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Work rejected... now what?
Thread poster: Stephanie Mitchel

Stephanie Mitchel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:44
French to English
Dec 4, 2003

It's the first time that a client has simply refused my translation - and it's hard even to admit to myself, let alone announce - but I don't trust the agency and I really need advice.

This was my first job for them and I found them a little hard to deal with. For instance, the PM told me she was "too tired" to issue me a PO before I began the work (I know that was dense of me, but sometimes I consider email exchanges in which terms are stated to be as good as an agreement - although this is only true for reliable agencies, and they all issue POs promptly anyway). Later she told me they didn't want to pay by check because it was too costly and slow to do so, but didn't respond when I sent her a payment request via PayPal. And now, two weeks after the job was delivered, she sent me an email to tell me that the client (an NGO) was rejecting the translation, because (her words) "you do not understand the French text and teminology," which I dispute because a) I have no qualms asking about anything I don't understand, and make a point of doing so, and b) I referred to their client's Web site throughout the translation process and used many terms, phrases and sources from it.

I then got a phone call from the PM's associate (not clear how they are associated as we had a slight language barrier), repeating what I had been told in the email and telling me to deal with the PM directly for questions of "economy" (couldn't tell if that meant expediency or payment). Now I'm awaiting their written comments, and meanwhile have read through my translation again to see what they are objecting to. I do see one or two things that I didn't catch even when proofing it myself before submission - like the wrong preposition in one sentence and an awkward phrasing or two - which makes me think they did not use a proofreader, which the PM told me they were going to. And it's hard to be a good judge of one's own work, but I really believe that it's good work and I'm wondering whether they are trying to stiff me.

Sorry to go on so long, but has anyone been in a similar jam? I'd be happy to fix any errors for them, but have not been given that option. While I'm waiting for evidence of the client's objections, what is my next best step?

[Edited at 2003-12-04 23:52]

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Kpy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:44
French to English
+ ...
problems Dec 4, 2003

Hi Stephanie

Can I help in any way?

No guarantees, but I'm an English solicitor
resident in France and happy to proof your text pro bono. Also to argue with your client.

Best wishes,


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Deborah Shannon  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:44
Member (2002)
German to English
Messy situation - not your fault Dec 5, 2003

Stephanie, I'm not surprised you're upset - anyone would be. Casting aspersions on your work without giving you specific feedback leaves a lot to be desired.

It's really bad luck if something like this happens with a first job - with a bit more of a track record of working together, it would probably be a lot easier to manage on both sides.It sounds as if they are panicking slightly, not handling their own client very well, and unsure whether to trust you to fix the problem.

My advice would be to stay calm and if communication is possible at all, try to get things back on your own terms - remind them of your good track record, assure them you are going to put things right, and tell them you'll give them some constructive options, just as soon as you see the marked up text.

On the face of it, if they've only just heard back from the client there's still time to salvage the situation. It certainly wouldn't be fair of them to "cut their losses" completely without giving you the chance to correct the supposed errors. (You may need to make that point forcefully if they seem to be leaning in that direction, just to show you're not a pushover).
Hope you succeed in working something out -

All the best, Deborah

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xxxPaul Roige
Local time: 21:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
Guilty as charged? Dec 5, 2003

Stephanie Mitchel wrote:

It's the first time that a client has simply refused my translation - and it's hard even to admit to myself, let alone announce - but I don't trust the agency and I really need advice.

[Edited at 2003-12-04 23:52]

Stephanie, in any democratic country (ie: US, I believe) everyone is innocent until proven otherwise.
Therefore, it's the client's job to find the corpse and the gun... if they can. And your job to argue against it.
If they cannot produce it, time to pay you for your work.
Easy as that, I reckon.
Good luck.

[Edited at 2003-12-05 00:22]

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sylver  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:44
English to French
Until... Dec 5, 2003

They send you a detailed correction clearly showing what changes have been made, treat them as you would treat any non payer.

Saying "Work no good, we don't pay" doesn't mean anything unless it comes with specific examples clearly demonstrating major flaws that would render the translated document useless.

Insist on the specifics. If no proof is provided, react as you would with a "regular non payer" when the time come.

Once I had a case of a financial report translated for a fairly sized group, which I will not name here. Payment date came, and I received a message from the agency telling me my client was not satisfied of the translation provided not only by me, but also by another 5 translators who had worked on the project for that agency, and was not going to pay.

The agency had pressured them for specifics, and now, at payment date (That's a 30 days delay), I was finally provided the said specifics to comment. It consisted of 4 points (out of over a hundred pages). But the most funny was that each of these "corrections" were dead wrong.

After further back and forth, it turned out the translation was ordered by a staffer, who worked in their French division. And he had not bothered getting his boss's approval, so when the bill came, the said boss refused to pay, and the staffer was left to find a way to sucker himself out of that contract by complaining about quality "too poor to deserve payment anyway".

So, don't trouble yourself too much with quality complaints. Get specifcs. What, where, and why it is wrong.

On the other end, I one time received a translation so poor that I did not pay for it. But I sure gave full specifics (amongst which was that 30% of the text was still in the source language, hard words in the sentences were left in the source language, grammar was over the bord, segmentation messed up...just what you can expect when you run a text straight through machine translation.

In conclusion, unless they do bring a definite proof that your job was not acceptable, keep insisting, and if the payment date comes and they still haven't provided any evidence, treat them as non payers, because that's what they are.

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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
My advice Dec 5, 2003

1) Economie means to save money.
2) Every text will have minor errors and that's what an editor does, catch them.
3) Ask for specifics, as other have said.
4) Tell them that editing is not translating and if it is a LONG text, there will inevitably be a few things out of whack. The main question is: IS the overall text alright?
5) Offer to have it proofread but tell them they still must pay you
6) Email me privately and I'll tell you if I know who these people are.

Hard luck and a bummer but it seems they are just using this as an excuse...

Keep a stiff upper lip...


PS After offering to fix and telling them they must pay you, if they say no and are nasty, tell them you will have to report them to the non-payments lists and give them a poor blue board report. That's a last resort of course.

[Edited at 2003-12-05 23:29]

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