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Translation companies outsourcing their proofreading
Thread poster: philgoddard

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Jun 8, 2016

Has anyone noticed an increase in this practice over the past couple of years?

I used to do occasional proofreading, but it now accounts for nearly half the work I do. I'm not complaining, because I enjoy it and it pays well, but I'm interested by the economics involved.

The translations are rarely very good, and often by non-native speakers. Apparently it's cheaper to use these and get them edited than to use a reasonably proficient native speaker in the first place.

I'm guessing that my fees double the cost of each job. This implies that the translation company is either charging a markup of well over 100%, or working on a very small profit margin. Sometimes they say they're working for other agencies, which makes me wonder how anyone in the chain makes any money.

I'd be particularly interested in hearing the comments of any outsourcers who are reading this.


 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:20
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
noticed the same thing Jun 8, 2016

philgoddard wrote:

Has anyone noticed an increase in this practice over the past couple of years?

I used to do occasional proofreading, but it now accounts for nearly half the work I do. I'm not complaining, because I enjoy it and it pays well, but I'm interested by the economics involved.

The translations are rarely very good, and often by non-native speakers. Apparently it's cheaper to use these and get them edited than to use a reasonably proficient native speaker in the first place.

I'm guessing that my fees double the cost of each job. This implies that the translation company is either charging a markup of well over 100%, or working on a very small profit margin. Sometimes they say they're working for other agencies, which makes me wonder how anyone in the chain makes any money.

I'd be particularly interested in hearing the comments of any outsourcers who are reading this.



I've noticed the same thing. I suppose that if the agency manages to find translators who are willing to work for €0.06, or even lower, then it might indeed be cheaper for them to do so, and then hire you to proof it, instead of just getting a decent translator to begin with. Moreover, officially, all work also has to be proofread, but if you hire an expensive translator (read: one who charges normal rates, because he/she is good), you will have less money left to spend on a proofer.

Michael

[Edited at 2016-06-08 15:19 GMT]


 

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:20
Member (2009)
French to English
One idea Jun 8, 2016

I don't know how widespread this is, but I have known of companies asking unpaid students on work placements to translate documents for them in-house. Some of these companies may then be sending the translations to agencies for proofreading. So the actual translation costs nothing.

 

Yakov Katsman  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2016)
English to Russian
Same Jun 8, 2016

Yes, there is such trend for proofreading.
Sometimes they call it QC - means even lower requirements then proof or editing (and cheaper too).
Quality varies substantially from normal to almost MT with slight clean-up.


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:20
Member (2004)
English to Italian
It's been going on for ages... Jun 8, 2016

pay the translator very little, get a half decent translation, get an experienced proofer to fix it at the on-going rate... it works out cheaper if you pay the first translator peanuts... I don't offer proofreading any more because the standard is horrendous... I know you can make a good living, but I get so angry that my blood boils... it's not worth it for me...

 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good rates for proofing? Jun 8, 2016

philgoddard wrote:

Has anyone noticed an increase in this practice over the past couple of years?

I used to do occasional proofreading, but it now accounts for nearly half the work I do. I'm not complaining, because I enjoy it and it pays well, but I'm interested by the economics involved.


Hi Phil,

I find it interesting that you are satisfied with the rates for proofing that you receive, especially given your implication that the documents you proof require heavy editing.

For some years now, I have found the rates offered for proofing work unacceptably low, especially given the constant threat that what are called "proofreading" jobs can end up being "heavy editing" or "rewriting" jobs in disguise.

For these reasons, I generally refuse such work.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:20
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Charge by the hour Jun 8, 2016

Robert Forstag wrote:

philgoddard wrote:

Has anyone noticed an increase in this practice over the past couple of years?

I used to do occasional proofreading, but it now accounts for nearly half the work I do. I'm not complaining, because I enjoy it and it pays well, but I'm interested by the economics involved.


Hi Phil,

I find it interesting that you are satisfied with the rates for proofing that you receive, especially given your implication that the documents you proof require heavy editing.

For some years now, I have found the rates offered for proofing work unacceptably low, especially given the constant threat that what are called "proofreading" jobs can end up being "heavy editing" or "rewriting" jobs in disguise.

For these reasons, I generally refuse such work.


For proofing/editing I charge my hourly rate, so in a way, I don't care how bad the text has been translated. Furthermore I don't accept deadlines (or hardly do). When an agency asks me how long a proofjob is going to take, I always answer them that it depends on the quality of the translation (which indeed is going worse by the day).


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
. Jun 8, 2016

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
When an agency asks me how long a proofjob is going to take, I always answer them that it depends on the quality of the translation (which indeed is going worse by the day).

But they do have a right to know how long the job is going to take. Obviously you have to see it first. I quote a fixed fee for the job - they're not interested in how you calculate it.

And Robert F: If you set your own rates, you may be surprised at how many customers are willing to pay them. I earn more per hour from editing than from translation, which is surprising.


 

Jacqueline Sieben  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:20
Dutch to English
+ ...
Hourly rate + estimate Jun 8, 2016

Very much agree with both Giovanni and Robert.

One way to avoid any unpleasant surprises is, of course, to assess the translation beforehand, provide an hourly rate and an estimate of the time involved, which could be substantial given the fact that it indeed often requires considerable editing/rewriting. Editing/proofing on a rate-per-word basis is less appealing moneywise.


 

Sofia Gutkin  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Charging per hour Jun 8, 2016

I have noticed this trend as well. I'm getting more and more proofreading work recently, despite generally hating it.

I have never thought of charging per hour for editing/proofreading, but perhaps that is the way to go.

Russian companies seem to do this a lot - get a crappy non-native translator to "translate" it and then get me to proofread it, which often takes ages. Do other language combinations have this problem too?


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:20
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
I am a translator, not a clairvoyant Jun 8, 2016

philgoddard wrote:

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
When an agency asks me how long a proofjob is going to take, I always answer them that it depends on the quality of the translation (which indeed is going worse by the day).

But they do have a right to know how long the job is going to take. Obviously you have to see it first. I quote a fixed fee for the job - they're not interested in how you calculate it.

And Robert F: If you set your own rates, you may be surprised at how many customers are willing to pay them. I earn more per hour from editing than from translation, which is surprising.


Sorry, but I sometimes receive translations of a quality, for which the right word still has to be invented, and I absolutely don't know how long they are going to take me, and if an agency isn't interested in my calculation, well they can look for somebody else.


 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:20
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Proofreading Jun 8, 2016

When I first started out in translation when I was a student in Japan, some agencies that I worked for would have a Japanese college student translate a text in a field that they were totally unfamiliar with and then ask me to "spruce it up" and "make it spiffy". Needless to say, they expected correct terminology in addition to correct grammar, spelling and syntax. Most of the time, the text had to be completely retranslated. Also, needless to say, I soon stopped doing this and focused on translation.
An increasingly common business model (especially in South Asia) is to have a text translated by a native speaker of the source language and then have a translator (and an expert in a field such as medicine and pharmaceuticals) do the proofing (it really turns out to be an editing job because many agencies expect vetting of word choice and technical terminology). Some agencies use translators as proofers/editors but never as translators. As a joke I have sometimes offered proofing for USD 20.00 and hour and editing for USD 45.00 an hour. There were no takers. Some agencies are miffed when I turn down a proofing/editing job as they want a translation for the price of proofreading. Too bad!


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That's not very helpful. Jun 8, 2016

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
Sorry, but I sometimes receive translations of a quality, for which the right word still has to be invented, and I absolutely don't know how long they are going to take me, and if an agency isn't interested in my calculation, well they can look for somebody else.


You should be able to look at the job and estimate the cost. If you wanted someone to paint your house and they said "I charge $50 an hour but I can't tell you how long it will take," there's no way you'd give them the work.

Sometimes you overestimate the time, sometimes you underestimate. But it all evens out in the long run.

[Edited at 2016-06-08 16:37 GMT]


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:20
Member
English to French
No-cost translations Jun 8, 2016

David Hayes wrote:
...So the actual translation costs nothing.

Reminds me of a French politician: "it will cost nothing, since the State will pay!"

With this kind of reasoning even among self-employed translators, no wonder that companies reply that "your rate is slightly above our range, would you accept USD0.07 instead".
Of course, translations should cost just enough to feed the guy who's typing, then why ask EUR0.11? Expenses, what expenses?
To which I reply that a 44% discount is not what I call "slight", and that they can remove my contact details from their records. - Today's story.

Even done by an unpaid student, the actual translation costs the company a portion of the following: employee's training, admin, electricity, IT equipment, software, office furniture, water for the loo, the loo itself, Internet subscription, IT troubleshooting, coffee machine, office rent, insurances, etc., etc.

Back to the issue:
Because it takes more time, reviewing a poor translation should cost more than reviewing a good one. Obviously.
Playing the game of "agencies" by not at least assessing quality and time needed for review will certainly not improve the quality of "raw" translation, and drive agencies to always look for the cheapest translator ever on offer, and have YOU make it legible for a few pennies.

Philippe


 

Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 20:20
English to German
+ ...
My view Jun 8, 2016

My translation activity has totally collapsed and I am now practically only proofreading/localizartion for a well known US translation agency's subsidiaries. I find that most translations are OK, bot sometimes need some linguistic correction or improvement. In rare cases, I found that the translator was incompetent, so I rejected the proofreading/localization.

Rolf Kern
Zurich, Switzerland


 
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Translation companies outsourcing their proofreading

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