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advice needed on conflict with client
Thread poster: clangfor1
French to English
+ ...
Jan 28, 2006

I did a translation for a client several years ago (nearly 10 years ago). She recently hired me to work on an much expanded version of her original text. When negociating a price, we both took into consideration the fact that approximately 5% of the current job (i.e., the pre-expanded version of some 10 years ago) had, effectively, been done and paid for. And I agreed to incorporate any small changes she'd made in that 5%.
Said client in now dismayed (borderline angry) that I am no longer in possession of the initial translation. I in turn am surprised that a client would no longer have a copy of a product he/she paid a hefty fee for (Client's response: "Why would I have kept it? I don't read [insert language].")
Am I unreasonable in thinking that the client is being unreasonable? Should I have kept better records? Please advise. I'm not interested in retranslating what has already been done and the client will not renegociate.

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Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:11
English to Dutch
+ ...
I don't get it Jan 28, 2006

If only 5 percent of the initial translation will be/is incorporated in the new text, why bother using that old text. I'd say just translate the whole darn new thing and give a small credit because of the old translation.
If I were looking at an old text, I would hesitate to include ANY of that text in a new translation, so it wouldn't make too much of a difference, workwise.
The small credit won't cost you too much and will make the client feel good (everybody likes to get something for nothing -- or at least the appearance of getting something for free).
You might also point out to your client (gently) that 10 years ago, hard disks were much smaller and people tended to discard old translations to make room for new ones. Yes I know, I should have backed up all those files. But how many new computers can still read floppies (even 1 1/4 (?) inch ones, let alone 5 1/2 inch really floppy floppies)? Or tape drives?

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Local time: 05:11
English to French
+ ...
I agree, this is unreasonable Jan 28, 2006

@Benno: 5% of the *current job* is involved, not of the *initial* job. Other than that, you're giving excellent advice.

You may also want to point out that you would have to work on your initial job anyway to adjust it to the remaining 95% for the sake of consistency, in light of new information, so forth.

10 years is a very long time; if the author expanded on his/her initial work, no doubt s/he also changed it quite a bit too.

[Edited at 2006-01-28 21:31]

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French to English
+ ...
thanks Jan 28, 2006

Thanks for your comments, really.
The text is a literary text -- a short story has been turned into, well, a short novel, and the original has been split into a prologue and epilogue: there are very few changes.
I pretty much agree with both comments and am not planning on making a huge deal out of it. At the same time, I feel I've been had.
In any case, I'm not interested in losing this client and will just end up writing it off, I suppose. I just don't like the feeling that I'm paying the price for my client's basically losing what she doesn't want to pay for again.

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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
Partial member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
unreasonable Jan 28, 2006

I think she is being completely unreasonable.
Where I live (Italy) people are supposed to keep documents, receipts, etc. for a maximum of 5 years. After 5 years you can discard everything.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:11
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Working for free Jan 29, 2006

Hi Clangfor,
If you agreed to include the stuff you did before for free, even if it’s in a different context, you will now have to do that. Imo that’s working for free. I will charge 30% of my rate for stuff I have translated before if it is exactly the same in the new translation. That way if there are a few changes to make, I won’t feel like “I’ve been done.”
If it has been rehashed I’ll charge by the hour or consider it a new translation.

About keeping work, you both should have kept it, 2 or more copies of it too.

From the client’s pov, I don’t think they are being unreasonable. You agreed not to be paid for the part you’d done before and revise/rewrite it for free, your choice, end of story.

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French to English
+ ...
thanks again Jan 29, 2006

Thanks again for your messages.

My first question: why should I have kept this translation from 10 years ago?

For me the situation is: I delivered product, client paid me in timely manner, end of transaction, end of story.

Ten years later the client says, translate the new version, but I'm not paying you for the part you've already done, unchanged (and apparently satisfactory). My pov is: fine, in that case she can cut and paste in what she doesn't want to pay for again. If she has lost a product she bought 10 years ago, it is not my problem. No where in my contract, or in any contract I've ever signed, does it say "X agrees to keep copy of translated work indefinitely for client's convenience, should client lose it". In any case, I never agreed to do anything for free.

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Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:11
Member (2004)
German to English
Try to avoid recrimination Jan 29, 2006

It sounds as though you are both starting from a position of blaming the other for not having kept a copy. That's not a good start, and arguing about whose "fault" it is will simply get you both more annoyed. These things happen and the main question is how you proceed from here in the situation where no copy of the previous translation exists (and that assumes, of course, that you can't acquire one from anyone else who might have had a copy of the original). That means that the whole thing has to be re-done, and to me that would mean my normal rate for the whole job (minus any discount you feel like giving for the sake of goodwill or for a longstanding client). Of course it's unfortunate that you initially negotiated a different rate - but it appears that that was agreed on the basis of a misunderstanding (the belief that the original translation was available) - a misunderstanding which was implicit in your arrangement, although it didn't become explicit until later. Given that misunderstanding, it seems to be that you are entitled to scrap those negotiations and start again on the basis of the facts as they now stand.

That is very much my "business" feeling about it, but of course all sorts of more personal things can come into it when you actually know the client.

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