Sub-contracted projects
Thread poster: Martin Schefski

Martin Schefski  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:57
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
Jul 21, 2015

Dear colleagues,

I just received an email from an agency offering me one of these ridiculously low rates. When I ask how they can expect to receive high quality for this low rate they told me that this is a sub-contracted project and that is why the rate is so low.
I was completely shocked. I always had the feeling that some agencies actually translate for other agencies, but never did anybody tell me that in such honesty.
To me this really means directly betraying the client. The client has bought a service for a certain price instead of settling right away for that super cheap agency probably knowing that good quality is not possible for that price.
Not only that, the NDA was also only signed by the first agency.

It is as if an agency would hire me on the basis of my qualifications and I just let the project be translated by someone else.

What do you guys think about this?


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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:57
English to French
+ ...
Shocking! Jul 21, 2015

Sub-contracting in the translation "industry?"

Shocking!


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 20:57
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Sub-contracted projects Jul 22, 2015

Martin Schefski wrote:

I just received an email from an agency offering me one of these ridiculously low rates. When I ask how they can expect to receive high quality for this low rate they told me that this is a sub-contracted project and that is why the rate is so low.


I met with some projects. Not only price rate is low, but required delivery time and speed of response to inquiries during translation processes are badly undesirable.

Soonthon L.icon_biggrin.gif


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:57
Member
English to French
Industry, commodities and subcontracting Jul 23, 2015

Martin Schefski wrote:
I was completely shocked.

Big international brands subcontract to communication agencies, who subcontract their copy to big translation agencies' local branches, who subcontract to local smaller agencies, who subcontract to cheap South-East Asian agencies, because South-East Asia is where commodities are made, who subcontract to translators.
As Soonthon mentions, not only the rates offered to the final link are abyssal, but deadlines are also widely shortened to make sure the work has time to come back given the number of players involved and the higher risk of default. And everything is urgent of course.

To support this, Confucius once said:
"There is a lot of money to be made in translation, provided you're not a translator".

Three-quarters or nine-tenths of what the translation consumer pays goes to office maintenance of these various middle-people. But the same happens with real estate, civil engineering, catering, retail, etc.

Breeders and farmers working for the retail "industry" can easily see from which point it's no longer worth working: their breeding/cultivating costs are higher than their income from their crops/livestock.
However, it is not so easy for a translator to assess their costs: s/he can live off a hot meal every other day, rent a third-hand computer and illegally tap a power/internet connection, so costs are perceived as low, if perceived at all. They're obviously not if you're serious about translation, but with a hand-to-mouth attitude, $0.01/1000 words is better than nothing.

But it is just my interpretation of the way the world goes. Maybe it is much better than I think it is: Vuitton is still strong despite counterfeit items because the difference between both "products" is still obvious in the majority of cases, and Vuitton doesn't sell cheap.

Philippe


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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:57
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Not shocking, not necessarily unethical either Jul 23, 2015

Martin Schefski wrote:

I always had the feeling that some agencies actually translate for other agencies, but never did anybody tell me that in such honesty.
To me this really means directly betraying the client. The client has bought a service for a certain price instead of settling right away for that super cheap agency probably knowing that good quality is not possible for that price.
Not only that, the NDA was also only signed by the first agency.

It is as if an agency would hire me on the basis of my qualifications and I just let the project be translated by someone else.

What do you guys think about this?


An end client hires an agency to manage the project -- here's the text, now you sort out arranging for translation. It is blatantly obvious and understood that the agency is not being hired to actually perform the translation itself (especially if the text needs to be translated into multiple languages), rather its task is to manage the project, find the correct translators, reviewers, etc. and ultimately return a product that meets the client's expectations in terms of quality, timeframe and price.

I know plenty of agencies based in Germany and Austria who get extreme amounts of work from German into English and outsource this to agencies based in the UK, for example, because these agencies have an abundance of qualified German to English translators on their books who are native speakers of the target language.

This is not the same as an agency contracting YOU and then you outsourcing it, unless you are open about the fact that you are outsourcing. Without full disclosure you would be misrepresenting yourself, taking credit for work that is not yours. The agency is not at any point claiming that it is translating the text itself; it is understood that the agency is sourcing translators to do the actual translation work.

The end client chooses an agency that presumably it trusts, and that agency should in turn choose suppliers (other agencies or freelancers) it trusts. Ultimately if the quality is not up to scratch, the first provider in the chain (the original agency) is the one who takes the hit, either by losing the client, or at the very least being in the hot seat of client complaints and loss of income on a project after choosing a supplier unwisely.

The bit about the NDA only being signed by one party is not great. But ultimately whether that is illegal would depend on the wording of the original NDA. Illegal or not, it's not a smart way to conduct business. Perhaps the agency you bumped into is not very smart or ethical. The interactions I have had with agencies who work for other agencies have always involved ethical, legal measures, such as signed NDAs and the like, and quality has always been a top concern with these agencies. So I think the chain of end client - agency - other agency - freelancer is not so shocking, nor is it necessarily unethical or deceptive towards the end client.


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
English to Japanese
+ ...
Nothing but trouble Jul 23, 2015

Sub-contracted jobs are nothing but trouble.

I've heard many stories of these kinds. For example, one of my colleague got stuck with a certain term or phrase which he was not sure of came up and asked his client, but they told him that they will get in touch with their outsourcer (not the end client). And when something went wrong (ex. poor quality translation), the outsourcer of my colleague got fed up arguing with my colleague and his contractor, and asked my colleague to directly contact their contractor to sort things out, which means that they have given up and abandoned responsibility at the end as if saying "Ok, we're out. You two discuss this issue from now on and leave us out of this."

Since hearing these kinds of stories, I try to avoid sub-contracted jobs as much as I can, since this might happen to me one day. Of course, it's not 100% possible to avoid sub-contracted jobs, and that's what worries me most.


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Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:57
English to French
+ ...
Jul 23, 2015



[Edited at 2015-07-23 13:25 GMT]


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