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Agencies sending out un-proofread translations?
Thread poster: marie719
marie719
French to English
Mar 29, 2007

Hi all,

As I am a relative newcomer to the world of freelance translation, I would like to find out how common it is for an agency to proofread or otherwise check a translation for overall quality, typos, etc. before handing it over to their client.

I ask because I recently completed a large F -> E job for an agency who contacted me two weeks later, stating that the client was unhappy with the work. It turns out that out of an 8000 word document, the client's issue was 3 minor typos (i.e. and not with the quality of the translation itself).

I always check my work before it goes out, but only one pair of eyes looking at a file, in my opinion, cannot guarantee that every little thing will be caught. It appears the agency did not check it before handing it to their client (and it seems to me they should have). They claim the client wants a reduction in price, and the agency is therefore asking me to reduce my invoice by 20%.

I'm not sure at this point how to proceed.

Thanks in advance for any info/advice.


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:56
Dutch to English
+ ...
3 minor typos is nothing Mar 29, 2007

70% of the agencies I work for do proofread. Asking for a 20% reduction for 3 typos is ridiculous. Don't accept it and do not work for this agency again.

My standard is that if a translated text has 1 minor error per 1000 words, it is a good translation. I'm not talking about terminology (terminology mistakes are not acceptable). I proofread a 400 word text yesterday. It had 30 mistakes of which 5 were related to terminology. This would merit a reduction in payment.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
what's the point of a translation agency......? Mar 29, 2007

marie719 wrote:

Hi all,

As I am a relative newcomer to the world of freelance translation, I would like to find out how common it is for an agency to proofread or otherwise check a translation for overall quality, typos, etc. before handing it over to their client.

I ask because I recently completed a large F -> E job for an agency who contacted me two weeks later, stating that the client was unhappy with the work. It turns out that out of an 8000 word document, the client's issue was 3 minor typos (i.e. and not with the quality of the translation itself).

I always check my work before it goes out, but only one pair of eyes looking at a file, in my opinion, cannot guarantee that every little thing will be caught. It appears the agency did not check it before handing it to their client (and it seems to me they should have). They claim the client wants a reduction in price, and the agency is therefore asking me to reduce my invoice by 20%.

I'm not sure at this point how to proceed.

Thanks in advance for any info/advice.


2 or 3 arguments in favour of your opinion:

What's the point of a "translation" (sic) agency if they don't guarantee the quality of what they sell, by checking what comes in from outsourcers? What is it that they DO for their money (which might be 50% of what they pay you)?

What kind of professional "translation" intermediary would simply pass on a job without ensuring that it was of adequate quality, with the risk that is implied for their reputation?

Finally, the basic and essential principle of the new EU translation standard is that a translation should be checked by 2 pairs of eyes.


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 01:56
Blown out of proportion Mar 29, 2007

20% reduction means you don't get paid for about 1500 +/- words that were correctly translated/written.

This is punishment for only three typos??

That's not fair. I think it is robbery.

BTW - did you work with this agency before? If so, were they pleased with your work?

Orla

[Edited at 2007-03-29 10:43]


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:56
German to English
+ ...
it's a jungle... Mar 29, 2007

Reputable agencies proofread the translations they receive before delivering them to their customers.
Agencies that are only in it for the money often don't (that saves them money, but it will cost them customers in the long term).

In your case, it appears that the agency falls in the latter category (which might better be called a brokerage).

[Edited at 2007-03-29 10:41]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:56
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Don't assume that agencies proofread Mar 29, 2007

Don't assume that agencies proofread work you send in. Many of them do not have staff qualified to check some of the more unusual languages and subject areas in detail.

But ask them, because some do proof read, and some do occasionally have texts checked.
I proof read a fair amount for two agencies, but I know that neither of them checks everything. I charge for my time, of course, and the cost is sent on to the end client, or has to be subtracted from the agency's profit if they are 'training' a new translator.

I always try to send in work that is as near perfect as I can get it. I know it is not advisable to use the proofreader as a safety net

Besides, it invites 'meddling' by proofreaders who are less expert than you. If you are in doubt about anything, ask the client or get the agency to ask the client. Post a KudoZ question or check elsewhere, if you think that is more reliable.

If I am proofing work by a new translator, I take a completely different approach from the way I tackle work by highly proficient Danish colleagues who write excellent English, but are not quite native speakers.

Only a single typo per 1000 words in something you have written yourself is a good translation, and I agree with everything Marijke says.

Don't accept all complaints about terminology etc. either. If you explain diplomatically, you can really impress a client when you know more than they do, and it is well worth the effort! (It sometimes happens with legal texts for instance - the terminology may be very different from what they expect.)

Best of luck!


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Katrin Hollberg  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:56
Japanese to German
+ ...
Absolutely true/ agree with Marijke Mar 29, 2007

If it's possible I also try to deliver translations only after a proofreading by one of my "personal network buddies" or by another fellow companion in the related field. Nonetheless it just happens that there is still a minor typo/one or two mistakes still remaining...Nobody's perfect. There's no way and I think that's not so awful. You have to live with it.

My experience is that a good translation agency is also checking these texts before they deliver it to the final customer. And I can bet there still will be any kind of mistakes within the text afterwards.

(In my opinion I do not need an agency if I'm the one to take over the whole responsibility for the project. Of course I try to do my best for a good quality.)
Direct clients also sometimes utter any comments to me and I feel this is a very fruitful dialogue...depending on the text. Sometimes you can solve misunderstandings of different nature.
And moreover a lot of original texts do lack a solid proofreading procedure in their respective native language but were just delivered to an agency or freelancer without any check of quality.

I fully agree with Marijke: some slight typos do not justify a reduction in payment for quite a big job. And obviously they were fully satisfied with the content of your work. That's what counts most of all. Are you sure their client really complained about your work?...It sounds that they are just trying to get more profit out of this translation afterwards - for THEIR benefit...Just an impression...


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:56
English to German
+ ...
I'd apologize politely and will gladly sent a corrected version ... Mar 29, 2007

but this does not mean they will get a 20% or any discount.
If I buy a TV and it does not function well I can give it back and get a new one and that's it.

Of course, proof-reading your translation is an important part of our work, but minor mistakes may happen, we are only human. If so we will correct them and be even more careful next time.


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:56
English to Spanish
+ ...
Well, it depends. Mar 29, 2007

Hello Marie,

As a rule I would recommend that you didn't rely on the agency to correct anything, unless you both agree on a collaboration that puts you into a team with a corrector. Always think of them as your customer (they are!). Would you send a job to a customer just for him to check?

It depends on the agency that the job will be proofread before sending to the customer. Many of them do profreead the documents even if the customer did not ask for an additional proofreading process. Some don't.

Apart from the agency, you have to deal with the project manager. He/she may either defend him/herself in front of a customer just blaming the translator, or may decide to defend your job. It depends on many factors including corporate rules, own personality, management experience, customer history, provider history...

I have managed quite a few projects and know that an angry customer is not always easy to deal with, particularly if his/her real reasons to be angry do not have to do with a real problem in the project but, definitely, dealing with that it is a part of my job. I would never send a job to a customer without checking it, particularly if it comes from a new provider. Sometimes schedules play hardly against common sense, but this is usually not the provider's fault.

I understand that you only have two eyes: sometimes allowing some time before a final check yourself is a good idea, but this may not be enough. This is why, particularly when in a rush, I always try to give the text to someone else for checking.

3 typos in 8000 words can or cannot be much: depending on the typos, this may be on a higher side (if they could be detected by an automated corrector, for example), but, in any case, an inappropriate document and customer management on the agency side are not an excuse to ask for a 20% reduction on yours.

Best luck!

Ruth


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Debi Vaught
Local time: 02:56
Swedish to English
+ ...
Sometimes proofing still misses things Mar 29, 2007

In this house, two sets of eyes look at it, two different machines run a spell-checker on two different programs and still, about 2 months ago, we had one document that got away.

1500 words total.
14 misspellings (hte for the, names of people, stupid stuff).
23 double spacings.
2 format errors (font size).

We have no idea what happened. We can run it all backwards and decide that *perhaps* it was in the process of check and re-check that a document which had been proofed and approved didn't get properly saved. Or that in the sending, a previous version was sent instead of the final. But we will never actually know. We can't find anywhere in our files anything that matches what was sent back to us. Corruption during the send process?

We were asked for and agreed to a 50% reduction on that document. Thankfully, it's a large client and this was the last piece of a large project - and they had been thrilled with the rest of the work. Even our client (outsourcer) was surprised at the number of errors and questioned the end client as to where that document had come from, since that didn't look like our work.

In general, the second set of eyes is needed. And we have a group of colleagues we can call on when one of us is unable to be that second set (one of us is out of town for the next two days, for instance). We pay for that second set of eyes - and it's paid off.


I don't think I would be willing to cut 20% for three typos, but I also think it would depend on the client and how much work I expected to continue to receive.

Mostly, if something does come back for a typo, it's a quick fix and back to the outsourcer with an apology. That usually works for us.


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:56
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Reduction in payment? Mar 29, 2007

Marijke wrote:

I proofread a 400 word text yesterday. It had 30 mistakes of which 5 were related to terminology. This would merit a reduction in payment.


30 mistakes in 400 words? Depending on the nature of the errors, this would probably deserve not to be paid at all.


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Jenny Duthie  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:56
French to English
complaints re a translation's quality Mar 29, 2007

hello I'm in a similar position where I've translated a set of documents for an end-user website, it was not via an agency, but for another translator who outsources work translated into English as she is not an English native speaker (she's Belgian French). Her client has come back and complained about the translation, saying there are problems of incoherence and errors. The documents were not technical or overly complex, I was comfortable doing the translation ie it was a job something I felt was definitely within my capabilities. I thoroughly double checked all the texts before sending them, I'm wondering how on earth a non-native English speaker can properly proofread my translation - what can I do in this situation - perhaps I should find a colleague on Proz native English speaker who can check my translation against the text but of course I'll have to pay them. For my part I would not at all be comfortable proofreading a text in French, of course I would notice errors but surely only a native speaker can properly proofread a text.

any suggestions would be welcome, thanks.


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marie719
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone for your replies Mar 30, 2007

Thanks for your replies and support.

All along, I've been of the belief that an agency is ultimately responsible for what it hands over to a client, and that there is a huge risk inherent in having only one human being ever work with a file, however competent that human being may be.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:56
English to French
+ ...
The law Mar 30, 2007

In Canada, any business that sells you faulty merchandise or services (and that includes translations) is required by law to remedy the problem within ten days from the date of delivery. However, this doesn't mean reimbursing the price of the merchandise/service, but rather repairing/replacing the merchandise/service. Therefore, no rebates for typos in Canada. What we do is accept to correct the translation at no extra cost as long as the client asked for remedy within ten days from delivery. Of course, depending on your business sense, you can stretch this delay, offer a rebate, whatever you think is good for your business. But by law, this is how it works here. In other words, if I was in your situation and wouldn't be willing to give a rebate, nothing could oblige me to. I am sure there are similar laws in most countries.

As for this particular situation, I would refuse. I think this would merit a few dollars of rebate only, and definitely not 20%. In fact, I find it interesting that you take into consideration the fact that many agencies don't have their translations proofread (by the way, it's not 50% of your money they make - it's closer to 100%). I always thought - correct me if I'm wrong - that such rebates are not meant to punish the translator for the errors made (Shame on you Mr./Mrs. Translator!) but rather to compensate for the costs incurred by the agency because of those errors. So, if the agency didn't get the translation proofread by another person, it is their fault that they later had to incur additional costs, and not the translator's. Therefore, they should offer a rebate to their client but leave the translator out of the problem.

We all know that a) a translation is never entirely finished and b) translations that were not proofread will contain errors.

Finally, I just wanted to add that it is nice of certain translators that they get their translations proofread on their own, but the problem with this is that you are paying for a service that nobody will pay you for. In other words, the agency/client should pay for proofreading. I don't think it is wise to carry the agency's responsibilities on your shoulder. To each his own responsibilities...

[Edited at 2007-03-30 05:47]


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:56
Dutch to English
+ ...
Reductions Mar 30, 2007

Riccardo Schiaffino wrote:

Marijke wrote:

I proofread a 400 word text yesterday. It had 30 mistakes of which 5 were related to terminology. This would merit a reduction in payment.


30 mistakes in 400 words? Depending on the nature of the errors, this would probably deserve not to be paid at all.


Hi Riccardo,

I did the proofreading for an agency and I leave that decision to the customer! I was quite surprised that anybody dare hand in the text as a (test) translation.

Not paying does, however, involve other legal issues and sometimes it is better to pay (at a reduced rate) to ensure that your reputation stays intact and that you do not get involved in a legal rigmarole.

Have a nice day,
Marijke


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