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Negative feed-back after translation, what to do?
Thread poster: xxxNol

xxxNol
France
Local time: 14:22
German to French
+ ...
Sep 10, 2013

I have just received a negative feed-back for a translation delivered last week so I am rather annoyed.
I have been working with this agency for a a few months and everything went fine so far.
Unfortunately, last week, I accepted a translation in a field I had never worked (legal document).
It took me plenty of time to do research for terminology and the deadline was too short for me. I shouldn't have accepted!
Now, the agency has sent me the file I translated corrected by the client and the agency asks me to write a report, thorough as possible, to justify the terminological choices I have made, etc. (because the final client is asking for financial compensation).
I read the modifications and the trouble is the changes are justified and they are right all down the line.
There are different agencies across the country and this is the first time this office has contacted me.
I am afraid of not getting assignments from them in the future.
What do you advise me to do?


 

Radian Yazynin  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Either to not take on such projects Sep 10, 2013

or ask for help from legal experts who can check your translation before sending it to your client.

[Edited at 2013-09-10 19:01 GMT]


 

xxxNol
France
Local time: 14:22
German to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Radian Sep 10, 2013

This is what I should have done but now it's too late. I was asking for advice considering the present situation. What to do not to "lose face"?
I only have six months experience.


 

Radian Yazynin  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Tell the truth and Sep 10, 2013

agree with a a rebate if it's possible, promise to accept only what you know very well in future.

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Let's be honest Sep 10, 2013

We all have been young and eager to take work, and chances are that a vast majority of us have made the same mistake in our early days. Good news for you is that you only make this mistake once! From now on, you are bound to take on assignments about topics you know sufficiently well to produce a good translation, based on existing knowledge plus additional research.

This experience can be also a good hint that maybe you need to take a course or long-ish seminar on legal translation, to complement your knowledge in your main areas.

As for this job, to me the only reasonable way out is to spend several hours writing a report in which you should, with full honesty, accept that you made mistakes here and there, and accept that they take a chunk of the money due to you for the work.

Good luck!


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:22
Member (2008)
French to English
Offer compensation Sep 10, 2013

It sounds like your client has not asked you (yet) for financial compensation but giving you the opportunity to defend yourself. But if you can't honestly do so, I would just say you don't disagree with the end user's choices and offer the discount. You are fortunate the agency has come back to you, so you might be able to rescue them still as a client. Some agencies will get someone else to make changes without your knowledge, then give you the bill.

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bite the bullet Sep 10, 2013

I would apologise profusely and explain that my lack of experience and eagerness to please had led me to bite off more than I could chew. Also, if it happened to me, I'd tell them I was willing to relinquish the fee - all of it - as a gesture of good faith.

Needless to say, in future I'd be careful about accepting jobs outside my comfort zone.


 

Giovanna Alessandra Meloni  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:22
Member (2012)
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
Be honest Sep 10, 2013

and offer the discount.

I agree with Jonh.

John Fossey wrote:

It sounds like your client has not asked you (yet) for financial compensation but giving you the opportunity to defend yourself. But if you can't honestly do so, I would just say you don't disagree with the end user's choices and offer the discount. You are fortunate the agency has come back to you, so you might be able to rescue them still as a client. Some agencies will get someone else to make changes without your knowledge, then give you the bill.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:22
English to Polish
+ ...
Avoid litigation Sep 10, 2013

Avoid litigation unless you have some good reasons to pursue it. In addition to the amount of the claim plus interest, the loser also pays the court fees and the fees of the winner's lawyers. That, and the time going to court, testifying, arguing, writing letters etc. instead of working and earning money. It's usually not worth it.

On the other hand, the agency may likely have some kind of agreement with the client, by which the agency's liability is limited e.g. to the amount invoiced and paid, which may be less than the client wants.

Right now, you're probably liable for the defects of your translation – but perhaps with some mitigation on account of the rush deadline (since defects in this case involve the relative question of quality), and perhaps the costs of the necessary corrections, although to claim those the client should actually have addressed the agency with the need instead of paging 20 lawyers on a DYI repair. I'm just illustrating here, with a good deal of exaggeration, but if this really were the case, then it would be unfair on you, actually. Claimants have an obligation to cut the losses and mitigate the damage that they want to claim!

Also, if the agency made the decision to accept the risk of assigning a non-specialist translator AND a rush deadline, then the agency is liable for contributing to the damage or loss, not all of which is your fault then. Actually, you should only be liable to the extent the agency did not accept the risk. On the agency-client front, the agency shouldn't be liable for any risk the client accepted.

Except I'm not sure to what extent agencies keep their clients informed of the risks generated by the latter's requests. Pressure to bow down and be silent is too strong these days. But I'm commenting in general here, I have no way of knowing how your agency handled the client in your specific case, and I wouldn't like to throw mud.

Bottom line: Just because you've messed up doesn't mean you're on their mercy. You should only be liable for some extent of deduction from your payment on account of the defects, not even total loss because your translation wasn't found useless but was actually corrected and retained in use. Perhaps they may try to make you pay some bills or give them something on account of the proofreader's time, but making you pay the hourly rate of 2 partners and 5 associates from a law firm would be overkill, if the client has been willing to invest such resources in the translation, he should have invested them outright. Otherwise anybody would be able to hire a rookie translator to translate and the entire Académie Française to revise and send the translator the bill.

Also, just because lawyers are involved don't think that their demands actually have legal foundation. Check with a lawyer of your own before you agree to pay any significant amounts of your own pocket. But forfeiting your pay quietly and moving on may be more agreeable in the circumstances than escalation.

One more thing: While you may deserve some talking-to, they can't throw humiliating requests on you to, well, just humiliate you.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 13:22
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
That's exactly what I did... Sep 10, 2013

neilmac wrote:

I would apologise profusely and explain that my lack of experience and eagerness to please had led me to bite off more than I could chew. Also, if it happened to me, I'd tell them I was willing to relinquish the fee - all of it - as a gesture of good faith.

Needless to say, in future I'd be careful about accepting jobs outside my comfort zone.


... some 30 years ago, when, unfortunately, I bit off more than I could (and should) chew: that was a very hard-learned lesson!


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Quote Socrates Sep 10, 2013

"We don't know what we don't know."

Be honest, tell them that you had never been assigned a legal translation, so you wouldn't know how good (or actually how bad) you were at it.

Believe me, it took me almost 40 years in professional translation to grow a list of just five broad areas of human knowledge in which I won't translate technical material. They are listed on my web site right after my specialty areas, and yet some people insist that I translate these.

The problem is that the technical translation level varies with the intended audience. If this text was some circumvolutory rambling on some obscure facets of law that baffled you, it's normal. It could possibly baffle a seasoned lawyer who specialized in another area of law. Maybe you'd still be able to translate a plain-vanilla crystal-clear business agreement.

My last attempt ever to translate medicine was a video for dubbing. A frequent and long-standing client, a dubbing studio, wanted my translation, because it comes out much easier and faster for them to dub, as I really care about metrics. Under his pressure, I took it. It was some novel surgical technique, uhm, inside the women's parts covered by the skimpiest thong. Not X-rated, as the entire cast was well past their sixties. I have three children, so I know the place, but not any of the part names! And I couldn't figure out what was going on there, how, nor why.

After an entire morning trying, having done about five minutes out of the 45 total, I threw the towel. I referred the client to a friend, a MD who is experienced in interpreting medical conferences, no experience with video translation though. A few weeks later, I met him, and learned that he is a dermatologist. He said it was a nightmare! He had to pester a few urologists and gynecologists with questions, as the entire procedure was new. My five minutes? Absolute junk!

This was the "critical incident" that led me to never translate again anything from MDs for MDs. Later I added a few other items to the list. However I do translate in such areas, but only material intended for the lay public at large.

On the other hand, though I was a good student in Chemistry, that was in high school. I had never translated anything in that area. When such a job came up, I took it, and the client said it was excellent.

So indeed, we don't know what we don't know. Bite the bullet, and start growing the list of things you don't know (and don't intend to learn). Ask this client what they think would be the most fair and acceptable compromise, and take it if you can. Keep in mind that your loss will be the price you'll have paid to learn a valuable lesson: one thing you don't know.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:22
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Admit fault and negotiate, but skip the report Sep 10, 2013

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

As for this job, to me the only reasonable way out is to spend several hours writing a report in which you should, with full honesty, accept that you made mistakes here and there, and accept that they take a chunk of the money due to you for the work.



The loss of a substantial portion of the translator's fee is a forgone conclusion, so why spend any time on the report at all? When things have deteriorated to this point, the "report" is just a trap to humiliate the translator and get them to build the the agency's own case for as large a deduction as possible.

Spending additional unpaid hours working against your own interest makes no sense. Just say no -- the agency isn't some schoolmarm that can make you stay after school until you write "I shall not accept jobs that are beyond my level of expertise" 100 times on the blackboard.

Nol should just accept fault as graciously as possible, accept the best reduction that can be negotiated, and learn from the experience.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:22
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Litigation? Sep 10, 2013

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:
Avoid litigation unless you have some good reasons to pursue it.


Not sure if things are quite that at point yet - I interpreted the mention of "financial compensation" to simply mean that the client wanted a reduction of the agency's fee.


One more thing: While you may deserve some talking-to, they can't throw humiliating requests on you to, well, just humiliate you.


Agree.


 

Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:22
English to Spanish
Respond ethically, but protect your interest and dignity... and move on! Sep 11, 2013

Nol wrote:

Now, the agency has sent me the file I translated corrected by the client and the agency asks me to write a report, thorough as possible, to justify the terminological choices I have made, etc. (because the final client is asking for financial compensation).
I read the modifications and the trouble is the changes are justified and they are right all down the line.

I am afraid of not getting assignments from them in the future.


Rudolf Vedo CT wrote:

The loss of a substantial portion of the translator's fee is a forgone conclusion, so why spend any time on the report at all? When things have deteriorated to this point, the "report" is just a trap to humiliate the translator and get them to build the the agency's own case for as large a deduction as possible.

Spending additional unpaid hours working against your own interest makes no sense. Just say no -- the agency isn't some schoolmarm that can make you stay after school until you write "I shall not accept jobs that are beyond my level of expertise" 100 times on the blackboard.

Nol should just accept fault as graciously as possible, accept the best reduction that can be negotiated, and learn from the experience.


I agree with Rudolf: If you admit you made the mistakes, such a report would not only be a waste of time but also unethical, which, I am sure, you do not want to do.

Be honest, but at the same time protect your own interest.

As Neilmac said "bite the bullet". Go ahead, tell the agency the client's corrections are right and you accept responsibility for your mistakes. Live with the consequences and move on.

It is not the end of the world. If they do not give you any more work, others will come along sooner or later, often in the most unexpected ways.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:22
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
What was your task in the first place? Sep 11, 2013

Did they want you to do 1) translation only, or 2) translation + Editing, or 3) even translation + Editing + proofreading?

If it is 2) or 3), they should not have asked you to write the report. The situation has been caused by the failure of the editor or proofreader.


 
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