Pages in topic:   [1 2 3 4] >
The harsh reality of translation in 2016
Thread poster: Bruno Depascale

Bruno Depascale  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:26
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
Jun 12, 2016

Hi everybody,
I'd like to share with you my worries about the status of our profession.
While in translation conferences and in translation courses the translation profession is often depicted as a fairy-tale world (the translator with a cup of coffee working on the beach from a Caribbean Island, or the translator who works when he/she pleases and can enjoy a lot of free time ..things that we all think are true, right?), I think that some “obscure forces” are driving this sector in a really wrong direction for translators.
Recently, in my working language pair (English into Italian), and in the medical/pharmaceutical domain, I have witnessed an increasing number of debasing requests from "professional" translation agencies. As already mentioned in this other post (http://www.proz.com/forum/business_issues/301160-huge_translation_company.html), translation companies are increasingly trying not only to maximising their profits, but, more worryingly, they are increasingly trying to depreciate our profession.
Otherwise, how would you explain job offers like this one received on a Saturday morning from an unknown agency named Cosmic Glob_ _?

Dear Bruno Depascale,
We have a new job for English to Italian translation.
Volume: ~1077 words
Please find attached file only for your reference(do not proceed). You will receive final file along with official confirmation.
The subject is related to Europe Visa, CV and degree certificates.
Deadline: Sunday (12th June 2016) EOD.
Rate: 0.04 Euro /word.
Kindly let us know if you can handle the subject matter and prior experience on the same.
Please do not proceed until you receive an official confirmation from translation@cosmicglobxxxxxxxxx.com
Awaiting your response ASAP.

Also, in the issue of March 2016 of the magazine “Multilingual” (a magazine aimed mainly at translation agencies), on page 53, in the article named “Growth and compression in translation pricing” the author Stephen Henderson says:

“Increasing demand and price compression go hand in hand. Many of the language pairs that are growing the most are the same ones subject to the most price compression. (…) What should you do with this data? (…) LSP should monitor the demand for languages to ramp up resources effectively. Compare languages with increasing price pressure to your own sensitive areas and prioritize languages that require most cost-effective resources accordingly”.

Said in other words: translation agencies should try to find translators who charge a lower fee that the one currently charged by their usual translators (0,07 € per source word in the EN-IT pair, a very high rate I assume..). Thank you very much Stephen Henderson. You are really trying to make this world a better place!

But the sad thing is that this is not just an abstract reasoning. I’ve seen translation agencies applying this approach with me.
A translation agency based in Germany and specialized in medical translations, for which I have worked for several years, has started publishing requests for new medical translators on proz. The strange thing is that they never complained about my work. But I suspect that they started searching for new translators because I recently increased my rate and they accepted it. So in many cases translation agencies simply fool translators: you work for them many years, then you negotiate with them a little higher fee, they accept it and then they throw you away. It this behaviour professional at all in your opinion?

I’m really disheartened by all this lack of professionalism, because I increasingly think that this in not the way a fair business relationship should be conducted and translators are becoming more and more weak in such a distorted relationship with translation agencies (which in many cases are no more than sharks).
Do you also share my thoughts, or am I just pessimistic and the translation world is instead wonderful and gratifying, as I thought before I started this job some years ago?
I look forward to receiving your contribuitions on this hot issue.
Thank you,
Bruno


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:26
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Low prices offered are not the only problem Jun 12, 2016

Yes, I've noticed increased requests to reduce my per-word rate recently (although the rate I have been charging for years is average, I think), but also increased "urgency" (accompanied by the agency's need to divide the work among several translators) and, worse still, increasing offers of appallingly illegible source files (badly photocopied PDF files in faint and tiny print or apparently editable source files which become corrupted when overtyped) and the agencies' alleged inability to provide legible or editable source files.
Following two recent such experiences, I've decided no longer to accept source files which are not completely legible from the outset.
I don't agree to reduce my per-word rate, so perhaps this means the end of my long career as a freelance translator. Ah, quel dommage!


 

Bruno Depascale  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:26
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
urgency, another way to maximize profits Jun 12, 2016

Jenny Forbes wrote:

Yes, I've noticed increased requests to reduce my per-word rate recently (although the rate I have been charging for years is average, I think), but also increased "urgency"


Yes, I also have noticed this trend. I assume this is simply another way translation agencies use to maximize profits, like the job offer I received yesterday: they pay the translator 0,04 € per source word for a rush job to be performed during the weekend, and they charge the direct client something like 0,2 € per source word (with a 500% increase)..
But this happens everyday. Rarely translation agencies pay a rush rate to translators. Why should them if nobody asks?


 

The Misha
Local time: 12:26
Russian to English
+ ...
You'd do yourself a favor Jun 12, 2016

worrying more about the state of your own business than "the status of our profession". All those terrible indignities you are so upset about (Man! They are looking for a cheaper supplier! Oh, the horror!) simply describe the workings of any business on the market. Yes, businesses always seek to maximize profits--otherwise, why would they be in business to begin with?

Nor is there anything unprofessional about it. They do not "use you for years" and then "throw you away". They simply stop using your services at exactly the point where continuing to do so no longer makes economic sense for them in the specific situation they find themselves in. They simply move on, and so should you--to other, hopefully, better clients. This is called change, and it is inevitable.

The best thing you could do for yourself, at this point, is to realize that you are only as good as your last job, and sometimes not even a job done perfectly does the job (no pun intended). As in almost all other situations in life, it really pays to start with yourself: why would the agency want to use your services to begin with? Does your combination of rates, subject matter expertise, diligence, punctuality, reliability and negotiating skills make for a winning proposition? And if it doesn't (do yourself a favor and don't lie to yourself here), what can you do to improve it? This isn't an easy road, I know, but that's the only way a successful business works. If you can't take it, you should think of maybe getting one of those cushy regular European jobs we on this side of the pond keep hearing about. Or you could keep weeping over where "our profession" is going, of course...


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:26
Member (2008)
Italian to English
The harsh reality Jun 12, 2016

Bruno Depascale wrote:

Interesting stuff


The harsh reality of translation in 2016, or any other year, is that translators seem to always be pessimistic and have a persecution complex (that the world is out to get them).


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 13:26
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Pessimism quantified in figures Jun 12, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

The harsh reality of translation in 2016, or any other year, is that translators seem to always be pessimistic and have a persecution complex (that the world is out to get them).


Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy when a competent, experienced, professional translator accepts a job for a (small) fraction of their usual fee, fearing that if they don't take it someone else will, even if that taker is not as competent, experienced, nor professional.

It's some kind of tug-of-war between greedy agencies and qualified translators (assuming that unqualified translators will take any pay, fearing that if they don't work for cheap, free online translation will wipe them off the marketplace).

Every time a truly professional translator takes a job at a fraction of their market-justified and time-proven fair rate, they are giving in to the pull at that tug-of-war game.

Likewise truly professional translation agencies are losing low-cost-driven end-clients who think that high quality translation is not so important for their business. After all, it's not part of their core business, evidence of which being the fact that they are outsourcing it.

The amazing thing is that nowadays even book & magazine publishers and the movie industry - where translation definitely IS (an important) part of their international core business - are seeking cheaper translation vendors, cost becoming gradually a higher priority than product quality.

Machine translation has probably reached its max already, and it still fails in replacing skilled human labor.

We already see here and there news on self-driven vehicles. Some people are eager to see them as the means of individual transportation in the near future. Others still fear that a computer might calculate the shortest route to the valley as jumping off a cliff instead of taking the long and winding road down there.


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:26
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The harsh reality of translation in 2016 Jun 12, 2016

500 - 2000 words for $5.00

https://www.fiverr.com/categories/writing-translation/quality-translation-services/#layout=auto&page=1

Some of these people have 13 plus years of experience.


 

Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:26
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
:O Jun 12, 2016

LegalTransform wrote:

500 - 2000 words for $5.00

https://www.fiverr.com/categories/writing-translation/quality-translation-services/#layout=auto&page=1

Some of these people have 13 plus years of experience.


Wow, now that is a truly disturbing website. You should have prefaced your post with trigger warning icon_smile.gif

Since it's only a fiver, I think I might try out a few of these so-called professional translators for a joke. I'll basically send them a Dutch contract, or a corporate website and see what they make of it.

Michael

OK, so I ordered a short (1000-word) legal translation from someone on fiverr.com, for £3.97. I tried to find sth online that resembled what I myself might translate. Nothing crazy difficult, just some basic T&Cs. I would charge around £120 for it, and this person says he will do it for £3.97, within two days. Am very curious what I will receive! I'll report back here.

[Edited at 2016-06-12 18:59 GMT]

OK, second update: He just got back to me with this:

"The cost is $5 per 500 words so the cost for this document is $10.
The additional amount is required before I deliver this order.
Regards,
XXX"


Still very, very cheap, so I paid the additional $5, and am eagerly awaiting the final product.

[Edited at 2016-06-12 20:09 GMT]


 

Max Deryagin  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 21:26
Member (2013)
English to Russian
- Jun 12, 2016

Bruno Depascale wrote:

or the translator who works when he/she pleases and can enjoy a lot of free time


This is me.

The harsh reality for any service provider in any year is that you need to have a unique selling point to sell well.


[Edited at 2016-06-12 18:27 GMT]


 

Bruno Depascale  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:26
Member (2009)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Are you serious? Jun 12, 2016

The Misha wrote:

worrying more about the state of your own business than "the status of our profession". All those terrible indignities you are so upset about (Man! They are looking for a cheaper supplier! Oh, the horror!) simply describe the workings of any business on the market. Yes, businesses always seek to maximize profits--otherwise, why would they be in business to begin with?

Nor is there anything unprofessional about it. They do not "use you for years" and then "throw you away". They simply stop using your services at exactly the point where continuing to do so no longer makes economic sense for them in the specific situation they find themselves in. They simply move on, and so should you--to other, hopefully, better clients. This is called change, and it is inevitable.


Are you serious? Our work is based on trust! Have you ever heard about business ethics?
We don't know personally our customers, so trust and respect should be of the utmost importance!

The Misha wrote:
As in almost all other situations in life, it really pays to start with yourself: why would the agency want to use your services to begin with? Does your combination of rates, subject matter expertise, diligence, punctuality, reliability and negotiating skills make for a winning proposition? And if it doesn't (do yourself a favor and don't lie to yourself here), what can you do to improve it?


I suppose I can quit this job, since as you say expertise, diligence, punctuality, reliability don't count anymore. All that count is this: negotiating skills, that is: offer an extremely low rate. No, thank you.

The Misha wrote:
This isn't an easy road, I know, but that's the only way a successful business works. If you can't take it, you should think of maybe getting one of those cushy regular European jobs we on this side of the pond keep hearing about. Or you could keep weeping over where "our profession" is going, of course...


Maybe you are happy about such deceiving and unprofessional behaviors adopted by many translation companies?? I'm not complaining. I'm telling the harsh reality.
Your approach remind me that of the big translation agency that seeks only one thing: money. What kind of ethics is this?


 

The Misha
Local time: 12:26
Russian to English
+ ...
Keep at it--and I mean it! Jun 12, 2016

Max Deryagin wrote:

Bruno Depascale wrote:

or the translator who works when he/she pleases and can enjoy a lot of free time


This is me.

The harsh reality for any service provider in any year is that you need to have a unique selling point to sell well.


[Edited at 2016-06-12 18:27 GMT]


Good man! You gotta be doing something right:)


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:26
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Not unknown Jun 12, 2016

Bruno Depascale wrote:
Otherwise, how would you explain job offers like this one received on a Saturday morning from an unknown agency named Cosmic Glob_ _?


They are not unknown, and they pay promptly within a week of invoicing. They are also located in a part of the world where the rate they offered you is a normal rate.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 12:26
Member (2008)
French to English
Moving on... Jun 13, 2016

The Misha wrote:

Max Deryagin wrote:

Bruno Depascale wrote:

or the translator who works when he/she pleases and can enjoy a lot of free time


This is me.

The harsh reality for any service provider in any year is that you need to have a unique selling point to sell well.


Good man! You gotta be doing something right:)


Exactly. I'm afraid I have been too busy translating and marketing my services to notice any harsh realities. I certainly don't have time to do anything with these ultralow offers other than quickly hit the delete button and move on.

[Edited at 2016-06-13 02:52 GMT]


 

Mirja Maletzki  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:26
Korean to German
+ ...
Not really a fairy tale Jun 13, 2016

Bruno Depascale wrote:

While in translation conferences and in translation courses the translation profession is often depicted as a fairy-tale world (the translator with a cup of coffee working on the beach from a Caribbean Island, or the translator who works when he/she pleases and can enjoy a lot of free time ..things that we all think are true,


While I’m writing this, I’m literally sitting in a beach restaurant on a tropical island, looking out on the ocean, having an ice-cold coke (I don’t drink coffee… also, it’s 30 degrees outside).


When people paint the picture of us working like this, it’s anything but a fairy tale. It’s a choice you can make and not many people do – for good reasons. Most of us have family we can’t leave behind or other obligations that prevent us from packing up and leaving. There’s a reason why I only come out here one month out of the year and don’t move here full time.


But here in Thailand, you could still have a decent life with the rates shown in your example. An even better one with regular rates. I pay about 15 Euro a night for a good, clean hotel (the room is bigger than the one I’m renting in Korea even), swimming pool, breakfast included, business center with fax, scanner, printer), 5 minutes to the beach. Got myself a SIM card for 5 bucks that includes unlimited internet.

There’s a reason why a lot of budding entrepreneurs come here and manage their business from here. Visas can be extended easily, pretty much as often as you like. You just pay so much less for life here than in Europe or North America.


So yeah, it’s anything but a fairy tale, it’s just that most people have reasons that prevent them from doing so, but it’s not the profession as a translator that keeps you from doing that. Our profession is actually perfectly suited for that life style.


Also, “the translator who works when he/she pleases…”


I mean, don’t we all work when we please? That’s the beauty of the job, we can choose who we want to work with and which jobs to accept.


If I accept a job, I can totally choose when I want to work on it. Right now, I’m choosing to work 3 hours in the morning, spend the time until lunch doing other stuff, meet up with friends for lunch, then return home for the afternoon. Then head back out for dinner. Boom – 8 hours done, and still the whole evening for myself.


(This isn't about not working at all... this is about "when" we work. If I have a deadline in 2 days, it's totally up to me to work on it "when" I please.... It's just not up to me to "not" work on it, once I've accepted it. But it's very much my decision to get up at 5 in the morning to work a couple of hours so I have the time for a morning screening of Star Wars - which I did when the movie came out.)


[Bearbeitet am 2016-06-13 09:59 GMT]


 

MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:26
French to English
+ ...
Maybe there's reason to be optimistic Jun 13, 2016

On the one hand, linguists are more in demand than ever before, and thanks to the Internet, we can work from home with clients all over the world. Yes, it also means that, just like every other business in the world, there is a lot of outsourcing and reduced prices.

So it's good news and bad news. The good news, as the world gets smaller and smaller and everybody is doing business with everybody and everybody needs their material translated, our profession is in absolutely no danger of disappearing. The bad news? Yeah, we are hit just like many other businesses with the "small world" tendency of competition-- low prices that can be found in other places. If you're a translator in the first world, your competition is now with people in the third world who can afford to work for lower prices.

The answer? Adjust, adapt and overcome. Either find clients who pay your prices or take a mix of high and low paying jobs to support the way of life you enjoy.

Depending on the field, many translators can handle 800-1000 words per hour. Even at lower rates, that's a very, very decent living in most countries around the world. Now, if you're living in a western democracy that taxes self-employed people up the wazoo, that's definitely a factor. I've known self-employed people in France who have had to move to Spain or Portugal simply because the taxes were too high. But that's actually not the fault of the rate they're making. It has to do with their country's tax system.

All that has to be taken into consideration obviously, but if you're making 40 bucks an hour and can't live on that, it's not the outsourcer in Asia's fault, it's that your country is too expensive to live in as a self-employed person. There are many, many people in France for instance, working steady jobs whose hourly rates would make us all GASP in horror. How can they possibly LIVE on that? Compared to them, translators are as rich as Donald Trump with what they make per hour. Right. But then, if you're self-employed, take out, I don't know, 75% of your income and hand it to the state?

Yadayadayada.

Being self-employed can be fiscally difficult anywhere, but there are definitely countries that make it harder to take the initiative to be your own boss.






[Edited at 2016-06-13 03:51 GMT]


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2 3 4] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

The harsh reality of translation in 2016

Advanced search







BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search