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Why would a French agency be looking for translators in India???
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:32
English to French
+ ...
Nov 24, 2005

Hello all,

I saw this job posting today and was wondering why an agency in France, looking to translate from French to English, would want to have the job done in India. I quote the job posting:

Hello,

We are looking for a company based in INDIA which can translate from french into english documents in different fields :

- patents
- automotive documents
- commercial brochures
- medical documents
- technical documents
- ....

We would have a minimum of 200 000 words per month.

If you are able to deliver english translations for thoses kinds of projects, please answer ASAP giving us different references jobs, translators resume, price per word (...)

I would need detailed answer for tommorrow if possible.

I would appreciate an answer in french if possible.

UNQUOTE

I am just wondering if it could be that this agency wants to get dirt-cheap rates for a large volume of work. If so, are agencies all over the world starting to turn to India and other Eastern countries well known for ultra low rates to get work done? Wouldn't this then be a form of treason with regard to the industry in general? If agencies started to behave this way, wouldn't translators all over the world be forced to accept Indian rates? This is a blood-chilling phenomenon.

Please tell me it's not true!!!


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:32
Dutch to English
+ ...
Perfectly legal business practice Nov 24, 2005

It is generally known as free trade.

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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:32
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Well... Nov 24, 2005

Hi Viktoria,

Welcome to life. People in India like to work as much as everywhere else. For whatever reason their prices are lower than in other places. If they can cough up the goods for a lower price then there is no reason not to look in India for a provider. Of course, that was a big if.


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alvanice
Local time: 09:32
English to French
+ ...
A reappraised rate Nov 24, 2005

Translators from all over the world should calculate their rates depending on the country they are going to deliver the work in order to be in loyal competency with their peers living in countries where cost of life is higher.

[Edited at 2005-11-24 16:53]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:32
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, but what about the rest of us? Nov 24, 2005

I understand Marijke's point about free trade and Edward's point about "the simple equation", but, regardless, if agencies were to all behave like the one I mentioned in the first message, wouldn't other translators in the world be robbed out of their work, or forced to accept low rates?

For now, I have the choice to refuse translation at 2 cents per word and I always use that choice. But if agencies keep going the way this particular agency is headed, soon enough, I, and others, will only have the choice to either work and be poor or not work at all and be broke. Is that why we invested a lot of time and money into getting diplomas and setting up offices?

However, I also compare this job posting example to situations like Nike shoes being made in Asia, where some are ready to work for 50 cents an hour, doing the same job that's paid 10$ per hour in the States. This has two very serious consequences: the people who normally would have done the work in the States get robbed out of their jobs, and the people in Asia who are somewhat happy with their 50 cents per hour are overexploited, by not getting vacations, having to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and losing their job if they dare to take a day off because they have high fever. Essentially, the people who get the job are treated like slaves and Nike supports that philosophy, all the while the people who don't get the work - well, they don't get the work.

I think this job posting is pretty much the same kind of phenomenon. Someone in France decided that French translators won't get the job (by the way, I am not in France, but do I sympathize with them) because they are "too expensive", while they give the work to people in India because they charge low rates, but the Indian translators will probably have to work 16 hours a day to get the work done in time (as they often have extremely tight deadlines).

Also, if agencies behave this way, some of the Canadian ones (where I live) could also start applying this philosophy, and I will have to either accept that my clients will not pay more than two cents per word, or go work in a bar for tip.

What I am saying is that, eventually, a great number of agencies all over the world might adopt this philosophy, and then all the rest of us will be out of work, or forced to work at rates that will not even allow us to keep buying office supplies we NEED for work - thereby eventually getting poor.


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:32
French to English
La vie est dure! Nov 24, 2005

Hi Viktoria

You raise an interesting point, but the fact of the matter is that we cannot, in the name of intellectual honesty, complain if agencies seek the cheapest rates wherever they may be. Nowadays we in the western world are feeling the pinch but how many of us remember that India once had a reasonably flourishing motor industry until it collapsed under the challenge of foreign constructors? Not much commiseration in the western world as I recall!

Luckily, there remains the question of quality. If our Indian colleagues are up to the mark, then good luck to them. On the face of it, however, we surely have an advantage not only in purely linguistic terms but also in our awareness of a whole range of political, social, economic and cultural issues.

Barnaby


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Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 04:32
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
The problem is not what agencies do Nov 24, 2005

The problem is not what agencies do, the problem is what translators accept.

I met an agency owner from France and he told me that his best Bulgarian translations were made by an Indian agency.
The translator was not Indian and he might not have been living in India, I don't know. But I'm sure that that translator has never heard of international rates or has never imagined that he could live much better with other rates.

Agencies can try, but as freelancers we should be aware that some of our colleagues might need information and help to open their eyes.

Claudia


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Burkhard Ziegler  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:32
Russian to German
+ ...
Come to the low price country Germany! Nov 24, 2005

ViktoriaG wrote:
Also, if agencies behave this way, some of the Canadian ones (where I live) could also start applying this philosophy, and I will have to either accept that my clients will not pay more than two cents per word, ...

What I am saying is that, eventually, a great number of agencies all over the world might adopt this philosophy, and then all the rest of us will be out of work, or forced to work at rates that will not even allow us to keep buying office supplies we NEED for work ...



Unfortunately, some agencies in the Western World already DO behave like this:

Translations at 0.40 EUR per line

On the other hand, there are ads in newspapers for Russian speaking residents in Germany offering certified translations of birth certificates at 3.00 - 5.00 EUR (in words three to five euros) at all what normally would start at least at 15.00 EUR net and might reach upto 30.00 EUR net.

This seems to less than in Moscow or Svetlogorsk-na-Berezine, Gomel'skya obl., Belarus.

alvanice wrote:
Translators from all over the world should calculate their rates depending on the country they are going to deliver the work in order to be in loyal competency with their peers living in countries where cost of life is higher. ...


I am afraid, nobody in Asia or Eastern Europe does so. If even some agencies or colleagues - even BDÜ members - in Germany do not so...


Let's look around for other forms of employment / earning money...


My two BYR


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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Two sides Nov 24, 2005

Barnaby Capel-Dunn wrote:
India once had a reasonably flourishing motor industry until it collapsed under the challenge of foreign constructors?

Thank you Barnaby, although you live in a beautiful country you try to see both sides.

I live in a low-income country (as some call it in Proz.com), so many times I presume my rates are lower than those of translators living in 'cultural' countries. But not always (you have enemies on your side too). I mean, if you think a US$.03 is 'unethical' in India, what about a US$.06 rate in Europe and US?

However, I am not stealing jobs from you, I am competing in a free democratic market created by US (maximized by Internet, also created by US). Maybe Canadians are very good in some things, but not very competitive in other things. You should also learn something about India's history and their English skills. Regarding capacity and skills, well, ask US Companies where they get their software developers from.

In my opinion, if there is somebody that can do the same job I do for half the price I am out of the market. And judging quality is not our call as translators, but the clients'.

[Edited at 2005-11-24 17:24]


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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Loyal competency Nov 24, 2005

alvanice wrote:
loyal competency


'Loyal competency'? according to who? Do you really think it is loyal competency to charge the same price?

We have colleagues from Canada who think translators from the 'low-income countries' are thieves. It is like starting a race running backwards. You first need to show the world you can be reliable and only then start running.


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Ana Cuesta  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:32
Member
English to Spanish
Just because something is legal, it doesn't mean it is fair Nov 24, 2005

In many countries, there are laws protecting the employee such that the employer must pay her a minimum wage for a maximum number of hours per week, grant her a certain number of holidays per year, contribute a certain amount to her social security plan, etc... The fact that the same employer can get away with hiring freelancers to do the same work which don't enjoy the same benefits (be it in their own country or abroad) is from my point of view a hole in the legislation.

The legislators must have thought we freelancers are business savvy-people who can take care of themselves when negotiating rates with employers. Sadly, it seems that's not true in the so-called developed countries, so what can we expect from developing ones?


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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 10:32
Member (2005)
Arabic
+ ...
It's translators' problem Nov 24, 2005

Claudia Iglesias wrote:

The problem is not what agencies do, the problem is what translators accept.

Claudia


This is all in one sentence. I was about to post a topic discussing the same problem some days ago, but I hesitated as I had too much to say, and knew that those I'm against would never listen.

Claudia Iglesias wrote:

But I'm sure that that translator has never heard of international rates or has never imagined that he could live much better with other rates.

Claudia


This is one side of the problem. The other side is about those who actually know exactly what they are doing and still doing it. They accept lowest rates not knowing the negative affect it has overall translation business. It's even worse when some of those translators are no more than beginners; they take more jobs while ruining the art of translation. And the worst at all is when the agency/ outsourcer actually knows nothing about the target language. They take the document translated (it is cheap, mirroring format, perfect DTP, and always on time because the translator didn't have to spend time on his/ her translation), but knows nothing about the words within.

The result? More bad translation outputs by more bad translators with lower prices, and less jobs for good translators even with reasonable prices.

I have a solution that may solve this problem, but I also know that it can't defeat it. Proz is the first community of translators online … why not set a minimum value for rates. I understand that it may not totally help to do so, but it may also give an idea to those who don't know at least.

Crazy idea? Unreasonable? Maybe … but I couldn't think of anything else


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Fred Neild  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Fierce competition Nov 24, 2005

Ana Cuesta wrote:
, so what can we expect from developing ones?


You can expect a fierce competition.

Fifteen years ago I remember the imported goods from Asian countries, they were laughable (we thought in South America). We shouldn't have underestimated them, maybe we could have learnt something. Of course, US knew this.

Still, there are many things it is very difficult to provide from developing countries. As always, only the best will discover them and continue in the race. The rest will complain developing countries are stealing jobs.


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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 10:32
Member (2005)
Arabic
+ ...
Excuse me! Nov 24, 2005

Fred Neild wrote:

alvanice wrote:
loyal competency


'Loyal competency'? according to who? Do you really think it is loyal competency to charge the same price?



According to us; including you, as translators. You don't need to charge the same price, but you can set a minimum!! Why not thinking that it's not only your colleagues' loss, but also yours!!


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:32
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the reactions Nov 24, 2005

Hey everybody,

Thanks for all the different opinions/insight on this topic.

I just wanted to add a few points.

We all seem to be pointing at the same solution, which would be educating translators across the world about decent rates for their geographical areas. I agree that translators, regardless of where they are, should establish rates according to their market. However, when agencies decide to switch markets in order to get lower rates, our respective markets are being abandoned. This has some serious consequences on translators' revenues.

My boyfriend is from Quebec city, and he studied computer graphics. Their teacher taught them about the market and when they finished their studies, all of the people in his class firmly decided that they will not sell their services under $12 per hour. They understood that by lowering the price they charge, they will hurt their own market. All was well - until one of them was so motivated to get a job in his trade that he accepted $8 per hour. Quebec is a rather small city and this news got around fast. Employers started to pay lower wages for this type of work - which resulted in a bunch of people with computer graphics diplomas in their pockets, working in BARS! Out of the thirty people who were in this class, two ended up working in computer graphics - one at $8 per hour, and another at $16 per hour - my boyfriend. The market died out in Quebec after that.

So, the problem really is caused by translators who don't establish their rates according to the market they work for. But how could they, when the Indian translator in this case is going to work for an Indian agency? He will not readjust his rates, not knowing that his work is going to France. For him, he is working for an Indian agency, with Indian rates, and that's fair enough. Had he known that his work is going to France, he probably would have tried to charge more - as long as he is educated enough to figure that out.

As for India's once flourishing motor industry, am I supposed to work for lower rates out of compassion for the once flourishing motor industry of India? Let's say I accepted 2 cents per word here, in Canada, working for an Indian agency. Wouldn't I be robbing Indian translators out of their work? This is also true. So, whether their motor industry died out is not really my concern, just as it is not an Indian translator's concern that while they get a 2-cents-per-word job, I am not working because they got the same job I wanted, only I didn't, being too "expensive". They are real happy and feel real smart about having snatched the job away, from someone in a developed country to top it off.

Claudia, what can I say, you summarized the real problem quite efficiently. The question is, is there any way to attract the attention of translators worldwide to this concern, and are they willing to do their share in this? That has always bugged me and, I am afraid, it always will.

Burkhard, this is incredible! I would never have imagined that this could happen in Germany! Outrageous! On the other hand, I have seen people here in Canada, not even taking contracts from outside of the continent, accepting rates that are dangerously close to the ones in India. These are people in a developed country, having been to university, certified in translation, with a complete set of dictionaries, computer(s), high-speed connections, faxes, platinum memberships, the whole shebang! I spoke to one of them recently, and tried to explain to her that what she is doing by accepting such low-rate work is what will eventually kill her own market. She said "Yeah, but that's all that gives. I take what I can, and if there are no better paying contracts, I will take whatever comes along". Hello?!? Anybody listening? It's because of attitudes like this that low-rate contracts are the only ones available in the first place. I then don't understand how it is possible that I have a steady flow of work at decent rates. I really don't. The person I just mentioned lives in the same town where I live and she works on the same market!

Fred, I just wanted to say that I don't consider 3 cents unethical in India, but it is unethical in Canada. Now, if that rate eventually became a standard in Canada, then we would have an overall unethical market. I have nothing against the fact that you accept lower rates than I do and even commend you for having worked for "developed country" rates despite the fact that you are in a country under development. This would actually raise rates for people all over the world - and wouldn't it be great if rates in India were closer to rates in Canada or other developed countries? Everybody would win - rates in developed countries would be safer, and translators in India would have a better life. However, as for Indian software developers, I don't think that it's because they are better that they are chosen by US companies (they take the same Microsoft certifications as Americans after all), I think it's rather because an Indian developer would accept wages far lower than what is considered ethical in the US. It's not because most textile products on the Canadian market come from Asia that Asians are better at it - it's just that Asians charge much less for production than Canadians do. The Canadian textile industry is suffering right now because of this. You also say "In my opinion, if there is somebody that can do the same job I do for half the price I am out of the market." This is exactly my concern. And no, I don't consider you steal jobs away from me, as we probably don't evolve on the same market. However, I would be glad to know that you come to my market as long as you make the effort to charge rates close to the standard on my market. This would actually make the rates over here stay healthy - and contribute in a positive way to your career and your life quality.

Ana, your comment is short and sweet - and 100% right. As translators are not employees, we don't have insurance, we don't have guaranteed minimum wages and, most importantly, we don't have ANY legal standards. So, we have to stick up for ourselves because we don't have unions or governments looking out for us. The sad thing is, many don't realize this.

Dina, I totally agree! This is what a lot of people don't realize: we are all sitting in a tree and we are cutting the trunk underneath ourselves. It is bad for me and it is bad for all of us. This is what loyalty is all about. By accepting ridiculous rates, not only am I underselling myself, but I am forcing others to accept such rates also. Not loyal!

Just a point lightly related to this thread: don't you all think it is weird that, as service providers, translators are hardly allowed to set their own conditions? I mean, if I do the job and I bill for it, the contract should be based on MY conditions. Just a thought to ponder...

[Edited at 2005-11-24 18:28]

I just wanted to attract attention to this: I am not saying it's not OK for an Indian translator to accept 2 cents per word, I am saying it's not OK that a French agency is seeking to get the job done by people who will accept 2 cents per word and they go to a totally different market to get it. There.

[Edited at 2005-11-24 18:32]


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