Protocol in interacting with agencies
Thread poster: Patricia Rosas

Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
Oct 5, 2006

I've never worked for an agency. Last night, one contacted me about a proofreading job.

This morning, I looked at the translation, and it was (imho) terrible. (It was done by a non-native speaker.) Using tracked changes, I edited a 275 word sample, returning it with a message outlining 6 error categories (there were scores of errors!).

Then, I quoted a price that would be fair for the amount of work I would have to do on this document but which is undoubtedly too high for the agency.

More than 5 hours have passed, and I've had no reply.

I expected a "thanks but no thanks" message. Is it standard for an agency to not reply at all? Could they be offended by the bluntness of my assessment?

Did I make a mistake in doing the sample in the first place? Should I have simply written to say that I wasn't interested rather than critiquing it?

And should I write to them (now or in a day or two) or should I just put this out of my mind?

Thanks for any insights you care to share!


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
what nationality was the agency? Oct 5, 2006

Patricia Rosas wrote:

I've never worked for an agency. Last night, one contacted me about a proofreading job.

This morning, I looked at the translation, and it was (imho) terrible. (It was done by a non-native speaker.) Using tracked changes, I edited a 275 word sample, returning it with a message outlining 6 error categories (there were scores of errors!).

Then, I quoted a price that would be fair for the amount of work I would have to do on this document but which is undoubtedly too high for the agency.

More than 5 hours have passed, and I've had no reply.

I expected a "thanks but no thanks" message. Is it standard for an agency to not reply at all? Could they be offended by the bluntness of my assessment?

Did I make a mistake in doing the sample in the first place? Should I have simply written to say that I wasn't interested rather than critiquing it?

And should I write to them (now or in a day or two) or should I just put this out of my mind?

Thanks for any insights you care to share!


I think the notion of courteous replies may be different from country to country.

I think you did right, but I think you should also bear in mind that some agencies rely on cheap editors to 'fix' bad translations done by awful translators.


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Oct 5, 2006

Hi, Lia. The agency is here in the US. I'll keep in mind what you said, and perhaps if I never hear from them again, I should count my blessings!

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
A sound reply Oct 5, 2006

I remember reading a great reply to such editing/proofreading requests (probably in an old ATA Chronicle). The gist was to explain that the job of an editor/proofreader is to take a good, professionally done translation and make it better... and that the text they submitted is not suitable for that. Then provide a quote to translate the source text.

As for the lack of a reply... I imagine that in a short-staffed, small agency, follow-up messages to say "no" may be a low priority. I'm always pleasantly surprised when someone sends a polite note back saying the job has been assigned elsewhere. Usually, I only expect to hear back if the answer is "yes."


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, too, Steven! Oct 5, 2006

I love that statement on the parameters of proofreading -- and it is the truth, too! It's very helpful to know that it isn't odd not to not hear back from them. That's a relief...

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
cheap translators + cheap editors = a job done cheap Oct 5, 2006

Patricia Rosas wrote:

Hi, Lia. The agency is here in the US. I'll keep in mind what you said, and perhaps if I never hear from them again, I should count my blessings!


Exactly. I have stopped editing translations, they are invariably bad to awful, and in many cases I suspect it's becuase the agencies rely on cheap translators and cheap editors to get a job done cheap (quality doesn't seem to be the issue).

I asked about nationality becuase one agency I have worked with would have responded exactly as you described ... the minute the real cost was placed before them, they would have quietly withdrawn:-)

[Edited at 2006-10-05 22:52]


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:48
German to English
+ ...
Protocol in interacting with agencies Oct 5, 2006

Dear Patricia,

Welcome to the “wonderful” world of working with agencies!

There's nothing wrong with asking the agency for a reply. Most agencies do answer relatively quickly. But some agencies don't always reply if they decide not to award the assignment. I would probably think that it is rude not to (and it is certainly more polite to do so), but I know how busy it can get, so I've developed a little more understanding. Sometimes I also lose track of an e-mail that someone sent and appreciate it when I get a reminder.

Just yesterday I received a request for a bid, which I then sent off. I didn't receive an answer after a couple of hours, so I sent it again with a note explaining that I was unsure of whether it was actually sent. The answer I got was that the agency had yet to receive an answer from the client. I'm still waiting, although I'm pretty confident that I will receive the assignment—or the next one.

I'm sure there are differing opinions with regard to the advantages and disadvantages of your proofreading “sample,” which is precisely what I consider it to be, but I—for one—do not like to do samples. I'm not saying that the agency did so, but it is conceivable that they forward your sample to the translator, who is then expected to follow your example and revise the translation accordingly. I've encountered as much.

I don't think that there is any more of a standard when dealing with agencies than there is when dealing with translators (or proofreaders, for that matter). Some are better and more polite, that is to say, more professional than others.

Best regards,

Derek


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Trevor Butcher
Local time: 14:48
English
Posiibilities Oct 6, 2006

Hi,

They might have sent the text back to be re-translated, especially if the price you quoted was very high. What you have not mentioned is the total size of the text, when the client needs the text and what level of quality that the client needs - which is essential info when assessing how long they might need to get back to you.

Trevor


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:48
French to English
Delay with end client? Oct 6, 2006

I don't think anyone has mentioned this so far. Not all jobs are a "done deal" between the agency and the end-client, with only the agency-translator side to be sorted. Quite often, the agency will seek quotes, then tell the end-client (presumably after adding their mark-up!) and wait for the go ahead from that client, and the agency will then give the OK to the translator.

In the case of a proof-reading job, I could well imagine scope for even more discussion/negotiation than for translation pure and simple, especially if the proof-reading job has arisen not simply in the normal course of the translation process, but is the result of perhaps an in-house job at the end-client and they "just wanted it checked out", has arisen because of a complaint about the quality of the original (e.g. the agency is talking to the original translator about the qaulity of their work), or whatever. In short, there are many valid reasons for not getting an instant reply.

Equally, as has been pointed out, some agencies never reply unless they are saying "yes".

FWIW, I think you did the right thing with the sample, to justify exactly WHY it would cost so much.


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Jo Macdonald  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:48
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
Hi Pat Oct 6, 2006

I expected a "thanks but no thanks" message. Is it standard for an agency to not reply at all? Could they be offended by the bluntness of my assessment?

- No, some people are just in the (bad) habit of not answering.

Did I make a mistake in doing the sample in the first place? Should I have simply written to say that I wasn't interested rather than critiquing it?

- Imo yes, I would have refused to do a job like that. It needs translating by a mother-tongue pro, then maybe a quick check by a proof-reader. Getting a cheap transcription in another language then asking a pro to fix it is a waste of time and money for everyone involved and absolutely no fun at all.
Always wait for an ok before doing any work, even a few hundred words. A quick read, "this is awful and will cost more than if I translated it for you" is enough.
Personally I don't like proofing work, you find that once you start changing things it snowballs, charge by the hour, and it's easy for the agency to not agree to how much needed doing.
Thankless task really.
A quick read over a good translation done a pro I might do for free for a regular client who just needs a second opinion on a job someone who knows a bit of English wanted to have a snipe at.

And should I write to them (now or in a day or two) or should I just put this out of my mind?

- In cases like this I just write saying:
As I've received no reply I assume the job is cancelled.
All the best.
Jo

- It's really not a problem, and do you really want to do business with someone who can't be bothered to answer?


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:48
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Your only mistake was wasting your time Oct 6, 2006

Dear Patricia,

The only mistake you made here was wasting your time translating the sample. You ought to have reviewed it, determined that it needed heavy editing (rather than the euphemistic "proofreading") and quoted a price for either the editing required or for translating from scratch (along the lines Steven suggests).

It seems endemic in the industry for heavy editing jobs to be disguised as "proofreading" jobs. This way, agencies can charge 3 cents a word to (it is hoped) a really good translator for fixing the work of a really crappy translator. Of course, this work is often harder than just starting from scratch.

I responded to a proz.com posting for "proofreading" work about a month ago. I asked that I be sent the text for review so I could make an informed decision as to whether accept the job or not. What I received was a document that was poorly written in the original Spanish, and that was poorly translated into English. What I was offered was 3 cents a word.

I wrote back saying that the work required would cost far more than 3 cents a word, and received a "thanks but no thanks" response.

Such work should be labeled "editing/revision" or "retranslation" (or, perhaps, "disaster relief"). It is not merely a misnomer to term such skilled and exhaustive labor "proofreading": It is downright scandalous.

Bob


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 14:48
French to Dutch
+ ...
Agree with Bob Oct 6, 2006

Your only error was to waste time on it. Some translation agencies mass-mail their work to 10 or 20 translators. Just go into it, make an assessment and quote a price, in 20 seconds. Don't expect an answer. Good agencies work with good translators, and there should'nt be any "heavy revision". If the translation is a mess, job management will be too, and in each case the proofreading is a part of the profits, so it will always be too expensive. If you have time to spend do something for your own, good clients.

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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, everyone, for all the good ideas & support! Oct 6, 2006

Robert Forstag wrote:


Such work should be labeled ... "disaster relief" ...


... and also for the laughs!

I will be more skeptical in the future. In retrospect, I do think that I may have been manipulated. When the woman at the agency first wrote, I told her that I would not "fix a bad translation." To which she replied that, "Oh, no. The translation is fine!" LOL

To answer Trevor's question, this document is about 30,000 words and she said she would wait until I could fit it in. I did suggest that they contact the translator, so perhaps they are doing that; and then again, maybe they are trolling for someone else!

I guess I need to send them a brief note. At least that way, I won't be the person with the "bad manners"!

Hope y'all are having a good day!


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
do I laugh or cry? Oct 7, 2006

Well, folks, never heard back until this morning...I got a "failure notification" message saying my e-mail had never been delivered! Ha! ha! ha! that never even crossed my mind.

Good thing you all talked me out of wanting to do this job in the first place ...

Damage control at my end on Monday


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Protocol in interacting with agencies

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