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When a Translator is bound by editorial space (or lack thereof)
Thread poster: Kimmy
Kimmy
Local time: 00:03
Italian to English
+ ...
Jun 26, 2005

I am doing a translation of a series of articles for a travel magazine and the end client (via the agency) provides the text in Italian and then stipulates the character count (wiht spaces) for the English version...
Up to here, all AOK!!!!

But (and there's ALWAYS a but) I have been given some pretty serious "cuts"...

For example: the Italain version in one file is 1210 characters! I, however, must stay withint a 570 character max for the English version!

Another file is 8300 characters, yet I have only 3500 within which to fit the English version!!!

All very well to cut as you can never NOT cut prose (well almost) but sheesh! These are huge cuts and the original text isn't exactly airy fairy waxing lyrical full of superfluous adjective text!!!!

My question is two fold!

1. How can I paly "Editor" and decide what is superfluous and what is imperative when there is such a BIG cut involved?

2. Why should I get paid on target word count?????

Any ideas? Anyone come across the same constraints?

I have posed the same questions to the Agency but curious to hear from other colleagues!

Thanks!

Kim


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 06:03
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Journalism background??? Jun 26, 2005

I don't think this word count thing is fair for a translator's work. Our job is to stay accurate and objective, but not play the editor and start "cutting the fat" off of the text. That would be a journalist / technical writer / editor's job! I just think that the client wasn't willing to hire both professionals (translator & editor) in order to achieve their goals... Depending on the editing experience and the knowledge in the area, the translator may not fulfill this objective the write way, not for lack of talent, but because that's not the field they're trained to work...

Good luck!


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:03
German to English
+ ...
agree with Rafa Jun 26, 2005

Perhaps you should politely explain to the client the difference between a translator and an editor, and if you feel competent to edit the text, offer to do that work at an hourly rate (on top of translating the full original text) or for a fixed additional fee. To justify charging for the full source text, you can point out that you will have to read and understand the full source text in order to generate a suitable condensation in the target language. However, if you value the client you may have to be prepared to accept a lower rate than usual.

In any case, it's unlikely that you can obtain a good result by simply cutting out bits of text here and there. Instead, at least ideally, you should rewrite the text to omit 'less important' details, etc., while still retaining the gist of the original. That's an art, and not everybody can do it equally well.

As to whether you accept the work under the conditions proposed by the client, I can only say it depends on how much you value the client.

Another possiblity would be to suggest that the client edit the source text down to a character count matching the desired character count in the target language. That puts the responsibility and the burden on the client, and if the client is unwilling to do this, it gives you an argument for charging more.

As a half-serious suggestion (particularly if you want to take the job but don't particularly care about repeat work from the client), you could try using the Word summarise function on the translated text. Who knows, it might yield something useful...

As a general comment, it's not uncommon to see multilingual texts that are far from being equivalent (a good example is in-flight magazines in several languages), and the client presumably has good reasons for imposing the requirements.

[Edited at 2005-06-26 21:43]


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Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 07:03
English
Agree with Rafa too Jun 26, 2005

Your primary job as a translator is to accurately translate the text. Normal billing rates - bill by the source.

After that, it's an editor's job to decide (consulting with the client, of course) what to cut. And I know from experience that the shorter the article must be, the harder it is to make it fit.

Because they are expecting you to wear both hats, I'd ask for both salaries.


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Momoka  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:03
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
They should make the cuts Jun 27, 2005

I don't think it's your job to decide what should go in the translation; this travel magazine must already have in mind what they want to sell/promote, so I would ask them (through the agency, of course) to specify the limits for what they want to be translated...as someone has already said. It's clearly not within a translator's field of work. Good luck!

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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 22:03
English to Chinese
+ ...
As I See It Jun 27, 2005

Most of us would say that it is not our job to decide what should be translated for editorial reasons or because of the specified space in an issue of a magazine or a newspaper.

However, as I see it, our task as translators involves the so-called "précise writing" and that kind of writing demands us to do such jobs as to make brief texts out of those to be translated.

These jobs are pretty well paid --- sometimes three or four, even five times, of pure translation jobs!


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Kimmy
Local time: 00:03
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Wenjer! You may be pretty well paid for this Jun 27, 2005

But I just get the raw end of the deal by receiving only the target count!!!!!

I'll talk to them now! Grrrrrrr........


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N.M. Eklund  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:03
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Copywriting!!! Jun 27, 2005

There's a name for what they're asking you to do, Copywriting.
Charge them the basic translation per word (ex. .10/word), and then charge them (ex. .15/word or by hour) for copywriting work.
Do this only if you think you can do the text justice, if not, then do as the others suggest and supply the full translation, with your bill and a letter saying you're not an editor.

I've had to do this with another client for a while. I accept this because they're a good and steady client, and I charge by source amount.

Hope this helped.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:03
Dutch to English
+ ...
But you've already accepted the job, right? Jun 28, 2005

Not meaning to be rude at all but it sounds to me as though you've already accepted the job.

If the case, it's a bit late now to try and change terms and conditions of your PO.

Has something happened since you accepted the job to warrant you now being able to go back to your client, i.e. did they misrepresent the job in any way, where you not aware that you would be editing and then translating? Did you not accept target word count at the outset?

Unless you can answer any of these questions in your favour, you'll simply have to make the best of it, put the whole thing down to working experience and know and act accordingly next time - you'd have no grounds to revert to client after acceptance and call for more money.

By way of analogy, lots of translators on Blue Board rate an agency down because of its rates - but they knew and accepted the rates before accepting the job. What's the point of the exercise then? - the rate isn't a unilateral decision by the agency. They offered you a job on certain terms and conditions - if you accepted them, unfortunately you are bound unless there has been misrepresentation of some sort.

This is a classic case of why jobs should not be accepted sight unseen.

Hope for your sake you do have grounds and can negotiate a better deal but honestly doesn't sound like it.


Best of luck
Debbie


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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 22:03
English to Chinese
+ ...
You see the matter in a right angle. Jun 28, 2005

Deborah do Carmo wrote:
....

By way of analogy, lots of translators on Blue Board rate an agency down because of its rates - but they knew and accepted the rates before accepting the job. What's the point of the exercise then? - the rate isn't a unilateral decision by the agency. They offered you a job on certain terms and conditions - if you accepted them, unfortunately you are bound unless there has been misrepresentation of some sort.

....


You are right about this matter. If anyone accepts a job with a low rate, there isn't any reason to retreat, unless there is indeed a misrepresentation. In such a case, the translator can stop proceeding with the job. But if the job is already done, there can only be a negotiation for the reason of misrepresentation.

All in all, we translators are on equal grounds as the agencies. We may run an agency as well and rates are never unilateral. We may take a job or just leave it. C'est la vie.


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Kimmy
Local time: 00:03
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Just to clarify Jun 28, 2005

Deborah do Carmo wrote:

Not meaning to be rude at all but it sounds to me as though you've already accepted the job.

If the case, it's a bit late now to try and change terms and conditions of your PO.

Has something happened since you accepted the job to warrant you now being able to go back to your client, i.e. did they misrepresent the job in any way, where you not aware that you would be editing and then translating? Did you not accept target word count at the outset?

Unless you can answer any of these questions in your favour, you'll simply have to make the best of it, put the whole thing down to working experience and know and act accordingly next time - you'd have no grounds to revert to client after acceptance and call for more money.



The situation is this!

I have an ongoing relationship with this agency and they pass me work each month as it comes in. Luckily for me this is a great relationship and has been a good source of work and experience!
As I have already done a similar job (without the cuts) for this end client, I accepted the job and a PO was sent. The text is always interesting and a pleasure to translate.

It was only as the work came in (in dribs and drabs unfortunately as I get it as the end client writes it) I notice that the cuts were getting more and more drastic and thus, unacceptable!
Therefore I feel I have every right to halt work, ask for clarifications and state my terms for going ahead.
Surely if I had seen the job and the cuts and then accepted then I would bite my tongue!
But for this job it was impossible as I get the text as its written and the PO is sent out with the first piece of text (which had no drastic cuts)….
I would never dream of Blue Boarding a negative comment about a client/agency for a job I had already accepted and then realised was a bum deal!
I’d put that down to the learning curve and count my losses!

Kim


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 16:03
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
You translate until the space is used up Jun 28, 2005

If the original text is organised appropriately as a newpaper article, its always possible to shorten it from the bottom by leaving the last paragraphs out. That they do when editing newspaper stuff.
I wouldn-t worry too much.
In the case of tourist information, usually one needs more space for foreign versions, as foreigners know less about the subject than in this case italian readers. But foreigners are usually less interested in details, so texts can also be shortened. It depends on the matter. If properly done text is written in the first place with foreign readers in mind, so translators can concentrate on translating. But many times translators know better than the original author what the foreign reader might be interested in, so its a good idea to let native translators edit the text, even put new information into it that wasn't there in the first place.
A typical example are brochures with cultural programs. Foreign tourists will not attend theater performances, but concerts or operas are interesting. So one should through out all that relates to theater and speach and broaden the scope of concert programs when editing for foreign tourists.
Regards
Heinrich


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:03
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Charge hourly Jun 29, 2005

I agree with the above comments about editing vs. translation. I would charge hourly for this type of work.

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ljilja  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:03
Spanish to Serbo-Croat
+ ...
penso come gli altri Jul 2, 2005

ma se non si puó evitare, deve tagliare quello que le pare, informare la agenzia "ho fatto a modo mio" e ciao. Anzi, e un lavoro creativo, ma si paga (se uno puó fale le condizioni)

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