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If you are paid to do translation ONLY, how ready should your translation be for publishing?
Thread poster: ViktoriaG

ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:18
English to French
+ ...
Jan 6, 2008

I have been wondering about this for a while - this might be a can of worms...

As most of us already know, translation includes translating sentences and proofreading your translation yourself (usually one run for terminology and style and one run for typos, punctuation and such). It does not include proofreading by a different person, editing, proofreading, DTP (translators should do their best to keep the formatting but don't have to improve the formatting and are not liable for a badly formatted source document) and other tasks that may be part of the process leading to the final document.

When I quote a rate for strict translation work, I always quote one that matches the above described parameters. If I also had to do DTP work, for example, I would charge more. Recently, I've seen topics in this forum as well as other communications elsewhere where it was discussed that agencies try to lower the rate payable to the translator because of a few errors. However, in my view, it is OK to make a few errors, especially when said errors may not exist since they aren't even documented. This is precisely why there are also editors and proofreaders working in translation. Nothing will ever replace the work that these people do and their work should be mandatory. Editors and proofreaders catch errors and correct them. That is their purpose. Is it OK for an agency to forego the use of editing and proofing services and make the translator liable for the slightest error when the translator was only paid for translation? Clearly, by not using these editing services, the agencies save considerable amounts of money and significantly increase their profit margin. They already win. How can they then hold the translator liable when they are finally forced to hire editors and proofreaders to make sure the documents are on par with their clients' expectations? If we add to this the fact that most translators are already paid rates that are inferior to what is considered "standard" (whether it is the translator's or the agency's fault is another separate issue), something emerges that I like to call the milking of the translator.

My question is this: when you are paid to do translation, strictly, how ready should your translation be for publishing? I am wondering about this because I have been noticing how most agencies are increasingly expecting top notch translations that are ready to be published, while the only person having ever worked on the translation is the translator, and no separate editing, proofing or DTP was performed. In some cases, translators even get threats that if their translations don't match the expected quality, they will be brought to court to pay for the damages caused to the agency's financial health and reputation.

In my opinion, liability for a translation only goes so far as the translation. What's your opinion?


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 07:18
Spanish to English
+ ...
Hi Viktoria, Jan 6, 2008

I was just wondering along similar lines, as I'm working on a text which I know will be re-worked numerous times before publishing (a novel in this case).

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

I am wondering about this because I have been noticing how most agencies are increasingly expecting top notch translations that are ready to be published, while the only person having ever worked on the translation is the translator, and no separate editing, proofing or DTP was performed.


Most of the time though, my work is slightly less pleasurable, and I too have noticed that some agencies I do regular work with advertise that they PROMISE proofreading and editing by a second reader, etc., when I know that there is no way they had time to fulfill the promise before handing my translation to the end client. In other words, I am my own second reader. Funny- I don't recall getting a cheque for the extra proofreading...:).


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astrid  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:18
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
+ ...
I would not be happy with myself not returning the best job possible Jan 7, 2008

I am sorry, but I must take issue with this posting. Maybe it is because I am a perfectionist, but I always strive to return the best possible document. This does include formatting, any and all editing, etc. It is my hope that the agency will use an editor, but I must assume they will not. I feel that anything I return should be ready to be forwarded directly to the end client. Do I always succeed? Of course not, and I am then very happy to receive comments back from the agency so the next time I will hopefully not make the same mistakes.
Astrid Homan - Dutch to English translator, having been in business for over 10 years (and having learned that repeat customers are the best!)


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:18
English to French
+ ...
different job... Jan 7, 2008

From my experience (translation of computer books), publishers expect not only translated text, but also more or less localized examples, localized screen captures (which imply install & config of software, sometimes some programming), table of contents and index, all this nicely formatted. Usually, the formatting of the source isn't used (it has to fit in the publisher's collection, not look like the original).
Although they don't require a perfect work (their proofreaders can correct errors), you have to understand their styles and use them in an adequate way... You get a predefined stylesheet and precise instructions for that.
It's not overly difficult, but it's a different job than a simple text translation for a translation agency.
You obviously get quicker after a while, so either you like it and translate many books, or find it too difficult and drop book translation quickly...

I have not heard of such book translations handled by a translation agency.
In other areas (like literature) it may be very different.


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Suzette Martin-Johnson
Canada
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Hot debate! Jan 7, 2008

Hi Ms Gimbe

I must say this topic is one for debate. I was just getting hot under the collar earlier in a thread when persons were asserting that 4,000 - 5,000 words of translation per day was normal. I was particularly irritated because when I send translations in, I am a formatting and proofreading freak and like to make sure that the t's are crossed and the i's dotted. I don't use fancy DTP software, but present things very nicely in Word or Excel/ PowerPoint as appropriate, at a high quality level.... I try to make sure that if the agency were a lax one that sent things out without proofreading, I would have nothing to fear.

To be honest, after debating with people who churn out really high word counts I am beginning to wonder whether my quality is too high and this is compromising that all-important word count. For example, if at all possible I like a good deadline with my translation so I can put it down overnight and re-read it the next day with a fresh pair of eyes. I know formatting and reading through a gazillion times takes up a lot of my "translation" time. Am I going above and beyond here?

I guess it depends on your understanding with your client. Maybe you should have two quality levels: operational and publication, charging more for the latter. For now, however, I only submit documents that I am confident can be published. But I know my regular agencies proofread and am very grateful for it!!

Will be interesting to see what others have to say on this!


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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 08:18
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Perfectionism pays. Jan 7, 2008

Astrid Homan wrote:

I am sorry, but I must take issue with this posting. Maybe it is because I am a perfectionist, but I always strive to return the best possible document. This does include formatting, any and all editing, etc. It is my hope that the agency will use an editor, but I must assume they will not. I feel that anything I return should be ready to be forwarded directly to the end client. Do I always succeed? Of course not, and I am then very happy to receive comments back from the agency so the next time I will hopefully not make the same mistakes.
Astrid Homan - Dutch to English translator, having been in business for over 10 years (and having learned that repeat customers are the best!)


I regularly correct formatting errors, suggest (in a separate document) improvements to the text, and proofread obsessively. My suggestions are always expressed as tactfully as possible; "Respect the original author/text" and "Respect the client" are watchwords for me. So far, I have never had a complaint because of my suggestions and corrections. On the contrary, I have gotten repeat jobs because of my "going the extra mile," and have gotten new jobs through word-of-mouth recommendations from those clients.

I primarily work directly for the end client. But once, when turning in an agency job, a mentor of mine told me to "run a spell check before you submit this to [the agency's] second reader." The boss overheard him and said, "Don't worry, Jane always turns in very clean work." That was better than getting a gold medal!

Every situation is different. My way of working may not fit every translator's reality. I certainly identify with Victoria's concern; sometimes I get annoyed by, for instance, an article with headings and subheadings inconsistently marked (italics for one, bold for another, all caps for one, initial caps for another, etc.). But I'm not psychologically capable of turning in that job without correcting the inconsistency or error, and that has worked for me.

Be well!

Jane


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:18
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Replies Jan 7, 2008

To Astrid:

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that a translator should just get it over with and rake in the cash. I, too, like to make sure that everything is as close to perfection as possible, and especially with my favorite clients, I don't mind going the extra mile to make them happy. However, I do object when a client comes back to me asking why there was an extra row in that table (in the case of a badly formatted source document) or why the fonts have changed (proprietary font was used by the client, which they omitted to send along with the material), telling me their client is angry. I always tend to ask "you didn't just send that translation off to the end client like that, without further looking at it, did you?". I also have a problem when I am blamed for a style mistake that to me isn't a mistake. They argue that the client didn't like that - well, can I guarantee that the client will have the same tastes in style that I do? Isn't it the editor's and project manager's job to sort that out together? To my knowledge, I used the most appropriate style for the document - if the client likes another style, but I am not aware of it, how can I be held accountable? I will not get into the usual discussion of how a translator simply can't edit and proofread him/herself - these tasks should always be done by someone other than the translator. If an agency doesn't use such services, isn't it at their own risk? I mean, it is the agency who agreed with the client on what the service will consist of and I am no project manager. That is their job, that is what they get paid for - or no?

This is not about refusing to do the slightest bit more than what I get paid for - this is more about being held liable for my share of the work, and nothing more. I somehow feel that often, many of us are paid the simple translation rate but deliver translation + editing + proofreading + DTP, or else, the client will refuse to pay.

So, what I would like to know is how close to publishing-ready should a translation be after only the first step in the process, translation. Consider that no matter how carefully you work and no matter how perfect a document you deliver, if your translation was showed to an editor, it is guaranteed that the editor will find something wrong with it. But in most cases, the editing step is skipped and the document is delivered as such to the end client. If the end client is unhappy, why should the translator be liable? It is the agency who didn't judge it necessary (or lucrative) to use editing services.

To islander1974:

Don't worry, I agree that anything over 3000 words per day is, as you said, either the work of a genius or total crap - with a few exceptions maybe.

I also like to make sure my translated document retains the original formatting, but I can only go so far. Some source documents are so poor that if I was to correct the wrong stuff, it would take me twice as much time to finish the job. Well, since the client isn't paying for that part of the service (and since it doesn't appear in the contract), why should I waste my time when I could be working on another job instead?

You mention, however, that you fear that the end client finds something wrong with your translation. But I think that shouldn't be your worry. The errors you are likely to make while translating are usually found during editing and proofreading, and if you do your part, that is, if you proof yourself twice over, then the only mistakes that should remain in your translation are those you wouldn't have found even if you proofed yourself fifty times. I am not saying you should bear in mind that someone will process your document after you are done with it and not worry too much about your errors - any good translator will proofread themselves before passing the document to the editor. But the point of using the services of an editor is precisely that: to have another person read the translation to find stuff the translator wouldn't have been able to find. I am actually wondering now if there are many people like you who are worried their translation is not as expected and go many extra miles to satisfy the client. If this is the case, then maybe we have half an explanation of why some agencies expect three services for the price of one.

Do not worry - the issue is not with your level of quality. What many clients and translators fail to see is that translation is a luxury service. It's not like going to the shoe polisher's. If someone is prepared to pay even a penny per word for a translation, then that means that it is very important to get that text translated. And considering what it takes to get something translated as perfectly as possible, translators should charge a rate that fits what they deliver. And at that rate, the client is entitled to the best quality possible. Many people (especially agencies) view translation work as production - I think these people are wrong. So, I think that being the way you are also helps you to attract clients who care more about quality than about quantity or money. That's the kind of client you want, isn't it?

I don't think two quality levels would solve this - it would be complicated for the client and it would be difficult to explain to clients the difference between the two, and they may come away from the negotiation with the thought that I am willing to offer low quality work for low pay, which is a route I don't want to take. I think the best thing is to be clear about what is part of translation, what isn't and what the translator is not liable for (as well as what the agency is liable for, which is a topic in itself we'll keep for another thread).


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 14:18
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Who should know? Jan 7, 2008

We hardly know what happens after delivery. First of all it depends, if the target language is known by the agency. If I deliver a German text to a German agency, I assume that someone there is able to read the stuff and make corrections to spelling and grammar. In this case I feel only responsible for the content. But if the agency is not German, I usually use a second proofreader and pay for it.
Some agencies use elaborate editing procedures including comparing source and target by a second translator. Then you later may get a report and a list of the improvements. Best of all is of course an evaluation of the final text by a specialist of the field in the target language, who is no translator but responsible for the use of the material in the source country.
It has happened to me too, that I assumed my translation would be used only as a starting point in the editing process but was reprimanded for not delivering a text ready for publishing.

Regards
Heinrich


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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:18
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I always find these debates to be interesting... Jan 7, 2008

though predictable. There's always someone who believes that a single error equals a failed translation.

When I turn in a document, I do my best to honor the format, correct obvious formatting problems, etc. I think that's part of my job as a translator. My final work product should look good and be as accurate as humanly possible. I'm fortunate to have a high rate of repeat business, so I'm comfortable that I meet my clients' high expectations.

However, there are always folks who imply that perfection in translation is the only worthwhile goal. While I find that admirable at some level, it simply isn't realistic. As hard as I try to submit a "perfect" translation (which by definition can't be perfect because it can never meet everyone's subjective view on perfection), I can almost guarantee that a proofreader will find something worth improving. In fact, whenever I review one of my translations a few weeks later, I can always find a few improvements myself.

Even if, on a given day, you firmly believe that your work product is ready to be published by the end client, a fresh eye will almost invariably find room for improvement. This is the nature of writing, and it's the nature of translation as well.

So I firmly believe that any agency worth working for will proofread as part of its quality control procedures. If they don't, they're asking for trouble, no matter how good the initial translation may be. We're only human, and when reviewing our own work it's almost inevitable that mistakes will slip through.

As far as formatting, my fees include translation only, which means that I provide a document that matches the original formatting as closely as possible. If, however, the client is seeking absolute perfection in this respect, I consider that an additional service subject to additional charges. However, my clients have seemed quite satisfied with my best efforts, and I don't believe anything further should be required of the translator.


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:18
English to Dutch
+ ...
Proofread twice, but still accept imperfection Jan 7, 2008

Whenever I deliver a translation, I do a spellcheck and read it at least twice before delivery. If the subject is technical or IT, my husband proofreads too (he works in that field).

Unless specifically asked to, I don't do DTP. When translating a PowerPoint presentation, I check the final result only if during translation I find sections that may be problematic (sentences that won't fit into text boxes because their length has grown so much). If my customer asks me to, I will do a final check, but I charge extra if the work takes me more than one hour.
In Word, I try to keep the original formatting and layout and I notify the customer in case there was any trouble with that.

Most of my customers are agencies. I trust they will at least give it a look-over before they pass the work over to the end-client. The agencies that come back to me with comments or questions are the ones I like best. They obviously appreciate the value of good work.

Serious DTP is a profession in itself. That's not my job, I haven't been trained for it.

I try my best to deliver a translation that is ready to be sent to the end-client, but I've learned long ago that I cannot deliver perfection. The whole point of an agency's QA is to check my work for the faults and errors I have missed, in spite of my best efforts. And I do try hard, I want to deliver perfect work, but I'm only human and I need to make a living.

If I keep on proofreading and proofreading, I would be driving myself crazy and spend an unreasonable amount of time on the job. After all, the per-word-rate is supposed to leave me with a reasonable hourly/weekly/monthly income. So, at some point, you have to accept someone else will still find something to correct.

Having said that, I 've never failed a test translation and have mostly received good criticism from the agencies that take the time to comment on my work. So I assume they think along the same lines.

A problem in my language pairs is the fact that many foreign agencies do not have anyone to check my work, because Dutch is not a language many people outside of the Netherlands and Belgium are fluent in. Still, I think it is part of the responsibility of the agency to either tell the end-client they did not have it proofread independently or to find someone to proofread anyway. Preferably a native speaker, of course. After all, an agency charges more per word than I do, they get paid for taking the heat and the responsibility, don't they? That's part of their job, if you ask me.

I don't think the number of words one can translate per day are any sign of quality. No need to talk about this in terms of 'crap' or 'genius', it has nothing to do with that. We all have our own working speed, that's all. Let's not go there again, please.

best,
Margreet


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ni-cole  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 13:18
German to French
+ ...
Agree with you, Viktoria Jan 7, 2008

My english is quite bad, so I make it short: I agree with you, Viktoria. When I make a tranlsation for an agency, I do expect that they make a proofreading. When I give a job to other translators, I always proofread their translation before send it to the client. And when I do the translation by myself for a direct client, I give my translation to a colleague for the proofreading.

And as Margreet said: "Serious DTP is a profession in itself. That's not my job, I haven't been trained for it." I work quite often for a advertising agency, after the DTP, they send me a PDF so that we can make an other proofreading of the endversion (extra charged of course).


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 13:18
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Your translation should be functional Jan 7, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
My question is this: when you are paid to do translation, strictly, how ready should your translation be for publishing?


Formatting is often part of the message. A word that is bolded is not bolded simply because it is visually pleasing -- the word is written in bold for a functional reason. Therefore, it should be bolded in the translation as well (or an equivalent device should be used to effect the same function in the target language).

However, where formatting does not in any way contribute to the message of the text, it should be acceptable for a translator to fail to mimick formatting perfectly.

Anyway, if a file is to be published, it should be in a publish-ready format by the time it is sent for translation (or, it should be formatted in a way which is useful for a DTP person who can't speak the language of the text). And MS Word is not a publish-ready format unless the formatting is simple.


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Edwal Rospigliosi  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:18
English to Spanish
+ ...
If you don't, then who? Jan 7, 2008

If you deliver a DTP'ed file as plain text, how will the DTP specialist know where to place everything? Unless s/he's also bilingual, there will be problems here.

At least in my case, I try to deliver a translated version as close to the original as possible, and in cases such as InDesign or FrameMaker files, I get sure that every link works and every pic and graph is where it's supposed to be.

Yes, I had to learn some DTP, but it's all part of the service. And of course, you charge for it.


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