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Are we our worst enemies?
Thread poster: Madeleine MacRae Klintebo

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:50
Swedish to English
+ ...
Nov 9, 2007

We continually complain about unqualified/unprofessional translators keeping us out of business by accepting 0.00001 cent commissions.

Then why do we continue to help them make a living???

An example from one of my language pairs:

A person who's native language in A continues to ask questions about words/phrases from B to C and C to B. The words/phrases are mostly very easy - an ordinary, or occasionally specialised, dictionary - would give you the solution.

I have made a point of no longer answering this person's questions (or agreeing/disagreeing to proposed answers). The fact that I no longer disagree with obviously incorrect answers to this (and other) person might lead to incorrect answers being entered into the term database, but it's not my problem.

As well as Kudos question being asked by people who clearly have no deeper knowledge of the target or source language (let alone the culture), there are translators who routinely ask questions about terminology in fields about which they clearly have no knowledge or understanding.

And yet, the answers keep rolling in.

For some reason, many of my colleagues continue to help these people to, for free, "rob" us. Or rather keep the general rates down.

Were these people to be left on their own, they would soon become unstuck.

The rates these unqualified "translators" charge quite clearly affects the rates posted here at Proz. This it's not a major problem for me as more than 90% of my commissions come from other sources, but I can see how this pricing seeps/will seep through to the translation industry as a whole.

[Edited at 2007-11-10 19:09]


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Peter Bugarchich
Local time: 17:50
Serbo-Croat to English
+ ...
Just some comon sense might help Nov 9, 2007

The trick here is how to maintain one's professional confidentiality, e.g. not give out too much info, yet provide some help for those who are honest beginners wishing to learn something new.

Unfortunatelly, this place is riddled with BS-artists, (and the "New Europe" smiles showing off a new set of dentures) so the healthy dose of caution and/or scepticism is a must!

Nowadays even modest knowledge comes at the high price.


[Edited at 2007-11-09 23:07]


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:50
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Bend the rules Nov 9, 2007

In my language pairs we have to deal with Non-ProZ.com questions (comming from some external interface and easily answered) and questions from colleagues. I've enabled seeing the questions of all of my colleagues in the ProZ.com interface.

Although the rules prevent it, I'll make one or two harsh remarks when colleagues are clearly translating or revising stuff they shouldn't. The result of this is of course negligible. Becomming a translator is the result of a continuous process of learning and some colleagues use this site to learn.

In my language pairs some colleagues no longer receive useful answers. Their output and quality might suffer from that. It's all about the survival of the fittest.

I share your worries about incorrect entries into the KudoZ-database and the Googlabilty of anyone's contributions at ProZ.com.

Regards,
Gerard



[Edited at 2007-11-09 23:49]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
Some are hopeless Nov 10, 2007

In seeing some of the things that are being asked here in becomes apparent that there are people who are completely over their head. The fact that we may give them a good answer for a few terms is not going to make them good translators. It can be easily seen that no matter how much help we give them, if they are not reasonably good already, then they will be no competition for us.

Some are good and in time will become better, but others will remain hopeless.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 18:50
Turkish to English
+ ...
An example Nov 10, 2007

I remember many years ago, before there was a daily limit on the number of Kudoz questions that may be asked, a Turkish into English assignment in the field of geology was posted on this site. A few days later, dozens and dozens of Kudoz questions in the Turkish to English pair began to be posted by the same asker, all of them about geological terms. The thing that made these queries ridiculous was that most of these terms were pretty obviously the Turkish forms of internationally recognised Greco-Latin based scientific terms. The mind boggles at somebody having to post Kudoz questions to find the correct translation of terms such as paleozoik, prekambriyan or tektonik. Heaven knows what kind of a hash this so-called translator made of the job.

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Sven Petersson  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 17:50
English to Swedish
+ ...
Why do you insist on cutting off the nose to spite the face? Nov 10, 2007

Those who can, do; and those who cannot, criticize those who do.

***********************
Sven Petersson
Medical translator
Web site www.svenp.com
***********************


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Time will tell Nov 10, 2007

Henry Hinds wrote:

In seeing some of the things that are being asked here in becomes apparent that there are people who are completely over their head. The fact that we may give them a good answer for a few terms is not going to make them good translators. It can be easily seen that no matter how much help we give them, if they are not reasonably good already, then they will be no competition for us.

Some are good and in time will become better, but others will remain hopeless.


Nice words of wisdom Henry.


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Enrique
Local time: 12:50
SITE STAFF
Rules Nov 10, 2007

Gerard de Noord wrote:

Although the rules prevent it, I'll make one or two harsh remarks when colleagues are clearly translating or revising stuff they shouldn't.


Adherence to ProZ.com rules is a condition for continued right to access and use the site.

Regards,
Enrique


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:50
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with John -- time will tell Nov 10, 2007

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:

A person who's native language in A continues to ask questions about words/phrases from B to C and C to B. The words/phrases are mostly very easy - an ordinary, or occasionally specialised, dictionary - would give you the solution.


The above, for instance, is one case I observe amongst agency PMs doing some sort of checks on texts they have received, or amongst public, certified or sworn translators working into their inverse (usually B to A in the latter case).

In my experience, (bad) agencies are usually shorter-lived than individuals, but I've also seen quite a few people drop out to pursue other vocations.

The reasons, I'm sure, are more varied than a mere question of language quality. Margins, organization and feasibility also count.


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Suzette Martin-Johnson
Canada
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Henry Nov 10, 2007

Those without a steep learning curve will drop out. Remember, no matter how much help these translators get from this site, clients will pick up on quality issues in the medium term and translators not making the grade won't get much repeat business.

Of course, I always feel the need to add in threads like these that I reserve the right to ask silly translation questions on this site once in a while - and to answer a few too. There's nothing like a fresh pair of eyes when you're frazzled in the middle of a job. I always stress that as a lone freelancer you simply don't have the ability to turn to a colleague and ask "This is clearly brainfreeze, but what is...??!!" Opportunities for this abound in a friendly in-house environment.


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Albert Stufkens  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:50
Member (2008)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Price Nov 10, 2007

Sooner or later the clients will notice that cheap translations will come at a high price!


Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:

We continually complain about unqualified/unprofessional translators keeping us out of business by accepting 0.00001 cent commissions.

Then why do we continue to help them make a living???

An example from one of my language pairs:

A person who's native language in A continues to ask questions about words/phrases from B to C and C to B. The words/phrases are mostly very easy - an ordinary, or occasionally specialised, dictionary - would give you the solution.

I have made a point of no longer answering this person's questions (or agreeing/disagreeing to proposed answers). The fact that I no longer disagree with obviously incorrect answers to this (and other) person might lead to incorrect answers being entered into the term database, but it's not my problem.

As well as Kudos question being asked by people who clearly have no deeper knowledge of the target or source language (let alone the culture), there are translators who routinely ask questions about terminology in fields about which they clearly have no knowledge or understanding.

And yet, the answers keep rolling in.

For some reason, many of my colleagues continue to help these people to, for free, "rob" us. Or rather keep the general rates down.

Were these people to be left on their own they would soon become unstuck.

The rates these unqualified "translators" charge quite clearly affects the rates posted here at Proz. This it's not a major problem for me as more than 90% of my commissions come from other sources, but I can see how this pricing seeps/will seeps through to the translation industry as a whole.


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 10:50
English to Russian
+ ...
Wishful thinking... Nov 10, 2007

Many of us have made the same point, myself including, but...

It's like opening the door and greeting a burglar instead of calling the police, in hope that the burglar is either unexperienced enough and will only take our kitchen towels, or will appreciate our jesture and turn into a missionary next morning. We give way, it's as simple as that. They just laugh, push us farther away, both ask and answer to gain points and keep taking the market over. They don't care, and neither do zillions of today's customers.

How can anyone read the results of Google search and believe differently is beyond me.

The percentage of honest learners can very well be considered negligeable.

Thanks to this "ostrich policy" of hiding heads in the sand we lost many good people in my pair too, together with the privilege of their help. They simply quit opening the Proz page. The "into English" situation is slowly but surely transitioning from critical to catastrophic.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 10:50
German to English
Shady practices Nov 10, 2007

IreneN wrote:

The percentage of honest learners can very well be considered negligible.



As someone who has owned and remodeled houses in the past, I'm very interested in TV shows about home renovation. There's a premium program called "This Old House" on US public television and there is a new one called "Flip This House" that shows the sometimes shady practices of real estate speculators who buy houses cheaply and then try to resell them as quickly as possible, often attempting to hide real problems instead of doing the right thing. If the structural integrity of a building is in doubt, the crew on "This Old House", composed of an architect, master carpenters and plumbing and heating experts, will consult structural engineers and may well end up recommending a rather expensive, but necessary solution to the problem. The speculators on "Flip This House" have no training in construction and would more than likely find a much cheaper but also much more dishonest solution.

It's about expertise and ethics. If I were introduced to the shady speculator I would tell him to his face that he is cheating prospective buyers and could well be placing the lives and financial future of the new owners in jeopardy. If I were a member of a forum on home renovation and one of these speculators started asking questions about the cheapest way to hide a problem, I would want to tell him what I think of him and alert others to his shady practices. Yes, such people may not stay in business for long. The market will sort things out, I suppose. But in the meantime, he's causing serious harm to others. The KudoZ rules prevent us from speaking out plainly about unqualified people taking money for translations, but Madeleine is not advocating confronting them with our considered opinions. She's saying let's at least not help them cheat.


[Edited at 2007-11-10 15:47]


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:50
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone Nov 10, 2007

Kim Metzger wrote:

but Madeleine is not advocating confronting them with our considered opinions. She's saying let's at least not help them cheat.



Thanks Kim – that's exactly what I was trying to get across.

However, I'm not as kind as you are, I think end clients who only look at cost get exactly what they deserve. I assume that when they go to the supermarket and buy "economy" labelled cuts of meat, they don't expect to get filet mignon. And when they buy DVDs from a guy selling out of a suitcase on the corner, they're hopefully aware that they might get something which jumps about on the screen. Then why should they expect to get a quality translation from someone who's willing to supply them at a ridiculously low cost?

Irene – my main concern is not that qualified translators are leaving Proz due to this culture of "encouraging" the unqualified. It's sad when it happens, but I think most stay for the benefits it brings them, i.e. a connection with the outside world when you spend most of your time cooped up on your own, and help when you're translating an annual report and you end up with long sections about the industry that company works in – chemical, medical, sports, etc. – which you have little knowledge of.

Henry, Albert – you're definitely more optimistic than I am. There are always going to be new companies which have no idea about the translation process. It's up to us, and Proz (?), to educate them.

Sven – are you seriously suggesting that having a policy of not offering help to those so called translators, who time and again ask questions in language pairs/subject areas when they are clearly unqualified, is akin to cutting your own nose off, i.e. damaging your own business?


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 11:50
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
On the same wavelength... Nov 10, 2007

Tim Drayton wrote:

The mind boggles at somebody having to post Kudoz questions to find the correct translation of terms such as paleozoik, prekambriyan or tektonik. Heaven knows what kind of a hash this so-called translator made of the job.


For several days we had the same type of situation in one of my language pairs for an NGO subject. It looked like most of the document was being Kudozed. If anyone wants to know why international aid organizations have a hard time achieving their goals, it could well be due to "translators" like this one, who had a hard time with phrases like "the aim of the project". As my grandmother would say: "oy oy oy" - no translation needed!


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