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The quality initiative of a major LSP/zookeeper
Thread poster: KSL Berlin

KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:27
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 28, 2008

I just got a hilarious piece of mail from one of the world's ten largest translation companies. For years now I have turned down projects from this company for various reasons having to do with bad project management (one brilliant PM once insisted that I had to use Trados to translate a TIFF document!), but with few exceptions I have refused to do review work for them, because it is obvious that they use cheap, incompetent translators in many cases, and I've got better things to do than clean up such messes.

Now comes the news that they will no longer routinely check incoming jobs (just statistical "spot checks") and that "partners" are fully responsible in every sense for delivering documents that are ready to ship to the customer with no further review. Not a bad deal for them, I suppose, especially as I strongly suspect that they will resist increases in rates to cover additional QA efforts by translators.

The new "Service Level Expectation" was explained in a document full of grammatical errors. I find it absolutely charming that this top-ten box shifter cares so little about quality that its employees can't even be bothered to proofread their quality policies before distribution

This is yet another example of why I think that, with few exceptions, customers who need an agency are better off avoiding the big players and using smaller, more flexible organizations that know what they are doing or at least care enough to try to figure it out.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:27
English to French
+ ...
Client education and peer education Aug 28, 2008

What you describe, Kevin, only goes to show how important it is to educate clients and peers. I wonder if those "cheap, incompetent" translators have a clue that they will most likely not receive payment or receive only partial payment in many cases if they do decide to work with said zookeeper.

Meanwhile, I think it also may be a good idea if people made official complaints with government organizations on translation quality. I have started placing complaints regarding product packaging and documentation that was so poorly translated that it was downright dangerous to use the product. Our governments require translation of packaging, documentation and the like - but they don't require quality. However, the point is precisly to avoid any accidents and make the use of such products safe. How can that be achieved if the translation is so poor? So, pressuring governments to mandate the use of QA processes and to have all companies pass a quality test before allowing them to sell their merchandise could be useful in keeping zookeepers out of the industry, or at least to have them clean up their act.


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Felipe Gútiez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:27
Member (2002)
German to Spanish
+ ...
You read my mind Aug 28, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

What you describe, Kevin, only goes to show how important it is to educate clients and peers. I wonder if those "cheap, incompetent" translators have a clue that they will most likely not receive payment or receive only partial payment in many cases if they do decide to work with said zookeeper.

Meanwhile, I think it also may be a good idea if people made official complaints with government organizations on translation quality. I have started placing complaints regarding product packaging and documentation that was so poorly translated that it was downright dangerous to use the product. Our governments require translation of packaging, documentation and the like - but they don't require quality. However, the point is precisly to avoid any accidents and make the use of such products safe. How can that be achieved if the translation is so poor? So, pressuring governments to mandate the use of QA processes and to have all companies pass a quality test before allowing them to sell their merchandise could be useful in keeping zookeepers out of the industry, or at least to have them clean up their act.


In Europe there are several European directives dealing with translation of technical documentation. I contacted the people in charge of enforcing these directives (in this case the enforcement is at national level). For my surprise I received a very disappointing result. Some just didn´t answer. Others say that data are not available. Finally I received a link with a detailled explanation in Greek (my ancient Greek knowledge is not good enough to understand this document unfortunately).

I was thinking that there is a gold mine for lawyers who would like to bring a libel action against companies not providing translation/accurate translation of user manuals.
Does anyone know if there is an authority who can decide if a translation is "good enough"?
A company could provide machine translation just to avoid saying that it has no translation at all. Who is going to check if a translation is good enough?
Random tests?

It must be a thread about this in Proz, any hint?

[Editado a las 2008-08-28 17:33]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:27
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Rewards for monkeys Aug 28, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
I wonder if those "cheap, incompetent" translators have a clue that they will most likely not receive payment or receive only partial payment in many cases if they do decide to work with said zookeeper.


The new guidelines state clearly that lousy quality will be penalized. This in itself is actually a good thing, though I hope that this will be professionally handled with appropriate documentation of deficiencies. Our Greek colleague who keeps bringing that subject up does have a valid basic point that objections/changes need to be properly documented.

This change of the business model is also not a bad thing if the company is willing to pay for the extra services required. I have the luxury of a fiancé and business partner with a professional resume as a translator three times as long as mine in the same language pair and many of the same fields, so cheap and competent editing or proofreading on short notice is usually easy to negotiate. But for most people that will put pressure on their margins, which should be met with price increases.

I'm not big on "regular" jobs, but if I had to dream up a fun one, it might be as a government inspector in a consumer protection agency with the responsibility for hunting down and penalizing translations which endanger public safety. I think I've had that fantasy more often than wanting to be a traffic cop when some idiot cuts me off or passes on a blind curve.

Regarding this particular zookeeper, I assume this change of policy is a response to competitive pressures and an attempt to improve margins. Maybe not - as an outsider, I obviously do not have all the facts at my disposal. Maybe quality won't suffer from the lack of rigorous QA by this oh-so-important global player. But the fact that the company won't do a quality check on its own "important" communications is indicative of things to come I think

Fortunately I see a very different attitude toward quality from most of my small and medium-sized agency customers, which is why I usually love working with such people. They bust their tails (some do at least) to deliver real quality to the end customer and get me the resources I need to produce that quality. My experience with the "top ten" agencies has been very much the opposite, so I avoid them with very few exceptions. Life's too short to waste it on bureaucratic zookeepers.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:27
English to French
+ ...
Thanks for the laugh! Aug 28, 2008

Kevin Lossner wrote:

I'm not big on "regular" jobs, but if I had to dream up a fun one, it might be as a government inspector in a consumer protection agency with the responsibility for hunting down and penalizing translations which endanger public safety. I think I've had that fantasy more often than wanting to be a traffic cop when some idiot cuts me off or passes on a blind curve.


Sorry, I cracked up. I strongly relate to what you say, and I, too, would have a preference for being an inspector rather than a traffic cop.

By the way, did you notice how the top ten zookeepers keep using the word top? To me, that word means nothing. An agency can be at the very top in terms of size and at the very bottom in terms of quality. All things being equal...


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:27
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
"Top" in what? Aug 28, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
By the way, did you notice how the top ten zookeepers keep using the word top? To me, that word means nothing. An agency can be at the very top in terms of size and at the very bottom in terms of quality. All things being equal...



Well, they say that size matters, but not always in the way that is commonly assumed. Over the years I have developed an extreme allergy to what I see happening in the largest companies in a number of industries. The recent tales in the papers about prostitutes for the works council at VW or bribery at Siemens are nothing new - I have insider tales of whores on the corporate payroll of General Electric or an old technical director of mine who is said to have kept his secretary as a bondage slave. I occasionally ask myself to what extent our industry is affected by such things and how much the global players have to "grease the wheel" to get the major accounts.

That's not to say that the small players are all angels, but they are closer to earth and easier to work with, and I see more genuine concern among them for the issues of quality and service which I feel are important. It's also possible to trust them and deal with them as real business partners in the real sense of the word, whereas the sheer size of the biggest organizations often makes that difficult even where their practices are good.


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