Website calling for people with intermediate language skills to translate
Thread poster: Paula Borges

Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:15
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Sep 27, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you may have noticed certain banners calling for people with any knowledge of a second language to sign up and make some 'extra cash' on the side. Some of us have even received emails with offers from these websites/agencies.

I have been seeing more and more of these in the past few weeks all over the Internet. They claim it's easy and quick to make money and that anybody can translate into their native language, with no need for qualifications or checking of any kind. Of course, they dictate the price paid and it's way below the market average for professional translations. All they need to do is sign up, download documents and upload again when finished. 'It's easy', their adverts say in flashy colours, 'you can make thousands of dollars in a month'. Click on it and you will see photos of happy teenagers holding a lot of a cash and smiling.

Besides the obvious concerns, I can't help but wonder about the following:

- Is confidentiality not an issue anymore? Documents are uploaded and downloaded freely by anyone with an Internet connection.

- Is the end-client aware of this? Or are these companies posing as serious top-quality translation agencies and 'outsourcing' to this 'portal'? Are they willing to pay for this and take this kind of risk?

- Is this a potential problem for professional translators? We invest in education, tools, our reputation and the quality of our work. Lately I've been getting more and more 'proofreading' work... a lot of it doesn't seem to have been done by someone who is proficient in both languages, in fact, some of it seems to have been written by people who can't even write in their own native language in any acceptable way.

- Should Proz allow this kind of agency to offer jobs on the website?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Great! Sep 27, 2011

Paula Borges wrote:
Some of you may have noticed certain banners calling for people with any knowledge of a second language to sign up and make some 'extra cash' on the side.

This is actually excellent news: if companies still have money to throw down the drain in disastrous translations, they also keep a healthy budget for the important translations we translators do for them.


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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:15
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Are they aware of that though? Sep 27, 2011

Most people I know who need translation services say they would never agree to pay for something like that.

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xxxkalap
Hypothesis Sep 27, 2011

Could these sites be the second or third middlemen in a row, that is: end client subcontracts to agency 1, this one subcontracts to agency 2, then middleman 3 takes the work of this agency and distributes the work among the translators? I once saw someone I know doing that. His clients were agencies, and he 'just helped his fellow translators to find work' (and took 30%). The system went on for a looong time, no one noticed because the translations weren't that bad.

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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 10:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
Do we? Sep 27, 2011

Paula Borges wrote:
...
We invest in education, tools, our reputation and the quality of our work.
...


All of us?

Do we heck!

MediaMatrix


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:15
French to English
+ ...
Some thoughts... Sep 27, 2011

My position on this has generally been "let the market decide", whilst at the same time trying to take on some of what I see is my responsibility as a language professional to educate clients as much as possible.

But ultimately, if clients have listened to the warnings and their conclusion is still that they "just want it cheap" whatever the consequences, then there's a point where you may as well stop banging your head against the wall.

To answer to your specific points:

- confidentiality: that's a *slight* concern, but arguably not much more than when a new client initially contacts you by e-mail with a document they need translating-- they're still sending their document over an insecure medium to an unknown recipient at the end of the day; if clients have decided that the latter is secure enough, they'll probably be happy enough with uploading a document to a web site for another person to download, perhaps on the assumption (true or false) that that person might have agreed to some kind of basic non-disclosure terms.

Or put another way: the world has collectively decided to trade in a bit of security for the convenience of working over the Internet.

- re risk/professionalism: I'm guessing the deal seems "professional enough" for the client in relation to the cost-risk ratio that they're prepared to accept;

- potential problem for professional translators? maybe slightly, but only at a certain "bottom end" of the market. I think-- and I've said this before-- that what you're looking at is largely a means for companies to outsource the "not-really-professional-translation" jobs that they would previously have asked random-employee-X-with-French-GCSE to take on, but can now just outsource to the web instead. With some exceptions.


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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:15
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hi Neil Sep 28, 2011

Your points are all valid but only if the end-client is aware of the deal and actually paying less for it.

There is a possibility, like kalap mentioned, that they trust the work is being carried out by a serious agency and have paid for the quality they expect, believing all the work has been assigned to professional translators who are reliable and have signed non-disclosure agreements.

The work could then be 'outsourced' to this random website that doesn't seem to be connected to the original agency in any way. I have noticed none of these websites have any areas for clients, not an even an email to ask for a quote, just flashy 'make thousands from home' banners on websites for language students. Frankly, why would a client pay anything at all for risky, non-professional translations when machine translation is free?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nope Sep 28, 2011

Paula Borges wrote:
There is a possibility, like kalap mentioned, that they trust the work is being carried out by a serious agency and have paid for the quality they expect, believing all the work has been assigned to professional translators who are reliable and have signed non-disclosure agreements.

I don't believe that. A "serious agency" knows that only certain translators are capable of producing the quality companies expect, no matter how much they pay. A "serious agency" would not risk to lose a customer with these methods.

Having said that, I hope you do not confuse "big" with "serious".


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matt robinson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:15
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
The same old story Sep 28, 2011

The identification of function for a translation is essential before we can speak about price, quality, or price/quality ratio.
If I said I needed a car you might think I was stupid if I said that it had to be a Porsche or nothing; the same logic applies to the translation sector. If the client needs a top-drawer publishing-quality document then they will pay for it, if they do not then they may or may not, but don't be surprised if they look for a cheaper, lower-quality product if it meets their requirements.
The problem is when client x wants top-drawer but is not prepared to pay the price, but that is not a problem for the translator.


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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:15
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I think you've misunderstood... Sep 28, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Paula Borges wrote:
There is a possibility, like kalap mentioned, that they trust the work is being carried out by a serious agency and have paid for the quality they expect, believing all the work has been assigned to professional translators who are reliable and have signed non-disclosure agreements.

I don't believe that. A "serious agency" knows that only certain translators are capable of producing the quality companies expect, no matter how much they pay. A "serious agency" would not risk to lose a customer with these methods.

Having said that, I hope you do not confuse "big" with "serious".


Of course this agency wouldn't be "serious", all I said is that the client might believe that.

My point is, I'm not convinced that end-clients are aware of this or even that they are paying much less for it. Clients, quotes or prices are not mentioned anywhere on these websites. So where are they getting the work from? My only conclusion is that the end-client assigns the job to what seems to be a "serious" agency and then it gets 'outsourced' to the website.





[Edited at 2011-09-28 12:27 GMT]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:15
French to English
+ ...
Not sure that's a web site problem Sep 28, 2011

Paula Borges wrote:
The work could then be 'outsourced' to this random website that doesn't seem to be connected to the original agency in any way. I have noticed none of these websites have any areas for clients, not an even an email to ask for a quote, just flashy 'make thousands from home' banners on websites for language students. Frankly, why would a client pay anything at all for risky, non-professional translations when machine translation is free?


Well, sure, that could always happen, web site or no web site. The owner of an agency could charge their clients top whack for a decent translation performed by skilled professionals and then actually just go down to the local pub and say "Anybody here got GCSE French?"... I'm not sure that the web site is necessarily to blame for that particular evil.


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:15
English to Japanese
+ ...
Is it? Sep 28, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

This is actually excellent news: if companies still have money to throw down the drain in disastrous translations, they also keep a healthy budget for the important translations we translators do for them.


I honestly cannot say that this is excellent news, since I feel that many of the agencies nowadays ARE forced to cut their rates to translators due to competition with other agencies.


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Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 11:15
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That, on a whole new level Sep 28, 2011

Neil Coffey wrote:

Paula Borges wrote:
The work could then be 'outsourced' to this random website that doesn't seem to be connected to the original agency in any way. I have noticed none of these websites have any areas for clients, not an even an email to ask for a quote, just flashy 'make thousands from home' banners on websites for language students. Frankly, why would a client pay anything at all for risky, non-professional translations when machine translation is free?


Well, sure, that could always happen, web site or no web site. The owner of an agency could charge their clients top whack for a decent translation performed by skilled professionals and then actually just go down to the local pub and say "Anybody here got GCSE French?"... I'm not sure that the web site is necessarily to blame for that particular evil.


I think it's a bit dangerous to try and convince people that anybody can be a translator in their free time for some extra cash. It's not exactly like selling cosmetics or herbal diet supplies. It's true that people have always done that, but this is a new level.

Of course, there will always be a market for quality. In fact, I think some people are only beginning to understand why translation is so important for their business.

But over the past few months, I've been getting more and more 'proofreading' work. Sometimes these translations are ok, other times atrocious but I'm expected to 'fix' it nonetheless. A lot of the time 'fixing' it would require doing it all over again.

Most end-clients cannot really assess quality, they just trust the agencies. I have been talking to people who pay for translation services and I was surprised to find out most of them feel prices as just as high as they used to be.

Yasutomo is right. Some great agencies I work with are facing problems. Of course, the solution would be educating the client... but the client is confused hearing all these things about CAT Tools, post-editing, faster turnarounds...




[Edited at 2011-09-28 13:18 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-09-28 13:21 GMT]


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