Innovative (and debatable) use of Trados discounts
Thread poster: Anil Gidwani

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:04
German to English
+ ...
Nov 5, 2013

For the very first time, I am questioning the use of Trados discounts in pricing translator services, and asking myself whether this is a fair practice.

So far, I have always felt that if there are benefits gained from using technology, there is really no harm in passing on the benefits to the client. This, of course, should be voluntary, but as we know, in the translation business, many clients insist on the use of Trados matrices in pricing the job. So the benefits of increased productivity due to TM matches has to will-nilly be passed on to the client, usually an agency.

But here is an egregious example of a client overstepping the limit, in my view:

I have an arrangement with a client to charge by target lines (x characters with spaces), but the client has over the years insisted on overriding my request and sending me jobs priced by source word count. Initially, I would override the client and bill by target line, but due to sheer inertia, began to acquiesce to the client's repeated and unsolicited requests for jobs by source word and Trados matrix, and began to bill by source word count and Trados matrix. A vague feeling of disquiet over this practice began to take root, and recently, I decided to take a fresh look at a job, a challenging contract, where I was expecting to be paid around EUR 500 and found the payment offered by the client to be around EUR 300. Not a small difference, as I'm sure almost everyone will agree.

The contract I translated had the words Arbeitgeber (Principal) and Arbeitnehmer (Contractor) replaced by AG and AN (German abbreviations) in the source file sent to me. In many instances, even semantic information such as the case of the noun was masked, for example, "des Arbeitnehmers" was replaced by "des AN", removing the semantic marker 's' indicating that the word was in the genitive case.

In the course of my research, I discovered the following surprising fact: Trados Analysis treated AN and AG differently from the words Arbeitnehmer and Arbeitgeber and reported a much higher number of 100% matches!

Here are the results with the use of the words Arbeitgeber and Arbeitnehmer in the source file:


Match Types Segments Words Percent Placeables
Context TM 0 0 0 0
Repetitions 54 121 3 2
100% 47 453 11 0
95% - 99% 24 570 14 0
85% - 94% 17 314 8 0
75% - 84% 10 184 4 0
50% - 74% 3 60 1 0
No Match 217 2,456 59 2
Total 372 4,158 100 4


And here are the results using AG and AN in the source file:


Match Types Segments Words Percent Placeables
Context TM 0 0 0 0
Repetitions 53 105 3 2
100% 79 1,073 26 0
95% - 99% 10 173 4 0
85% - 94% 6 188 5 0
75% - 84% 5 127 3 0
50% - 74% 3 59 1 0
No Match 216 2,433 58 2
Total 372 4,158 100 4


As a result of the very high number of resultant 100% matches, prices came crashing down by roughly 40%!

Two questions:

(a) Can we trust the Trados analysis tool blindly?

(b) Is it fair to replace important terms by brute force in this manner, wiping out semantic markers, and send it for translation just to cut on costs? Does this not add to the research required to be done by the translator?







[Edited at 2013-11-05 06:20 GMT]


 

Shai Navé  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 13:34
Member
English to Hebrew
+ ...
No arbirary discounts Nov 5, 2013


So far, I have always felt that if there are benefits gained from using technology, there is really no harm in passing on the benefits to the client.

I assume that you have invested time, money, and effort in buying the technology (and maybe even related hardware), becoming proficient in using it, dealing with technical issues, etc.
Therefore, why would you automatically pass any alleged resulting savings to the client who has not invested anything in this? You should be the one reaping the benefits of your investment. The value that the client get from your investment is a more consistent and efficient (if the tool is used correctly) translation. These arbitrary "discounts" are just the opposite of that.
Furthermore, some agencies use this abusive practice to increase (or maintain) their profit margin. Just as a general note.

I'm all for fair and ethical conduct, and if there are a significant number of repetitions in the text and/or if you can leverage your own TM than in many cases it is only fair not to charge for the "full" text. The project fee should reflect the effort involved, and the analysis of the project is designed just for that, to give you an overview of the effort involved for quoting and scheduling purposes.
We are not trading in words, and "discounting" words as if they are crude raw material is a very abusive and unprofessional practice. Translators must start charging a fee per project and not per word. Charging per word is detrimental to the profile of the profession.


(a) Can we trust the Trados analysis tool blindly?

Definitely not. The analysis of these tools, especially when it comes to "fuzzy" matches, is quite questionable. Also, it is only designed to give you a quick overview of the effort involved in a project and not to serve as a mechanism to lower the costs in an arbitrary measure. The latter is an abusive practice developed by the unscrupulous brokers in the marketplace and some tool developers who find it to be the most effective way to push their products.

(b) Is it fair to replace important terms by brute force in this manner, wiping out semantic markers, and send it for translation just to cut on costs? Does this not add to the research required to be done by the translator?

In my opinion it is not; but it is not surprising given the impression I get about your agency client. It seems that you are not working with a true agency (i.e. a professional practice) but with a mere opportunistic profit-driven broker that will do anything to get as much profit as they can out of any given project.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Anil - look at this from a practical point of view Nov 5, 2013

Anil Gidwani wrote:
(a) Can we trust the Trados analysis tool blindly?


Yes, because it is based on mathematics and not on whim. The question is not whether you can trust it but whether you want to.

Look at your situation practically -- your client will keep on sending these jobs and it is just simpler and faster and easier for you to accept the fact that he's paying you per weighted word.

If you want to tip the scale in your favour a bit, without doing extensive recounts on every job, then I suggest you get a second word-counting tool and do a secondary word count on every job. If the difference between the Trados count and the count from that other tool is more than e.g. 10%, then query it with the client, otherwise do nothing.

(b) Is it fair to replace important terms by brute force in this manner, wiping out semantic markers, and send it for translation just to cut on costs? Does this not add to the research required to be done by the translator?


Yes, that is unfair, but it has nothing to do with Trados word counts. Are you sure these edits were made by your client and not by his client?


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 12:34
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Alternatively, set your basic rate up Nov 5, 2013

I suggest you remind the client of your original agreement.

Say it has obviously lapsed, since it is no longer being observed by either of you, and you have accepted this up to now.

However, if the client can change the agreement, so can you.

Recalculate your rates, perhaps based on what you would like to earn per hour, taking into consideration what the market can bear. Then convert this into a rate per line, which is probably the only sensible way to calculate rates for German, and define how far you will go with regard to discounts for repeats and matches.

You can trust Trados in that it is predictable and consistent - but then you need to adjust your rates accordingly.

Fix a basic rate with some discounts, reflecting some of the advantages of using Trados, but not handing over all the benefits of your investment to the client. Goodwill is worth a slight discount... Ask for a rate that is slightly higher than you hope to get, so that you can reduce it just a little as you bargain.

Remind the client that times change, and all agreements must be reviewed now and then. Make sure you listen to the client and perhaps make a few small concessions, but make sure too that the final agreement is that you get paid more than at present.

Give the client some notice, but say that from some date like 1 January, you will charge the new rate.
___________________

I charge different rates for source and target word counts - because there is a 20 - 25% difference on average, depending which you are comparing with which. I need to charge a considerably higher rate per Danish source word than for English target words, just to arrive at the same result for a given translation. (The difference from German to English is even greater.)
___________________

Simply allowing clients to press rates down is not an option in the long run.

Best of luck!


 

Anil Gidwani  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:04
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Managed to increase my rates Jan 29, 2014

Folks:

Thanks for all your comments.

Keeping Alex Eames' principle in mind, "It is always more cost-effective to retain an existing client than win a new one", I communicated very carefully with the client, and was able to ensure that the rate per source word increased by 1 cent (thanks, Christine!). Had I let my resentment and anger show, I could have lost the client. But we negotiated with cool heads, reason prevailed on all sides, and our relationship is now stronger than ever.

With that, both of us are satisfied. They get to bill by source word as they always wanted, enabling them to get a fixed price with Trados analysis, and I get the rate I want without feeling I have been ripped off.

Ahh, all's well that ends well. This was a client whose jobs I enjoy, since they are always challenging. I would have been sad to lose them.

Anil.




[Edited at 2014-01-29 12:35 GMT]


 


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