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What to charge (if anything) when translation rejected
Thread poster: Mary Watson

Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:19
German to English
+ ...
May 24, 2007

I have worked happily with an agency for almost 3 years. I recently received a financial translation back from them. The client rejected it saying I did not use topic-specific terminology. The translation was of an audit report.

The client had indicated in italics what terms he was questioning, but without any suggestions, or a glossary, and the agency requested that I rework the translation, which I did, and that I submit a written response to the client, with explanations and justifications of my word choices.

I spent a great deal of time last week doing this and presented to the agency and client my reasoning for the choices I made, providing references to dictionaries and websites, including proz.com.

This morning I received another email from the agency saying the client says I am still not specific enough and that he will not pay for what I've done. There was no response to my commentary.

The agency has now decided to hire another translator to rework or retranslate my translation.

The question is: they have asked me for suggestions as to how they should handle my invoice. It was for $300.00.

What should be done in a situation like this? I don't want to lose this agency's business, but on the other hand, I spent quite a lot of time on this translation, and although I cannot be totally objective (of course) I believe that the translation was very good. The agency must have thought so, as well, as they proofread all work sent to them before forwarding it to the client.

Should I offer to charge a reduced rate? Half? Or write it off totally? I would appreciate any input from translators who have faced a similar situation.

Thank you.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:19
German to English
What terminology did you use? May 24, 2007

Mary,

I assume that $300 is for (part of) a long-form audit report, i.e. for German companies a Prüfungsbericht in accordance with IDW PS 450, rather than a standard Bestätigungsvermerk, or published auditor's report on the financial statements in accordance with IDW PS 400.

If you have correctly used the terminology of PS 450 (meaning the English terminology in the IDW translation) for all the audit-related terms, and for the terminology of the IDW PS 450 report itself, the client doesn't have a leg to stand on, as IDW PS 450 is always the primary source of terminology for long-form audit reports relating to German companies.

Similarly, I would assume that you did sufficient research to ensure that client-specific terminology was reproduced correctly.

The agency must have thought so, as well, as they proofread all work sent to them before forwarding it to the client.


That's the bit I don't quite understand. If the agency really did revise your translation and if they were sufficiently satisfied with the revised translation to send it to the client, then the liability (including for non-payment) lies with the agency, not with you.

Robin


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brigidm  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 19:19
Member
Norwegian to English
Ask the agency to get a second opinion. May 24, 2007

Hi Mary. First of all, the agency should be taking on some of the responsbility here - if they've approved it - so-called quality assurance - then they should be giving you some backing now.

I ran into a similar situation recently. More than a month after I delivered the translation to the agency (and had been paid), the end client and/or the client's advertising agency came back to my agency with a list of complaints as to the quality of the translation, that some of it was obviously directly translated, etc. I was devastated, but the agency were very sweet, saying this happens from time to time. I was to go through the list and come back with my responses. Imagine my surprise and relief when it became obvious to me that someone along the line had decided to add various 'improvements' to my original translation! It ended up with me conceding two out of the whole list were justified complaints, which I would be more than happy to rework, but I did not consider the other complaints to apply to my work. What also irritated me - and I mentioned this - was that some of the queries regarding terminology and other non-technical expressions were queried - by people who obviously did not have english as their native tongue, nor what I would call a good working knowledge. In other words, they were obviously not qualified to come with such blatent criticism of something for which they were not competent to do so.

To cut a long story short, the client came back and admitted that, somehow, the text they had referred to was in fact not the translation I had delivered, and that they totally agreed with all my comments.

What was funny was that this same translation agency had asked me the week before for a second opinion on another translator's work that had also been returned by the client. They asked me to use an hour to go through it and give my professional opinion of the comments made by the client. This showed that the agency not only takes complaints seriously, but that they are willing to spend money when necessary to get a second opinion in such cases. Your agency obviously does not - they seem to be shirking their responsibilities here, and I would make a phone call to speak to your regular contact about this. Why haven't they come with their opinion? Do they consider the client's comments to be justified? After three years of good collaboration (it must be, since they still use you) and earning some revenue for them, I think you should remind them of this and ask them to be more active here.

Good luck!


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
Similar situation May 24, 2007

Hi Mary, I found myself in a very similar situation late last year. I was asked to do a translation that was supposedly a medical translation but was really quite simple in comparison to what I normally do.

After working diligently on it for several days, I sent it off and assumed all was well. A few days later, the agency wrote to say that the client wasn’t happy with the translation and gave one, IMHO, ridiculous example of the “bad” translation I had done. When I answered the complaint with an easily verifiable example proving the accuracy of the word I had chosen to use, the client suddenly decided he didn’t want the translation at all. The agency asked me if I would give them a discount on my work. I quite decidedly told them NO, as all I knew at that point was that the client was in the possession of my work and was unwilling to discuss with me any truly relevant changes that might be needed. (There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there looking for cheap translations and they’ll do or say whatever it takes to get a reduced price.)

I billed them for the entire translation and eventually they paid me for all my work. (I thereafter made a blue board posting of the agency (giving them a 5) and stating how professional they are.)

I personally guarantee my work and am aware that each agency and client may have its own criteria, but I believe that unless someone (agency or client) is willing to discuss changes with you (in person, over the phone or even by email) you have every right to expect to get paid in FULL. It’s time for translators to stop grovelling.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:19
French to English
One possibility? May 24, 2007

These situations are all individual, really. I would agree that the agency, having proof-read it, should take some responsibility.

The tricky bit is that no-one yet seems to have told you what they wanted to see, in place of what you actually did. This is perhaps possible - one can know that something is wrong, without necessarily knowing what is right. But if the client knows what they were expecting (for some given specific terms), they should tell you. Then you can guage how "bad" your version was.

Pending that happy day, I would suggest perhaps waiting for the new, and accepted, version to materialise. Then base any possible reduction on how different it is from yours. If it's radically different, bearing no relation and translated by someone who is more expert than you in that particular field, maybe write it off to experience. If the differences are minor, stand your ground.

You can only really judge it based on a comparison between what you delivered and what the client wanted, IMO, and for that, one way or another, you need hard evidence: as I say, either a list of corrctions, or an accepted version.


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Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:19
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the suggestion May 24, 2007

The idea of waiting for my decision on the invoice until I see the secondary version is really a great one - the client has not provided any guidance on what he was expecting and the agency has not responded to me on my original commentary and explanation.

Also, as in the prior posting, I had the feeling when reading the initial feedback that the client/proofreader was not a native English speaker.


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:19
German to English
+ ...
Don't "offer" anything? May 24, 2007

I've never been in this situation before, but I wouldn't "offer" anything, especially considering the dollar amount. I would insist on full payment. What share of your overall work does this agency represent? Could you afford to lose them? I'm not sure of the legal situation, but it seems like the agency would have to explicitly justify their reasons for rejecting your revised translation.


In the $300 range, I'm just not sure it makes sense to request a second opinion, as others have suggested.

Quoting RobinB:

If the agency really did revise your translation and if they were sufficiently satisfied with the revised translation to send it to the client, then the liability (including for non-payment) lies with the agency, not with you.


Doesn't the ultimate responsibility lie with the agency regardless, as Mary's contractual partner? Of course as a translator one is responsible for delivering a text in compliance with customer terminology, requirements, etc. But especially since they forwarded the work on to the end client... Maybe we are both saying the same thing here.


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lingomania
Local time: 03:19
Italian to English
Never a total rejection May 25, 2007

I have had translations discussed and double-checked by agencies and end clients alike, but never totally rejected. Any client who totally rejects a translation should have very STRONG grounds before attempting to do so.

Robert


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:19
English to Dutch
+ ...
Only once May 25, 2007

Only once, very early in my career as translator, I had a translation rejected completely. The agency in question paid me in full for the job however. Which was kinda neat.

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Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:19
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Reply from agency May 25, 2007

Hi Everyone,

Thank you all for your suggestions and stories of your own experiences. I received an email this morning from the agency responding to my request for feedback. They didn't answer any of my specific questions, in particular regarding the customer's reply to my comments and questions on the original rejection, but did say they will forward the rework of the other translator when it is done.

The main thing, which I find sort of infuriating, was that the client, didn't feel that the translation had a "topic-specific character" to it. So, no specific criticism, more of a feeling on his part.

This is just so frustrating - how does a translator dispute a feeling? Sorry for rambling -


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 20:19
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
no substantiation? Jun 9, 2007

Some solution:

a) do not get nervous, always be kind and up for a mutual solution;
b) if the client is unhappy about the job, please request them a clear substantiation why - at least a general list of the most critical things "they did not like" done by a competent person;
c) if their claims are not substantiated or you do not receive any explanation - the end of the story. It is not you who has to prove that the job was really OK - it is them to indicate what is wrong (real or supposed mistakes at least).
d) even if their claims are substantiated (well, anyone can make mistakes), or the client just had some "own" prefereces on terminology and other things (indicated in their response and detailed), spend some time and make these as requested (better not to get involved into a dispute that could lead to nothing) and put a note that you implemented what they requested but your preference is your version.
e) if you offered collaboration and improved/made what the client requested, that is it - they can refuse to pay only in the case if there are obvious mistakes and you refused to correct them without giving a reason. if the agency re-hires someone else - their problem (not yours) as long as you did point a)-d) and offered cooperation on solving the problem.

P.S. Forget about that agency









[Edited at 2007-06-09 21:45]


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Mary Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:19
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The story gets stranger Jun 10, 2007

Hi to everyone and thank you for your suggestions,

I wanted to let you know the latest development- I received the "reworked" documents. I was happy to see that the translator who did the rework wrote to the agency that there was nothing wrong with most of my translation, just a matter of style. He made a few comments, however, on some terms that he disagreed with and noted that I had written all of the numbers in German wrong. This really upset me as this is pretty basic stuff, and when I received his copy, saw that he had highlighted the incorrect number transcription in yellow - there were about 3 full pages of numerical errors.

I know we all make mistakes, and I had been pretty stressed during the time I did this translation, but I know I would never make a basic error like this. So I pulled out what I had originally sent to the agency and compared it with the changes. To my astonishment, the pages which had been heavily criticized were not my work at all! They must have been changed by someone at the agency.

I wrote back to them, resending my original work - this was almost a week ago and I haven't heard anything since!


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MariusV  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 20:19
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
interesting... Jun 10, 2007

Mary,

1) were the "terms disagreed" a) incorrect terms (terminology mistakes) you used and then re-translated correctly by that translator or b) were just "a matter of preference" (both of you were correct, but used slightly different options)?

if it was the case of a), have they pionted that out from the very beginning when they criticized your translation ? and if it was the case b), did that other translator mark these as "mistakes" (not preferences) and has he/she substantiated why these are mistakes (not options out of several)

2) I understood that you did not make errors in numbers + the text they criticized was not your actual work, but the text "after revision" by some stupid reviser done by the agency itself?


If it is not your text they criticized ("To my astonishment, the pages which had been heavily criticized were not my work at all!"), the agency shall, at least, apologize you and that issue shall be closed. If they do such nonsenses, do not even go into further disputes with them - send a full invoice and that is it. Do not even bother if they keep silent - not your problem.


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