Iso certification
Thread poster: Elke Fehling

Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:24
English to German
+ ...
May 12, 2015

Hello everybody,

One of my clients asks me to send following text with every translation I do. What do you think about it?

I guarantee the requested work is equivalent to the source material and
has the following characteristics:

(a) it accurately conveys the meaning
of the original,
(b) it uses consistent and appropriate vocabulary and
style,
(c) it is free of grammatical and typographical errors,
(d) it is
carefully proofed, reviewed, inspected or tested,
(e) it complies with all instructions, requirements and specifications provided (in PO, e-mail or
otherwise).

Elke


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I wouldn't comply, personally May 12, 2015

They are the ones with ISO certification, not you. These are the sort of checks they should be looking for you to do, and doing themselves, but the ultimate responsibility for what is delivered to the client is theirs.

Specifically, "I guarantee the requested work" doesn't make any sense at all. That would be the source, over which you had no control. You can only guarantee the "delivered work". Points b, c and d should be checked by them before delivering to the client, regardless of whether you think you've got them right. Of course, they hope everything will be fine, but it's THEIR responsibility to guarantee quality to THEIR client. You could be expected to see those statements in their terms and conditions, i.e. between you and them, but they shouldn't be sent with every text, and not for the end client's use.

I think they're going to proudly plaster "ISO CERTIFICATION" over all their publicity, and then try to lumber you with all the associated quality compliance issues.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:24
French to English
+ ...
With provisos/modifications... May 12, 2015

On the one hand, it's a bit odd to ask for this with every job. One the other hand, with some provisos, this is presumably more or less the service that you would be providing anyway as a matter of course without making a big song and dance about it.

So if they really need it, I would just change a couple of things that are a bit meaningless and non-upholdable as they stand. So firstly, it's impossible to provide a flat-out *guarantee* of what they are asking. What they mean is something more like:

"I certify that, to the best of my knowledge, ..."

In point [c], I suspect it's not clear what an "error" would actually constitute objectively when it came down to it, so the line is slightly pointless. Maybe at least change to "commonly and uncontroversially deemed to be errors" or some such.


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 10:24
French to English
+ ...
Point (d) is easy and (c) isn't so tough either! May 12, 2015

Elke Fehling wrote:

(d) it is
carefully proofed, reviewed, inspected or tested,



As it says "or", you only need perform one of these actions and you have the choice of which one. I would go with "tested". As the only testable function a document can perform is to fall downwards under the force of gravity, you can just push it off the edge of your desk. As long as it doesn't float upwards, you can reasonably claim to have carefully tested it. In fact, there's nothing there that says it actually has to actually pass the test, you would have a fair shot at it even if it does float upwards.

Elke Fehling wrote:

(c) it is free of grammatical and typographical errors,



So, as long as all of your errors are only grammatical OR typographical (but not both), I guess that would be OK too. I'm also relieved to see that spelling errors are acceptable...

This just illustrates the futility of ISO 9 and whatever it is they are up to now - any stupid s**t is acceptable as long as it is properly documented!

Can you tell that I was just listening to George Carlin?


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:24
German to English
required anyway May 12, 2015

I don't know about other countries, but if they are German clients, then the German civil code (BGB) requires that your translation fulfills points a, b, c, and e anyway. If it doesn't, the agency can demand that you revise the translation to fulfill your contract and meet basic standards and if you fail to do so or refuse to do so then they can reduce your fees. The same is valid for the agency's relation to the end client (= the end client can demand that the agency carry out revisions until the delivered product fulfills the contract and basic standards and then the agency can pass those demands on to you).

I don't know if the use of "guarantee" is problematic in this context or not, at any rate, the translator is liable for fixing any problems related to the demands listed.

Unless they remove the "or" from point d and unless all the terms used are defined more clearly elsewhere, then I would say that point d doesn't really mean anything at all.

I assume that they write out this statement in every PO because then it doesn't have to meet the special demands placed upon general terms & conditions in terms of their counting as being genuinely agreed upon.

I don't think that it has anything to do with ISO or EN norms, although there apparently are agencies that try to require that an independent revision (in the sense of the norm) be provided by their freelancers.

All in all, I'd say it's a little silly and strange, but entirely harmless.


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:24
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Agree with Sheila May 13, 2015

A while ago I made a mistake on a large translation (for some reason I switched the name of a city with that of another city nearby). I missed it in two follow-up edits I performed and the agency's editor missed it as well. The client didn't spot it until they had printed up thousands of copies of a brochure with the translation on it. It was obviously a horrible feeling when the agency told me the client was demanding to be repaid for the additional printing costs, but it would have been even worse if I had given the agency a written guarantee that the translation was 100% problem-free, as this would have increased my own liability greatly (perhaps even to 100% of the client's demands). In the end, the agency recognized that their editor had a responsibility to conduct a thorough proofread as well, and deducted only 25% of my project cost.

I'm willing to bet there is not a translator on this site who has never made a mistake, however small, on a translation. While we all aim for perfection, it only takes one mistake, and one angry client's lawsuit, to give you a massive amount of problems, and you don't need to make this worse by performing translations at your usual agency rate AND give a written guarantee your translation is problem-free.

I like Neil's suggestion of adding "To the best of my knowledge", as this really renders the document largely meaningless. If the client really needs this signed as is, and you're willing to shoulder the possible liability that comes with it, I would tell them that you'll have to increase your fee to account for hiring an external proofreader and for the extra liability you're taking on.

Agencies need to add value to translations to justify the fees they take out (which are much higher than mere brokerage fees). The translations we provide to agencies should be done to a level where we are reasonably certain they are mistake free, however, the lower cost we charge to agencies compared with direct clients (for whom you really are assuming 100% of the liability for mistakes, whether or not you state so expressly) cannot come for nothing--we charge less because the agency is assumed to be shouldering some of the responsibility, and most of the liability, for the translation's quality. Your agency may claim that statement is needed for their ISO certification, and this may very well be the case, but they will have additionally obtained a free written guarantee from you that could be used against you in future litigation.

If you're going to give them this you need to receive something from them as well.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:24
German to English
Errors & Omissions Insurance May 13, 2015

I'm kind of surprised that the agency backed down. I would have thought they had a clear-cut case: 1. They delivered a faulty product that clearly caused monetary damage to the end client, 2. You delivered a faulty product that clearly caused monetary damage to the agency ... = End client sues agency for damages, agency sues you for damages and your errors & omissions insurance pays for the damages or shows in court that the agency was negligent in failing to catch an obvious and crucial mistake.

I wouldn't have thought this problem could be avoided by writing "I'll try my very, very best, but S*** happens" or "To the best of my knowledge" in a contract, but every country and their courts obviously have their own ideas about this kind of thing.


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mariealpilles  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:24
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
ISO certification May 13, 2015

I would not comply either. if they do not want to trust a translator, why give him/her the job?

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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:24
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Come again? May 13, 2015

Michael Wetzel wrote:

I'm kind of surprised that the agency backed down. I would have thought they had a clear-cut case: 1. They delivered a faulty product that clearly caused monetary damage to the end client, 2. You delivered a faulty product that clearly caused monetary damage to the agency ... = End client sues agency for damages, agency sues you for damages and your errors & omissions insurance pays for the damages or shows in court that the agency was negligent in failing to catch an obvious and crucial mistake.

I wouldn't have thought this problem could be avoided by writing "I'll try my very, very best, but S*** happens" or "To the best of my knowledge" in a contract, but every country and their courts obviously have their own ideas about this kind of thing.


This is a massive over-simplification of the way the law works. My translation (and translate rate) was provided with the understanding that there would be an editor. There was indeed an editor provided by the agency, who also missed the mistake. The agency (presumably) guaranteed a perfect translation to their client. The last party to review the translation was the agency/the agency's editor, and the agency likely received a rate more than double mine for the translation. I seriously doubt most courts would rule to assign the majority of blame to the sub-contractor in such an instance UNLESS the sub-contractor had voluntarily signed or provided an agreement declaring he/she bore sole liability for mistakes.

When the mistake occurred, I offered to pay 50% of the cost of reprinting (the cost of reprinting was approximately the same as the project fee), and the agency themselves reduced this to 25% because 1. They are a good agency, and realize that mistakes do happen in translation, which is why we have editors and 2. They wanted to keep working with me (as I did with them).

I brought this case up on the forum because I think its important for translators to realize that these sorts of agreements are not meaningless. The agreement that I had signed with this agency was rather vague on whether or not translators had any liability for this sort of thing, which would have helped me greatly if this had come to a trial.


My point remains the same: if a translator is providing any sort of a document in which they assume sole liability for mistakes, they should be the one receiving the lion's share of the translation fees, not the agency. Of course, insurance also plays a role here, and the only thing I'll say about insurance is that if you feel the need to have errors/omissions insurance because you routinely sign these sorts of documents, you should be sure that you are passing the cost of your insurance along to the agency. However, I know from previous threads on insurance that there are a quite a few translators on here who do not carry insurance.






[Edited at 2015-05-13 08:33 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-05-13 08:43 GMT]


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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:24
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Not a meaningless provision May 13, 2015

Preston's story shows exactly why you shouldn't sign this document. It's a clear attempt to shift liability from them to you - and would be Exhibit A in any case against you. Agreeing to increase your potential liability beyond what any court would find is not a good business decision. Why anyone would agree to do that is beyond me.

If you belong to a translator's association you have already agreed to adhere to standards of professional conduct. You can refer the client to those standards, so they understand how you operate.

Preston's situation had a logical outcome. Everyone - him, the editor and the agency - was responsible for the mistake. Presumably the agency's insurer covered the loss - which would not have been that large as far as insurance claims go. The translator discounted the services (which would presumably cover any rise in premiums). A fair resolution - but which might not have happened had he agreed to shoulder all the liability up front.

Nobody is perfect, though we all try.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:24
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Couldn't agree more May 13, 2015

Laura Tridico wrote:
Preston's story shows exactly why you shouldn't sign this document. It's a clear attempt to shift liability from them to you - and would be Exhibit A in any case against you. Agreeing to increase your potential liability beyond what any court would find is not a good business decision. Why anyone would agree to do that is beyond me.

Nobody is perfect, though we all try.

I have a fair amount of insider knowledge of ISO certification, though in the field of IT systems rather than translations, and I think it's extremely unlikely that an agency is being told to issue such demands to translators. Anyway, we'd all be getting the same request, as many of the agencies have the same certification.


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:24
German to English
I apologize. May 13, 2015

Dear Preston,

Everyone makes mistakes. I embarassingly translated "Silikon" as "silicon" instead of "silicone" in a book about an artist who uses this material to create sculptures. I explained the mistake to her later (when I noticed it after months or years) and I still work with her, because as you say, occasional mistakes are annoying but no reason to break off a good working relationship.

I also once paid the editors' fees for a client who became (understandably) suspicious about the quality of my work.

Those are two exceptional cases among hundreds of projects, but these kinds of things certainly happen.

And I was also happy to see your post, because translators are rarely willing to admit that this is the case and I constantly read here that errors & omissions insurance is a waste of money.

My specific response was also very likely wrong, because your client's legal counsel presumably told them what you wrote to me: We can't win this in court. Alternatively, they may have just made the business decision: Preston is worth the money, let's not get him upset.

I apologize for my rudeness for the sake of a bad joke (it seems to be becoming a habit with me). However, I think translators often underestimate their liability for the quality of the work they deliver. Obviously contracts between businesses are much less heavily regulated than contracts with private persons, but I do think that (at least in Germany) it is very difficult to limit our liability in the kinds of ways that seem to be generally assumed.


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:24
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
RE May 13, 2015

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Dear Preston,

Everyone makes mistakes. I embarassingly translated "Silikon" as "silicon" instead of "silicone" in a book about an artist who uses this material to create sculptures. I explained the mistake to her later (when I noticed it after months or years) and I still work with her, because as you say, occasional mistakes are annoying but no reason to break off a good working relationship.

I also once paid the editors' fees for a client who became (understandably) suspicious about the quality of my work.

Those are two exceptional cases among hundreds of projects, but these kinds of things certainly happen.

And I was also happy to see your post, because translators are rarely willing to admit that this is the case and I constantly read here that errors & omissions insurance is a waste of money.

My specific response was also very likely wrong, because your client's legal counsel presumably told them what you wrote to me: We can't win this in court. Alternatively, they may have just made the business decision: Preston is worth the money, let's not get him upset.

I apologize for my rudeness for the sake of a bad joke (it seems to be becoming a habit with me). However, I think translators often underestimate their liability for the quality of the work they deliver. Obviously contracts between businesses are much less heavily regulated than contracts with private persons, but I do think that (at least in Germany) it is very difficult to limit our liability in the kinds of ways that seem to be generally assumed.


It's quite alright. I'm very much on the fence about liability insurance myself, but I certainly don't think it's useless, and I absolutely agree with you that translators underestimate their liability.

In almost all cases I now add a clause into strictly written contracts with agencies (aka contracts that use the phrase 'the translator shall indemnify...') stating a maximum limit for my liability (I usually put this between 1000 and 2000 USD). I do this because I don't currently have liability insurance. I lose perhaps 40% of prospective new agency clients who will not sign my modified contracts. My feeling is that most of the clients I lose are the ones that want me as a database filler; the clients that have urgent projects ready for me don't seem to mind too much.

So even though I don't pay for liability insurance each month, I still pay to reduce my liability in the form of lost clients. This is a bet on my part that the cost of lost clients is less than that of liability insurance +whatever risk I'm still leaving myself open to. In a couple of years when I buy a house, the sum of this equation will likely change and I'll sign up for insurance

Regardless of how they do it, translators do need to consider and reduce their risk/liability. I don't think it's unsound business (as some do) to pay each month for liability insurance you're unlikely to ever truly need, nor to do what I do and modify agreements to limit liability. What is crazy is to carry no insurance and still sign these types of documents without modification.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that I'm partially wrong too, and that if the OP has good insurance, the sound business decision is to sign the document (even if it means that I grind my teeth at the thought of the agency getting so much for nothing).


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 10:24
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You may be unlucky May 13, 2015

Over the years I know I have made mistakes, and probably plenty I don't know about, which have been caught in the proofreading.

I have an insurance policy that covers whole lot of other things as well as professional liability - fire, theft, computer problems, both mine and the service provider's... and the premium is very reasonable. It is worth it for the peace of mind.

The problem is that what is technically only a tiny error on the part of the translator can have consequences out of all proportion. A typo - such as teh instead of the - is a minor blemish that the computer should correct automatically.

Typing 0.10 instead of 0.01 could mean all kinds of trouble, depending on the context. Or 88789 instead of 87889 ... or any other combination. But they are not nearly so easy to catch.
Purely technically, the errors are at the same level, but I for one have trouble with figures, and would be more likely to miss the error in figures than the harmless teh.
I do check figures extra carefully, but teh catches my eye in a way figures do not.

I have had precisely the same problem as Preston Decker with Northampton and Nottingham when I had relatives in both towns. Don't ask why - but there is some subliminal link.

I worked for some years for an agency that insisted on a statement that I had checked four or five things with every job, however tiny, and I complied - of course I had checked.

But in real life, with tight deadlines and other distractions, you cannot guarantee that your work is free from errors.



[Edited at 2015-05-13 13:27 GMT]


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