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How many quality levels can you offer?
Thread poster: Mykhailo Voloshko

Mykhailo Voloshko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:17
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Oct 21, 2009

Nowadays there are at least three sectors of translation market, of which we have already lost one to the Machine Translation tools.

Why do people feel OK about low quality translation?
Because it's:

  • Free
  • Fast
  • Fair to middling

Thus if I want to know what is my favourite Arab song or German blog post is about, I don't hire a translator and just use the available online MT resources. The song is about love and the blog post proved to be so-so.

In another sector, there's a demand for cheap human translation of somewhat lower than high quality. And some LSPs are already fighting for this niche and offer translation services of different levels with the relevant difference in price.

So should we also compete for the said market by offering different quality levels?

As to me, I can provide nothing but my top quality. I did the jobs where the customer asked for not very high quality "just to get an idea what the text is about". And I always charged my standard rate for such jobs and invested as much effort as usual because:

Translator is as good as his last translation.


Dear colleagues,

Do you think a professional translator can provide several levels of quality for his customers?

Best wishes,
Mykhailo

---------------

Originally posted in my blog: http://www.wordhord.com/2009/10/kakie-urovni-kachestva-vy-mozhete-predlozhit/


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xxxjacana54  Identity Verified
Uruguay
English to Spanish
+ ...
One Oct 21, 2009

My best.

Sometimes my home is "fair to middling" clean, just enough to survive, but this doesn't apply to work. It never has and I don't think it ever will.

I know there's an argument for a different answer so I'm interested in reading other opinions, but I don't expect to change. Yes, I have Basque ancestors (tercos a más no poder, very stubborn).



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Alessandra Martelli  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 04:17
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
Lucia said it all Oct 22, 2009

Lucia Colombino wrote:

My best.

Sometimes my home is "fair to middling" clean, just enough to survive, but this doesn't apply to work. It never has and I don't think it ever will.


Sometimes my house is a mess and I end up eating salad and canned tuna because I forgot to go to the supermarket, but when it comes to work music changes accordingly.

I don't have first and second class customers. My customers (both agencies and direct customers) trust me, so I always provide them my top quality.

No matter if it is a 1-page brochure or 50-pages user's guide, no matter if we had a long business relationships or it is our first collaboration - they will always get my best.


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xxxAguas de Mar
I'm with Alessandra and Lucia Oct 22, 2009

I only have one quality:my best.

BTW, my grandfather was from Santander, quite close to the Basque region, so I do not know if that has to do with it too


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Evita Savicka  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 05:17
Member (2007)
English to Russian
+ ...
Quality levels? Oct 22, 2009

Are there any?
How about Bulgakov's "There's only one degree of freshness — the first, which makes it also the last"?


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David Russi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not degrees of quality, but different services Oct 22, 2009

Why would anyone pay you for low quality?

While the quality of your services should always be high, sometimes the client does not need a perfect translation of every single word on the page, a summary may be sufficient. I have been asked to provide the gist of several documents so the client could make a decision as to which they actually needed to translate. While they paid me for a few hours of work up front, they saved a considerable amount of money by not translating what they did not need.

I have a client who receives emails in Spanish, she does not need perfect translations, she just wants to know what the person is asking for so she can respond. Again, she needs a summary, and I have agreed to provide a set number of these for a flat rate.

So, different service, same quality...


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Mykhailo Voloshko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:17
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
facts Oct 22, 2009

David Russi wrote:

So, different service, same quality...


I agree that services can be different, but I started this topic as I saw an LSP offering translation (not just summarising) of different quality levels at relevant prices. First I thought it was a good move, but then I understood I would not be able to do the same.

As I see, many colleagues agree it's impossible and unacceptable for a translator to provide several levels of quality. Though a translation agency can hire translators of different levels of competence, pay them and charge customers accordingly.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:17
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Plumbers and translators Oct 22, 2009

Mykhailo Voloshko wrote:
... I started this topic as I saw an LSP offering translation (not just summarising) of different quality levels at relevant prices. First I thought it was a good move, but then I understood I would not be able to do the same ... a translation agency can hire translators of different levels of competence, pay them and charge customers accordingly.


Well, you clearly understand how this works. If you are able to offer services on the better end, why would you care if an agency does that while offering monkeywork for those on a tight budget? That wasn't and will never be your market. Plumbers know that excrement runs downhill and collects, and I think it's better to stay above such things. But I have the impression at times that many translators do not understand this clearly, which is why they can only dream of a good plumber's wages


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:17
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
One! Oct 22, 2009

The best of me, and all the time. Any other approach is plain absurd in my opinion.

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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:17
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
With you all the way, Tomás Oct 22, 2009

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

The best of me, and all the time. Any other approach is plain absurd in my opinion.


I fully subscribe to your view (and to Kevin's comments). Any other approach would go against very basic ethical (and business!) principles.

Steffen


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Dan Marasescu  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 04:17
Member (2003)
English to Romanian
+ ...
Quality levels Oct 22, 2009

Well it's not big news that translations have different purposes and the clients only want the suitable quality for the purpose at the lowest possible price. The outsourcers try to be flexible about that and their machine has several gears or at least different price levels.

The problem is that translators tend to have only one gear, as Mykhailo and others suggest so the outsourcers use different translators having different price ranges. In that sense, it is very true that it is up to you as a translator on which level you want to be. It is also true that, since it would be almost impossible for the outsourcers to test the real ability of each translator, the most expensive translators are not always the best, but those who manage to project a good image of themselves.

For me the question is elsewhere. Since the demand for translations seems to increase despite the crisis, is there a change in the clients' expectations map? I mean, is "lower than high" quality more in demand now than it used to be compared to high quality? And if yes, is it because clients are trying to cut costs and the outsourcers follow suit or do the outsourcers and the crowds of low-gear translators play their part? But the answer to this question is surely language-specific and field-specific and in an increasingly competitive global market it seems that having the "right" language pair and the "right" field can more than ever make the difference between a competitive and an uncompetitive translator.


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Mykhailo Voloshko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 05:17
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
consumer Oct 22, 2009

Dan Marasescu wrote:

I mean, is "lower than high" quality more in demand now than it used to be compared to high quality?


The sad truth is most consumers of language services feel quite OK about mediocre translations, at least in my country. I blame incompetent translators whose work is then published and broadcast to the public, thus becoming a standard. And I hope successful companies understand that poor translation of their products can ruin the brand image. So there's a chance professional translators will have jobs

[Edited at 2009-10-22 08:25 GMT]


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Doron Greenspan MITI  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 05:17
Member (2005)
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Yes, there are quality levels Oct 22, 2009

I agree with the rest of you - I only provide the best results, no matter what the client says.

BUT, even for me there are different types of "best".

I can translate something really well, as usual, and read/edit it again once; or twice;
I can also do something just as well, and not read it again due to time pressures.

In each of these cases, I no doubt provided the best translation I can, yet in the seconod instance I provided another level of quality which is missing from the first and the third.

What I'm saying is that a person cannot by definition provide the same level of quality each time s/he endeavours to perform a task. Other, indirect factors apply. For example, how awake (or sleepy) you are, how tight the deadline is (OK, as a matter of principle I don't take jobs with too a tight deadline, but what if I did by mistake?), etc.

This was a bit of a devil's advocate's argument - prove me wrong...

[Edited at 2009-10-22 12:25 GMT]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 03:17
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Quite right, Doron Oct 22, 2009

All of us can offer different "process levels" which may or may not result in different quality.

Any of us can, for example, hire a second pair of eyes or even a third pair for review by a native of either the source or target language or both. We can offer terminology review cycles before or during a project, which may result in client glossaries that might be useful. There are (as I think someone already mentioned) different service levels/i>, but they may indeed affect quality, and the prices would naturally be expected to vary in some relationship to the effort involved or the result expected.

However, that's a different kettle of fish from the multi-level approach by some LSPs under discussion here. There, as I understand it, the quality is intrinsically linked to the resources used. If I task a cheap student majoring in French and home economics with the translation of a highly complex contract, I will not under most circumstances get the result I would expect from a linguistically gifted translating attorney. Sows' ears and silk purses, you know. And if you are one of those highly gifted linguists capable of crafting sentences that would make a stone cry, why would you want to go into monkey mode to earn less than you could cleaning toilets. The spirit and thoughts may be free, but they are polluted by the environment to which we expose them. At least when cleaning the toilet my hands may get dirty but my mind remains clean and capable of better things.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:17
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Arrogance Oct 22, 2009

Mykhailo Voloshko wrote:
As to me, I can provide nothing but my top quality.

I am amazed by the arrogance. We should give our customers what they ask for, not what we think they ought to ask for.

Delivering a top-quality translation to the customer who only wants the gist, or who would rather have an average translation on time rather than a top-quality one late, is not quality.

Quality is defined as "meeting customer expectations", and that will only enhance your reputation.

We should operate in the real world, not in our quality ivory tower.


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