Business Issue: Ethical or no?
Thread poster: Lindsay Sabadosa
Lindsay Sabadosa  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:10
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
May 24, 2005

Hi everyone,
I've been a bit hesitant to post this but I've been having an issue recently and need some advice before the problem escalates. I have worked with Agency X in France for a while now and recently have begun to receive many editing projects from them. Great, right? Sure, except for the fact that whoever is translating the documents is clearly not a native English speaker. So I end up spending a bit of time fixing systematic errors (prepositions, tenses, sometimes just plain incorrect translations of false cognates, etc). But that's not even the real problem. The real problem is that I have a very sneaking suspiscion that the PM at Agency X is translating the docs himself and then passing them off to be edited by me. The main reason that I think this is the document to be edited are always created by the PM (i.e. the translation of the original text show that he created them when you click on the properties tab). Also, while I do not know him personally, I believe that he may work as a EN-FR translator and so could potentially try his hand at FR-EN as well with the help of an editor (me). Do you think this is ethical? If my suspicions are true, I realize that he is making out by pocketing both the commission and the translation fee while I make about 1/2 my normal translation rate for my editing work. Am I just being over-sensitive or is this not right? Also, after several weeks of grinding my teeth every time I have to correct the same preposition over and over, should I tell him that his translator stinks, especially if he and the translator are one in the same?!?! I am not someone who often complains about other translators work but I feel like I'm being taken advantage of in this case. Any advice is welcome and thanks for letting me vent a bit!
LNS


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xxxIanW
Local time: 07:10
German to English
+ ...
Tell him that his translator stinks May 24, 2005

Hi there,

Tell your customer that his translator stinks - that you have to correct the same stuff over and over again and that it would be cheaper for you to translate the texts yourself than to bring poor non-native translations up to the required quality.

And if it is the PM who is doing so, he can hardly accuse you of being tactless!

All the best


Ian

[Edited at 2005-05-24 15:14]


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Intertranslations LTD
Greece
Local time: 08:10
Member (2002)
English to Greek
+ ...
Do u get paid the agreed fee? If yes what is your complain? May 24, 2005

LSabadosa wrote:

Hi everyone,
I've been a bit hesitant to post this but I've been having an issue recently and need some advice before the problem escalates. I have worked with Agency X in France for a while now and recently have begun to receive many editing projects from them. Great, right? Sure, except for the fact that whoever is translating the documents is clearly not a native English speaker. So I end up spending a bit of time fixing systematic errors (prepositions, tenses, sometimes just plain incorrect translations of false cognates, etc). But that's not even the real problem. The real problem is that I have a very sneaking suspiscion that the PM at Agency X is translating the docs himself and then passing them off to be edited by me. The main reason that I think this is the document to be edited are always created by the PM (i.e. the translation of the original text show that he created them when you click on the properties tab). Also, while I do not know him personally, I believe that he may work as a EN-FR translator and so could potentially try his hand at FR-EN as well with the help of an editor (me). Do you think this is ethical? If my suspicions are true, I realize that he is making out by pocketing both the commission and the translation fee while I make about 1/2 my normal translation rate for my editing work. Am I just being over-sensitive or is this not right? Also, after several weeks of grinding my teeth every time I have to correct the same preposition over and over, should I tell him that his translator stinks, especially if he and the translator are one in the same?!?! I am not someone who often complains about other translators work but I feel like I'm being taken advantage of in this case. Any advice is welcome and thanks for letting me vent a bit!
LNS


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xxxMihai Badea  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
Member (2004)
English to Romanian
+ ...
You should inform the agency of the poor quality of the translation May 24, 2005

Dear LSabadosa,

Have you let them know that the translations were of poor quality? If not, I think you should.
If they continue to give you such projects and you don’t want to give up this client, you could try to apply an hourly rate for editing. Thus, you would still receive a fair price for your work.



[Edited at 2005-05-24 16:12]


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Jerónimo Fernández  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Tell your client May 24, 2005

Hi Lindsay,

Let's break down the situation:

- If your PM is really acting as you suspect, I'd say you have a good reason to be annoyed, because he'd be making you translate for a portion of your rate. Having said that, it's pretty clear that getting annoyed doesn't solve the problem here.

- Please bear in mind that the fact that the PM's name appear in the translated document doesn't necessarily means that he did the translation: Sometimes at my office the PM divides long documents and gives bits to different translators, and in that case, in MS Word, she's always the "Author" in the "Properties" tab, even though she's not the actual author of the document.

- If the translation sucks (regardless of who did it) I would always tell my client. Granted, I would never use the words "it sucks", I'd explain where the translation is wrong. Maybe sending your client a file with the changes tracked is enough.

- I'd also let my client know if the translation was so lousy that my job was more translating the text again rather than editing the translation, and so I'd suggest him to use another translator.

HTH
Regards,
Jerónimo


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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:10
English to German
+ ...
Translation by non-natives May 24, 2005

It is not uncommon that clients employ non-native speakers of a language to translate documents and to have them proofread by natives. In the end, this is cheaper for the client because the non-natives know they can't produce high-quality work and charge less.

I think there is little use in telling the client that the translator stinks; they probably know themselves. Furthermore, if the PM is that translator himself he may take it personally. On the other side, if you are really fed up with these kinds of texts tell them.

It would also be interesting to know whether they return proofread documents to the translator; he can't learn if he doesn't know what mistakes he made.

Just my 2 cents.

Sonja


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Pierre Renault
Local time: 01:10
French to English
+ ...
Cheaper for the client? May 24, 2005

> [...] clients employ non-native speakers of a language
> to translate documents and to have them proofread
> by natives. In the end, this is cheaper for the client
[...]

Hee hee. Its cheaper for the client...

It ends up being more expensive for the client. Rather than actually dealing with the translator, they're dealing with an agency that cannot do the work itself and farms it out to the lowest bidder.

While the translation **may** cost less, the client ends up paying more.

More in after-sales service, more on marketing, more on litigation, more on everything, except the translation.

The translation probably costs more than it needs to, anyway.

Why, oh why does this industry work this way?

Agencies with no knowledge in what they are translating (technical fields, legal, financial, etc.), farm out work to people who, not only are not native at the receiving end, but are probably not native at the starting end. Its highly likely that the translator does not understand the text he or she is translating (does not pick up on technical slang, for example) apart from whether someone who earns .02USD a word will bother or even has the ressources to do research. I have 20-page technical reference dictionaries that cost me 40 or 50 bucks. I can't see someone in India forking out 1,700 rupees (a month of good pay) for the same book I work one or two hours to pay.

So, the agency now depends on an editor catching all the mistakes...

I've worked in enough technical fields in my life to realise that that is a very stupid and dangerous way to work. It practically garantees that mistakes will find their way through the one safeguard.

Who pays? The client.

Didja ever wonder why most people don't read instruction books?

Because they're poorly written and translated worse, and there is no quality control, in the real sense of the word. Just an overworked project manager who doesn't really know anything.

Most of my clients are always surprised, pleasantly so, when I contact them to point out mistakes in the original text. Sometimes I even suggest they reorganise the original for clarity.

As a matter of fact, the original design of CorelDraw version 3.0 along with most the little doohickeys that made the program so popular, were all suggested by the translator who was doing the instruction book for version 3.0.

Yes, they rewrote the entire program to match what the translator had told them it should look like and act. A PC Mag review at the time said it was the first time they had ever seen an instruction book that matched the program.

CorelDraw took off like a rocket, and whatever they paid the translator did not even come close to what Corel benefitted from his translation.

So, it is worthwile to save a thousand on a translation, but lose out on hundreds of thousands in sales, or tens of thousands in after-sales services because the customer used the product wrong or did not understand the book?

Its how I keep my customers from running to agencies: apart from the fact that their after-sales-service costs are lessened because the text is accurate and easier to read, meaning the client is more likely to read the thing rather than call the company to complain, there's also the fact that everything goes much much faster when not going through an agency. If I have a question about a term or a phrase, I simply call the head engineer at my client.

The el-cheapo translator has to contact the agency's project manager to ask. The project manager, who has twenty or thirty irons in the fire, then has to contact the client but, because the project manager does not know the document well, cannot ask the client in precise terms. So the agency's answer will always come back "Do the best you can", and the el-cheapo translator will substitute an approximation or a long-winded phrase rather than using a correct, appropriate translation.

Who loses? The client. And all competent translators.



Why we keep shooting ourselves in the foot, I'll never understand.


Pierre


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 08:10
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Most English texts today are produced by no-natives May 24, 2005

I do not see any ethical issue here at all. If the rate for editing is acceptable why decline? The sheer amount of English text produced today makes it unlikely that only native English persons should be allowed to produce it. There are simply not enough people, so most of the stuff goes without proofreading. Unethical would be to deliver raw translations to the end-client and charge the full price for it.

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Momoka  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:10
Japanese to Spanish
+ ...
I understand May 24, 2005

how you feel, because I felt the same way the first time an agency asked me to edit a document of very poor quality; I wondered why they hadn't asked me to do the translation, since I'm a native speaker, had done translations for them before, etc. I must admit now I was a little naive, and have learned that business is business; they have their policies, so do I.
They pay me for a job I agree to do at a price agreed by both, be it translating, editing, etc. If you want to keep working with them, I thing you should find a way to feel more comfortable with it; telling them the translations are too bad, giving them recommendations, anyway you prefer. I agree with Heinrich that ethics is not the problem here.



[Edited at 2005-05-24 22:42]


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Pablo Roufogalis
Colombia
Local time: 01:10
English to Spanish
Extreme cases May 24, 2005

While the case that you report is extreme, I often have the suspicion that many translators write any old thing when the phrase requires some extra time to translate. Then it's up to the editor/proofreader to deal with it.

In that scheme of things, the lazy translator get the lion's share while the dedicated editor gets the crumbs.

When I started, I believed I would fit very well as an editor/proofreader. Later I realized that I was working the same or more for less pay and switched to translating.


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Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 23:10
English
Paid by the word or the hour? May 25, 2005

LSabadosa wrote:

whoever is translating the documents is clearly not a native English speaker. So I end up spending a bit of time fixing systematic errors (prepositions, tenses, sometimes just plain incorrect translations of false cognates, etc). (snip) I make about 1/2 my normal translation rate for my editing work. Am I just being over-sensitive or is this not right? Also, after several weeks of grinding my teeth every time I have to correct the same preposition over and over, should I tell him that his translator stinks,
LNS


If the translation is of poor quality, tell the agency that the rate must be higher because you spending too much time correcting grammar, not editing.

Could you negotiate a rate for editing that takes into account the grammar errors? Much like the "typing speed" calculation that takes the number of words you type and deducts for errors, you would take the word count and ADD for error correction. It's reasonable to charge double for an error: once for the word you recognized as wrong, and then again for supplying the right one.


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Lakshmi Iyer  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:10
Italian to English
+ ...
Please avoid racial mentions May 25, 2005

Cheung Mo wrote:


>Agencies with no knowledge in what they are translating (technical fields, legal, financial, etc.), farm out work to people who, not only are not native at the receiving end, but are probably not native at the starting end. Its highly likely that the translator does not understand the text he or she is translating (does not pick up on technical slang, for example) apart from whether someone who earns .02USD a word will bother or even has the ressources to do research. I have 20-page technical reference dictionaries that cost me 40 or 50 bucks. I can't see someone in India forking out 1,700 rupees (a month of good pay) for the same book I work one or two hours to pay.


Pierre


Pierre,

While I understand and share the general frustration with a market-driven business that focuses on low rates to the detriment of quality, I find your comment regarding "someone in India" an offensive generalisation - and not just because I am Indian.

I assume people who accept jobs at 2 cents a word do so for several reasons, including working in a country where living standards are low.

The fact that there are agencies everywhere (not just in India) offering ridiculous rates, and people (not just in India) prepared to accept these rates doesn't mean that every "someone in India" works for 2 cents a word and doesn't bother investing in reference material.

I have seen acceptable published rates and requests for tips on good dictionaries more than once on these forums from translators in India, so presumably there are a few Indian translators who recognise the importance of quality and fair pricing standards. Also, I'm not sure when you were last in India, but I'm afraid your estimation of an average monthly salary for the average middle class person isn't very realistic.

In future, could we please discuss issues of interest to translators worldwide - the objective of this international translation workplace - without resorting to racial slights and generalisations.

Kaveri


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:10
Above anything else, be professional May 25, 2005

LSabadosa wrote:

Hi everyone,
I've been a bit hesitant to post this but I've been having an issue recently and need some advice before the problem escalates.
ould I tell him that his translator stinks, especially if he and the translator are one in the same?!?! I am not someone who often complains about other translators work but I feel like I'm being taken advantage of in this case. Any advice is welcome and thanks for letting me vent a bit!
LNS[/quote]

If the translation is of such bad quality, that you are rather retranslating than editing, point so the the project manager, and inform him that if he/she sends you another document like that, you will be forced to charge your translation rate, rather than your editing rate; or, as someone else suggested, an hourly rate. This should solve the feeling that someone is taking advantage of you.

As for the PM doing the translations him/herself, even though your suspicions might be well-founded, IMHO it is a very serious accusation, that might be very difficult to back with proof. Needless to say, you would cause harm and be harmed professionally if the accusation turns out to be false. Thus, I would not even touch the subject, unless I had sound evidence that the PM is being unethical. My two cents!

[Edited at 2005-05-25 22:35]


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