Poor translation
Thread poster: Linguascan

Linguascan  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:24
French to English
+ ...
Apr 5, 2005

Hello,

I have been successfully running a new translation business for a few months now, but today I have come across a problem.

One of my external translators has let me down, resulting in an English translation which is of such poor quality that most, if not all, of the the original text will need re-translating from scratch by somebody else.

I was wondering if anybody else has had experience of a situation like this? Where do I stand legally with regarding payment (or not) to the original translator who performed such a poor job?

Thanks


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:24
German to English
+ ...
Poor translation Apr 5, 2005

Linguascan wrote:

...which is of such poor quality that most, if not all, of the the original text will need re-translating from scratch by somebody else.


Why? Surely it is the original translator's duty to produce a text of satisfactory quality.

Marc


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Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 09:24
German to English
+ ...
Poor translation? Apr 5, 2005

Linguascan wrote:
One of my
anslators has let me down, resulting in an English translation which is of such poor quality that most, if not all, of the the original text will need re-translating from scratch [...].
Where do I stand legally with regarding payment (or not) to the original translator who performed such a poor job?
[/quote]

A couple of thoughts (from someone who is definitely *not* a lawyer but who has been an employer, freelancer and contractor in the UK, where you're based):

Firstly, bear in mind that the legal position will depend on where the contract between you and the translator is regarded as having been made. If he or she is not in the UK and your terms did not specify UK jurisdiction then this might be something to look into, for future cases if not for this one.

One general point should, however, apply regardless of jurisdiction: unless you have explicitly agreed something different, you are only obliged to pay if you have received what you ordered. Clearly quality is something which can be argued about in the case of a translation, and you might need to get (and pay for) an independent expert opinion if the translator sues for the fee, but if you're *sure* that the work is of extremely poor quality then you're justified in witholding payment.

If sections (and not just occasional sentences) of the translation are acceptable, i.e. do not need more than very minor revision, then you could consider offering a proportion of the agreed fee in "full and final settlement" (in other words get this agreed to before making payment).

You may of course have problems claiming that work is of insufficient quality if you agreed an extremely low fee and/or set a deadline that was so tight that no decent translator could have met it, but even then the translator accepted the job on those terms and so cannot complain too much at this stage.


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 16:24
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Natural risk Apr 5, 2005

Linguascan wrote:
One of my external translators has let me down, resulting in an English translation which is of such poor quality that most, if not all, of the the original text will need re-translating from scratch by somebody else.


For me as a freelancer it means that you didn't do everything to find the translator who would provide you with a translation of a good quality. Sorry, but you are also responsible. If you selected someone whose quote was the least or anything, this was the risk you took. Have you checked the translator's skills before giving him/her the job? If not, I think you may blame yourself only.

As an outsourcer you take your own risk when selecting a translator for a job. If you failed -- well, take it as a man, pay for your mistake and gain your experience. I would pay the translator anyway, but would not reference to him/her in the future, that's all.

I think, selecting the proper translator and managing the project is what you are paid for as an outsourcer/agency. Why the translator should lose his/her money, but not you?

[Edited at 2005-04-05 16:51]


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Ian M-H
United States
Local time: 09:24
German to English
+ ...
Poor translation? Apr 5, 2005

Kirill Semenov wrote:
As an outsourcer you take your own risk when selecting a translator for a job.


That's true, but I cannot agree with the conclusion:

y for your mistake and gain your experience. [...] Why the translator should lose his/her money, but not you?[/quote]

If (and I cannot judge the facts) the translator did an extremely poor job, then the simple fact that we are also translators is not enough to make us take her/his 'side'. If a translator does bad work then s/he should no more expect to be paid than a bad builder, painter or plumber.

Being against unscrupulous outsourcers who fail to pay translators is one thing, but saying that poor translators should get paid for unprofessional work is another.


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 16:24
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Ian, my point was a bit different Apr 5, 2005

Ian Harknett wrote:
If (and I cannot judge the facts) the translator did an extremely poor job, then the simple fact that we are also translators is not enough to make us take her/his 'side'. If a translator does bad work then s/he should no more expect to be paid than a bad builder, painter or plumber.


I don't try to justify bad translations in general -- mind you!

I just mean that the translator didn't happen to appear just out-of-the-blue -- he or she was somehow *selected* for the job. Who selected him/her, then? If it was the outsourcer selecting, then why on earth this translator was selected? And if it was an irresponsible choice of a translator, who on earth is guilty?

I mean I can just go out and ask anyone who passes by to translate a text, but if the resulting translation is bad, who am I to blame? Only myself. If I need great results and I have a choice, I hace to put some time and money to get the results I want. That's my point.

[Edited at 2005-04-05 18:06]


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
2 things you can do in future Apr 5, 2005

1) When you start with a new translator or subject, send the work in 500 words packages and proofread them for an immediate feedback. As soon as the quality will be satisfying, you can increase the package size.

2) Compare the time you need to correct a poor translation with the time you need to correct a machine translation. This will tell you something about the value of machine translations..


[Edited at 2005-04-05 17:39]


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Evert DELOOF-SYS  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 15:24
Member
English to Dutch
+ ...
Both parties need to assume responsibility Apr 5, 2005

Kirill Semenov wrote:

Ian Harknett wrote:
If (and I cannot judge the facts) the translator did an extremely poor job, then the simple fact that we are also translators is not enough to make us take her/his 'side'. If a translator does bad work then s/he should no more expect to be paid than a bad builder, painter or plumber.


I don't try to justify bad trabslations in general -- mind you!

I just mean that the translator didn't happen to appear just out-of-the-blue -- he or she was somehow *selected* for the job. Who selected him/her, then? It if was the outsourcer, then why on earth this translator was selected? And if it was an irresponsible choice of a translator, who on earth is guilty?

I mean I can just go out and ask anyone who passes by to translate a text, but if the resulting translation is bad, who am I to blame? Only myself. If I need great results and I have a choice, I have to put some time and money to get the results I want. That's my point.


First of all, I don't think we're talking about contracting every Tom, Dick and Harry we 'meet on the street'.
We may assume that we're referring to people who (seriously try to) make a living out of translating, no?

I have been on the receiving end many times.
Many translators usually submit good to excellent work, but I have also received bad to extremely bad work from people who claim(ed) to be professionals, no matter their credentials or the good quality of previously submitted work.

If I need to hire extra manpower to correct those mistakes (and those mistakes are not always only or merely text related, some people don't seem to understand the concept of deadlines either), I will always expect my colleague/translator to share in the cost, be it by correcting everything himself, be it by giving a discount, even be it by not sending an invoice at all...
Some assignments can become very expensive if you have to hire extra people to correct docs overnight, believe me.

Anyway, as outsourcer you certainly have to assume responsibility for the work you outsource, but as a professional translator (and supplier of services) you're equally obliged to deliver quality work, if you accept to do a certain job.


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Russell Gillis  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:24
Spanish to English
Translators - Code of Ethics Apr 5, 2005

Most Translator Associations have a Code of Ethics, which all of their members must abide by. One of the main points in any Code of Ethics is that translators will not accept work in a pair/field where they are not capable.

If I mislead an outsourcer by making him/her think that I am capable in a subject/language that I am not, I hold full responsibility.

To me, there is nothing more annoying than to see the argument "It's the outsourcer's fault - they shouldn't have chosen XXXX".

In almost any trade/profession, one is able to refuse payment if the work was not done properly, especially if it had to be re-done by someone else. What makes translators so special?!

Anyway, if this translator did turn in a job that had to be completed re-done, I would demand a discount based upon the extra work involved. Remember that you shouldn't charge the translator for ordinary proofreading, as this is a normal part of outsourcing a job. Make sure that you can back up your claims with concrete examples. If you just didn't like the style of writing, you probably will have a hard time making a case against the translator.

Best of luck!

Russell

[Edited at 2005-04-05 18:47]


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lien
Netherlands
Local time: 15:24
English to French
+ ...
I agree with that Apr 5, 2005

Kirill Semenov wrote:
For me as a freelancer it means that you didn't do everything to find the translator who would provide you with a translation of a good quality. Sorry, but you are also responsible. If you selected someone whose quote was the least or anything, this was the risk you took. Have you checked the translator's skills before giving him/her the job? If not, I think you may blame yourself only.


Cheap is expensive in the long run.


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 16:24
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Oh my... Apr 5, 2005

Dear Russell,

I put the question differently: agencies/outsourcers earn their money for:
1) managing a project;
2) finding the ***proper*** translator for a project.

If they do not put enough efforts in 1) or 2) they risk to lose their money (and their end client). This is a natural risk.

It is an agency/outsourcer who agrees with the end client upon the quality, deadlines, etc. And it's the translator's problem how (s)he arrange the relationships with the agency.

If an agency/outsourcer chooses a wrong translator, this is ***their*** problem and their risk. If they selected a monkey, they got bananas. So simple! Don't blame the monkey in this case -- blame yourself, if you selected it instead of a quantum physicist you needed. The outsourcer takes it's responsibility before the end client, and the translator -- in his/her relations to the outsourcer. But this is simply not fair to blame only the translator which is often the case. Otherwise, whether a translation is good or bad, an agency/outsourcer always gets its money. But I believe it should put *efforts* in finding both *the client* and *the right person* to do the translation. That's what an agency/outsourcer is paid for. For it's efforts, not just for it exists.

[Edited at 2005-04-05 18:45]


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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Don't pay someone who claims to be translator and produces gibberish Apr 5, 2005

I was recently called in - figuratively speaking - to clean up a translation. It was 10,000 words not one of which made sense. It was part II of a four-part translation. I had done part I. Never in my professional experience had a I seen such work..into any language. Though this was into English..it was pure gibberish.

- The person who did it is listed as a translator on proz.
- The person who did the translation used proz to contact agencies.
- The person who did the translation has a resume on proz which is in very poor English.
- The person who did the translation thought they were being given all four parts and had contacted me to do the translation prior to the agency contacting me. At 5 cents a word!! I told the person never to contact me again because those rates are ridiculous. The person said I was unprofessional. I was clear and direct only. Then that same person was used by the agency to do the job which the customer then turned down!
- The person asked the agency to see my invoice!

The translation - I am willing to bet - was put through some kind of machine translation. The result was So Bad, that I told the agency that it was not recognizable as English. In my opinion, the agency shouldn't pay the person nor has any duty to do so.

I am someone who is keenly aware of translators and their rights. But in cases like these I say, throw the "translator" to the dogs of non-payment. This person is not a translator; this person is a translation scammer. This person lives in the UK and claims to be an interpreter in a UK court. Poor UK court!

On the agency side of this recent debacle, similar horrible things occurred. I am awaiting payment. I was asked to step in and clean up the mess - I "re"-translated all 10,000 words - because the agency's customer turned down the translation. I had to the agency not to give the translation to the customer. I told the agency the translation was gibberish. I was not believed.

I'll spare you further details of the agency.

Moral of the story: Don't feel any compunction in not paying the translator. The person knows what she or he did is bad. If you turn it down, he or she would be really stupid to pursue it in court because anybody reading it can tell its crap, right?

Cheers
PS This is the worst experience in translation I have ever been associated with because the agency should be kissing my feet for saving their incredibly stupid mess.

Still smiling and smiling

[Edited at 2005-04-05 21:12]

[Edited at 2005-04-05 21:14]

[Edited at 2005-04-05 21:16]


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PRAKAASH  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 19:54
Member (2007)
English to Hindi
+ ...
POOR but Brilliant Translators will ask for low charges to attract the outsourcers surely. Apr 6, 2005

Jane Lamb-Ruiz wrote:
- The person who did the translation thought they were being given all four parts and had contacted me to do the translation prior to the agency contacting me. At 5 cents a word!! I told the person never to contact me again because those rates are ridiculous. The person said I was unprofessional. I was clear and direct only.


I can't support your fact that translators must only demand high rates or charges to make outsourcers feel that they are good translators !!!

Do you know that in India a job of Rs. 10000 INR is still considered as a good and decent job in middle income groups of Delhi Metropolitan City? How much is Rs. 10 000 in US$? It'll be around 220US$ approximately. And just mind you, that they are well-qualified to do any kind of job in their respective fields.
So, if translators from poor countries ask low charges to attract outsourcers then it's just because that they don't want to loose the outsourcer. Perhaps 100/200 US$ may not be countable for the riches in US, but it's quite a good amount in Delhi/India.

Although, the other expenses done on internet and computer maintenance is another thing.

But still, I'm not supporting the poor translation. Because, of course, it is the duty of the translator to provide you/outsourcer his best effort and a professional translation as it is what for he is paid!
Please note that I'm writing just in favour of poor translators. Sometimes they are poorer than your imagination! Not poor in qualification and quality but in money!

PRAKAASH
FREELANCE TRANSLATOR OF NEPALI, HINDI, SANSKRIT AND ENGLISH TO FOUR OF THE SAME
prakaasharmaa@rediffmail.com
+977 56 530738


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Anastasia La Fata  Identity Verified
Argentina
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Talking may solve many problems! Apr 6, 2005

Well, I have been thinking for a while about your problem and now I would like to share my point of view.
I am a freelancer, but sometimes I have to outsource, and I have been in situations like yours. Why don't you just talk to this person using arguments? Just make a list of the most serious inconsistencies and errors throughout the text (you may ask another translator to do that) and show this list to the person who did a bad job. And ask his/her opinion about what he/she would do in your situation? Explain that you cannot pay for the same job twice. And of course, after such a bad result, you wouldn't take this risk again and ask the same translation to correct this text. This way everything will be clear and maybe the translator will recognize his/her errors and maybe you come to an agreement. Just talking can solve many problems! I have tried it myself!
By the way, s/he is not necessarily a bad translator. Somebody doing great translations about telecoms may produce very poor results with finance or legal texts. But of course, s/he should not have accepted this job...

Hope it helps.

Anastasia


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CPTrans
United States
Local time: 08:24
English to Danish
+ ...
There is always two side to a story. Apr 10, 2005

When you hire someone under a certain $/word count, you have to make sure you have a proofreader and a editor by your side at anytime.
Now i ran into an issue for a while back simar to yours.
I hired a translator to take care of a job, and it came back just fine, my client had already a editor waiting, so i didnt hire one to clean up the job.
The job came back, as "very bad translation" I send it back to the translator, but at the same time, went through it myself. couldnt understand most of the translation.
I went over the doc. which came from the translator which was fine, missing a couple of things, but better than the one I got from the editor.
I went in to find the editor here on proz, and to my big surprise, I found out that she has just grad. from a univers. here in U.S and her only exp. in the part. language was a 6 weeks course.
Lets say it this way, I leveled and called up my client, i couldnt not believe they would hire someone to do a job, when the person doesnt even know where the part. country is.


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