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Translator Agreement Clause
Thread poster: Caroline Grenache

Caroline Grenache  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:00
English to French
+ ...
Apr 11, 2013

Good morning fellow translators,

I have received a Translator Agreement from an agency I had sent my resume to and wanted to get you thoughts on one of the clauses. Basically, it explains that the agency has an LQA system in place (great), that they have the translations evaluated by an independent reviewer (excellent) and that translators are given the opportunity to question or comment the score sheets (everything fine so far).

Then we get to the next paragraph:

« XXX expects quality at source and we expect our Vendor Partners to achieve the XXX required quality, without intervention by XXX. Therefore as advised, XXX may charge back to the supplier to accommodate the cost of scorecard completed, which fails (following arbitration) the XXX required pass level of 99.5%. Charge back rates are set on the basis of failure percentage.

Scorecard result - 99% to 99.49% - $25
Scorecard result - 98% to 98.99% - $35
Scorecard result - Below 98% - $50

If a score card is still a fail after arbitration and there is still disagreement between the translation vendor partner and the reviewer, XXX can initiate an independent third party review. If the score card is still a fail, the cost of the 3rd party arbitration will be assigned to the translation vendor partner, as well as the cost of the failed score card. »

Has anybody ever come across similar terms? I have not so far and was wondering if this was common practice. I have to say that I am not very comfortable with such terms, not because I doubt the quality of my translations but simply because I do not feel that the cost of an agency's LQA process should be incurred by translators. This is a very reputable translation agency with an excellent BB record.

Ay thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks in advance!

Caroline Grenache

[Edited at 2013-04-11 15:25 GMT]


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 11:00
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Don't agree Apr 11, 2013

I would absolutely not agree to that. Point one, who does the scoring? Point two, if corrections are required after proofreading, you should always get a chance to correct them first. Producing a good translation is often the result of cooperation between the agency (PM, proofreaders) and the translator. This agreement seems to indicate a non-cooperative, punitive kind of relationship, not the kind of agency I would want to work for.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I'd stay well away if I were you Apr 11, 2013

Caroline Grenache wrote:
This is a very reputable translation agency with an excellent BB record.

Very reputable or simply very large and with a lot of weight to throw around to impress those freelancers who don't realise they are business owners with specialist skills? We're all in business for profit, of course, but I don't think this agency is thinking of anything apart from increased profits for itself. "LQA" just happens to be yet another way of getting yet more profit from already-exploited "partners" (i.e. people working in the equivalent of sweat-shop conditions without even the benefits of an employee contract).icon_mad.gif

But maybe I'm just getting cynical in my dotage.icon_wink.gif

Edited for typo


[Edited at 2013-04-11 15:14 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:00
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't agree Apr 11, 2013

It is perfectly fine with me if my customers have LQA systems, their own scorecards about my performance, etc. etc., but if they are unhappy about my performance they should simply stop hiring my services. Is's so very simple!

I would not accept these conditions. They make things unnecessarily complicated, and put you in a situation in which you never know how much you will be paid for your work in the end. What I think is a good agency customer is a company whose vendor agreement is about a page long.

Let me bet: the rate they are offering is sub-standard (and I mean well under the rates for traslation as stated in proz.com, which are already rather low). Am I wrong here?


 

Caroline Grenache  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:00
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Rates not even discussed at this point Apr 11, 2013

Thank you all for your feedback,

I really appreciate it! It was also my impression from the start, but I always like to get a second opinionicon_smile.gif

@Tomas: Rates have not yet been discussed...


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:00
English to Polish
+ ...
The industry is ailing Apr 11, 2013

Caroline, the economy is ailing. Professions are replaced by industries, business is replaced by processes, everybody wants to escape liability, consumers demand to be and are treated like kings while they do get duped in the long term and larger scheme of things. This is all madness, and a token of the fallen nature of man. The so called crisis additionally pushes companies to try desperate measures not tried in economically steadier times.

Please note that it is certainly possible to build a business model for dealing with translators in which deductions from the nominal rates are the standard rather than exception. Non-payers do use proof sheets as arguments in their renegotiation attempts. I have no desire to cast suspicion on an ageny, especially a reputable one, but 99.5% does sound awfully high, and the absolute bottom line 98% even more so. No matter what scale we are talking about, 99.5% of anything is basically the whole thing.

Another thing is that you aren't going to have any two grammarians agree with each other to that level. Individual differences of opinion or even different interpretations of the same commonly held standards and rules are going to account for more than 0.5% or even 2% disparity from one proofreader or reviewer to the next. My lawyer experience prevents me from stepping into that type of situations. I'm careful not to step into the realm of subjective evaluations, and in the world of language any threshold close to perfection is bound to be ridden with subjectivity. Which is why I tend to deal in the excellent bracket but without aiming for the perfect bracket. And would usually prefer to sign to the good job standard, while leaving it up to the client if excellent is more like it and thus worth coming back to me for more. On the other hand, agencies and clients who feel they have a strong position will have a tendency to require the standard to be satisfaction or at least reasonable satisfaction. Unfortunately, this is a big problem in the industry. Fortunately, however, your terms don't actually explicitly mention any subjective criteria, as much as the reviewing is likely to involve some in practice (as any reviewing). It's only that narrow gates like 0.5-2% exacerbate the bitter effect of subjective differences.

Also, $25, $50 and such like amounts are a totally different thing depending on whether they are assessed against a $20 quick job, a run-off-the-mill couple hundred or a $5000 contract. I am perplexed by the fact that they are not relative amounts, e.g. percentile deductions in proportion to the extent of problems found in your translation but it's possible that some kind of processing fee is involved which does not grow in proportion to the size of the contract and they just don't want to shoulder that fee on their own when dealing with unsatisfactory performance by translators. In which case you might need to make some adjustments and e.g. not accept jobs where the risk of effectively working for peanuts would be too high.

Bottom line: you need to ask for explanation, renegotiate if in doubt, and I wouldn't take any significant jobs before explaining the deduction system.

The customary practice where I live and work is that proofreading is paid for by the agency or the client, especially depending on the number of layers, depth, level of guarantee etc. but a translator's fee incurs deductions if the amount of additional work for the proofreader is significant or the job just feels bad and seems to deserve a pay cut in an equitable imagination.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:00
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Rates are the last thing to be discussed Apr 11, 2013

Caroline Grenache wrote:
Rates have not yet been discussed...

I think you'll find they won't be discussed until you've signed many pieces of paper, copied your ID card or passport, produced a letter from the tax authorities and several client references, and done several test translations (free, of course).

Then if you accept the non-negotiable (by you, that is) rates offered, they'll put you on their database. When something totally unsuitable comes up (e.g. a genetic engineering thesis when you're a marketing specialist), they'll call you up with a "sorry, low budget this time" job of 3000 words to be delivered later that day.


 

Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:00
English to French
+ ...
And, you would want to work with this agency, why? Apr 11, 2013



Ay thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated.



 

Caroline Grenache  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:00
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Valuable feedback Apr 11, 2013

Thank you Lukasz for the valuable feedback, these are very good points indeed.

@JL01: I had approached this agency just like I regularly approach other ones by sending them my resume. In some cases, it has lead to good business relationships; in the case of this agency, however, I do not think it will.


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:00
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Agreement Clause Apr 11, 2013

I had some sort of same agreement given to me to sign. I gave up because it was too wordy and the company had BBs. The trouble is that those that give it BBs. I am afraid of signing such things as I do not want to do work for nothing. Problem is that others accept- and I will have lost the work! I gave up sending the company his form, with my prices, language pairs, specialities etc. Makes you think they are finding an easy way out not to pay.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:00
Chinese to English
Liquidated damages Apr 11, 2013

I've never seen this practice before, but it doesn't sound all that bad to me. Liquidated damages are pretty common, and these amounts aren't huge.

The question would be, what does "99.5%" mean? How is it scored? You could ask the company how often this happens in reality, and whether they give their translators the opportunity to amend their translations before applying penalties.

I wouldn't get too hung up on the details of a contract. I'd try to work out whether the company is worth doing business with and go from there.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I have never seen an LQA score that high Apr 11, 2013

Caroline Grenache wrote:
Scorecard result - 99% to 99.49% - $25
Scorecard result - 98% to 98.99% - $35
Scorecard result - Below 98% - $50


You'll always pay USD 50.00, then. It is very, very easy to get a FAIL on an LQA. All it takes are three translators who disagree about something, and one translator who is unable to prove his point to a client who can't understand anything that is being said. These LQAs are also quite subjective, and the exact same text may score a good pass, a bad pass or a complete fail, depending on who the reviewer is and on how tired he is when he does it.

Has anybody ever come across similar terms? I have not so far and was wondering if this was common practice.


I would not sign it. Not ever.

As for LQAs, I have little faith in them. When my translations get scored, I have to spend a lot of time explaining why my translation is not an objective error. I also suspect that some editors don't know that they should only mark objective errors on an LQA, and so they mark all their changes on it, which obviously gives a fail.




[Edited at 2013-04-11 18:00 GMT]


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:00
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
I have nothing to add, I'm just posting to support what was already said Apr 11, 2013

I can only echo the advices given here. I don't have anything to add but thought that it is worth posting just to emphasize what was said.

The translation marketplace is full of abusive practices and other questionable conduct and practices, some general to any marketplace and others more unique. It is not always easy to navigate, but as a rule of thumb one should always be guided by common sense and stay away from anything that puts them in disadvantage.

Also, as Shiela said, don't be impress by "big" agencies, they are often the worst from a business and professional standpoints.
Another rule of thumb, There are two types of clients:
1. Those who respect you and the profession, at least to some degree, and with whom one can establish some kind of relationship. Those usually send you a project after picking you (in oppose for going for the cheapest option or require you to get involved in bidding wars) for the project, accompanied by nothing more than a simple standard NDA, if at all.
2. The time wasters: those who try to dictate all the terms, communicate with you via email templates, burden you with a lot of form filling and other bureaucratic steps, require you to provide your work for free in a form of a free test, and otherwise seem to have a great interest in wasting your time and energy.

[Edited at 2013-04-11 18:33 GMT]


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 22:30
English to Hindi
+ ...
I would think twice too Apr 12, 2013

I have signed many translator agreements during the course of my career and I have never come across such a clause in any of them so far.

Before deciding to work with this agency, you will have to get clarifications from them on the several counts that other posters have mentioned:

- how do they define 99.5% accuracy
- how often are translators achieving this level of accuracy
- how frequently are the penalties applied in actual practice

Other points to consider are, the blueboard record of the agency. Do they pay on time, are their rates premium - considering that they make such a fetish of accuracy, I would expect that they pay above market rates - at least 20% above. What volume of work can you expect from them? What is the average job size? If jobs are very large, say $500 or more on the average, then a maximum penalty of 50 dollars is not much and can be risked. But if the average is say $100 you lose half the money.

It seems to me that the agency has kept these clauses to keep the translators on their toes, and less with the intention of actually penalizing them. I base this judgement on the fact that the penalty amounts are rather paltry. But you will of course have to verify this, and that won't be easy, as it would be your subjective assessment of the agency's replies.

Probably, the only sane course is to agree to these terms and see how things pan out. If you run into trouble frequently with them, you can of course stop working further with them.

I have a hunch that this clause is mere bluster on the part of the agency, for two reasons. First, the penalty amounts are insignificant, and second, if they are too serious about it, they will end up with no translators working for them.

Or, they could be a really inexperienced agency that knows nothing about translation - otherwise they wouldn't be expecting 99.5% accuracy routinely. If this is the case, then they could be dangerous, and you should give them a wide berth. No translation, however the quality metrics are defined, can achieve 99.5% accuracy in the eyes of an evaluator. There is always a scope for improvement. Translation after all is not an exact science like mathematics where 4 + 4 always makes 8. Here a sentence can be translated in as many ways as there are translators. Probably the agency doesn't properly understand this, which then could be troublesome for its translators.

That is why I say, give them a try for a while, and then decide.

[2013-04-12 04:06 GMT पर संपादन हुआ]


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:00
English to Polish
+ ...
Bad proofing and reviewing – the plague Apr 13, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

These LQAs are also quite subjective, and the exact same text may score a good pass, a bad pass or a complete fail, depending on who the reviewer is and on how tired he is when he does it.


Can I borrow the quote (I'd give you credit for it)? It sounds like a perfect brief explanation that a client could understand. It would look good in a plain language, semi-conversational ToS.

As for LQAs, I have little faith in them. When my translations get scored, I have to spend a lot of time explaining why my translation is not an objective error. I also suspect that some editors don't know that they should only mark objective errors on an LQA, and so they mark all their changes on it, which obviously gives a fail.


When asked to proofread or review a translation, I always ask what the purpose is: to identify errors and especially charge the translator with errors, or improve the quality of the text as far as is possible to me. In the former instance I avoid red pen like the plague, in the latter one I'm pretty liberal with it.

Unprofessional proofreading and reviewing is the curse of this industry. I've been failed or strongly criticised by reviewers who made grammatical or spelling errors in their opinions or even in the changes proposed, apart from the usual arbitrary replacement of equivalent words or phrases.


 
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