Is it unreasonable to expect an explanation of a PO?
Thread poster: Geoffrey Barrow
Geoffrey Barrow
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
Mar 18, 2004

I have been doing work for an agency for a couple of months, and find that my estimate of the number of words in the source documents never agrees with the number of words the agency specifies in the PO. It is clear that the agency bases its word count on a Trados analysis, and at one stage I did receive a sort of explanation that in fuzzy match segments, two words are counted as one unit. I accepted this in connection with a previous project, but couldn't help wondering if this meant that any words in fuzzy matches (irrespective of degree of match) were counted as "half words". Also, at the time, the difference between my analysis and the agency's was comparatively small. However, in connection with the latest project, I find that my estimate of word-count differs from the agency's by up to 1000 words, depending on what assumptions one makes regarding the Trados analysis. The job in question is about 20000 words, so I consider such a discrepancy to be not insignificant! I have previously pointed out to the agency in as polite a way as possible that I would like more information regarding the method they use to arrive at a word count for their POs, but have received little or no feedback. This time I wrote and requested feedback to the following questions to assist me in arriving at word count more in line with theirs:

1. Do they do their analysis with an empty TM, or with some other TM which they have but which clearly is different from mine?

2. Is any "fuzzy match" word counted as half a word, irrespective of the degree of match?

3. What about "repetitions"? Are they paying me for repetitions, or are all words in "repetition" segments deducted from the PO?

I tried as politely as possible to suggest that I should at least be able to arrive at a word count which approximates to their PO, and would therefore appreciate it if they could advise me regarding the abovementioned questions. I also pointed out (as I have on previous occasions without receiving any feedback) that, as we all know, "repetitions" can mean different things. "50 repetitions" may mean one sentence repeated 49 times or 25 sentences each repeated once. Clearly the amount of work involved is quite differnt!

Needless to say, all my enquiries have been met with a stone wall of silence. All I can do is finish the job, accept the agency's PO and make out my invoice on the basis of this. Am I being unreasonable here, or am I not entitled to know how the agency comes up with its word count for the PO?

Any points of view regarding this would be appreciated. I should also add that the agency in question has 60 day payment terms, which seems to me to be a good way of ensuring that the translator doesn't rock the boat too much. I have ascertained from the Blue Board and from enquiries in other forums that while this company has long payment terms, they "always" pay. However, so far none of the invoices I have sent are due for payment, and I am afraid that if I piss this man off too much, he may simply omit to pay those invoices, amounting to about 2000 euros...

Cheers,
Geoff


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Pick up the phone Mar 18, 2004

Pick up the phone.

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Hynek Palatin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:57
English to Czech
+ ...
They should tell you Mar 18, 2004

I believe they should tell you exactly what sliding scale they use. That is, what percentage of the base per-word rate applies to different fuzzy matches, 100% matches and repetitions.

But if they use sliding scale, they should also send you the translation memory they used for analysis (unless it was an empty memory, which they can use only to count the repetitions and new words), because you are supposed to use it. From your post I understand that they didn't send you any memory.

As for the repetitions, Trados doesn't distinguish between the two cases you mentioned, so I guess you just have to decide whether you will give discount on them or not. Using a sliding scale in general is tricky, but that would be a different discussion (and it has been already discussed here several times).


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Thierry thierry_lafaye
Spain
Local time: 22:57
English to French
+ ...
you're not unreasonable and... Mar 18, 2004

Hi Geoffrey,

I actually am a strong believer that we should all let the agencies know that we are ready to work but under fair grounds. If your wordcount is highly different to theirs, then I believe you are not unreasonable in asking how come you get to very different numbers. It just makes sense and will remind them that they cannot just come up with any number but THE right numbers because it is your business and what makes you live (well, I guess so, right?).

But you are right also on the fact that you should be as polite as possible because it may be an error (but at least, they should let you know that because we are suppose to live in an adult world...) or simply they did not use the same settings as you did.

As per the repetitions, I'm afraid I'm just starting with Trados so I'm not sure as to how the tool really calculates these repetitions. I actually have 77 repetitions in my current project but never questionned it or tried to dig out (oops). I just assumed that Trados (I guess this is the tool you're using?) was counting each first instance of unique repetition as a term and adding it accordingly to the wordcount in full match or no match, etc...

And finally, if your business partner just does not want to pay because he's just "pissed off", you may also consider that as thieft for just trying to keep your business sane. Of course, that's my two cents in an ideal world but I still believe fairness should be the rule, not the exception.

Hope it helps a bit.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:27
English to Tamil
+ ...
Be firm Mar 19, 2004

And refuse to proceed with the work unless the points are cleared. But I guess this does not apply to your particular case. Nevertheless, the correct thing would be to clear up all these points before even starting the work. In your place, I would have told them that the lead time can be reckoned only after the points are all cleared up. If in the bargain the deadline gets shifted, it will not be your fault. Be polite but also there should be no compromise with being firm.
And in all my quotations I make it clear that no discount is possible for repetitions of any kind whatsoever. And I am a busy translator, as all my clients have accepted me. As for those, who do not agree, they can go elsewhere.
Regards,
N.Raghavan


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satish krishna itikela  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 02:27
Member (2011)
English to Telugu
+ ...
I agree with Narsimhans clarification.... Mar 20, 2004

Hello,

As the translators profession is highly competitive,busy and costliest profession, there should not be any concession for the repetitions because there will be many meanings for a single word according to the situation and their position in the sentence,
the one word does not mean the same meaning at all the places it gives different meanings to different circumstances.
One thing when the client asks us to consider the word as one where ever it is repeated we should give him the answer that we will give only one meaning for the word repeated and we are not bothered if the meaning does not convey the exact sense then he will come to correct track, if i face the same situation i would have given the same answer as Narsimhan had said.


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 15:57
Spanish to English
I am not really in a position to have an opinion but... Mar 20, 2004

I don't have Trados, but Narsimhan's attitude seems to be quite sensible. Did the agency buy Trados for you and train you. Why should everybody else get the benefit of Trados while you get the expense and the hassle?
I may be on the cheaper end of the translation scale but at least I get paid for every word I translate and I don't have to go into higher mathematics to make out my invoices. The only person I know here in Mexico that uses Trados does not give any discounts on that basis.


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Geoffrey Barrow
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Trados and PO word counts Mar 20, 2004

[quote]Lesley Clarke wrote:

I don't have Trados, but Narsimhan's attitude seems to be quite sensible. Did the agency buy Trados for you and train you. Why should everybody else get the benefit of Trados while you get the expense and the hassle?

I agree, and no, this agency did not buy Trados for me. As I see it, if I invest in software that results in me doing a better job for the client, then it is illogical that I should have to accept that the client pays me less for my improved service. However, that is in the ideal world, and as we know, the world in which we have to live and work is not ideal. Much has been said both here and elsewhere about the practice some agencies have of expecting a discount for fuzzy matches and repetitions, and this is not the place to go into this in detail. Suffice it to say that I have worked for 3-4 agencies before the one in question, and none of them has based the PO on a Trados analysis. However, when this particular agency did so for the first time, I accepted it as there wasn't a great disrepancy between their word count and mine. The reason was actually that on that particular occasion they used a Translation memory which I knew to be essentially identical to mine (they made it by cleaning uncleaned files which I sent them). Also on that occasion I went along with an allowance for repetitions since the job consisted of three files which were essentially written based on a template and more than 50% of the first file was repeated word-for-word in the second and third files. In such a case I don't see anything wrong with allowing a discount, but such things should be considered in each individual case, and the agency should not take it for granted that we will give them a discount.

To sum up, what really irks me in the case which prompted me to initiate this thread is not so much that there is a difference between my word count and the agency's, but that they decline to respond to my polite requests for the additional information I need to be able to understand how they arrived at their word count. In fact, I don't even know if they are simply deducting "repetitions" or discounting them, or what they are doing!

I suppose this is leading to a comment on the Blue Board about the company in question, but as I pointed out earlier, they owe me a lot of money on invoices which, thanks to their payment terms, are not due for payment for weeks yet. As I see it, they have got me just where they want me....

I guess I should take Edward's advice and call them, but unfortunately I am notoriously bad at expressing myself on such matters over the phone.

What I HAVE learnt from this incident is that next time the agency in question asks me if I can do a job, I will refuse even to consider it until they have sent me the PO, a copy of their Trados analysis and an explanation of the calculations on which they have based the discount. That way, if they want me to do the job, they will HAVE to answer these questions at last.

By the way, I apologise for the fact that there is no distinction between the quote at the beginning of this message and my reply to that quote. Whatever I do, when I select "Reply with quote" I don't seem to be able to get the quote to appear in a white box, as everybody else does. I seem to have missed something here, but I can't work out what it is!


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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 22:57
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
[quote] [/quote] Mar 20, 2004

Geoffrey Barrow wrote:

Lesley Clarke wrote:

I don't have Trados, but Narsimhan's attitude seems to be quite sensible. Did the agency buy Trados for you and train you. Why should everybody else get the benefit of Trados while you get the expense and the hassle?


I agree, and no, this agency did not buy Trados for me. As I see it, if I invest in software that results in me doing a better job for the client, then it is illogical that I should have to accept that the client pays me less for my improved service. However, that is in the ideal world, and as we know, the world in which we have to live and work is not ideal. Much has been said both here and elsewhere about the practice some agencies have of expecting a discount for fuzzy matches and repetitions, and this is not the place to go into this in detail. Suffice it to say that I have worked for 3-4 agencies before the one in question, and none of them has based the PO on a Trados analysis. However, when this particular agency did so for the first time, I accepted it as there wasn't a great disrepancy between their word count and mine. The reason was actually that on that particular occasion they used a Translation memory which I knew to be essentially identical to mine (they made it by cleaning uncleaned files which I sent them). Also on that occasion I went along with an allowance for repetitions since the job consisted of three files which were essentially written based on a template and more than 50% of the first file was repeated word-for-word in the second and third files. In such a case I don't see anything wrong with allowing a discount, but such things should be considered in each individual case, and the agency should not take it for granted that we will give them a discount.

To sum up, what really irks me in the case which prompted me to initiate this thread is not so much that there is a difference between my word count and the agency's, but that they decline to respond to my polite requests for the additional information I need to be able to understand how they arrived at their word count. In fact, I don't even know if they are simply deducting "repetitions" or discounting them, or what they are doing!

I suppose this is leading to a comment on the Blue Board about the company in question, but as I pointed out earlier, they owe me a lot of money on invoices which, thanks to their payment terms, are not due for payment for weeks yet. As I see it, they have got me just where they want me....

I guess I should take Edward's advice and call them, but unfortunately I am notoriously bad at expressing myself on such matters over the phone.

What I HAVE learnt from this incident is that next time the agency in question asks me if I can do a job, I will refuse even to consider it until they have sent me the PO, a copy of their Trados analysis and an explanation of the calculations on which they have based the discount. That way, if they want me to do the job, they will HAVE to answer these questions at last.

By the way, I apologise for the fact that there is no distinction between the quote at the beginning of this message and my reply to that quote. Whatever I do, when I select "Reply with quote" I don't seem to be able to get the quote to appear in a white box, as everybody else does. I seem to have missed something here, but I can't work out what it is!


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Geoffrey Barrow
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Sorry Evert, that didn't really help! Mar 20, 2004

I don't know what you did, or what you were trying to do, but in fact, I'm more confused than ever

I'd be grateful if somebody could tell me what I am doing wrong!

Geoff


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Geoffrey Barrow
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
TOPIC STARTER
AHA! Mar 20, 2004

OK, I think I see what you were getting at now, sorry. I'll try that next time!

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:27
English to Tamil
+ ...
Never do that Satish Mar 21, 2004

A translator is after all responsible for the translation and the client is in no position to agree to your giving just one meaning to a repeated word. The end result will be a chaos if the client is cussed enough to agree to your proposal just for saving some cents. Afterwards when the egg hits the fan, it will be the translator, who will be facing the music. The client is just not qualified to evaluate such offers. And you will really look stupid trying to tell that it was client's idea.
I repeat what I say. Never discuss such things with the client other than saying that no discounts for repetitions, numbers, proper nouns et al. And that's that.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

satish itikela wrote:
One thing when the client asks us to consider the word as one where ever it is repeated we should give him the answer that we will give only one meaning for the word repeated and we are not bothered if the meaning does not convey the exact sense then he will come to correct track..


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Geoffrey Barrow
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Repetitions Mar 21, 2004

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:
I repeat what I say. Never discuss such things with the client other than saying that no discounts for repetitions, numbers, proper nouns et al. And that's that.


While I fully agree with your point in principle, Narasimhan, I do feel that there are certain circumstances under which it would be unreasonable not to grant a discount for repetitions. I am thinking of a case like the one I mentioned in an earlier posting in this thread. I received three files of approximately the same size, which even at first glance appeared to be essentially similar. I ran a Trados analysis of each individual file with an empty TM (which showed few repetitions), followed by an analysis of all three files in one pass. The result of this group analysis showed few repetitions in the first file, followed by a considerable number of repetitions in the second, and about the same number in the third. Clearly the explanation for this is that the files were all based on the same template, with certain changes. In fact they were specifications for different parts of a hydroelectric installation; large blocks of of the text were general and identical in all three files. In such a situation, I felt it was reasonable to make an allowance for the fact that after the first file, a large part of my job involved nothing more than pressing "Alt Num*" (Translate to fuzzy), which I could do quite safely without fear of translating any sentences out of context. I wonder what you would have done in this situation, Narasimhan?

Having said this, I still maintain that all cases must be considered individually, and be subject to agreement between the agency and the translator. The agent should not simply take it for granted that because he runs an analysis of a file (using his own TM) which shows X% of words in repeated segments, he can automatically deduct that many words from the word count on which he bases his PO. The operative word in the above is "agreement", and it is clearly very difficult to come to an agreement with an agency which flatly refuses to discuss the matter in an adult and reasonable manner (as is the case with this particular agency). Although this is the first time I have experienced this myself, from the amount of discussion I have seen in various forums, I gather that such arrogant behaviour on the part of agencies is not uncommon. The two possible explanations for their behaviour are A) that the agency has no insight into what translation actually involves, and B) that the agency is deliberately trying to rip us off. In either case, one has to ask oneself if one really feels confident in working for such people. The first (charitable) alternative implies that they are incompetent, while the second (the realistic one?) can only indicate shear dishonesty.


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:27
English to Tamil
+ ...
I am happy you asked me this question, Geoffery Mar 21, 2004

Before answering this question, I will have to assume that I am having Trados or any similar CAT tool and that I am making full use of the same. Done.
Because I use the CAT tool the client gets his job done much faster and with more consistency. That is all he is entitled to expect. I will not allow any other discount even in this case. If the client wants to save money, let him do the translation himself making use of the TM available with him. That is what I will tell him. In this connection let me repeat what I wrote in another thread.
"He (the client) was the translation coordinator in a public limited company. He was also a full-time translator in this company. The translation work load was heavy and the company wanted to outsource some overflowing jobs to panel tanslators. They were paying a very low rate as fixed by the Government of India. Well, at that time (more than 20 years back) I was not complaining. It should be remembered that in those days no computers were available and the work had to be got manually typed and delivered in 1+1 copy. I used to write down the translation in long hand and give it to a job typist for typing.
There was this document which was just the same as one of the the earlier ones but with different numerical values. These things did happen and were considered as bonuses as all I had to do was to change the numerical values in my manuscript and give for typing the new translation. Here the coordinator stepped in and expected me to accept just the payment for typing because of the above considerations. To give you an idea, in the early eighties translation page rate was 15 times the typing charges.
I just told the translator where to get off and suggested that he himself should do this work and save his company even this ridiculously low typing cost. He was a well-paid full-time employee and I told him to earn his pay now and then.
Actually the management of the company had no such idea of paying less. It was only this wonderfully cute fellow, who had had this idea of saving money. It takes all kinds of people to make life what it is, I guess. Needless to say, that fellow was indignant at my outburst and told me that he would not give me any more work. I suggested to him as to where he could place his jobs and walked out."
Here the client himself was a full-fledged translator but even he did not care to follow that advice. And the situation cited by me is almost identical to the one described by you. The trouble is, this tough attitude is not shared by many of our colleagues themselves.
Quie a catch-22 situation if you don't take care.
To sum up: The client has no business to tell whether my job is easy or not. He is just not qualified. I may have Aladdin's genie's help in doing the translation and that is none of his business. For one word I might have run from pillar to post and he is not concerned by that either. Let him worry about getting his job done in good time and let him better stay within that framework.
In one of Perry Mason novels (have you heard of them?), the lawyer Perry Mason is defending the accused (as usual) and the inimitable Hamilton Burger is the D.A. It was a retrial and the DA moved a motion that in the case of witnesses who had earlier testified and cross examined, it might be used in toto in the retrial as well. Mason agrees with the stipulation that he reserves the right to cross examine such witnesses once again in the retrial if need be. Hamilton is indignant and it was for the judge to point out that if the defense lawyer's reservation is not acceptable the DA had to start the direct examination once again for these witnesses and Mason could cross examine them in any manner he chose. Needless to say the DA's objection was overruled.
Coming to our case, if the client goes to another translator because I refuse him discounts, for one thing the other translator might pose his own conditions and refuse any discount on the basis of a TM not his own. To my mind it is all bluff on the part of the client and I like to call bluffs. If in the bargain I lose a difficult client, no big loss to me. And it is one of the main reasons why I do not have Trados. Another important reason is, I would like to be fully involved in the work and be in full control of what I copy and paste in case of repetitions.
I am happy that I could bring in my favorite Perry Mason in my submissions.
Regards,
N.Raghavan

Geoffrey Barrow wrote:
While I fully agree with your point in principle, Narasimhan, I do feel that there are certain circumstances under which it would be unreasonable not to grant a discount for repetitions. I am thinking of a case like the one I mentioned in an earlier posting in this thread. I received three files of approximately the same size, which even at first glance appeared to be essentially similar. I ran a Trados analysis of each individual file with an empty TM (which showed few repetitions), followed by an analysis of all three files in one pass. The result of this group analysis showed few repetitions in the first file, followed by a considerable number of repetitions in the second, and about the same number in the third. Clearly the explanation for this is that the files were all based on the same template, with certain changes. In fact they were specifications for different parts of a hydroelectric installation; large blocks of of the text were general and identical in all three files. In such a situation, I felt it was reasonable to make an allowance for the fact that after the first file, a large part of my job involved nothing more than pressing "Alt Num*" (Translate to fuzzy), which I could do quite safely without fear of translating any sentences out of context. I wonder what you would have done in this situation, Narasimhan?


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Geoffrey Barrow
Local time: 16:57
Norwegian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your point of view, Narasimhan Mar 21, 2004

With all due respect, I wish I had your courage. No seriously, I'm not just trying to be flippant! However, I think you will find that there are a lot of translators out there who find that they have little or no alternative but to accept an agency's word count based on Trados analysis. As you indicate, if I don't do the job, there are plenty of "translators" out there who are more than willing to accept all the agency's enforced discounts, and do the job for a lower basic rate, to boot. Again, as you and I know, this shows a total lack of understanding on the part of the agencies in question of what translation is all about. In the ideal world, one would think that the net result of this would be that agencies who hire such translators would not be in business for very long, but in practice it seems that there is a never-ending supply of small agencies around, and the evidence of a thousand web sites indicates that there are some pretty bad translators being used. Clearly somebody is taking somebody for a ride here!

I suppose when it comes to, for some of us, the most important thing is being able to look ourselves in the mirror and know that we did the best job we could. Perhaps that doesn't pay our living expenses, though....


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