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Client thinks I worked too fast - What would you do?
Thread poster: Elke Fehling

Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
Jun 19, 2009

I feel patronized by one of my client’s officers – What would you do?

First of all: I usually really like working for this translation agency. I like their projects, they pay well and on time, and I get on well with the other people working in this company. They are one of my oldest and best clients. But: This one contact person is really bugging me, and today I reached a point where I really got mad.

The situation is as follows: I translate a lot of software manuals, online help etc. for this client. The problem with these kinds of texts is that the glossaries are not well taken care of. There's usually no translation/explanation of the menu items, and in the rare cases where I find some information it is usually wrong or there are 5 translations for one menu item. I find it very hard to choose the right translation, but while I used to complain about that in the beginning of our collaboration I hardly mention it any more. I don't like to translate these kinds of texts, I know that my translations will not be perfect.

This contact person I am talking about usually (almost regularly) complains about my translations of these texts. She says that I don’t use the “references” and gives me examples of mistakes in my German translation that aren't really mistakes in my point of view. I usually don't comment on these "complaints" and just change whatever she thinks that needs to be changed. It’s obvious that she doesn’t really know enough German to judge my translations, but… she works for a client, so I just do what she wants. Her emails usually sound very condescending – but again, she works for a client, so I don’t complain.

This morning, however, she crossed a line. She complained about the fact that I finished a 400 word translation in 45 minutes. It was a very easy translation (a bunch of short software descriptions that were more or less alike, Trados did it almost automatically), so I actually finished in 20 minutes; I just didn't send it back to her right away. In her usual patronizing way she explained that I worked too fast, that she didn’t believe that this could be a good translation (although she didn’t complain about the text, she probably even didn't look at it) and she gave me a list of tips on how to make sure that my translation is good...

I got so mad that I had to stop working for a while. I didn’t answer her email yet, I preferred to “let it rest” and calm down. But I am still mad at her, and I think I need to do something before she sends me her next complaint and I get so mad that I make an awful mistake. After all, she works for a client and I have to be careful.

What would you do? She probably thinks that she’s right, and she actually did complain about my translations very often. She probably thinks that my work sometimes is sloppy and thinks that she can even prove it. She keeps sending translations, though, so the problem can't be all that bad.


[Bearbeitet am 2009-06-19 18:55 GMT]


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Volodymyr Kukharenko
Ukraine
Local time: 11:10
Member (2009)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Ask for the list of mistakes and do not let the emotions guide you Jun 19, 2009

If the customer says that the translation is not good enough, they should provide irresistible and convincing proof of that. If they don't do so, then their statement is just a bunch of empty words.

Ones I got a negative feedback from the customer with the request "to retranslate from the scratch". I was really shocked and worried what on earth I could do get such a request, so I asked the client to send me the log of corrections....

After 3 days of silence I got the log, opened it with my trembling hands, and instantly got mad when I had a quick look on it... Not a single mistake was found, and the reviewer made 5 obvious mistakes in his corrections. So in a day I calmed myself down a bit and wrote a motivated emotionless comment for each correction with a list of references to the book of rules, industry standards, linguistic authorities etc. And within next 2 days I got apologies from the customer and the promise that they "will not contact that reviewer again".

So if you are sure that your translation is as good as it is possible in the circumstances you worked in, ask for a professional feedback on your translation. If they really show you the mistakes that you could avoid, then they might be right, but they cannot simply tell you how fast (slow) you should work.


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madak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:10
Swedish to English
+ ...
Yes you are fast, maybe too fast Jun 19, 2009

Elke Fehling wrote:

I actually finished in 20 minutes; I just didn't send it back to her right away.


Please excuse me if I've got my maths wrong (it's often the case, but I generally work in the financial industry - so no problem). If I've for once have managed to get my calculations right, you spent a total of 3 seconds per word on translation, proofreading and general quality control. Even ignoring prepositions etc., things that generally requires as much time and debate as terminology research, this does not give you much time to actually review you translation before sending to your client.

Just relying on TM results or your own human TM aka "brain" does not = quality.

She probably thinks that my work sometimes is sloppy and thinks that she can even prove it. She keeps sending translations, though, so the problem can't be all that bad.


If you suspect that this is the case, it's up to you to prove her wrong. Ask her to supply you with proof of your sloppiness.

The problem with these kinds of texts is that the glossaries are not well taken care of. There's usually no translation/explanation of the menu items, and in the rare cases where I find some information it is usually wrong or there are 5 translations for one menu item.


If you feel that the glossaries are under par, this is a marketing opportunity. Offer to revise these if you feel you have the necessary knowledge and experience.

I find it very hard to choose the right translation, but while I used to complain about that in the beginning of our collaboration I hardly mention it any more. I don't like to translate these kinds of texts, I know that my translations will not be perfect.


On second thought, this might not be a good strategy as you find it hard to choose the correct translation and, more importantly, "don't like to translate these kind of texts".


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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your input Jun 19, 2009

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo wrote:


Please excuse me if I've got my maths wrong (it's often the case, but I generally work in the financial industry - so no problem). If I've for once have managed to get my calculations right, you spent a total of 3 seconds per word on translation, proofreading and general quality control. Even ignoring prepositions etc., things that generally requires as much time and debate as terminology research, this does not give you much time to actually review you translation before sending to your client.

Just relying on TM results or your own human TM aka "brain" does not = quality.



Sure. I am a professional. So maybe it took me 30 minutes. Or 15. I don' t remember. It was a list of descriptions that were all alike, the sentences (translation segments in Trados) only differed by a word or two. I am doing this kind of work for many years now, but actually anybody would be able to translate a text like this in this time.

From your point of view I gather that it is rather normal that somebody who doesn't know this kind of work might think it is unprobable that my translation can be ok.

Thank you for your inputicon_smile.gif

Elke

[Bearbeitet am 2009-06-19 20:23 GMT]


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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your input Jun 19, 2009

double posting, sorry.

[Bearbeitet am 2009-06-19 20:18 GMT]


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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Feedback on translation Jun 19, 2009

Vladimir Kukharenko wrote:

If the customer says that the translation is not good enough, they should provide irresistible and convincing proof of that. If they don't do so, then their statement is just a bunch of empty words.

Ones I got a negative feedback from the customer with the request "to retranslate from the scratch". I was really shocked and worried what on earth I could do get such a request, so I asked the client to send me the log of corrections....

After 3 days of silence I got the log, opened it with my trembling hands, and instantly got mad when I had a quick look on it... Not a single mistake was found, and the reviewer made 5 obvious mistakes in his corrections. So in a day I calmed myself down a bit and wrote a motivated emotionless comment for each correction with a list of references to the book of rules, industry standards, linguistic authorities etc. And within next 2 days I got apologies from the customer and the promise that they "will not contact that reviewer again".

So if you are sure that your translation is as good as it is possible in the circumstances you worked in, ask for a professional feedback on your translation. If they really show you the mistakes that you could avoid, then they might be right, but they cannot simply tell you how fast (slow) you should work.


Thank you very much for your reply. You are right, I should ask the customer for feedback on my translation.

Elke


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conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:10
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Diminishing of marginal return? Jun 19, 2009

I think each translator varies in how fast it takes him/her to translate a given subject. Me myself, there are some texts that are just very familiar to me and easy for me, and yes I am very fast with them. I also type very fast at 80-100 words per minute. So I agree that just because it was fast doesn't necessarily mean it is wrong or sloppy.

However... the main thing that sticks out to me in your post is that this person constantly seems to be nagging you about the translation, despite the fact that she seems less than qualified to judge it in terms of her German language ability or lack thereof.

And like you say, they keep coming back to you anyway, so if the translation was that awful, they probably would not continue to use your services.

I am not sure what the real problem is, but if it was me, I would ask them for an itemized list of what is wrong with the translation, every time they complain. If they can't tell you what it is, they are full of ____.

If it seems they are just not satisfied no matter what you do, you do have the option to stop doing work for them. I know we hate to lose any client, but there comes a time when it is so inconvenient to work for the client that working for them becomes just not worth it. And also, there is such a thing as professional pride. If I was in your situation, I think I would consider quitting working for them, if the situation did not improve.

I think there are various things that make a "good client" a good client.
1. Always pays
2. Pays in a short period of time
3. Pays a good rate
4. Keeps a steady workload coming your way
5. The work is not too difficult or annoying
6. They don't ask you to do parts of the work for free, or at least they pay enough to cover the 'extra' stuff like formatting
7. Organized
8. Communication is clear and timely, and all necessary information is communicated
9. Pleasant to deal with
10. Appreciates your work as a professional

I think in this case you need to think about #9 and #10.


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madak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:10
Swedish to English
+ ...
I don't assume anything about your translations Jun 19, 2009

I've got not knowledge about your translations and their quality.

Elke Fehling wrote:

I am doing this kind of work for many years now, but actually anybody would be able to translate a text like this in this time.


My 14 year old bilingual son will be happy to read this, he's desperately looking for a means of earning some extra pocket money...

Now returning to something more serious. I've also translated a number of manuals which are very similar. Even so, I still need to leave time for proofreading and QA.

I also translate strings on a regular basis, and although they are very similar, I have to consider where/when each string will be displayed. This takes more than 3 secs.

From your point of view I gather that it is rather normal that somebody who doesn't know this kind of work might think it is unprobable that my translation can be ok.


I do not consider your translation rate improbable or otherwise, my problem is with your attitude to the professional work that you're undertaking. Either you're delivering a professional service, and charging accordingly, or your just replacing words/phrases.


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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
deleted Jun 19, 2009

deleted

[Bearbeitet am 2009-06-19 21:27 GMT]


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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jun 19, 2009

conejo wrote:

I think there are various things that make a "good client" a good client.
1. Always pays
2. Pays in a short period of time
3. Pays a good rate
4. Keeps a steady workload coming your way
5. The work is not too difficult or annoying
6. They don't ask you to do parts of the work for free, or at least they pay enough to cover the 'extra' stuff like formatting
7. Organized
8. Communication is clear and timely, and all necessary information is communicated
9. Pleasant to deal with
10. Appreciates your work as a professional

I think in this case you need to think about #9 and #10.



Thank you for your advice. The problem is actually just this one contact person. Points 1 to 9 are more than ok, so I won't stop working for this agency but need to try to find a solution with this woman.


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Johanna Timm, PhD  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:10
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
use reverse psychology Jun 19, 2009

Express empathy with her situation. Tell her that you admire her diligence, that you appreciate the time she always takes to comment on your work, and that over the years, you have certainly learned a lot from her comments . Compliment her on the care and attention she devotes to your work and on her supportive attitude. Tell her that you always look forward to dealing with her.

Make her feel really good about herself. This often works.

Good luck!!
johanna


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:10
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Does she know about CAT? Jun 19, 2009

Elke Fehling wrote:
She complained about the fact that I finished a 400 word translation in 45 minutes. It was a very easy translation (a bunch of short software descriptions that were more or less alike, Trados did it almost automatically)...


Does she know you're using CAT, and does she know what CAT does? 400 words of contextless software strings in 20 minutes isn't particularly fast, especially if you've been doing this type of translations since, well, forever.

Maybe she just doesn't know about CAT. Perhaps she does know, but from her point of view CAT is something that takes a long time to set up, and as a non-translator she is unaware of the speed advantages you get from it.


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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The meaning of Trados rates Jun 19, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:

Does she know you're using CAT, and does she know what CAT does? 400 words of contextless software strings in 20 minutes isn't particularly fast, especially if you've been doing this type of translations since, well, forever.

Maybe she just doesn't know about CAT. Perhaps she does know, but from her point of view CAT is something that takes a long time to set up, and as a non-translator she is unaware of the speed advantages you get from it.


Well, the agency pays Trados rates, so she should know how many matches, fuzzy matches etc. there are. But you are right, it seems she doesn't understand what the numbers mean. There were no 100% matches, but actually the strings only differed in one or two words and that means that there were a lot of fuzzy matches...


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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:10
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jun 19, 2009

Johanna Timm, PhD wrote:

Express empathy with her situation. Tell her that you admire her diligence, that you appreciate the time she always takes to comment on your work, and that over the years, you have certainly learned a lot from her comments . Compliment her on the care and attention she devotes to your work and on her supportive attitude. Tell her that you always look forward to dealing with her.

Make her feel really good about herself. This often works.

Good luck!!
johanna


Hello Johanna,

Thank you very much for your feedback. Actually, that was my strategy in the past. However, it didn't change a thing, so I need a new strategyicon_smile.gif


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chica nueva
Local time: 20:10
Chinese to English
Staff relations/mediation approach Jun 19, 2009

Hello Elke

Contact her superior. Say you find her patronising to the point where you are becoming stressed and unhappy, and ask to be re-assigned to another reviewer if possible. Would that work?

It is possible that the agency would appreciate the feedback, you never know ...

Lesley


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