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full featured movie translation and being an NGO we have no money to pay you...
Thread poster: xxxBrandis
Local time: 10:31
English to German
+ ...
Aug 5, 2008

Hi! that was in my mail yesterday. I had to revert informing, everything costs something, even attempting downloading the movie costs internet line and time that goes into doing that work. As such NGOs have no real accounting, only income and expenditure accounts there is no profit and loss account. The movie goes may be 125 minutes and apparently a happy translator did that job into french. Movie transcription and translation and all that for free!!!. So where do I establish myself in such a project, go empty handed home, demand royalty, all helping suggestions from those who have experience in such things are welcome. I thank you in advance. BR Brandis

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Erik Hansson  Identity Verified
Member (2002)
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Reply Aug 5, 2008

Hello Brandis,

If understand you correct, mail from client was enquiry only, you do not need to take job.

There will be always NGOs who search for cheap or even free translations, so I see not any need to get upset. How did you find out the French translation was made by happy translator? Did client tell you? Only thing for you to do is write to client and explain that you are professional business and do not work free. Make a clear stand. And then go on.


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lexical  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:31
Portuguese to English
Some sympathy for Brandis's point... Aug 5, 2008

While I agree that no-one is forcing Brandis to do this for free, I have some sympathy for his views. Individuals are free to decide if they are going to work for nothing for a cause that they support, but I think there are possibly three points to take into consideration.

1. Some NGOs are able to raise very large sums - millions of dollars a year - and are well able to afford to pay the going rate for services (be they translation or anything else). Although I disapprove of - for instance - Greenpeace's methods and its cavalier way with the facts, I have to admire their ability to raise money. If an NGO is unable to raise sufficient money to pay its way, it suggests to me that they don't enjoy a broad level of public support - and therefore don't merit our working for nothing to help them.

2. Some NGOs seem to be philosophically incapable of raising the resources to fund their work and instead fall back on taking advantage of other people's generosity. Some while ago, there was an appeal on Kudoz for 'free' interpreters and translators for a congress (I forget whether the event was in Rio, Bali or South Africa) but it later became clear that delegates were flying to this congress from all over the world and staying in luxury hotels, but that the organisers were opposed to charging a delegate fee on principle, which could have covered the costs of translations and other things. Should we be subsidising that sort of attitude?

3. Any 'free' provision of a good or service is a market distortion. NGOs like Oxfam have learnt that the indiscriminate supply of 'free' food aid can destroy local farmers and shopkeepers, meaning that the affected region becomes ever more dependent on free handouts in the long term, since the normal agricultural and distribution infrastructures have been undermined. Do translators who work for 'free' undermine our industry?

[Edited at 2008-08-05 11:31]

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RNAtranslator  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
I can't see the problem Aug 5, 2008

NGOs receive donations of people who support them. As a professional, your time is money. If somebody would like to donate cash to that NGO, why not working for free a little?. Otherwise, don't do it, but it's fine another translator does it pro bono; the same as if he/she donates cash.

[Edited at 2008-08-05 16:34]

[Edited at 2008-08-05 22:34]

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Local time: 10:31
English to German
+ ...
I was more trying to find an alternative consensus... Aug 5, 2008

Hi! imagine, it takes some energy to produce a full-fledged movie and there would have been some starring and script they had to learn by-heart and the camera and the effects and all those leading to some presentation object and someone is financing it. Why was there this happy translator doing a free job into french and the client was asking me whether I could not do it. The point is the free feed and the translators most usually end up at the end of the line. The enquiry read - a happy translator. I was wonderig what would make this translator so happy to do everything for free into french and when was I getting the reference. Please do not take it personally if you are one of those translators having done this transcription + translation + editing + proof-readig + reviewed job for nothing, I will never believe that. This is something what I wanted to find out while posting this topic. On the global market today only the bilingual part of editing, restyling a document can cost a lower average of €0,045 as an entry price, now I see offers from agencies coming with complete solutions at this pice range. This baffles me next to the enquiry about a free contribution. I do not earn much and work very hard to get to the right solution as per customer´s specifics. It is mostly the client that fails. BR Brandis

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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:31
still a business Aug 5, 2008

I can't help thinking NGOs are a bit cheeky in asking people to provide professional services for free. Maybe one might be willing to translate a letter or brochure for free, but an entire film? That is taking the biscuit, IMO.

I realise a good % of funds raised by charities has to pay for administration, wages etc, but they still have to pay for utilities, they can get grants, they have volunteers who go out fundraising.

Personally, I don't think they're any different from various agencies who want to push your rates down, except they're more upfront about not wanting to pay you.

For all we know, the person who translated the French could have been a newcomer who wanted the experience? "Happy" is pushing it a bit, I think. I reckon they just used that word to persuade you to do it. Now, if it were me, I'd walk away. I wouldn't waste hours of translation time working for a client who clearly has no intention of paying for my skills and time - charity or no charity.

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Allesklar  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:01
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
make them an offer Aug 6, 2008

The French translator may have been happy, but who knows what level of quality that person has actually produced.

The attitude of the people making this request illustrates how much they underestimate the effort that goes into a good translation and the best thing we can do about it is to educate them.

Explain what the job entails as well as the quality risks of getting things done cheaply or for free and also offer them to review any material they get translated by volunteers at your hourly rate.

You may never hear back from them, but who knows - saving at the wrong end could be a necessary part of their learning curve and they might come back to you as a very loyal client.

[Edited at 2008-08-06 01:02]

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