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Excluding proper nouns from word count
Thread poster: Sara Freitas

Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 14:52
French to English
Jan 6, 2004

Hello everybody.

I was wondering if anyone else has encountered this situation, and if so, is this some kind of new practice that has recently cropped up in the translation business?

I recently received a request from a regular customer (not really a translation agency, BTW, more of a press agency) that struck me as a bit strange. The document was for a press kit and contained general descriptions of the company, its history, founders, business, etc. What was odd was that the agency had highlighted all of the proper names in the text and excluded them from the word count for a total of about five percent of the text.

Essentially, about every couple of lines a word or two was "excluded" from the text in this way.

My feeling is that if I have to deal with them (i.e. the "exclusions") and they are not separate lists, tables, etc. but rather part and parcel of the text itself, then they must be counted as words.

Anyhow, I didn't accept the job, but I was so taken aback that I didn't ask the customer about it, either. I have to admit that my first impression was that they were just being cheap, and I was shocked because this is a customer who usually puts quality above all else, including price to some degree.

Anyhow, I would appreciate your opinions on the subject. Has this happened to you? If so, how did you deal with it?

Thanks!

Regards,
Sara




[Edited at 2004-01-06 07:44]


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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:52
English to German
+ ...
Nice try... Jan 6, 2004

Hi Sara,
Essentially, it's just another attempt of cutting the price - and not a very creative one at that.

I wouldn't have a problem reducing the word count by 5% - provided that the price per word increases by an appropriate amount...


HTH, Ralf


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 14:52
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
In fact, a direct request for a discount would have been more straightforward... Jan 6, 2004

...and I might have said yes to that since I have a long, good relationship with this customer (don't know how long that will last now!!).

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:22
English to Tamil
+ ...
The client wants to cut costs at the expense of quality Jan 6, 2004

Let us take a simple example. RAMA killed RAVANA as well as KUMBAKARNA, as anyone familiar with the great Hindu Epic Ramayana will confirm. The words in capitals refer to proper nouns. They are not to be paid?
How about eliminating them? ____ killed ____ as well as ____. If the entire text were to be like that, the client will go mad and will spend much more on doctor's fees. This is a case of penny foolish as well as pound stupid. Pardon the distortion of the original saying. Some cute fellows want to cut numbers, some want to eliminate propositions and articles and some want to omit repetitions.
Tell the client he need not pay the translator at all if he does the translation himself. In such situations I just show the client the way out if he had come to my place or walk out if I have gone to his.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2004-01-08 15:09]


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Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 14:52
English to Czech
+ ...
Mark as non-translatable text Jan 6, 2004

Hi Sara,

You could ask the agency to mark the proper names in the source document as non-translatable text (using style). This way, it would be possible to insert them quickly as placeables using Trados.

I have already performed some IT translations like this. The marked strings were names of software controls (buttons, fields, etc.). Actually, the whole source document was totally stripped down (no repetitions, no previously translated substrings), but it was well paid, so it was no problem for me.

However, your case is quite different and a bit strange.


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Henk Peelen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:52
Member (2002)
German to Dutch
+ ...
my opinion: the opposite is true Jan 6, 2004

In my opinion, proper nouns, as well as other stuff that needs no translation ((part) numbers, tags et cetera) placed in the text, make the text more difficult to translate and more time-consuming, instead of easier. This is due to the fact that you'll find them in the translation sometimes in another position and anyway, you have to jump over them or otherwise treat them very carefully. Secondly (or actually firstly) a sentence is far from a randomly selected couple of words, where you get 90 % of the sentence when you leave out the other 10 %.
(In the process of interpreting the source text, and translating it, )every word, number, space, punctuation mark or whatever plays a role. I'm sorry for your client, but in my opinion he/she doesn't show much understanding of texts by asking you such things. I guess I understand your disappointment about this client.

Besides this, I think it depends on your rate and other policy items of you. I have a quite low price (Euro 0.10 per word of target text) and normally want each client to take or leave it as I offer it. I think the real amount of time needed for a translation depends on a lot of factors, quality of the medium (nowadays luckily very often Word), quality of the source text, length of the total translation, length of the text blocks/sentences, difficulty of the text and so on, and so on.

I'm affraid that, that if you have to consult on every feature, you end up needing realtively much time for consulting compared to translating. Bad for you and for your client as well. Because the want quality, delivered timely.

[Edited at 2004-01-06 09:15]


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Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 08:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
What's next, cut out the "and" and "or"? Jan 6, 2004

I'm sorry, but your client not only shows a total lack of knowledge of what translation is all about, but also a complete lack of respect for you as a professional.

I once had a similar situation and after explaining the in and outs of the translation process, told the prospective client to look elsewhere. He wouldn't have been happy with the end result, regardless of the quality.

Cheers,
Ricardo


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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Translation as process and cut outs Jan 6, 2004

I think it's totally absurd as shown in the example of the Ramayana by our colleague.

We charge by the word but what is actually happening is that we are processing text and trying to make it come out in the other translation in a manner that sounds good. Though we charge in words, the actual effort expended would include placing proper nouns in their position in the sentence. That's part of the process of the action of translating and that's why it should be paid for at a decent rate.

The idea suggested by the colleague is very funny. In fact,you couldn't even do translation if you left out the proper nouns.

So, I wouldn't let me get away with it and would use the colleagues example of leaving out the proper nouns to demonstrate to them that a. it's a process and b. athough you are not translating the proper nouns you are working/processing them and that has to be paid for.

Cheers
Hope they come round to your point of view.


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sylver  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:52
English to French
We charge by word, yes but... Jan 7, 2004

we do not translate at word level. Words are just a convenient way to evaluate the amount of work involved in a document. We could also use character count if we wanted to, or simply estimate the time and give a total price.

Let's face it. You client is trying to cut his costs and go cheap, while pretending he doesn't. Count the total. Is it still ok to work for that price? If yes, I would go along the line of:

Sorry, but proper nouns need to be typed in, and placed at the right position in the sentences. That represent no economy of time whatsoever. Word count is just a way for us to evaluate the amount of work, not an absolute. I can not give a discount based on the number of proper nouns in the text.

However, if you have a momentary financial difficulty, being a good customer, I am willing to give you a discount for this job


That way, either the client accept the discount (but has to admit that he has financial problems or that he is getting greedy) or he gets back on the original price.


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Céline Graciet
Local time: 13:52
English to French
Sylver has summed it up perfectly Jan 7, 2004

This happened to me fairly recently as well.

My client (an agency owner) said that her client was going to take out the company and product names from a marketing document, as they didn't need translating and shouldn't be included in the word count. I thought I had landed in the Twilight Zone for a second. I absolutely refused to undertake the job in these conditions, arguing, like someone said, that next they were going to take out recurrent pronouns and determiners. I ended up doing the job, on my terms.

However, unlike Sylver, I wouldn't even consider giving a discount. I really wouldn't have minded losing this client altogether if they hadn't changed their mind. This attitude is less than professional and there's no way I'm going to waste my time and energy with such amateurs. It's got nothing to do with money, it's just a matter of understanding what our job's about.

[and relax]


sylver wrote:

we do not translate at word level. Words are just a convenient way to evaluate the amount of work involved in a document. We could also use character count if we wanted to, or simply estimate the time and give a total price.



[Edited at 2004-01-07 11:20]


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Sara Freitas
France
Local time: 14:52
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Sylver, this is great! Jan 8, 2004

sylver wrote:


Sorry, but proper nouns need to be typed in, and placed at the right position in the sentences. That represent no economy of time whatsoever. Word count is just a way for us to evaluate the amount of work, not an absolute. I can not give a discount based on the number of proper nouns in the text.

However, if you have a momentary financial difficulty, being a good customer, I am willing to give you a discount for this job




Sylver,
This is going right into my archives for future use. Since I posted, the same customer (and they used to be so good, sniff!) offered me another job (no words chopped this time) and began their offer with "the text is not too difficult or technical...bla bla." As you can guess, it was their justification for requesting 27,000 words in 7 days at my regular rate.

Well, I got the deadline extended and agreed to do the job, but I'm wondering how far this new trend is going to go!
Thanks again for your reply. I love it!
Regards,
Sara


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Cathy Flick  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:52
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
my client wanted numbers omitted from count... Feb 28, 2004

I have a very cheapskate client who, one week after a translation of a chemical journal article and invoice were submitted, wanted me to omit the numbers from the word count (basically because he had quoted too low to his end client, despite all my warnings about how the word count would expand). These were not numbers in tables, but numbers in sentences like "Add 3 mL of XYZ to 0.15 grams (3.3 moles) ABC ..." I gently said "no", that I was already doing him a favor by not applying a surcharge for the incredibly fuzzy Russian copy (which I could decipher only because I knew the subject well) and fast turnaround and had no basis for any before-the-fact or after-the-fact discount whatsoever, and that I didn't think that he would like me to omit the numbers in my translation for him (who did not read Russian) to insert himself any more than he would want me toomitallthespacesfrommytranslation....
Needless to say, now I get in writing from that client (signed!) a job order specifying that the final Word character count (including spaces) will be the basis for the final billing.... That stops any quibbling about what constitutes a "word".

Peace, Cathy Flick

Ph.D. Chemical Physics/M.A. Physics/B.S. Chemistry
Scientific Translator since 1978
Russian/French/German/Spanish/Italian into US English


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Haluk Levent Aka
Local time: 15:52
Japanese to Turkish
+ ...
Offer this: Apr 2, 2004

There have been times when the client wanted me exclude proper words and/or numbers. My response to them was, take out proper names and numbers. And send the document for translation after proper names and numbers are taken out. I'll translate where it makes sense, I'll leave the parts I don't understand and I will not bear any responsiblity on the quality of translation because without the names and numbers, remaining text may be missleading. It always worked for me. Clients than come to realize how stupid their demand is.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Charge *more* for proper names, I'd say Apr 2, 2004

Sara Freitas-Maltaverne wrote:
What was odd was that the agency had highlighted all of the proper names in the text and excluded them from the word count for a total of about five percent of the text.


It's a pity it's a regular client, otherwise you could have told him "okay, I'll do the translation without the proper names and then you can add them in their correct places in the target text yourself".

Unlike normal words for which we know the spelling off by heart, proper names often have variant spellings. In practical terms this means that a translator spends *more* time carefully checking the spelling of proper names in the target text. If anything, one could argue that you should charge more for proper names, not less.

That said, a discount of 5% is probably slippable.


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tectranslate ITS GmbH
Local time: 14:52
German
+ ...
And the time they spent on it... Apr 2, 2004

Marking up all the proper nouns probably cost them more than it could have possibly saved them.
I'm an outsourcer myself, but never, ever would I get an idea like that.
I think it's annoying enough that some clients send you half-translated documents with the remaining source text marked up and you have to hunt the text down that needs translation. And you better not miss anything or else they're going to be mad... :-/
When a client approaches us with half-sentences (another variant) containing translated text plus colored amendments strewn all over them, we flat out refuse to translate that and demand to receive the entire sentence in the source language. It's a matter of client education, really.
I'd go with Sylver, though. After all, you do want to do business with them.

Kind regards,
Benjamin


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