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End client inserting changes that are incorrect in English, agency wants me to phone them
Thread poster: Isa Harrington

Isa Harrington  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:35
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 13, 2016

The end client of an agency I work with regularly sent back a translation I completed 2 months ago with changes that they believe are what constitute the correct translation, but that are completely incorrect, consisting of very basic mistakes a non-speaker of English would make at a pre-intermediate level. I went through the corrections and explained the reason why each terms was incorrect, backing this up with examples, dictionary sources, etc., as well as justifying that the original translation conveyed the meaning of the original text.

The client is still arguing that his comments are correct, and the agency want me to phone him to try to reason with him. I feel uncomfortable at the thought of being put in that position- what can I say that has not already been said? The tone of the correspondence and the manner in which the comments were written were quite agressive and to be honest, I do not see how explaining to this person that they are wrong is going to help...but maybe other people here have had success in resolving issues of this type by doing this. However, this would not be normal practice, if I am correct? I just feel very uncomfortable about it and want to check before I get back to the agency....The end client is also withholding payment until they are happy, which is due to be paid this week....

[Edited at 2016-12-13 10:10 GMT]


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:35
Member
French to English
+ ...
Similar experience Dec 13, 2016

I found myself in a similar position, though fortunately I was not asked to phone! At least if you did, it would be easy to dietermine their level of [target language] — and it is sometimes possible to explain things better orally than trying to explain complex concepts, nuances of meaning, etc. using lengthy written explanations.

However, I agree it is an invidious position for the agency to put you in!

In my case, I enlisted the help of a third-party translator, who gave a very strongly worded confirmation that my translation was correct and their suggested 'corrections' wrong. That seems to resolve the issue!

Always bear in mind that your contract is with the AGENCY, NOT with that end customer! It is the AGENCY who is committed to paying you, and it's ultimately up to them to sort out their own customer relations.

That said, what does the customer actually want? If they have made corrections themselves, are they merely asking you to validate these? If so, it might be simplest for you to just go along with what they say, making it clear in a covering letter (as I had to do recently!) that you can no longer take professional responsibility for the modified translation.

All this assumes, of course, that you can put hand on heart and say that you are 100% sure of your ground in this situation... I am not for one moment calling into question what you say, it's just that I have been through this situation "from the other side" as it were — I was called upon to proof (and as it turned out, heavily correct!) a text, and the translator INSISTED she was right and I was wrong, calling me all the names under the sun. Fortunately, I was sure of my ground; I also had a long-standing excellent reputation with the agency. But I still had to waste a great deal of time providing extensive documented proofs of my various points in quite a large chunck of waht was in fact a huge document. The translator eventually backed down, with the unacceptable excuse "Well, yes, this document wasn't really in my field!" — so why the heck had she accepted the assignment, then?! I only recount this story in order to try and see the agency's point of view as well.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 19:35
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Check with references Dec 13, 2016

I look these things up in Michael Swann or the Longman Guide to English Usage (Whitcut & Greenbaum). Those two cover most issues of that sort.

There are also references on line. Then I work out an explanation of why it is wrong, or simply say the rules in English are not the same as the rules in [the relevant language]. Like the time when a client thought it looked untidy writing Wednesday with a capital - and tried to tell me that we don't have any rules in English anyway! I told him there are not many rules without exceptions in English, but months and weekdays always start with a capital, full stop, and that silenced him.

Once you are well prepared, keep the conversation icily polite in English, sound convincing and stick to your point, or else say 'sorry, but I can't take responsibility for the translation if you alter it, goodbye' if you really get nowhere.

It is not so much a case of winning a fight but of convincing the client that you are good at your job, and really do know best. One of my in-house colleagues was expert at winning clients round and reassuring them.

Best of luck!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:35
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Interesting question Dec 13, 2016

I see that you've already got two perfectly good answers through since I started preparing this, but I'll post it anyway.

Isa Harrington wrote:
The end client is also withholding payment until they are happy, which is due to be paid this week

First, let's dispense with the easy part - which you probably know about anyway. Whether the end client pays the agency or not has absolutely nothing to do with you. You are in no way party to their contract. The only contract you have is with the agency, and you have to remind them of that.

The end client of an agency I work with regularly sent back a translation I completed 2 months ago with changes that they believe are what constitute the correct translation, but that are completely incorrect, consisting of very basic mistakes a non-speaker of English would make at a pre-intermediate level. I went through the corrections and explained the reason why each terms was incorrect, backing this up with examples, dictionary sources, etc., as well as justifying that the original translation conveyed the meaning of the original text.

I know exactly what you mean. Unfortunately, it happens quite often with into-English translations. Everyone "can English" nowadays - or so they think. But it sounds as though you've justified everything correctly. Now you can demand your invoice be paid.

The client is still arguing that his comments are correct, and the agency want me to phone him to try to reason with him. I feel uncomfortable at the thought of being put in that position- what can I say that has not already been said? The tone of the correspondence and the manner in which the comments were written were quite agressive and to be honest, I do not see how explaining to this person that they are wrong is going to help...but maybe other people here have had success in resolving issues of this type by doing this. However, this would not be normal practice, if I am correct? I just feel very uncomfortable about it and want to check before I get back to the agency....

I don't think it's 'normal', but it probably happens from time to time. I've certainly been put in touch with end clients before now, but to enable us to work together amicably, rather than in a confrontational situation. I can understand that you're uneasy about it, and that alone is justification for you not to do it. You've done your job and now you have a perfect right to demand your well-earned pay and walk away, IMHO.

However, I can see that a phone call could end up with sorting everything out. On the phone, it will be so obvious that you're a native English speaker (unless you've adopted a Spanish accent ) that you'll immediately have authority. Maybe the end client actually doubts that you are one? I mean, if you were a real native speaker, why would you write such rubbish English that a non-native speaker had to correct you ? Perhaps hearing you speak would change this client's opinion 100%. But I'd only advise you to make that call if you're happy to do so. The last thing you need now is a shouting match with a client.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:35
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Similar problem Dec 13, 2016

I had a similar problem yesterday - although I wasn't asked to telephone the end client!!
The agency (one of my nicest) sent me the end client's changes to and comments on my translation from which it was clear that he is not a native speaker of English. He had introduced some grammar and vocabulary mistakes. This annoying situation arises occasionally.
At the agency's request, I returned the "corrected" file to the agency with my comments on and corrections to the end client's comments and brief (polite) explanations in footnotes.
I think it's a bit much for you to be expected to telephone the end client. The agency could ask him/her to telephone you, I suppose, but ... à quoi bon?
As to payment for the work, the agency is your client and your agreement/contract is with the agency, not with the agency's end client. If the end client refuses to pay the agency, that really is irrelevant. You have presumably done all that was required of you - produced a good translation in good time and then taken additional time to explain the end client's misconceptions, for which you should be paid.
Good luck!


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
What does the end client want? Dec 13, 2016

Isa Harrington wrote:
The end client is also withholding payment until they are happy, which is due to be paid this week....

What does the end client hope to achieve? They have the translation and they have amended it as they see fit. If they have messed it up then that's their problem. Is it that they will not be satisfied until you agree that their erroneous "corrections" are valid?

If so, I don't see how you can do that without, in effect, agreeing that your original translation was incorrect. That does not seem to be the case, and if you were to agree then you would be opening yourself up to all kinds of accusations.

I think the agency should be protecting you better than they are. Agencies exist to do the hard yards with end clients. I know you say that you work with them regularly, but if they are not defending a translator who has gone to the trouble to make copious notes to explain her translation, they can't be very good.

If I were you I would send a polite but firm email to the agency including the following points:
1) You believe your translation is sound.
2) You have supplied full explanations as to why the client's "corrections" are erroneous.
3) Discussing this on the phone with the end client is likely to lead to more problems rather than less, given that people tend to get into a negative loop of contradicting each other on the phone.
Therefore you will not speak to them directly.
4) Remind them that it is the agency's role to deal with the client, not the translator.
5) The client's contract is with the agency, not the translator and - having fully discharged your obligations - you expect to be paid regardless of whether the end client pays.

Keep it brief.

You need to stand up to this because the situation as described is no more than bullying. If you capitulate the agency will know that you can be pushed about. Go into this with the mindset that standing your ground might lead you to not getting work from this agency again, but so be it.

Regards
Dan


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Manuela Ribecai  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:35
Member (2010)
English to French
+ ...
Dan is right. Dec 13, 2016

Hi all (OMG, seems I'm an agency ),

I fully agree with Dan, especially about the last points he mention.
It's definitively NOT your job. The agency is paid for the services provided to the final client AND your contract is beween the agency and you. As you provided the services you were contracted for, you did your job and you must be paid. That's all.

As Dan told you: "Go into this with the mindset that standing your ground might lead you to not getting work from this agency again" and that, sometimes, it's better to have one client less.

Kind regards,
Manuela


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Isa Harrington  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:35
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Many thanks! Dec 13, 2016

I already wrote 2 replies here but they don't seem to be getting posted, so apologies if three replies appear at once!

I pretty much have already done what Dan has proposed- I am confident in the quality of the translation, especially after having reviewed large chunks of it after the initial email sent last week by the client. I also sent the agency a comparison of excerpts of my translation and how it would have turned out if it had been machine translated (as the client initially claimed), as well as copies of all of my versions and reviews until the final translation ready to send to the client. I asked the agency for further details of what exactly the client wanted and what their complaint was related to, and I finally received a scanned copy, with what amounted to little more than scribbles in practically illegible handwriting, of several items that the client believed were wrong or to be corrected, changing items such as "to make a plan" to "to do a plan" or changing "your loved ones" to "your beloved".

The client is still not clear what he wants- but just keeps mentioning non-payment. I feel really uneasy about talking by phone with someone that could be potentially aggressive, particularly when I will have to explain that their corrections are wrong and I do not feel comfortable at all at having to do this and would prefer to at least communicate by email if it was necessary. I also feel that this is an issue that is between the client and the agency, but I am of course eager to be as helpful as I can be, within reason. However, I have already spent the best part of 6 hours over the last week dealing with this and honestly do not see what more I can do...I hope this posts this time


[Edited at 2016-12-13 11:48 GMT]


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:35
Member
Italian to English
Blacklists Dec 13, 2016

This end client sounds like Trump's climate change denier, refusing to accept that climate change is real despite 97% of the world's scientists saying it is.

I think you need to get stern with this agency. Given that you have provided ample evidence supporting your translation choices, this potential non-payment is not your problem. It sounds like the agency is desperate because they could not reason with the client, and passed the buck to you. Tell them that the non-payment of a correct translation is not your problem. Tell them you will post negative feedback about them on all the agency blacklists you know, and there are at least six or seven.

I would also insist on keeping all communication via email, because this way you have a written record of all communication between the various parties here.

I really feel for you being in this situation, and hope you manage to find a satisfactory solution.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Recently Dec 13, 2016

I recently came across something similar. A PR firm based in Milan contacted me with a request to translate two press releases.

I took a quick look at their website and noticed that all of their English text was very poor; clearly it had been translated by a non-native speaker and had been checked by someone who doesn't understand English. I was shocked to see a PR firm putting substandard work online for everyone to see.

I went ahead and, as usual, did excellent, carefully checked translations of the two press releases. While I was doing this, the client started advising me about how I should be doing them, the importance of being very accurate and writing in an appropriate style etc. I wondered why they had selected me - an experienced translator of proven ability - for the job, if they thought I needed basic tutoring in "how to do a translation".

As soon as I delivered the translations the client began pestering me with dramatic emails about comments from "the revisors" and how, right from the start, my translations were all wrong and completely unsuitable.

Having been down this road before, I told them to get lost, that I would not be invoicing them and never to contact me again.

Sure enough, the next day my translations were online, almost exactly as I had translated them.

MORAL OF THE STORY: if you think your translations are going to be checked by people who think they understand the target language better than you do, DON'T ACCEPT THE JOB.


[Edited at 2016-12-13 13:08 GMT]


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:35
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Why no invoice? Dec 13, 2016

Tom, this sounds like a very healthy attitude, but why on earth don't you send an invoice?

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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:35
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
Ask the Agency Dec 13, 2016

Tony M wrote:

Always bear in mind that your contract is with the AGENCY, NOT with that end customer! It is the AGENCY who is committed to paying you, and it's ultimately up to them to sort out their own customer relations.


This.

Receiving complaints after 60 days already seems a bit too much to me, but nonetheless, I believe you already did your part, checking the client's comments/changes and replying to all of them. If the client is still unsatisfied, then I believe the agency should step in and solve the issue with the client, perhaps asking a second (trusted) translator to provide their opinion about the situation. Asking you to directly sort it out with the(ir) client over the phone doesn't really seem proper to me...

Same goes for payment. If the client threatened the agency with non-payment, it's not your concern, unless there are quality issues with your translation (based on the agreement you signed with this agency), but even then, the agency should have your translation checked by a proofreader to verify the client's claims. And actually, I think they should have had it checked before delivering it to the client in the first place, as standard practice...


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:35
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
As Tom infers ... Dec 13, 2016

... the ploy is to kick up a fuss as a smokescreen in order not to pay. But you can't have it both ways - if the translation was bad, why would anybody put it online? This happened to me years ago, and during the pointless arguing I too found that they'd used my translations word for word. They had to pay.

So if it's possible to do so, Google around for your own key phrases as sent to them, to check whether they've used it online. If they have, they have no argument.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Because Dec 13, 2016

Erik Freitag wrote:

Tom, this sounds like a very healthy attitude, but why on earth don't you send an invoice?


Because for me it really was not a lot of work and, having been around that particular block a few times before, I knew there was going to be more trouble.


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:35
Member (2014)
English to German
At least... Dec 13, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

Erik Freitag wrote:

Tom, this sounds like a very healthy attitude, but why on earth don't you send an invoice?


Because for me it really was not a lot of work and, having been around that particular block a few times before, I knew there was going to be more trouble.


you could ask them to take the articles off their website?


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