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I just fired an agency
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:04
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 22, 2013

I have worked with this company for over a year. They take a long time to pay (45 days). They always have small projects that require heavy formatting. They assign projects without asking for your availability first (you have to log-on to their portal in order to download the file and see if it is something you can do) and you are also supposed to submit your invoice through their portal. However, despite repeated attempts, I have never figured out how to do this.

I was seriously considering firing them and then I received this e-mail which made my decision a very easy one. They now want translators to fill in a checklist after each "delivery". (I find this process very demeaning and quite indicative of the type of people who must work for them). Why not add: "I am a freelance translator, I took a shower this morning."


"Dear Translators

...We have created a checklist that you can find attached...
Please notice a delivery will NOT be considered completed until this checklist is received from you."

Quality Control Checklist
By signing this document I certify that the translation/review was done to the best of my knowledge. Should a client dispute the TEP quality, (XXXX) reserves the right to dispute the invoice. XXX may request a credit based on documented errors."

Yes No N/A
Final documents have been checked for completeness

In case of an agency, separate linguists have taken part in the full TEP process

I have confirmed that that all dates, decimal/thousands separators, etc, use conventions of the target language

Documents have been finalized for delivery

If I am a freelance translator, I have done a final reading of the translation before delivery

All project related questions have been resolved with translation team/customer

Existing Translation Memories have been used

Translation Memories have been updated and provided to PM

Terminology and Glossaries have been used and updated

I have verified that parameters outlined in the Style Guide were followed

I have checked all instructions for the project and they have been followed

I have checked for spelling mistakes and typos in each document. Appropriate spell-checker was run on the translation

I have checked for omissions, duplications and truncated text

I have checked all proper names and source-language words are correct

I have checked all text attributes (bold, italics, underlining, etc.) are correct/consistent

I have checked that all special formatting (bullets, margins, symbols, tables, TOC, etc.) match the originals

I have verified that the capitalization and punctuation follow the target language convention

I have checked the spacing

I have run an automatic QA Checker like Apsic Xbench before delivery and include final log before delivery



[Edited at 2013-05-22 14:09 GMT]


 

Sandra Peters-Schöbel
Germany
Local time: 01:04
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
You are so right... May 22, 2013

Dear Jeff,

I agree with you. They are skipping their additional proofreading and are passing on all responsibilities to the translator, but do they tell their end customers so? Certainly not. If I were an end customer I would ask myself why I should pay an agency if they do not much more than forwarding all the material to their translators...
And filling out those self-evident taks a serious translator always does (but never talks about)...

I put myself some of my agencies on my personal "black list", especially those with payment conditions of 60 days (which are quite a lot...), low fees which are not even worth starting to work for and those with a lot of small ("tiny" they call it) projects which need deep researches on the web for almost every single word so that you end up with spending a whole hour for their hundred words.

But I am still thinking about if I should let them know somehow... and if so in which way that these conditions do not correspond with a well trained experienced translator. Will you tell them?


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:04
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sandra May 22, 2013

Yes, I will have to tell them because many times they have "assigned" me projects and I either did not get the e-mail, overlooked it or was not at home and they were quite angry several days later when the project was due. Jobs are assigned to you automatically and if you do not decline each one, it is considered that you have accepted the project.

 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:04
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
What a list! May 22, 2013

Quite breathtaking really, to see just how much work we put into a single translation! I see that I would be able to tick every item (except that I don't do all that much with CAT tools so those points are mostly irrelevant). Producing this list does at least prove their awareness that there's more to translation than dashing off a text.

(but you were quite right to send them packing of course)


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
Round of applause May 22, 2013

Three cheers! More people should tell these exploiters where to get off. Well done sir, I doff my translator hat to you;)

 

Roy Williams  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 01:04
Member (2011)
German to English
laughable May 22, 2013

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

Jobs are assigned to you automatically and if you do not decline each one, it is considered that you have accepted the project.


Well, you know the old saying about assumptions. You were really patient, I'm supprised you didn't fire them sooner.... or impose a P.I.M.A surcharge.

[Edited at 2013-05-22 13:49 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:04
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
A checklist is not unreasonable but it will not work May 22, 2013

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
They now want translators to fill in a checklist after each "delivery".


A checklist is a very useful tool for translators to remind them of the things that translators need to check before delivery. Usually, it is not unreasonable at all. If these are things that all professional translators should do anyway, then there can be no risk for you to sign it. However, in your case the list includes things that a freelance translator can't sign off on, because he is just one person with limited resources.

Most translators won't use the checklist as a list, however, but will simply check all the boxes without looking, so while the checklist is a bright idea in theory, it won't have the desired effect in practice.



[Edited at 2013-05-22 14:04 GMT]


 

Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:04
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
and I too doff May 22, 2013

I would have sacked them too.
And I would have told them so.
And I may have even sent them a checklist to tick just to make sure they'd understood.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:04
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
How did you manage to put up with them for a year? May 22, 2013

As the risk of sounding like a relationship counseloricon_wink.gif - there must have been something you liked about them initially. I suppose agencies can change in the course of a relationship, or perhaps even were just putting their best foot forward to hook you. At some point you just have realize they aren't what they seemed, and/or aren't going to change.
Oh my, now I really do sound like a therapist!

Those checklists are really are silly. Who would turn them in without checking everything Yes anyway?


 

Paulo Eduardo - Pro Knowledge  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 20:04
Member (2008)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Ek stem saam Samuel May 22, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
They now want translators to fill in a checklist after each "delivery".


A checklist is a very useful tool for translators to remind them of the things that translators need to check before delivery. Usually, it is not unreasonable at all. If these are things that all professional translators should do anyway, then there can be no risk for you to sign it. However, in your case the list includes things that a freelance translator can't sign off on, because he is just one person with limited resources.

Most translators won't use the checklist as a list, however, but will simply check all the boxes without looking, so while the checklist is a bright idea in theory, it won't have the desired effect in practice.



[Edited at 2013-05-22 14:04 GMT]
,

but many agencies abuse their right and don´t pay for the time needed to do that.


 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:04
English
+ ...
Hear hear! May 22, 2013

neilmac wrote:

Three cheers! More people should tell these exploiters where to get off. Well done sir, I doff my translator hat to you;)


For the last year or so, I've been replying to ANY email I get from ANY agency, that I do not work with agencies.

Only one ever replied.... to ask why.


 

Maria Sometti  Identity Verified
Italy
Member (2010)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
It is crazy May 22, 2013

Looks like working for KGB.

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:04
Chinese to English
One agency I work with has a good one May 22, 2013

Samuel Murray wrote:

A checklist is a very useful tool for translators to remind them of the things that translators need to check before delivery. Usually, it is not unreasonable at all.


One of the big agencies I work for has a checklist I like. It has eight items on, of which include Spellcheck, Grammarcheck, Numbercheck, QA check (a CAT thing). Eight is few enough that I do go through the relevant items one by one, and it's always a useful process.

Obviously, what Jeff's agency sent him is just a joke. Well sacked.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:04
Member (2008)
French to English
BB May 22, 2013

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

...They take a long time to pay (45 days)....


Please make a note of it on the BB.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 01:04
English to Polish
+ ...
My thoughts May 22, 2013

I believe the problem with such checklists and similar issues comes down to two factors that are independent in theory but closely connected in practice: I, misunderstanding the role of the translator, and II. the task and cost allocation whereof Sandra spak Sandra spoke about (nobody appreciates nice English any more).

Ad primum. Many people understand translators as some kind of servants. Which is not actually that far from the truth, and especially in light of Christian values nobody should really complain. On the other hand, you don't go to schools and read a lot to become a scholar and man or woman of letters, just to drop two social classes down on graduation and start being given jobs that more properly belong to office assistants, whose education, at least formal one, takes neither the same time nor the same money. And who often actually make more than you per hour. (See how much you take, and how much a copy shop does.)

Translators tend to be looked at as beta-reactive passive-submissives whose due fate is to have everything heaped on them for no thanks. The semi-aristocratic status brought by exhibiting fluency in foreign languages and some good general education, not to mention writing ability, is fading.

...Consequently, typos and other such matter more than your otherwise brilliant rendition and elocution. They are referred to as 'quality issues' and fishing them out is referred to as 'quality control'. Avoiding them is referred to as 'quality assurance'. Your degrees, knowledge, experience and other qualifications do not ensure the quality of your translations; running the spell-checker does. How demeaning. (Not that there are many excuses for a linguist's being sloppy with the written word.)

Nowadays there is a different, additional problems: translators are growingly becoming to double-hat as CAT technicians. I believe that's something support staff should be trained to do, many of whom don't need the same education and experience it takes to translate. Translators' prowess and overall ability is beginning to be measured by the numerous CAT programs they are familiar with (oh yes, a piece of software is a 'program', no 'me', in British English too), and those countless discounted courses and seminars in CAT handling, so that they can better achieve the discounts required of them, as well as better enforcing the frequently dumbed-down glossaries and TMs from previous projects, not to mention the good old formatting job.

The above begs question: Since when is that type of skills something a professional translator of text should spend his time learning? It's one thing knowing the tools of your trade, another becoming a flunkie that allows a client or agency to skimp on entry level office assistants and technicians. All of whom have trained for their respective jobs and deserve to be given them, along with the ability to feed and clothe their families, rather than being faded out by overqualified people.

Law firms suffer from the same problem with young lawyers binding, stapling and running back and forth with documents, as well as all the administrative filing, filling and recording that much less education prepares one to be able to do, and which means that someone with less schooling should be able to do.

By the way, translators have themselves to blame for much of the situation. You guys (because that took place long before I became a translator) have created, consolidated, petrified and entrenched the stupid rule that the client is always right on grammar, syntax and equivalence. That including somebody who's merely conversant in a language in which you have near-native proficiency, or a fellow native speaker who doesn't quite have your level of education in language or education at all. That too leads to zombie farming.

Ad secundum. Ages ago goods and services were priced basing on costs or value brought. This is not Marx, this is Aquinas. Nowadays the drive for profit is so high that some middlemen indeed just go ahead and shove the costs and risks and everything else on the parties either i) to reduce their own prices and be 'competitive', or ii) maximise mark-up. In case i), some are forced to do so by their market condition and can't really help it. In case ii), that's not really always overt greed, it may just be the desire to drop off some load while still getting a good chunk of pay.

What's inefficient in the above situation is the use of overqualified human resources for simple tasks that somebody else should be doing, for less, and more expertly. Because a dedicated support technician or office assistant will still be better than somebody with a Ph.D. in linguistics and 30 years of experience.

Also, a real proofreader will be better. In fact, proofreaders and translators need somewhat different skills, a different focus, it's not easy to double-hat, especially on the same project. Even mindsets are different. Proofreaders are supposed to have pedantic attention to detail and be the rules police. On the other hand, translators are supposed to bring in the light pen, get the flow and so on, unless that's an editor's job as in some cases it should be. Turning the translator into a one-man team is not exactly conducive to the optimal development of the skills required, even if there are some side benefits relating to synergies.

To fix the problem, I believe especially clients, or rather the general public, as well as agencies, would need to be taught to appreciate and respect translators, their work, their education, and their skill. Ignorance is the real enemy here.


 
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