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How quick is too quick when it comes to test translations?
Thread poster: Karahan Sisman

Karahan Sisman  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 04:39
Member (2010)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Jul 22, 2013

Hello everyone,

A quick brief: A project manager from an agency sends an e-mail, stating she has a 'paid test piece' for one of her clients and she's going to choose translators and proofreaders for the upcoming project. I accept the assignment and although the deadline is Monday (it was a Friday afternoon), I translate 300 words in half an hour and send it back immediately.

Here's her reply, without changing a single word:

"Excuse me?! There is no way you have translated 300 words in 30 minutes. I will not pay you for this as I cannot believe this is a good job. I'm afraid I will cancel this and give it to somebody else."

How would you respond? Do you think this is an acceptable attitude? Do you think a PM has the right to criticize (actually, insult) a translator just based on the speed?

In my humble opinion, considering this is a test piece to choose the best candidates, she might have kindly thanked me for my efforts, implied that she had some concerns due to quick delivery, but sent out the test piece for review. When she got the reviewer's comments, (assuming the reviewer says it's full of mistakes due to lack of attention), she might have sent me another e-mail, stating I wasn't chosen for the project as I wasn't careful enough and my test piece was full of mistakes.

By the way, I told her I wouldn't charge anything for the test piece, but I was eager to get the detailed feedback from her reviewer. It has been 10 days now, but I've got no feedback yet.

Thanks in advance.


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:39
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Good riddance... Jul 22, 2013

... Even though having a paid test piece is a good thing, she never mentioned you needed to do it - and certainly not withing 30 minutes - , it looked more of an announcement to me...

.. and she's going to choose translators and proofreaders for the upcoming project...

She never send you the go-ahead, a price/budget details or a PO...

But she should be happy with the fact you picked it up and did it...
(great on the proactive scale!)
So, this sounds like an agency that does not appreaciate your effort.

Perhaps you are better off, not working for them...

Ed


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Karahan Sisman  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 04:39
Member (2010)
English to Turkish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jul 22, 2013

Hi Edward,

Thanks for your swift reply.

Actually, I got the "go-ahead" from her before proceeding


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 01:39
Japanese to English
Forget them Jul 22, 2013

Strike that agency from your list. Regardless of what she thinks of your speed, her response to you was rude and inconsiderate. Just imagine what she must be like to work with.

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Maximiliano Zapata
Turkey
Local time: 22:39
Spanish to English
+ ...
You are better off with someone else Jul 22, 2013

That was very rude and as someone said before, you are better off without them.

By the way, you could've said: "you read 300 words in 30 seconds?, you must have cheated!"

Oh!, and someone in charge of an office not reading/controlling the work your are suppoused to charge...top of the class I may say.


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Olena Vasilatos  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:39
Greek to Russian
+ ...
Do not pay attention Jul 22, 2013

Just don`t pay attention at such project managers! 300 words in 30 minutes is not something irrealistic! If it is your field of translation and you have translated hundreds of such pieces, there is no wonder that you work with such speed! So it is her problem and of course the agency`s problem where she works that they lost so easily such professional.

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Karahan Sisman  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 04:39
Member (2010)
English to Turkish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks TransAfrique and Olena Jul 22, 2013

Actually, this is an agency that I've been working with for about 5 years and it's a well-known agency. Yet, I had never worked for this PM before.

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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:39
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
it takes all sorts to make a world Jul 22, 2013

I think that her response was simply bizarre. Surely speed is not a disadvantage unless it leads to inaccuracy or slovenly work? Clients usually complain (and they are right to) if a project is handed in late, not if a project is handed in early.
If a translation is in my field and similar to other documents I've translated in the past, I can do 1,000 words in an hour so it's not that odd to be able to do 300 words in half an hour.

If I had the time, and it was an existing client, I think that I would have found out the name of her superior and sent her my reply with the superior in cc to say that your speed is usually appreciated by your clients and asking her to please limit her comments to any actual quality issues there may be with your text and to endeavour to communicate in a more businesslike manner in the future. I would have also said that unfortunately, "being too quick" was not an issue that would absolve them from paying.

If I didn't, or if it were a new agency, I may have just ignored the e-mail and felt relieved that I hadn't accepted any larger projects from this agency prior to finding out how they deal with their suppliers.


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Karahan Sisman  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 04:39
Member (2010)
English to Turkish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Marie Jul 22, 2013

Totally agree with you. Even if I'm chosen for this project, I will try to let her managers know this issue, so that other translators won't be treated like that in future.

At this point, it's not about getting the job, it's about ensuring a decent attitude.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:39
English to Polish
+ ...
Plus a lecture Jul 22, 2013

Marie-Helene Dubois wrote:

I think that her response was simply bizarre. Surely speed is not a disadvantage unless it leads to inaccuracy or slovenly work? Clients usually complain (and they are right to) if a project is handed in late, not if a project is handed in early.
If a translation is in my field and similar to other documents I've translated in the past, I can do 1,000 words in an hour so it's not that odd to be able to do 300 words in half an hour.

If I had the time, and it was an existing client, I think that I would have found out the name of her superior and sent her my reply with the superior in cc to say that your speed is usually appreciated by your clients and asking her to please limit her comments to any actual quality issues there may be with your text and to endeavour to communicate in a more businesslike manner in the future. I would have also said that unfortunately, "being too quick" was not an issue that would absolve them from paying.

If I didn't, or if it were a new agency, I may have just ignored the e-mail and felt relieved that I hadn't accepted any larger projects from this agency prior to finding out how they deal with their suppliers.


I wouldn't let it pass. An 'excuse me?!' is not acceptable in business correspondence. The rest that follows is insulting. I would either lecture the person on business manners on my own or allow her superior to handle it, depending on the circumstances. But it is crucial that translators react – or else the rudeness of agency or client staff will keep progressing. 'Is that how you talk to your doctor or lawyer?' would be in order.

The person's ignorance is also showing. I need not elaborate on the claim that 300 words can't be done right in 30 minutes. (I could usually deliver a good if not perfect sample within half the time.) Ignorance coupled with deficient manners is a bad combination for business. I tend to terminate outsourcers for combining both.


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KateKaminski
Local time: 01:39
German to English
It's none of her business how long it takes you to translate it Jul 22, 2013

... as long as you deliver by the deadline, of course.

You are not an employee, or her student. You should be judged on the work delivered - if you can do it in 30 minutes rather than an hour without losing quality, it suggests you are an expert on the subject and have clearly mastered the languages you work in.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:39
English to German
+ ...
Honestly? This PM has a point and I would be concerned, too. Jul 22, 2013

Karahan Şişman wrote:
A quick brief: A project manager from an agency sends an e-mail, stating she has a 'paid test piece' for one of her clients and she's going to choose translators and proofreaders for the upcoming project. I accept the assignment and although the deadline is Monday (it was a Friday afternoon), I translate 300 words in half an hour and send it back immediately.


Why did you do that? To prove that you are not busy, that you are not in demand and that you are currently twiddling your thumbs? That's pretty much the worst first impression possible.


Here's her reply, without changing a single word:
"Excuse me?! There is no way you have translated 300 words in 30 minutes. I will not pay you for this as I cannot believe this is a good job. I'm afraid I will cancel this and give it to somebody else."


Getting things done fast is not the best approach to win a new account. They want to see that you put thought into it, that you reviewed your own work over and over, and that you take this one and all future projects seriously. Top-notch quality is not a race.

Nobody cares if it took you 30 minutes only. Or if you indeed did not bother to read your work over to check if it can be improved. You pass the test, or you don't.

What you did has most likely been interpreted as follows:

- You are used to work for sweat-shops at ridiculous rates. All that counts is speed.
- You give the impression that you are sloppy
- You give a rodent's behind about quality
- You don't check and proofread your translations before delivery, which means that you consider the proofreader (a translator like you, possibly even higher qualified) your cleaning woman
- You are a very eager beaver. A little bit too eager when it comes to kissing up.

That lady was looking for quality, not for a quickie.



How would you respond? Do you think this is an acceptable attitude? Do you think a PM has the right to criticize (actually, insult) a translator just based on the speed?


Where is the insult? What if it had been a man? Here is what I would do: Write back that this test simply has hit you at your adrenaline peak time of the day, that you didn't mean to appear shallow or sloppy, but that instead you were happy to give a sample of your reliable turnaround times instead and that you hope that your efforts were not misinterpreted.



By the way, I told her I wouldn't charge anything for the test piece, but I was eager to get the detailed feedback from her reviewer. It has been 10 days now, but I've got no feedback yet.


Please respect other people's schedules.


Regards,

Nicole Schnell at
Schnell Creative Group, Inc.

Outsourcer



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Texte Style
Local time: 02:39
French to English
As usual Jul 22, 2013

Nicole is spot on.

As a PM, I would not have sent the 'excuse me' mail but I would have thought it.

She was rude and jumped to a conclusion, but if she's looking for quality (a perfectly reasonable and highly desirable attitude, and usually the entire point of doing the test) then she probably will prefer someone who takes time to craft a text that reads well.

As from hearing back, what is the payment schedule?


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:39
Member (2008)
French to English
A question of what was agreed Jul 22, 2013

A others have said, if the subject matter, etc., was straightforward and something the OP was used to, 300 words in 30 minutes, including proofreading and checking, is not unusually fast. Most experienced translators would do this regularly - perhaps not all day every day, but for a short piece this is not unusual.

The issue here is that the PM judged the submission based on time only, apparently without actually checking the work.

I think you could have responded that it's too late to cancel after delivery. You had an agreement and you delivered, now it's the agency's obligation to deliver their part of the agreement. This is assuming, of course, that the quality of the piece was up to standard, but from what you say that wasn't even raised, merely a hypothetical assumption that it couldn't be up to standard.

If the job had been billed as originally agreed it would warrant a post on the BlueBoard.

[Edited at 2013-07-22 15:56 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:39
English to German
+ ...
@John Jul 22, 2013

John Fossey wrote:

A others have said, if the subject matter, etc., was straightforward and something the OP was used to, 300 words in 30 minutes, including proofreading and checking, is not unusually fast. Most experienced translators would do this regularly - perhaps not all day every day, but for a short piece this is not unusual.


Karahan received the mini-job on Friday afternoon. His deadline was Monday. Three days later.


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