for agencies anymore.
I am tempted to put up an explanation on my website why not to deal with agencies. I myself acted as agency for a while but I am going to take down the site and continue to just "partner" with other translators.

Your thoughts are appreciated!

Bernhard



[Edited at 2008-04-30 21:05]


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Andy Lemminger  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:08
Member (2002)
English to German
No worries Apr 30, 2008

Hi Bernhard,

You are absolutely right.
Nevertheless in my opinion that's a constantly changing trend.
For some time clients run to cheap translators who are often inexperienced and/or just work on a hobby basis. They always get what they deserve and after a while they come back to the actual professionals within the industry.

The USD-movements are absolutely the same: Now they fall, tomorrow they will rise again.

No reason to worry about either one of these issues.

Take care

Andy

www.interlations.com

[Bearbeitet am 2008-04-30 21:24]


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Alana Quintyne  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:08
French to English
+ ...
Glad somebody Apr 30, 2008

took the time to write the job poster and mention how unreasonable the request was for the pay offered. I saw a similar job post, terms and the pricing and refused to bother to even submit a quote. I have no inclination to waste so much energy for peanuts. By the time I saw the job, seven people had already submitted bids and I just thought to myself, "you guys have got to be kidding me!" Translators sometimes need to be more discerning and selective when applying for jobs. But in the end I suppose it all boils down to "to each his own".

[Edited at 2008-04-30 21:33]


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
I had just the same thought this a.m. Apr 30, 2008

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Why do you think you can get a good translation of a sophisticated text in about an hour? Don't you care what you sell to your client? It should never be a race against time but it often is. Will this ever stop? How could it? What to do about it? And why apply for such a job if you know you can't do it right within the time given?
...
Your thoughts are appreciated!

Bernhard



[Edited at 2008-04-30 21:05]


Bernhard,

You are so right! I saw a similar posting, and looked at the deadline, and just shook my head. I have to let a translation "cool off" for a day or two and then go back to it to proof and edit it. At that stage, I usually have several sparks of insight that (imho) improve the text. If I'd rushed it out the door, that final polish would be lacking ...

All I can say is thank goodness I seem to be able to get enough work from direct clients who want quality over speed.

Is there anything we can do about unreasonable expectations? Not much apart from trying to educate clients.

Patricia


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Joan Berglund  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:08
Member (2008)
French to English
how indeed Apr 30, 2008

I just got a request a couple days ago from an agency for 6000 words by the next day for almost half my usual (already too reasonable) rate because that was all their client allegedly could pay - and the client is a household name. I really can't imagine an experienced translator working for the price they offered, and I can't imagine how an inexperienced translator could possibly meet that deadline, but apparently someone gave them something - and I am sure they got what they paid for too.

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xxxPRen
Canada
Local time: 10:08
French to English
+ ...
a) and b) May 1, 2008

Joan Berglund wrote:

I just got a request a couple days ago from an agency for 6000 words by the next day for almost half my usual (already too reasonable) rate because that was all their client allegedly could pay - and the client is a household name. I really can't imagine an experienced translator working for the price they offered, and I can't imagine how an inexperienced translator could possibly meet that deadline, but apparently someone gave them something - and I am sure they got what they paid for too.


a) that was all their client could pay? bull

b) apparently someone gave them something? pay peanuts, get monkeys.

[Edited at 2008-05-01 01:58]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:08
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
How many translators does it take to... May 1, 2008

Some companies seem not to be in business for the long haul, but just to make a fast buck.

There was a job offer posted this morning for 800 pages of financial documents to be translated in a day and a half by a company that usually offers its translators no more than .03/.04 a word, but the job mysteriously disappeared. You cannot even coordinate such a large project in two days much less try and translate it.

To add insult to injury, even though you are expected to translate at lightning-fast speeds and ridiculous rates, you will not be paid for many months or not at all.

[Edited at 2008-05-01 04:09]


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Ignorance - and they just don't care May 1, 2008

Why do you think you can get a good translation of a sophisticated text in about an hour? Don't you care what you sell to your client?


I was recently asked by a contact to "look over" some work that a new linguist was providing for a project deadline the next morning. They had never worked with this particular translator before, and she was a little suspicious of the end product.

The agency that contacted me, one I deal with on an infrequent but regular basis, is what I call a "good" one - even though they are small, they always care about translation quality and pay their linguists a decent rate.

After looking over the translation for a few minutes, it became obvious that the translator was not a native speaker of the target text.

OK, I was told that the job "didn't need to be the prettiest thing in the world", so I kept reading, trying to be liberal in my assessment of workable quality.

However, within another ten minutes it also became evident that this translation wasn't going to be of any use for anyone. It had too many syntax errors, terminology errors - word choices that a native speaker just wouldn't make, and which didn't fit the context at all.

Oh, did I mention this was a translation of part of a lawsuit?

My contact told me the translator claimed
a) that he was bilingual in the two languages, with native-speaker proficiency, and
b) that he had been translating texts of this nature for 15 years.

I was absolutely stunned.

It took another translator working a full shift and myself working for four more hours on top of that to "fix" the translation to a readable level. We turned it in just a few hours late the next day.

And of course, the original translator complained the whole time, at first stating that he had "turned this rush job in early, and could have corrected it with the few hours he had to spare", then claiming that our assessment (my assessment confirmed by that of my colleague halfway around the world working desperately to repair this pile of *#$%) was completely inaccurate, and the harangue went on to make some very nasty and completely insane comparisons of my agency contact (in Germany) and the Nazi era.

None of us could figure out any sane rationalization that would have allowed this translator to work in this language pair direction for 15 years, let alone to never have received a complaint.

The only thing I can think of, is that maybe he has worked for clients like another agency I work for - it specializes in *we-have-a-million-words-to-be-translated-for-tomorrow* jobs, and I have seen some similarly poor quality texts come out of those projects (as many translators working on them as they can find).

I once mentioned the utterly poor quality of a so-called "reference translation" (being offered to make my portion easier - hah) for such a project, and I was simply told - "well, we don't have a choice, we need it done by the deadline."

Go figure.




[Edited at 2008-05-01 04:45]


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Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
Translation quality is not always critical May 1, 2008

Hi,

They get away with the lack of quality because the quality of the translation in some contexts does not add value for the final consumer of the translation.

Think about your own purchasing decisions, when was the last in which the quality of the translation was a deciding factor in the purchase of any product or service?

I think that nowadays more is translated than ever before but the end-users have become accustomed to not having optimal translation quality quality.

How many people would buy a more expensive TV set just because the translation of the manual is better than that of the cheaper one?

Daniel


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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 16:08
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
That's an interesting point! May 1, 2008

dgmaga wrote: How many people would buy a more expensive TV set just because the translation of the manual is better than that of the cheaper one?

Usually the situation is slightly different: there are piles of TV sets at or about the same price range range. And if with the two manuals to two different but equally priced TV's, one manual is OK and the other is full of errors guess which TV will I buy?


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Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:08
English to Polish
+ ...
:) May 1, 2008

Oleg Rudavin wrote:
And if with the two manuals to two different but equally priced TV's, one manual is OK and the other is full of errors guess which TV will I buy?


excellent point Oleg


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Thorson
Local time: 15:08
Danish to English
Reading bad translations all the time May 1, 2008

Even major companies publish poor translations of their instruction manuals and other documents.

I get a good laugh out of many of the English travel brochures here in Denmark. Maybe it's worse here because everyone speaks English so they think they can write it and don't use translators, I don't know.

You just have to wonder why they can't realize that they can't get their message across if people are too busy laughing at their English.

Then, on the other side, they think they understand English, so the translations into Danish or often totally wrong--especially the subtitles in movies and tv.

[Edited at 2008-05-01 16:53]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:08
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
(as an industry) we are heading downhill May 1, 2008

Thanks for your input, Andy.

You write that the clients eventually come back to the actual professionals within the industry. I don't see that trend on proz.com Mostly job offers for cheap money (give us your best rate). To establish and maintain yourself in this industry has become very difficult. And the dollar has been heading downhill for 6 years, at least compared with the EURO. In addition, in 2002, the dollar was worth slightly more than the Euro. So, from my point of view, I do worry. I think there is also a problem with translators working for cheap money and companies that are just out to cash in. As long as companies get what they want for cheap money, they won't pay more. It brings down the whole industry and I want to speak out against it.
I do agree that there are good people out there who pay well for a good translation but they are mostly direct clients, not translation companies.

Today's conversion rates:
1.00 EUR =1.54548 USD
1.00 EUR = 1.57544 CAD
1.00 CAD = 0.980516 USD

Bernhard


Andy Lemminger wrote:

Hi Bernhard,

You are absolutely right.
Nevertheless in my opinion that's a constantly changing trend.
For some time clients run to cheap translators who are often inexperienced and/or just work on a hobby basis. They always get what they deserve and after a while they come back to the actual professionals within the industry.

The USD-movements are absolutely the same: Now they fall, tomorrow they will rise again.

No reason to worry about either one of these issues.

Take care

Andy

www.interlations.com

[Bearbeitet am 2008-04-30 21:24]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:08
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
it gets harder for everybody to get paid adequately May 1, 2008

Thank you Aalana.

You said: "Translators sometimes need to be more discerning and selective when applying for jobs. But in the end I suppose it all boils down to "to each his own".

I totally agree. Especially the last sentence shows the big problem. As long as translators are willing to provide services for cheap money they are not doing any of us any favors, and not themselves either. That compounds the problem. As long as companies get what they want for cheap money, they will just pay that, cheap money. Even for translators who provide excellent translations, it becomes harder and harder to get what they deserve.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:08
Partial member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
i wonder who does this? May 1, 2008

Thank you, Joan.

Yes, who are the translators who work such jobs?

Joan Berglund wrote:

I just got a request a couple days ago from an agency for 6000 words by the next day for almost half my usual (already too reasonable) rate because that was all their client allegedly could pay - and the client is a household name. I really can't imagine an experienced translator working for the price they offered, and I can't imagine how an inexperienced translator could possibly meet that deadline, but apparently someone gave them something - and I am sure they got what they paid for too.


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