Complaint about quality of translation
Thread poster: lidiasoliveira

lidiasoliveira  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
May 22, 2006


I'm a newbie as you usually say and my english is poor, but I need help from those who work in this complicated business. For the first time in more than 3 years of working as a freelancer translator, I have received a complaint about the quality of my translation. I don't know what to do in this siuation. An agency post the job I did the job in 24 houres and today I have received an email saying the client was not happy with the quality. What is strange is tat the job was done a month ago and they should pay me today. Why waiting so long to tell me that the client didn't like the translation?

Thank you for you help!


Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:52
German to English
Responsibility for quality control lies with the agency May 22, 2006

My immediate thought on reading your story is that this is really the agency's problem. They commissioned the translation from you and they should have checked that it was of satisfactory quality before passing it on to the client. Therefore in my view responsibility for sorting out any complaints from the client lies with the agency - after all, that's why we work with agencies and not directly with the client.

However, it is impossible for you to know what to think without knowing what the specific complaints are. Apart from telling the agency that it is their job to pay you anyway (especially since such a long period has elapsed) I would be asking them to get a precise list of complaints from the client and pass it on to you. It may turn out that the client wanted particular terminology to be used but failed to tell you about it or provide a glossary - but unless you know what the complaints are you can't put forward your side of the case.

If not only the client but also the agency claim that your work was unsatisfactory and you, having seen the list of complaints, do not agree, then I would tell the agency that they should, at their expense, get an independent person to review your translation and comment on its acceptability - but I very much hope that it won't come to that.


Suzanne Blangsted  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:52
Danish to English
+ ...
quality translation May 22, 2006

I had a similar problem. The agency accepted my work but after several months of attempting to get payment for the job without any response from the agency, I finally threadened to contact a collection agency, and I got the response that the agency did not know who I was.

In addition, I made an entry to the Blue Board with the lowest rating. The agency then responded on the Blue Board stating that I had "been paid twice" and that it was a "bad translation". That is a very strange statement to make. Who would pay twice for a translation good or bad? (especially to someone they claimed they did not know??)

Anyway, the collection agency helped me collect, although 30% went to the agency for collection.

I recommend you list your complaint on the BLUE BOARD for others to see, then other translators have been warned.

I recommend you pursue your case, if you have the time and cannot afford to write it off. But bear in mind that going after the agency can cost you more in time and effort than what you would have been paid for your translation.


lidiasoliveira  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Thank You! May 22, 2006

Thank you so much for your help. I feel less aloneicon_smile.gif
I'm very angry because I contact the agency, they sent me the complaints and all I see is some stylistic changes and some data formatting!!!!They turn the phrases differently, but no majeur mistakes. And now they want me to do a discount, like those you ask when you go buy some clothes here in Portugal! Because they say the client ask for a dicount too. I can't do discounts, specially when it's not my fault!

Thank you again for your help...I'm going to put some comments on BlueBoard...unfortunaly


Claudia Aguero  Identity Verified
Costa Rica
Local time: 17:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
Check your translation again May 23, 2006

I recently had a client who didn't want to pay my translation, though he had said I had done a "wonderful job". So, I checked againg the source and target texts to see which my mistakes were. At the end, they wanted me to "put soul and passion in my words" by saying something completely different from the source text.

I assume that if you did this translation in 24 hours, it is not very long. So, why don't you ask the agency to send you back both files to check if they haven't been changed after your delivery or proofread them again.

Probably, you may not feel confortable with the text, so you may ask a colleague to proofread t for you.

If you cannot get this translation paid, before enganging in such a lengthy, tedious and resource-consuming process of contacting a collection agency, analyze whether such paymente is worth all the expenses and time you will waste.

Sometimes it is better to lose some money and not your peace of mind. It's is discouraging, but such is life...


Local time: 00:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
Approach this professionally... May 23, 2006

I have experienced these situations from both sides, i.e. from the translator's point of view and from the agency's point of view.

I fully understand that at the moment you feel like beating the agency with a big stick because they have not paid you, but remember always that you are a professional, and your approach to this situation may influence the outcome and your future relationship with this agency.

In our business it does happen sometimes that a complaint is received about a translation from the end-user. Sometimes these complaints seem to have very little basis, such as, "we didn't like the quality of the translation" or, "the translation wasn't good". These complaints often stem from a comment made by a member of staff, or perhaps a supplier or customer, who is not a professional linguist. On other occasions, regrettably, the complaint is justified, and so every complaint has to be thoroughly investigated.

The time factor you describe in your original post is not unusual. Once the translation has been quality-checked by the agency and sent to the end-user, it may then be circulated within the company or distributed to agents, distributors etc and it may take several weeks for the negative feedback to be received. The agency cannot pay your invoice until the matter has been clarified. This is not the main issue.

In these cases, the role of the agency is to investigate the complaint, take any corrective action necessary, and resolve the matter with both the client and the translator, which may involve some financial adjustment (i.e. a discount). As a middle man, the agency should have a broadly neutral position.

You have done the right thing by requesting a complete list of the amendments proposed by the client. The next step is to respond to each of them individually. Give page and line numbers. If the proposed change is merely a stylistic preference, then say so. But be honest. If the client has identified a genuine error, admit it.

If you have a colleague who works in the same language combination as you, you might consider showing your translation to your colleague in order to get a "second opinion". If you don't know anybody I am sure there are plenty of colleagues on ProZ who would be happy to help.

Forward your comments to the agency. At the end of the day, if a large proportion of the changes are stylistic, or to do with formatting, or relating to in-house vocabulary or other preferences which nobody thought to tell you about, then they have to come to the conclusion that the complaint is unfounded. They are then liable to pay your invoice in full. If they think that the client's complaints are partly justified, then they will negotiate with you about your invoice. But don't be pressurised into agreeing to a discount if you are sure of the quality of your work.

I am sure it is very upsetting for you to receive a complaint about your work, but sometimes we can learn from these experiences. I hope you can sort it out. Good luck!


Suzanne Blangsted  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:52
Danish to English
+ ...
Blue Board listing May 23, 2006

One agency paid up after seeing my entry on the Blue Board, where I scored that agency a 1.

I did two jobs for them and got paid for one. So of course I did not accept more work from them based on that experience. Later on, after my e-mail to the PM pointing out that I still needed payment for one job and not getting an answer, I went to the Blue Board.

Two days after my entry, I received an e-mail from the company requesting more information, which I sent proving that the job was done. The PM responded to me that there had been some confusion in the agency about that particular job, and I received my payment right away.

Of course, I then removed my entry on the Blue Board and might consider accepting more jobs from them again.


United States
Local time: 19:52
French to English
That's the oldest trick in the book May 25, 2006

Agencies who want to get out of paying translators make these claims months later, usually only after the translator has been looking for payment. They say nothing up front, or might even be happy with the translator's work, but then all of a sudden the translation is just of such poor quality that they just can not pay you.

I would advise you never to work with them again. If they really have a problem with quality, they should pay you but not contact you again. But there is never any reason for them not to pay you. The only way they should be able to do so is if they tell the translator IMMEDIATELY after the quality control is done on the translation. If they don't do this quality control then they are not doing their job. A translation agency isn't there simply to assign translations to translators which they turn in directly to their clients. That's ridiculous. The end clients aren't paying a higher rate to agencies for equivalent quality, they are paying for HIGHER quality, since the agency is supposed to add to the quality. If they don't, then they are in the wrong.


Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:52
French to English
+ ...
two separate contracts May 25, 2006

KLS wrote:

Once the translation has been quality-checked by the agency and sent to the end-user, it may then be circulated within the company or distributed to agents, distributors etc and it may take several weeks for the negative feedback to be received. The agency cannot pay your invoice until the matter has been clarified.

On the other hand, couldn't one ask oneself why the problems weren't flagged at the agency's quality control stage? Surely at that stage the agency assumes responsibility for the work before sending it back. This is part of the agency's contract with the end client - the translator's contract with the agency is fulfilled at the agency's quality control stage, when no problems are found.

If I am wrong about this, I would be grateful if someone could tell me why.

[Edited at 2006-05-25 11:13]


Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:52
I totally disagree May 25, 2006

KLS wrote:
The agency cannot pay your invoice until the matter has been clarified. This is not the main issue.

So how long does one have to wait for the end client to come back with "complaints" on the translation, before paying the freelancer?

The translator and the agency agreed to payment terms, and the agency has to comply with such payment terms, just as the translator complied with the deadline.

If the agency finds fault with the quality of the translation delivered, they must say so immediately. Once the agency has delivered the translation to the client, quality is THEIR responsibility, not the translator's. As gad said, if later on the agency finds that the end client did not like the work of the translator, then they just do not hire him/her again.

If truly, the quality was substandard, the agency has two choices: not hiring the translator again, or negotiating some sort of compensation on future assignments. Retaining payment under the excuse that "the end client did not like your work" is unethical.


United Kingdom
Local time: 00:52
Member (2006)
English to French
I am in doubt... May 25, 2006

[quote]Armorel Young wrote:

My immediate thought on reading your story is that this is really the agency's problem. They commissioned the translation from you and they should have checked that it was of satisfactory quality before passing it on to the client.


Can I ask you where you take you information from when you asy that it's the company, is there a general translation rule or a principle that can be verified?
What is the measure in this case, in sharing responsibilities?


D. M


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

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

Complaint about quality of translation

Advanced search

Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »
CafeTran Espresso
You've never met a CAT tool this clever!

Translate faster & easier, using a sophisticated CAT tool built by a translator / developer. Accept jobs from clients who use SDL Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast & major CAT tools. Download and start using CafeTran Espresso -- for free

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search