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It's only a few words, so we want it yesterday...
Thread poster: Nikki Graham

Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:57
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Jun 1, 2005

Why oh why oh why do some clients/agencies, etc. never seem to realise that it's not the number of words that count, but their complexity. While it's true that I can polish off 500 words in next to no time sometimes if the text presents me no problems whatsoever, other times 500 words can take what seems like all day, especially if I'm suffering from accumulated tiredness due to previous projects.

Just need to let off steam, but would appreciate hearing about your experiences.


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Monique Laville  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:57
Italian to French
+ ...
perhaps... Jun 1, 2005

I assume that clients/agencies don't mind about translators eventual tiredness due to previous projects or other.

Anyway, I too can polish off 500 words in one hour sometimes, but the translation of a few words may take even more than one hour.

How can a business define itself as an agency specialized in translation when it does not seem to have a precise idea of what a translation work looks like?


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:57
English to Polish
+ ...
It's part of the job... Jun 1, 2005

A long time ago I was asked to do "one page" for tomorrow.
I thought to ask to see the page before I started the work (this, incidentally, is my personal peeve - "Oh, I don't know what the text is about, something about XXX and YYY, I think").

The page turned to be some sort of insurance policy agreement on the back of some form, written in size 2 font - you know the type. Easily 6 or 7 pages of target text consisting almost solely of heretofores, therebys and hereinaboves.

How disappointed they were to learn I would not take the job.

Pawel Skalinski


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 03:57
German to English
For many agencies, the job is "only words" Jun 1, 2005

In the US, at least, many project managers generally have little or no experience as translators. They quantify jobs in terms of words/pages, not subject matter or degree of text difficulty. Consequently if Translator X can usually translate 300 words/hour (or 1 page, for example), she can do 2 pages in 2 hours. Thus, jobs are offered that are described as "2 pages" when in reality, as someone else has pointed out, the text is in a small typeface encompassing perhaps a few thousand words. It's frustrating, and in many cases, agencies that tend to hire PMs like this frequently have high turnover, so client education is a continuous and frustrating process, much like Sisyphus and his stone.

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Sheila Hardie  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:57
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
it's not the number of words that counts... Jun 1, 2005

Nikki Graham wrote:

Why oh why oh why do some clients/agencies, etc. never seem to realise that it's not the number of words that count, but their complexity. While it's true that I can polish off 500 words in next to no time sometimes if the text presents me no problems whatsoever, other times 500 words can take what seems like all day, especially if I'm suffering from accumulated tiredness due to previous projects.

Just need to let off steam, but would appreciate hearing about your experiences.



Yes, that sounds familiar It's only 500 words - and it's only an illegible PDF file of some obscure document written by hand in pigeon Spanish by a Japanese native brought up in Outer Siberia and taught to write by a blind Russian. Yes, only 500 words - you'll do it in no time!

It's not the number of words that counts - it's the words! But some clients will never get it, will they?

Just off to do another 500 words - should be finished in 10 minutes


Sheila


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 00:57
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Clients would have to walk on our shoes... Jun 1, 2005

I'm glad that most of the project coordinators I deal with are translators themselves, otherwise, it would be hard to explain some of the complexities we have to face on a daily basis.

Regarding the hourly output, for example. When I'm replying to a first-contact email, I let potential clients know that I can come up to 1,000 words / hour when translating from English into Portuguese, my native language. This number didn't come out of the blue and I let them know that it refers to my hourly output when I was part of a team in 2000 that translated, from Monday through Friday, all sorts of technology articles published by Wired News reporters for their Brazilian website.

1000 words / hour is an estimate and I could only come to this output due to the fact that I've worked in the field and specialized in Data Processing during high school. Therefore, those articles were kind of piece of cake for me and would reflect my actual output for the area. But if I have to work with text in other fields, anything can happen. I can get stuck in a word and need to do some research in order to get it right. The amount of time I'd spend researching would take me away from the project, but could only help me out as a professional in a long-term basis.

I think that the bottomline is: clients should understand that we're translators, not walking dictionaries who have all terms on the tip of our tongues nor robot that can produce as fast as a web-translator program and risk the good quality of the final product. And, before being translators, we're all humans... Emotional distress can REALLY slow us down, right?


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:57
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Pet peeves Jun 2, 2005

PAS wrote:

A long time ago I was asked to do "one page" for tomorrow.
I thought to ask to see the page before I started the work (this, incidentally, is my personal peeve - "Oh, I don't know what the text is about, something about XXX and YYY, I think").

Pawel Skalinski


I don't know how many times I've heard that it's not very technical (turns out to be some patent describing a machine you can't even vaguely understand), or not very long (hey, only 1,200 words, just half a days work at least, I can slip that into an already busy schedule with no probs... who needs to eat, sleep, etc. anyway?) or that I'd find it easy! I guess some PMs are just so desperate to find someone to do the translation so they can tick it off their list and stop phoning/emailing everybody they can think of that they'll say just about anything to convince you to do it (even resorting to begging)


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Stefano Papaleo  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 09:57
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
hang'em high! Jun 7, 2005

After all it's a tough dirty job but someone's gotta do it, right?;)
I agree on everything that has been said so far... some clients (mmm... just some? LOL!) just don't get it and I guess they never will. Some should really be hanged in the public square for all to see;)

The motto seems to be "I want it all and I want it now!"... very likely followed by "... and I won't pay you at all!":)))
Things such as deadlines and number of words have just become ridiculous, simply jokes, nonsense... a trip into the twilight zone... anything but realistic.

Let's not forget just 2 things, though:

a) sometimes it's not even their fault (not talking about agencies though... they OUGHT TO KNOW!!!), after all they're presented everyday with automatic translators on the Internet, simultaneous interpreters on tv and conferences who instantly translate, plus... now we use computers... so just press a key and it's all done, right? They don't have the slightest idea what translating is or that all a computer does is switch circuits on and off and you have to tell it what to do all the time.
b) this is business folks, and it's business in the year 2005... fast and cheap... the faster and the cheaper the better, quality is secondary.

If it's so easy and it takes no time... why don't you do it yourself you little genius?:)

Relax... tomorrow's just another chance for a rush job haha!!!

Stefano


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jccantrell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:57
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Same in most other service jobs Jun 22, 2005

I work as a software engineer. We have a saying:

"Good, fast, cheap: Pick any two!"

If we let the client decide, they will start being more responsible.

"You want it tomorrow, no problem, 4 times my normal rate. Oh, you can't pay that much? Then you won't get it tomorrow."

Of course, the client is free to take his business elsewhere, but that is life, and maybe you are better off without that particular client.


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Nadia-Anastasia Fahmi  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 10:57
Member (2004)
English to Greek
+ ...
This sums it all... Jun 25, 2005

jccantrell wrote:

I work as a software engineer. We have a saying:

"Good, fast, cheap: Pick any two!"

If we let the client decide, they will start being more responsible.

"You want it tomorrow, no problem, 4 times my normal rate. Oh, you can't pay that much? Then you won't get it tomorrow."

Of course, the client is free to take his business elsewhere, but that is life, and maybe you are better off without that particular client.


I think you've summed it all in just three sentences... I particularly follow your last suggestion... and it has worked many times to my advantage.


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