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Amateur translators
Thread poster: XX789 (X)

XX789 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
English to Dutch
+ ...
Jan 10, 2003

Last week I hired a translator for doing a certified translation (an official one with stamps) from Dutch to English. I will try to stay as neutral as possible while telling this story.

Two days before the deadline, the translator writes that she has become ill and that she WILL therefore postpone delivery of the translation. I\'m not too amused by the word \"will\" but understand that there\'s not much I can do. I kindly wish her best and we agree to extend the deadline for 2 days.

Next day she writes me asking whether I can send her the originals for certification. I tell her that these are electronic documents, that the original *is* the electronic documents and that she will need to print them out herself.

Next day she asks me how indents work in Word. It seems like she is retyping the entire translation in a *new* Word document, instead of overwriting the Dutch source (that already contains the indents). I explain her how indents work and tell her that if she has any other questions, she can always ask.

Next day she asks me how tables work in Word. She delivers part of her translation, in which her table columns are split with spaces instead of tabs>convert to table, while the original document contains a normal table. It looked like this (imagine x is space)





I explain her how tables work and tell her that if she has any other questions, she can always ask. I also tell her that eventually she will have to format the table herself, as it\'s merely a matter of copying the table from the original document and copying/pasting her translations in it. It was a long table and it would take me about 1 hour to do this for her. Had she decided to overwrite the existing table during the translation, it wouldn\'t have costed her even 1 second extra.

Next day she sends me an e-mail that she is not my dog, that I should work for my money instead of expecting translators to know Word and that she has not changed anything, despite my explanations. She also states that this is the *final* version of the translation. Since this is a certified translation, that means that I will have to find another translator to redo the entire translation. First, I don\'t have the electronic version of the translation and second, there is not one sworn translator that will put a stamp on a translation that was not done by himself/herself. Not to mention the fact that I will have to explain the client that we can\'t make his deadline due to plain amateurism of one of our suppliers.

I replied that I expect the electronic version of her translation today and that her invoice (not sent yet) will be paid on the very same day if she co-operates. I will make the necessary corrections and layout changes and she merely has to print the result and put a stamp on it. I also stated that I found 9 severe mistakes/omittances in her partial translation (648 words). Since she stated that this is the final version of her translation, indicating that she is not intending to make any further changes, I told her that if she does not co-operate and refuses to reprint en restamp the corrected translations, her invoice will not be paid. I also threatened with legal action.

This is the first time in 8 years I actually had to threaten a translator not to pay his/her invoice. This while I proud myself on always paying invoices on time.

I\'m flabbergasted by the incredible amateurism and the attitude of this translator. Either she is an amateur, or I am crazy. Tell me which it is please.

Thank you for reading this. I just needed to let my steam off.


[ This Message was edited by:on2003-01-10 07:40]


Domenica Grangiotti  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
English to Italian
+ ...
My sympathy Jan 10, 2003

Just one comment: such stories are to the detriment of us all.

Luckily, as you said, this was the first time in many years.

Keep up the good work.


P.S. Glad to \'lend an ear\' when needed!


TService (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
English to German
It's that simple... ;) Jan 10, 2003

> I\'m flabbergasted by the incredible amateurism and the attitude of this translator. Either she is an amateur, or I am crazy. Tell me which it is please.

Here\'s my answer:

I just think that you are crazy because you hired an amateur for translating legal documents without checking her skills first. icon_wink.gif

The story so far is a bit hair-raising - but the most vital part\'s missing: Where and how did you find that translator, why did you choose her for doing that translation job ? icon_wink.gif

The rest\'s quite common - I often get jobs where parts of a translation are already done - and it\'s my part to fill in the gaps the other translator(s) left open to complete the task. And I often fight to resist the urge of correcting the parts done by the other translators.

Don\'t get me wrong: I am far, far away from being perfect, I know my limitations (I\'d never do legal or business-related texts) - but sometimes I just want to cry out if I see a perfectly wrong translation; let\'s say \"red\" translated as \"blau\" or \"love\" translated as \"Hass\".

I think it\'s quite a common problem; some people proudly own an automatic translation software and put it into action. Or do not request a sample prior to accepting a job.

Just have a look at the job offers right here: A highly skilled translator is wanted; to use an authentic example: \"Access specialist needed for translating HTML-embedded context. Translation has to be done in MS Access, vast programming and HTML experience required. Only persons with extensive experience in the field of CBT applications should apply.\"

Ten minutes after the job is posted you see more than ten bids. It\'s clear that most applicants do not fulfill the required requirements - but they DO apply.

Just a few days after the closing of the job dozens of KudoZ questions pop up - asking for specialized terms related to Access, HTML and programming. It\'s quite clear that the asker just does know nothing about the task he\'s trying to accomplish - and if you could forget about the serious background you might smile when watching the asker choosing the worst suggestion as the best match.

It\'s obvious that the translation will be a catastrophy - and it\'s obvious why... The translator did apply to a job that didn\'t fit his field of experience, he did no sample translation.

And that practice seems to be quite common - just have a look at some KudoZ questions...

Did you have a sample translated by that particular translator prior to assigning the job to her ?

Some regards from the fridge; minus 12 degrees right here... :/


Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:07
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
My sympathy, too!! Jan 10, 2003

What a story! Your patience is exemplary.



Nicolette Ri (X)
Local time: 11:07
French to Dutch
+ ...
Ik leef met je mee...² Jan 10, 2003

maar waarom laat je een beëdigde vertaling door een amateur doen? Vanwege de kosten die een echte beëdigde vertaling met zich meebrengt?

Succes ermee.



Carmen Cuervo-Arango  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not everybody should be in the business Jan 10, 2003

Hi, Loek, and happy new year to the three of you!

Well, it is quite obvious that not everybody should be in the business. Nowadays you must not only offer quality and respect deadlines (which has always been a must), but have a good knowledge of the new technologies and the most common programmes, which no doubts includes Word. Yesterday I had a talk at Murcia University on our profession and I insisted so much on this point: translation students who are not interested in informatics have no longer any future in the market.

Of course we all have had a “first time”, but when you are an amateur, as I think this is clearly the case, the least you can do is find out by yourself as much as you can, without bothering and giving such a bad image of your lack of professionalism.

Moreover I have worked with you and I know how available and helpful you are. Some of your clients have even requested us to work with their specific software and you have always been a perfect source of information for all our doubts and questions, leaving no room for any kind of excuses for a later delivery. If you accept an order in a certain format or with an specific new software, you must either have the right knowledge to cope with it or either be ready to invest the necessary extra time for mastering it. As I said, Word is a must, but I would add to this that if you are asked to work using different tools and you feel you can accept the challenge, it can only enrich your knowledge, make you more flexible, widen your translating experience and offer you a wider market. In our job it is not all about money: every day we switch our computers on, we open the doors to learning.


Carmen Cuervo-Arango


Anne-Charlotte PERRIGAUD  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
Member (2003)
English to French
+ ...
Amazing Practices Jan 10, 2003

Hello, Loek,

Your experience once again raises the topic of credentials and reliability.

In the absence of regulations it is difficult to \'ban\' such people from translating. I think all we can do is raise \'client education\' and translators\' awareness of credentials such as Kudoz, Diplomas or Association Memberships.




On 2003-01-10 09:46, ablines wrote:

Hi, Loek, and happy new year to the three of you!

Well, it is quite obvious that not everybody should be in the business. Nowadays you must not only offer quality and respect deadlines (which has always been a must), but have a good knowledge of the new technologies and the most common programmes, which no doubts includes Word.


Marijke Mayer  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
Dutch to English
+ ...
Je bent toch geen kindermeisje! Jan 10, 2003

Natuurlijk dienen vertalers Word te kennen, wat anders? Ik vind dit ook ongelooflijk amateuristisch! Groet! Marijke

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-01-11 06:00]


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ouch! Jan 10, 2003

Not one of us, I hope? (Guys, a quick survey: is being able to register and log-in sufficient premise for satisfactory computer literacy?)

Panic-stricken Parrot moderator


Mads Grøftehauge  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
English to Danish
+ ...
If only you'd known from the beginning... Jan 10, 2003

When I receive a job from a new client, i make it a rule to send back the first couple of lines of translation, to make sure that formatting, size etc. is acceptable.

I sometimes get weird requests for stuff that that the clients could have done for themselves (Make all the text 12 point; Package the files as one zip archive etc.), but it\'s no skin off my nose as long as I know in advance. It\'s no fun to find out after you (think) you have made your final delivery.

I\'m not saying that you did anything wrong, I think that outsourcers are entitled to have certain basic expectations of a translator\'s technical knowledge. But your translator could have avoided bungling the job by sending you an early copy for approval. And for the record, I think she should have done anything and everything to make sure you were happy, no matter how frustrated she felt. Only then could she start to consider whether she wanted to work for you some other time.

Or maybe brush up on her Word-skills icon_wink.gif

I hope it works out for you with stamps and invoices and all that.



Alan Johnson  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
German to English
Sounds rough Jan 10, 2003


it sounds like you had a fun week icon_smile.gif I\'ve had some bad experiences, but this just sounds incredible.




Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:07
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
Although I feel sympathetic... Jan 10, 2003

about your case, and enough has been said about the so called amateur translator, there seems to be one obvious remark missing in this forum. Why did you use a translator you had never worked with for an important (certified) project with a tight deadline?.

I am sure you acted in good faith, but if I were your client I wouldn\'t be too happy and in my eyes the blame would be on your shoulder\'s alone, not on your supplier\'s, because, acting as an agency, it is your responsability to verify the reliability of the people that work for you.

New recruits should be thoroughly tested for quality, particularly regarding deadlines and software proficiency. Mind you, I am not referring to long, unpaid tests, but to short projects with far off deadlines where I can rest assured that the outcome can always be fixed if the worst is to happen. Once the translator has shown how professional and reliable he is, then you can rely on him as well for important projects.

As you have sadly experienced, I regret to say this practice is not unfounded, given the incredible number of people out there claiming to be what they are not.

Hope this helps for next time,



XX789 (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
English to Dutch
+ ...
Thanks - and comments Jan 10, 2003

Thanks for your support all - you cannot imagine how great it feels just to be able to get this off my chest.

Actually this *was* her first \"real\" test project (\"real\" meaning that the project would actually be delivered to a client). Had it been a normal project, there would be more words. Many more words. You can ask Carmen, she works with me icon_smile.gif And ofcourse, normal test projects are much smaller and are not delivered to clients.

The text was corrected by another translator (not certified, but very experienced) I\'ve been working with for years. No problem I think. Until the original translator actually refuses to implement these corrections. That is something I had never experienced before.

The deadline was not tight, until she called in sick. Then it became tighter. When she started asking questions, it became even more tight. Until I had to make a final decision and take her off the job before it was too late.

I\'m still thinking about how this could have been prevented. She played it well I must say - first by calling in sick, then by asking questions, then by asking more questions and finally by lighting the fuse and letting the bomb explode. Despite her track record until then, that came as a complete surprise. One day earlier there were no problems at all.

My impression is that she completely snapped. I wonder how that could have been prevented.

I always add 2 days to the delivery date of the translator, for latitude. Unfortunately that latitude was taken as soon as she called in sick. That is when the deadline became really tight.

The question is how to test someone\'s reliability other than by giving a test project, after having made sure that all credentials are right (9 out of 10 applications goes to the dust bin right away). The test project allows for 2 days latitude, which were used because of the translator\'s \"illness\". What else could I have done? How many latitude does a 5000 word project need? My guess is that in a certain sense, you may be right Rosanna. I should probably allow for one week latitude with test projects (supervised by other translators or not).

The only thing I really wonder about is why I didn\'t find out earlier she didn\'t know b00b about Word. Maybe her husband was not at home this time?

I know it\'s hard to comment on this if you haven\'t heard both sides of the story. But the main thing was that I needed to get this off my chest, and that you gave me a listening ear. That for me is enough icon_smile.gif

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-01-10 13:15]


Andrew Poloyan
Local time: 13:07
Russian to English
+ ...
I envy your patience Jan 10, 2003

Dear Loek,

The only distinct idea, which came to my mind after reading the story was: \"I do envy such patience\". Disappointment and astonishment were my other emotions. I take some comfort in belief that it was the only such case you encountered in 8 years. Although I do not translate from Dutch, I don\'t think there should be any difference in the attitude towards one\'s commitments. The case you described is something beyond my comprehension. The person may have a good command of both languages, still she\'d better learn to respect her customers. For the sake of us all let\'s hope she does so at least in future.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
I would've said "another day" Jan 10, 2003

if she phoned sick, since I allow 2 days for 5000 words to be comfortable. It\'s possible to be faster, but I\'d get edgy if someone said \"I\'ll deliver 4000 in 24 hours\" - and mind you, that\'s possible. I\'d do that with trusted colleagues.

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