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Who's responsible for the final version of a text - translator or editor?
Thread poster: xxxLia Fail
xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 17, 2004

Simple question, but the reason I want to ask it is a situation I have found myself in with a particular agency.

So far I have had three jobs to edit for them. They pay me per hour and tell me the number of 'allowed' hours (which is - as it happens - generally below my average of 500-1000 words per hour, depending on complexity, perhaps 1500 if the text is straightforward and well translated).

The first job was quite technical, poorly researched and stylistically awkward, and I spent double the time they allocated (and paid me).

The second was very similar in terms of technicality, and also only an average translation, and of course I spent more hours than they allocated/paid.

The third one was non-tech (required little terminological research on the part of teh translator) and required a simple, clear style; the translation was good, and I did it in the allocated time (5000 words in 3 hours).

For all these cases I let the agency know the real number of hours, and explained why.

But what is clear is that they are allocating hours on a wordcount basis, not on the basis of complexity.

Moreover, they keep referring to their 'presupuesto limitado', but surely this means they are undercharging the client (I will assume they are not exploiting me, as they conform with the standard for all other professional agencies in Spain, in my experience, and seem more professional than most).

Moreover, I was required to sign documents that guaranteed the fidelity of the translation. In other words, a job that required a whole series of quality controls from beginning to end, and the budget is limited! They are paying me bottom-of-the barrel rates and forcing me to edit in the time that one would need just to read and digest two texts, one ST and the other TT, never mind correct errors (and especially if their translator hasn't done his/her research properly)!

SO, who's ultimately responsible to the agency (obviously they are reponsible to the client) for the quality of the final text, given the conditions in which they ask me to edit?????

In my experience, editing is underpaid, and possibly, even more unappreciated than translation.

Moreover, just on the basis of the experience with that one agency, 2 out of 3 translations were below an 'acceptable' standard.

I would love to hear other people's comments and opinions on the editing of translated texts:-)




[Edited at 2004-07-17 11:36]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2004-07-17 14:43]


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Gillian Scheibelein  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:58
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
The agency has sole responsibility Jul 17, 2004

My main agency is also extremely professional and conforms to ISO 9001 - which means they also check every translation. This is done by an in-house editor who is very experienced. Occasionally I get asked to check translations if he doesn't have the time. The hourly rate is about half of what I would earn translating, which pxxxes me off no end. However, they are my main source of income so I take the good with the bad and do the checking, the only advantage I can see is the extraction of interesting terminology. But I do not have responsibility (I didn't have to sign anything except a confidentiality agreement).

I believe the sole responsibility lies with the agency - they have a contract with the client, you are only a "sub-contractor" at best. Making you sign that document is only an attempt to pass on the buck.

regards,
Jill


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Luca Tutino  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:58
Member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
Exploitation and responsability Jul 17, 2004

Ailish Maher wrote:

but surely this means they are undercharging the client (I will assume they are not exploiting me, as they conform with the standard for all other professional agencies in Spain, in my experience, and seem more professional than most).


I am sorry Ailish, but you seem to be illogical: If they undercharge the client they are exploiting you anyway. They are just trying to get the advantage in terms of volume rather than in direct profit. If the one is unfair, the other is exactely the same. Please bear in mind that, by accepting conditions that you deem as unfair/unfit, you are damaging not only yourself, but the whole industry.

As far as responsability is concerned, I consider myself responsible for all the services I accept to provide.

[Edited at 2004-07-17 12:39]


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:58
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
I never charge by the hour Jul 17, 2004

I agree that editing is underpaid!!
I've found that charging by the hour doesn't work for me, especially for cases like the first two you describe. I initially charged by the hour, but in a few cases the agency said, "What?!? It took you THAT LONG??" -- so now I charge by the page.
Here in Italy, a "page" of translation = 1500 keystrokes, spaces included. For a decent translation that simply needs proofing, I charge 30% of my rate for a page of translation. If the editing is more extensive, it's 50%. In one case, the work was so bad it took me as long to edit as it would have to translate it myself and I charged 100%. After all, I basically retranslated it.
Obviously, I explain all this to the customer in advance. For the dreadful job I mentioned (and naturally it was a rush job too), after the first page I called the customer to say it was worse than they had imagined and that I'd charge my full translation rate. I gave them several examples of major blunders and the agency agreed with me.
I find that the advantage of doing it this way is that everyone knows from the start how much it will cost.
In your case, I would never accept a job by the hour based on how fast SOMEONE ELSE thinks I should work.
And considering the terms you've been given by the agency, I definitely wouldn't accept final responsibility. If the job theoretically requires 8 hours of editing work but you'll only be paid for 4 hours, something's bound to be rushed and will fall through the cracks.
Catherine

[Edited at 2004-07-17 12:42]


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:58
Dutch to English
+ ...
Proof-reading and editing Jul 17, 2004

I will only edit a translation after I have seen it. The reason is because there are agencies that will pay rock-bottom prices for the actual translation and then expect the editor to put it right (and in effect you end up doing the translation for peanuts). I charge per hour and can do 1000 words per hour but no more than 3 hours in one go.

Having said this, I also proof-read text written in English by Dutch people (yes, don't laugh). You can only proof-read this kind of text if your Dutch and English are on a native level

Again, I give the agency an estimate of the time needed (usually 1000 words per hour) but if halfway I see that I need more time, they usually pay for it. I only do this for one agency with which I have been working for years and they know what my areas of expertise are. If the subject is 'new' in the sense that it is highly technical, specialised and deals with new technology, I will also do the necessary research which again gets paid per hour.

I also insist that any queries I have are passed on to the customer (or the person who has written the original text).

Based on the above, I would say the responsibility for the quality is mine since I am assured of having control of the editing process. In your situation, the responsibility is also yours since you agreed to the agency's terms but you have no control of the editing process (you do the job regardless of the original quality, you do not set the time required and you do not seem to have any contact with the customer directly or indirectly to answer queries). If I were you, I'd negotiate a better deal or even come up with a few 'terms and conditions' of your own. For example, if the translation is poor, double the time will be allocated and paid for.

This is a difficult question and I am sure that there is no clear answer. Part of the problem is that you can never tell completely what the job will entail (the agency can't nor you) until the job is finished. The end customer, however, will expect a price estimate beforehand. Ideally, the agency should only use 'expert translators' that can guarantee a high-quality product.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
reply to Gillian Jul 17, 2004

Gillian Scheibelein wrote:

I believe the sole responsibility lies with the agency - they have a contract with the client, you are only a \"sub-contractor\" at best. Making you sign that document is only an attempt to pass on the buck.

Regards,
Jill



Thanks for your comment Jill:-)

By the way, it wasn\'t a question of passing the buck:-) It was a document that was more or less a statement that certified the translation. It had to be signed by the translator, the editor, and the company.


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hirselina
Local time: 22:58
Italian to Dutch
+ ...
proofreading and editing Jul 17, 2004

Marijke wrote "I will only edit a translation after I have seen it. The reason is because there are agencies that will pay rock-bottom prices for the actual translation and then expect the editor to put it right (and in effect you end up doing the translation for peanuts)."

I totally agree with Marijke. Sometimes rough translations by amateur translators are presented to a paid professional as "merely" needing some "proofreading" or "editing" whereas in fact the professional translator has to do all the work and gets paid peanuts.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Luca Jul 17, 2004

Luca Tutino wrote:

Ailish Maher wrote:

but surely this means they are undercharging the client (I will assume they are not exploiting me, as they conform with the standard for all other professional agencies in Spain, in my experience, and seem more professional than most).


I am sorry Ailish, but you seem to be illogical: If they undercharge the client they are exploiting you anyway. They are just trying to get the advantage in terms of volume rather than in direct profit. If the one is unfair, the other is exactely the same. Please bear in mind that, by accepting conditions that you deem as unfair/unfit, you are damaging not only yourself, but the whole industry.

As far as responsability is concerned, I consider myself responsible for all the services I accept to provide.

[Edited at 2004-07-17 12:39]


Your tone is very critical of me personally, Luca. The issue I raised was a general one in relation to the issue of editing.

First of all, the agency is paying more or less the same as ANY agency in Spain, so that\\\'s a Spanish industry-wide problem that I cannot take on board.

Secondly, I have accepted three jobs, and the reason I have actually posted this question is becuase I have serious doubts about continuing working in these conditions/want to know what other people\\\'s EDITING experiences in general are (for comparison purposes). Note that part of the problem is the translation quality, also note that the third text was of acceptable standard, and the fact that the first two were poor may simply have been a coincidence.

Thirdly, I have edited for many more clients, and my conclusion is that the work involved in editing is both under-rated and underpaid GENERALLY speaking. One cannot swim against the tide, however: if the rates for translation or editing are poor - as they are in Spain from agencies - of course one can decide not to accept them. And then what?


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:58
English to Spanish
+ ...
ditto Jul 17, 2004

hirselina wrote:

Marijke wrote "I will only edit a translation after I have seen it. The reason is because there are agencies that will pay rock-bottom prices for the actual translation and then expect the editor to put it right (and in effect you end up doing the translation for peanuts)."

I totally agree with Marijke. Sometimes rough translations by amateur translators are presented to a paid professional as "merely" needing some "proofreading" or "editing" whereas in fact the professional translator has to do all the work and gets paid peanuts.



I never confirm a proofreading or editing job without seeing it first.
When I agree the rate with the agency I always state that it will take *about +/-* so many hours (based on an average of 1000 words per hour) depending on the quality, and I keep the agency updated as I go along whether I see the quality of the translation is not good and it's taking longer than average to check or when it's a good quality translation and I'm going faster than average (which they highly appreciate).

I think you need to make clear with the agency that this is not 2+2=4, and that they need to be flexible if they want good results.
You'd not be asking for anything illogical, so if they don't accept, maybe it's time to let them go.

All the best,
Grace.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Marijke Jul 17, 2004

Thanks for your comments, M:-)

Marijke Singer wrote:

I will only edit a translation after I have seen it. The reason is because there are agencies that will pay rock-bottom prices for the actual translation and then expect the editor to put it right (and in effect you end up doing the translation for peanuts). I charge per hour and can do 1000 words per hour but no more than 3 hours in one go.


Afraid I only get the TT once I have been lined up for the job. I get the ST beforehand, so I indeed can make an assessment of complexity.

Marijke Singer wrote:
Having said this, I also proof-read text written in English by Dutch people (yes, don't laugh). You can only proof-read this kind of text if your Dutch and English are on a native level


Me too, but only for regular clients/very technical texts, once I have made it clear that the edit is a collaborative effort, with me taking care of teh linguistic side and the client resolving any terminological questions. But in this case, I charge the hours it takes, and so it's not a problem.

Marijke Singer wrote:
....... you have no control of the editing process (you do the job regardless of the original quality, you do not set the time required and you do not seem to have any contact with the customer directly or indirectly to answer queries). If I were you, I'd negotiate a better deal or even come up with a few 'terms and conditions' of your own. For example, if the translation is poor, double the time will be allocated and paid for.


Exactly, I am forced to edit in the most restrictive conditions, so I cannot be held responsible (note that for all the texts, I spent the hours required to edit them properly, even knowing I probably wouldn't be paid for them). And I will stick by my 500-1500 (average 750-1000 word) barometer in future. And simply return/renegotiate hours for poorly researched/poorly translated texts.

Marijke Singer wrote:
This is a difficult question and I am sure that there is no clear answer. Part of the problem is that you can never tell completely what the job will entail (the agency can't nor you) until the job is finished. The end customer, however, will expect a price estimate beforehand. Ideally, the agency should only use 'expert translators' that can guarantee a high-quality product.


Precisely, and often the defects in a translation only become clear as you work though it.

[Edited at 2004-07-17 22:13]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:58
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A point to remember Jul 17, 2004

hirselina wrote:

Marijke wrote "I will only edit a translation after I have seen it. The reason is because there are agencies that will pay rock-bottom prices for the actual translation and then expect the editor to put it right (and in effect you end up doing the translation for peanuts)."

I totally agree with Marijke. Sometimes rough translations by amateur translators are presented to a paid professional as "merely" needing some "proofreading" or "editing" whereas in fact the professional translator has to do all the work and gets paid peanuts.



Thing is, most agencies in ES pay rockbottom prices anyway:-) Despite the fact that cost of living/business in cities in Spain is as high as in other cities in Europe. I lived in Dublin last year, and found that it was dearer for going out and public transport (which a translator doesn't use much anyway), but all else was pretty much the same as Barcelona.

It's a myth that Spain is 'cheap'. OK, going out is, but for example, I pay 250 euros on Social Security a month even if I don't earn a eurocent. And my other major overhead (more or less fixed) is about 150 euros on telecommunications. Equivalent to about 4 days translating (at agency rates) in Spain!

For a part-time translating in-house job in a very prestigious company - not an agency - doing 20 hours a week: salary 6000 euros annually GROSS. That's 500 euros a month / about 85 hours a month = about 6 euros an hour BEFORE TAX!


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Deborah Shannon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:58
Member (2002)
German to English
Negotiate what "editing properly" means Jul 18, 2004

Ailish Maher wrote:
Exactly, I am forced to edit in the most restrictive conditions, so I cannot be held responsible (note that for all the texts, I spent the hours required to edit them properly, even knowing I probably wouldn't be paid for them).

[Edited at 2004-07-17 22:13]


I do think it is an important principle only to put in the hours that the client or the agency is actually willing to pay for (for budget constraints or whatever other reason). Why throw in the last couple of hours for free? This in itself devalues the skilled work of editing.

This attitude can be made clear at the negotiation stage by saying something like "With that volume in that number of hours, I will not be able to do my usual thorough check against the source text. What I can do is read through for overall coherence, spot check against the source text in cases of extreme doubt, and spend the remainder of the time on style and flow."

At least that spells out what can realistically be done within the budget without being totally unhelpful, but also without letting them conveniently offload their constraints onto the poor editor.

But it is absolutely essential to stop when the time is up, in my view. It is better to point out what else could have been done, given the right amount of time, than to do it for nothing and feel used.

My two eurocents worth (or however many words that amounts to in Spain!)


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Anil Goyal  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 02:28
English to Hindi
+ ...
Editor is responsible for the quality Jul 19, 2004

Well, I didn't go thru all the opinions, but IMHO, the editor/proofreader is hired for ensuring the quality of the translated document. He/she is being paid for that. Whether the compensation for this service is adequate or not is another question. When you accepted to do the work, it is your responsibility to complete that to the satisfaction of your client. If you are not comfortable at the offered price then either re-negotiate or decline the offer to do it. But, once you 'accepted' that, you should do it.

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Marcos Broc  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2011)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Spain is not that cheap but... Jul 19, 2004



Thing is, most agencies in ES pay rockbottom prices anyway:-) Despite the fact that cost of living/business in cities in Spain is as high as in other cities in Europe. I lived in Dublin last year, and found that it was dearer for going out and public transport (which a translator doesn\'t use much anyway), but all else was pretty much the same as Barcelona.

It\'s a myth that Spain is \'cheap\'. OK, going out is, but for example, I pay 250 euros on Social Security a month even if I don\'t earn a eurocent. And my other major overhead (more or less fixed) is about 150 euros on telecommunications. Equivalent to about 4 days translating (at agency rates) in Spain!

For a part-time translating in-house job in a very prestigious company - not an agency - doing 20 hours a week: salary 6000 euros annually GROSS. That\'s 500 euros a month / about 85 hours a month = about 6 euros an hour BEFORE TAX!



No, Spain is not that cheap but...
well, you have to consider everything: in general, small European cities are cheaper than larger ones... Ireland is economically similar to Spain, being behind in some aspects (when there were 15 EU countries, Portugal, Greece and Ireland fought for not being in the 15th position regarding the different economic parameters, with Spain being with them occassionally). But side by side, Barcelona has a population of 1.5 inhabitants, while Dublin is 300,000, you have to put that into the equation. I live in Zaragoza, which is generally cheaper than Barcelona.

I would never work for EUR 12,000 in Barcelona or Madrid for more than 1 year. If I did, it would be just in order to acquire experience.

If you are spending EUR 150 per month for telecoms, you are spending far too much! High-speed Internet is available now in 100% of cities. With a little research you can get 256down/128up ADSL for around EUR 38, VAT incl. The Telefonica landline rental is around EUR 15 per month. Get a cheap service for calls to Europe so you can get rates of EUR 0.05 per minute.

Just my views here...


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