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Thread poster: Jackie Bowman

Jackie Bowman

Local time: 16:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 26, 2006

In another thread, a Member of Proz had this to say:


… translation is not reserved for people in the third world willing to work for food. I don't care how much one stresses to me that they have a right to work for rock-bottom prices, I am sorry to say that they DON'T have the right to unfair competition.


I wonder if any translators have any comments on this remark?


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:31
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
over and over Jun 27, 2006

Hello Jack,

I seem to recall it was you who decried the practice of mulling this very issue over and over

Cheers,
Mikhail


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Jonathan Faydi  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:31
Dutch to French
+ ...
Jack... Jun 27, 2006

maybe a link to the other post would be nice so that we could have an idea of what was meant in the context, dont you think?

Jonathan


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
What is unfair competition? Jun 27, 2006

Jack Bowman wrote:
I am sorry to say that they DON'T have the right to unfair competition.


I'm sorry to hear that you are sorry. But I'm curious... what do you regard as fair competition? If someone can offer the same as you do, at a lower price, why should that be "unfair" competition? You too can afford to charge the lower price... but for some reason you're not willing to do so. If you can't afford to make a living as a translator unless you charge a very high rate, perhaps you should try something else, don't you agree?


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Jackie Bowman

Local time: 16:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Colleagues ... Jun 27, 2006

Mikhail:

All best wishes to you. And great that you not only saw but also remembered the original thread. A good mind there, I suspect. What I “decried” were the endless complaints on this site about translation rates. My single complaint about the endless complaints spurred one colleague to make what, in my view, is a very bold assertion. I was curious to hear what other colleagues think about that particular assertion.

Normally, I never take part in debates about rates on this site, because almost always the debaters seem to have a somewhat attenuated familiarity with the most basic principles of economics. In this particular case, I wanted to discern others’ opinions about the assertion that I cited. I think it is important.

Jonathan:

Good point from you. I was remiss in that respect. The link is: http://www.proz.com/topic/49800?start=45

Samuel:

Perhaps you misunderstood my original posting. I was not expressing an opinion. I was quoting an assertion made by another translator on this site, and I was asking for other translators’ opinions of that assertion.


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Ramon Somoza  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:31
Member (2002)
Dutch to Spanish
+ ...
My 2 cents Jun 27, 2006

IMHO, there are three types of translators which provide rock-bottom rates:

a) BEGINNERS or people in a very serious economic situation who would normally not accept such rates but who do because they have no choice. They do not realize that in the long term it hurts not only others, but also them. When they wise up (or their economic situation improves) they are likely to raise their rates to a more normal level.

b) BAD translators. They have to accept such rates, because it is the only way that they will get work (from companies offering the same rock-bottom rates and providing lousy quality). Sorry, no way to compete with these except in quality.

c) People from third-world or depressed countries. What we call a rock-bottom rate, for them it may be a very good wage, and their acquisition power is also accordingly. Within THEIR home market that may or not be competitive. The good ones will eventually outgrow their home market and go shopping for jobs more globally (unless they really work in a small niche market) and eventually they will also raise their rates to something like the average. Others will not be so lucky, but will continue surviving.

Now, personally I am considered "expensive" in my "home" market - 95% of my work is outside my country, my rates being typically 50% higher than what agencies usually offer in Spain, which is where I live. And I am usually fully booked.

So am I worried that a translator say from Mexico or Argentina will undercut my rates & bash my market? Nope. If he's good, he will slowly raise his rates as soon as he starts getting more confidence in himself and the new global market, up to a point where we WILL compete with each other, at more "normal" rates. If he's not-so-good, he will not be able to compete with me anyhow, no matter how low his rates are, because my customers are not going to seek low-paid translators that cannot meet the standards they request. That's how market forces work.

So I do NOT consider people from third-world countries unfair competition. Ultimately, in the long run they will either adjust their rates to earn more money like any beginner once he has covered his basic needs and understands the real value of his work, or he will continue forever in the "cheap" class because he is not good enough.

And I personally think that it is unhuman to state that somebody is not allowed to "work for food". What do you expect him to do, starve? ALL of us, in our beginnings, have accepted lower-paid work because we needed the money, because we were unsure about the correct rates, or just to create a minimum customer base. Why should we deny others the same right? And remember, what we consider "low" in their home countries may be "high". Let them grow!


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:31
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
MHO Jun 27, 2006

… translation is not reserved for people in the third world willing to work for food. I don't care how much one stresses to me that they have a right to work for rock-bottom prices, I am sorry to say that they DON'T have the right to unfair competition.

Since I somewhat followed the discussion in that thread, I have to admit: this particular point from Victoria made very little sense.

First, let's establish a simple truth: unfair competition means monopoly, i.e. what Microsoft Corp. does to other companies. What was discussed in the thread cannot be, by definition, unfair competition. Translation is one of the most deregulated sectors (as you, Jack, did point out). As it stands, anyone may quote and even charge whatever they want. What is to prevent me from working for free, if I so desire? There are no such economic principles.

To sum it up, I do not see a valid logical argument to support the point of view presented in the statement at hand.

Nevertheless, I can understand where Victoria is coming from. By virtue of living in an expensive country, Western freelancers (translators in particular) cannot afford to charge low prices. Unless you have a spouse supporting you or something of the kind, you are bound by your minimum living expenses to charge a certain rate. And that rate is going to be higher than the international average.

What many of these freelancers don't realize (or cannot force themselves to admit) is that they are, by default, at an economic disadvantage to compete with their foreign counterparts. Sure, you have to pay your rent, utilities, cell phone, broadband, food, clothes, gas, sex and its consequences, and whatever else. But how is that of any earthly concern to those on the other side of the Earth?

Suppose you tell me that, say, a native Russian-speaking translator isn't really qualified to translate into English but DOES, misrepresenting her skills and qualification. She gets the job and you've wasted your time bidding on the project. But if the premise holds, i.e. she really is NOT qualified, the only jobs she gets will come from customers who value price over quality. Is that the kind of customer you are fighting for? I hope not.

Does that sort of "competition" undercut all of the higher-quality professionals? Not really! How else would *anyone* be able to distinguish a sucky translation from a decent translation from a good translation from a superb translation? Every record of excellence I know of is based on actual experience, not writing "best quality, adequate prices" in your profile.

You have to let customers get burned on some bad translations so they can appreciate the better ones. They are the ones who ultimately decide the linguistic quality of the end product. You can educate them all you want, but if they are not prepared to pay your price, they just won't.

Accept it, and concentrate on your job - translating to the best of your ability, and marketing yourself accordingly.

All of the above is MHO.
Mikhail

[Edited at 2006-06-27 21:49]


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:31
Who on this Earth has THE definition of "unfair competition"? Jun 28, 2006

Samuel Murray wrote:
But I'm curious... what do you regard as fair competition?


I think that Samuel is right, even if he misunderstood who made the statement which is the subject of this thread.

First of all, we would have to determine who on this Earth has THE definition of "unfair competition"? And will the rest of the people accept it?

For people in developed countries, it might be unfair that translators from less developed countries charge fees lower than theirs for the same kind of work.

However, the same people in developed countries might not consider it unfair that, for instance, coffee producers in developing countries are paid rock bottom prices for their coffee, as long as the former can afford their daily cup of latte.

So, when is it unfair, and when it ceases to be unfair?

It seems to me that people have the right to do whatever their countries laws permit them to do, including charging any fees they want, even if they are considered low by other countries standards. Of course, companies in more "expensive" countries also have the right to look for cheaper translators elsewhere in the world. These are the rules of the game, and I do not think I can change them by myself. However, I do think I can look for clients that will pay my rates (as someone said in another thread, the sea is full of fish), and I can decide what kind of coffee I buy, if I do not want to contribute to perpetuating poverty among coffee growers in less developed countries. It might not be much, but I think it is as much as I, as an individual, can do to cope with the situation (I guess discussing the topic in these forums every time the arise might also count). But I might be wrong, and there might be other options out there...


[Edited at 2006-06-28 14:16]


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:31
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
That's why... Jun 28, 2006

"For people in developed countries, it might be unfair that translators from less developed countries charge fees lower than theirs for the same kind of work."

That's why their countries will remain undeveloped. Because they will insist on maintaining the exact same standards of living, and the salaries associated with those standards of living.
How can they ever develop their countries if they work only for food?

As far as "unfair competition", there are plenty of resources to look at. It is a legal issue.
In the translation industry, laws apply as well, especially the law on contracts (uniform commercial code in the US). But when an agency outsources to other countries, then you have international laws which apply... and they have little or nothing to do with prices.

It all depends on how translators view themselves, and what their needs are. If most translators are kids out of school, with no obligations or ambition, and who are happy getting paid 1/4 of a regular accountant's fee, then there's nothing anyone can do about it.

If anyone thinks they deserve better pay, they should be looking for other industries. As I predicted in the past about the lowering of the rates (and I was almost 100% accurate in that prediction), I now predict that the prices will go down further, until the ones who remain in the industry will be just editing translations produced by machines, at a minimum wage per hour.

As far as the agencies (most of which started this...), they are in for a great surprise as well: The end-clients will buy the software, will pre-translate, and will have the agencies competing with each other about the hourly rate of editing...

I have already encountered end-clients with TRADOS systems... more and more end-clients are asking SDLX files from the agencies, and word count based on matches. Two years ago, end-clients appeared who were arguing about "same words here and there" in the text (!) including articles/prepositions... (!). And the high-end clients, started developing their own internal translation departments... with full time translators hired in there, working for "almost-minimum" wage...

The lack of regulation in the business may have seemed to help some agencies increase their profits, but the party lasted only for a couple of years... as any other party does.

It's the agencies alone which can help to reverse this trend, before they start seeing their profits going down the drain by clients who have their own translation tools and their own database of other agencies... including DTP and all other services, usually from agencies located in cheap states/countries (especially in cheap suburbs of cheap States, working online and with no overhead). Keeping the translator's fee at a good level was usually the practice to ensure loyalty, consistency, quality, timely delivery by professionals. Now...

Lefteris


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:31
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
And to be on the subject... Jun 29, 2006

As far as our friend who says
"… translation is not reserved for people in the third world willing to work for food. I don't care how much one stresses to me that they have a right to work for rock-bottom prices, I am sorry to say that they DON'T have the right to unfair competition."

I would say to him:
Why don't you become an agency as well, hire them, make them work for 1 cent per word (or even 2, if you want to be generous), and make a lot of money. What's stopping you? These people will be kissing your hands if you pay them 1/10 of what they deserve... so, instead of getting angry with them, use them. That's why they' re there (they proved it themselves, it's not my words that are "harsh", it's the reality they created themselves, with their own hands...).

You don't have to be a translator only. You may as well sub-contract (I never did it, and if I had a real problem with the current prices, I would just change jobs... what you are proposing is to try to avoid the inevitable).

It's like those computer software engineers in California who were making 300K per years a few years ago, and now they' re lucky if they can make 90K.

Things are changing, rapidly. But the plumbers and the lawyers will always rule... (never reduced their prices).

Lefteris




[Edited at 2006-06-29 00:48]


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pascie  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:31
English to French
+ ...
Not really true Jun 29, 2006

How would you explain that translators in India offer rates at US$ 0.13 and translators, not beginners, in France work for US$0.04? It is not a question of costs of living.
It is sad to reduce this reality to the eternal problem of the WEST-EAST opposition.
All the vehicules, including Proz, have generated the massive downscaling of translator fees by
1) supporting and advertising for tools, that high-end clients will eventually buy;
2) allowing on an everyday basis projects that are outrageously low;
3) not allowing a fair competition, which is against the basic US commerce laws;
4) because of their encryption system, the publicity of the above is widely spread, so available for whoever enters the right keywords.
This kind of vehicule indeed should preserve the interests of the members paying to be supported and informed, by taking actions.
Further on this is available upon request.


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