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Communicating with a PM: what would YOU do in this instance?
Thread poster: Sian Cooper

Sian Cooper  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:22
French to English
+ ...
Jul 12, 2013

When I first started as a freelance translator, and was naive and confused, instead of just confused, I was working on joint quote with a translator friend. The job was for French-English, and she wrote in English. I asked if it wasn't better to prove that, as an English person, she could actually speak French, but she pointed out that English was the language they were really interested in, being the target. This seemed eminently sensible, and I have always gone by it.

Today I sent a quote for a ProZ job. The job ad. was written in French, the job was for French into English. As is my habit, I said hello in French, then continued my quote in English. My CV is in English (and will remain so).

I got back a reply that said simply 'I do not speak English' (in French). No hello, no thank you, no goodbye, no signature. Just that.

I know PMs are busy, but I found this extremely rude. Still, since this is apparently a good agency to work for (lots of positive BB), I decided I would answer, re-stating my quote in French. I managed to delete all my sarcastic comments - no 'Don't you find that a drawback in this industry?'; no 'No other agencies have found this a problem to date'.

Well, almost. I could not resist opening with (in French, of course) 'Since I am a translator, I am happily able to express myself in both languages'. Nor could I resist closing with a slightly over-polite formula, 'Je vous salue cordialement', instead of the normal just 'Cordialement'.

I do not for a moment expect to get a positive response, but I was not going to leave it at that.

What would you have done? Should I have told them outright that busy does not preclude being polite? How do you feel about an agency that is dealing in languages in which they have no skills? How can they judge and choose translators?

Thanks for your feedback and the opportunity to fume a little.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:22
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
hum Jul 12, 2013

Personally, I would always answer in the language used by the person writing to me.

A quote is not an opportunity to show you speak English. It's a document stating your rate for a job. Surely you have other ways of showing that you speak English?

As a former PM I can say that if I had asked a translator for a quote and got it in a language I don't speak I would have been mystified at least. A translator is supposed to speak at least two languages. PMs don't have to even if they do tend to. I managed all sorts of projects in languages I didn't speak, so I would have had trouble if they had all applied the same logic as your friend.


 

SBTS  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:22
German to English
+ ...
Reply in the language of the posting Jul 12, 2013

I usually reply in the same language as the posting.
Imagine having your own agency one day and needing a translation from English to some language that neither you nor anyone else in your agency speaks - I would go to a place like ProZ and look for translators working in that pair. If they reply in the target language, I would have to inform them (politely) that I don't speak the language.
Replying in the language of the posting just seems like good form and good business to me.
Stefan


 

nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:22
English to French
+ ...
language of the ad Jul 12, 2013

Usually it is safer to answer using the language of the ad.
You cannot expect all PMs to speak all languages in an agency. This has nothing to do with the agency being serious or not. A serious agency will hire proofreaders anyway.

As for the "no hello, no thank you etc" this is another story. This PM seems not very professional to me, but not because they cannot speak English.

Not every translator can speak English either. I know colleagues translating GE>FR or IT, SP > FR who cannot, and they don't feel it is a major drawback since they deal with clients speaking their source or target language.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:22
Russian to English
+ ...
Never work for any agency which cannot proofread or evaluate your work Jul 12, 2013

They may accuse you of a thousand things which are not true, if they have any problem with their original client -- they will blame it on you, not on their too high prices, or being rude to some clients. Some agencies simply have no idea if the work was done well, or not, and this is dangerous.

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You acted in good faith.... Jul 12, 2013

...and they should have acknowledged that. In a way, you should be happy not to have to deal with a person whose attitude does not match your expectations or your idea of a healthy business relationship.

 

Mina Ahmadi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:22
Member
Persian (Farsi) to English
+ ...
Communicate with the same language but... Jul 12, 2013

I'm Persian. I answer my clients based on their location. With Persian clients I speak Persian(having a translation agency doen't mean that companies'staff know many languages) and withe clients outside my country I speak English (I assume they don't know Pesian). But about the way of their behavior I'm very sensetive! Some agencies let themselves behave in a rude way jsut because they suppose the translator needs them financially or dependant on them for continuous collaboration! And this is bothering. It's true that you should answer your clients with their own languages, but all clients, especially translation agencies should follow respectful way of commnication. In my opinion, the way of their behavior is a good sign of their validity. I can't trust companies taht don't follow or maybe don't know the reasonable and acceptable way of correspondence!

 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:22
Hebrew to English
Meh Jul 12, 2013

The French.icon_smile.gificon_biggrin.gif ...what you gonna do?

n01k.jpg

In seriousness, I always felt the French refusal to sing in English in the Eurovision Song Contest told me everything about their receptiveness to English, so I might have erred on the side of caution and wrote the email in the language of the advert - French, or hedged my bets and wrote it in both (time consuming though). That said, their response was plain rude and there's no excuse for that.

[Edited at 2013-07-13 07:53 GMT]


 

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 23:22
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Was the person who read your email NOT the original ad poster? Jul 12, 2013

If not, could it be possible that they are allergic to French?

I do not mean to disparage any French-speaking people out there, but in my recent experience here on ProZ, French speakers seem to be very proud of their language and some insist on using it in inappropriate circumstances. This isn't always the best practice. For example, I recently posted a couple of job ads in English on ProZ, and got several replies completely in French. Their quotes immediately went to the bottom of the list because I just don't speak French. Why should I rely on Google Translate just to understand their quotes? This just isn't a good way to approach a potential customer.

***By way of additional disclaimer, let me just say one more time, for the record, that I have no bad feelings toward France, the French people or the French language. I'm only singling out French here because I have NOT had comparable experience with any other languages, and French WAS mentioned in the topic starter's original post.***

Going back to your situation, Sian, I don't think you did anything wrong. You were simply unlucky that your email was read by someone not familiar with basic etiquette.

[Edited at 2013-07-12 22:04 GMT]


 

Mark Hamlen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:22
French to English
+ ...
Well.... language mixes go with the profession Jul 12, 2013

As a translator to English from French and from Russian, I have been surprised several times to receive requests for quotes in German. My German is horrible and it's not in my profile... But the agencies were respectable so I ran the request through Google translate (yes, our enemy has its uses) to be sure what they were asking for and then responded in English with apologies.

I got the assignments and the correspondence continued in English.

So I suggest that in this profession, we (including PMs) all have to be very flexible.


 

Mahdieh Kandoei  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:52
Member
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
definitely agree Jul 12, 2013

minaahmadi wrote:

I'm Persian. I answer my clients based on their location. With Persian clients I speak Persian(having a translation agency doen't mean that companies'staff know many languages) and withe clients outside my country I speak English (I assume they don't know Pesian). But about the way of their behavior I'm very sensetive! Some agencies let themselves behave in a rude way jsut because they suppose the translator needs them financially or dependant on them for continuous collaboration! And this is bothering. It's true that you should answer your clients with their own languages, but all clients, especially translation agencies should follow respectful way of commnication. In my opinion, the way of their behavior is a good sign of their validity. I can't trust companies taht don't follow or maybe don't know the reasonable and acceptable way of correspondence!


I'm agree. The way the companies behave, shows the way they work.
If they don't have enough time to communicate in a respectful manner with their translators, they never expect to keep their translator in touch. They loose not only their translators, but also their clients, so be calm, they NEED you. You never need them.icon_smile.gif))))))))


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:22
Member (2008)
French to English
So, speak French Jul 13, 2013

Presumably the person you were discussing with was a project manager, not a translator. Why should he speak English? That's what project managers hire translators for.

Since the question is "what would you do in this instance?" my answer is simple - speak French.

French speakers seem to be very proud of their language


As an English speaker myself, I'm afraid I see this very true of English speakers. When I visit Germany or France, I have been told by other English speakers "Don't worry, they will speak English". I don't see why on earth this should be so and, of course, it isn't.

A fundamental prrinciple of international business is to speak the customer's language. That is surely the underpinning of our business. Obviously this becomes difficult when you don't speak the customer's language, which is why a language such as English has become a somewhat universal business language, but if you do speak the customer's language, why ever would you not simply do so?

[Edited at 2013-07-13 00:57 GMT]


 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 01:52
English to Hindi
+ ...
I always reply in English Jul 13, 2013

Of course I have no choice for that is the only language I know, other than Hindi, which most PMs wouldn't know.

I have several times received email inquiries in languages that I cannot even make out what they are, let alone understand what they are saying. Thankfully Google Translate always comes to the rescue.

In these cases, after wording my reply in English based on what Google Translate has revealed, I politely add a line that I know only English, so could further conversations be carried out in this language.

I have had this experience more frequently with Germans, probably as a whole English is less spread among the German speaking people. A few other cases were in Italian and one in Chinese.

PMs in other languages make a brave attempt to use English and I am grateful to them for that. Even though their English may not be what would please finicky native speakers, it communicates and that is all I want.

In your particular case, I think you didn't do right to mix two languages in your email. As others have pointed out, emails are not the medium to flaunt our linguistic capabilities, they are for the negotiation of rates, deadlines and such things, and need to communicate properly.

But I am also mystified by the response of the PM. He seems to be a psychological case or extremely overworked and on the point of getting a nervous breakdown to have responded in the fashion you say he did.


 

David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 21:22
German to English
+ ...
I think your coleaugue was wrong Jul 13, 2013

It is only polite to answer correspondence/adverts in the language they were written in. It might be seen as "typical British arrogance" not to do so (though I am certainly not suggesting this does not apply in your case). I automatically correspond with my German-speaking clients in German unless they have indicated themselves that they prefer English.

I certainly don't expect PMs to have a command of English - as already pointed out, it isn't their job. The proofreading of your work could easily be passed on to another native speaker (to answer another contributor's comment).


 

564354352 (X)  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:22
Danish to English
+ ...
Respond in the language chosen by the poster Jul 13, 2013

As a rule, I think it is only logical to respond in the language in which an ad is written. Why would you expect somebody to be able to communicate in any other language? As I understand it, PMs are quite often NOT translators, but administrative staff. They may have some additional language skills (definitely a plus in the world of translationicon_biggrin.gif ), but then again, they may not.

I recently noticed an add for an English-Danish job posted by an agency in Spain. The owner (and poster) was clearly Danish, so although she wrote her ad in English, I responded in Danish. I got an immediate reply from someone else at the agency asking me to write in English as not everybody who would look at incoming mails at the agency spoke Danish. I thought this was perfectly reasonable, and in fact, this is the first time I have chosen to respond in a language different to the one in which an ad is posted.

PMs don't speak every language the agency works in, how could they possibly? It is unreasonable to expect them to know every language into which they require a translation, even if that language is English. Agencies may very well use freelance proofreaders into a multitude of languages, I don't see anything unusual in that at all.

What I do find odd is that agencies at times post their adverts for translation between Danish and English in a completely different language. I have seen postings for this language combination here at ProZ.com in German, French and Italian, all of which I can just about manage to understand, but in which I have no real proficiency. In such cases, I think it is reasonable to expect agencies to use English in their communication.

As for the 'rude' answer you feel you got. Well, maybe those few words were all the writer knew in English, so not so rude after all?


 
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