Large jobs on many different topics
Thread poster: Spring City (X)

Spring City (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:44
Chinese to English
+ ...
Dec 3, 2007

I recently accepted a large job embracing more than 100 different files, all on different subjects. They were all smallish files (say 300-500 Chinese characters), but covered things as different as Formula 1 racing and stem-cell implants.

I am wondering what a reasonable approach to such a job is. I would like to make the following points on large and varied jobs:

1. The range of vocabulary is much greater than with 3 longish files all on chemical engineering. In the latter case, there may be some awkward specialized terminology to master, but once a relatively small number of those words have been learned, the job then becomes straightforward. A job that includes 100+ topics is simply much more vocabulary-intensive.

2. Proper names are a nuisance, particularly when it comes to trying to find out if Chinese people outside mainland Chinese use a non-pinyin form for their names. It can take hours going round in circles on the Internet trying to find these things, and if you have 100+ files, there may be 200-300 proper names, and the time spent in looking for the correct versions of these may approach the time spent in doing the actual translation.

3. Having accepted a job that includes 100+ files, you feel you must finish it. But how could you have reviewed all the files? In many such cases, the files will only arrive in dribs and drabs, and so you have got into the situation where you have accepted the work, but don't know until you get and open the files what the subjects will be on.

4. Non-conventional use of language: Chinese words only used in Taiwan or Hong Kong, or slang words that are not in general usage and that educated people in China would not recognize, are indeed a problem. Some files contain decidedly substandard use of the source language.

Although it is possible to spoil a relationship with a client by raising rates, I am trying to think through how I should have handled the project. Should I have said the following?

1. My general rate is $X per 1,000 characters.
2. This is a large-volume work, so the rate goes up by 20%. [I have had to refuse work from regular clients to finish this job, and I find large-volume jobs a pain.]
3. In addition to the rate increase for large volume, a large number of small files have to attract a higher rate too, owing to the large number of proper nouns and the wider range of vocabulary they contain. Maybe this can be handled by a minimum rate per file. However, I am not clear how high a minimum rate per file should be. Should it be based on your rate for 500 characters, so that if the file contains 300 characters, the rate is still as for 500 characters? And then in this case, inflated by a further 20% as it is part of a large-volume job?
4. I suppose I should make clear at the outset that, not having any opportunity to preview all the files, I cannot guarantee to complete the job.

How can I take on a 50,000 character project divided into 100+ files on separate topics with a large number of proper nouns and plentiful sprinkling of non-standard language at my normal rate? What can I do to feel happier and less put upon while doing such jobs? Should I just refuse all such jobs in the future?


Julia Esrom  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:44
German to English
+ ...
refusing jobs? Dec 3, 2007

Sometimes it may be the best option to refuse a job. This may even increase your market value. Some translators really don't like large jobs, some really like them. So if you know which kind/size of job you like then it may be better to stick to the jobs you enjoy. The next inquiry will arrive in your mailbox soon enough. Having said that, there certainly are those jobs that look great and turn out to be more difficult than expected (one trap is that the text has been written by more than one author). One of my suggestions would be to include in your terms and conditions and quote that your quotes always remain estimates until the full source text has been submitted for your approval. This will give you room for negotiation if you don't get the entire text at the beginning of a long-term project. Perhaps this helps.


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:44
German to English
1 job = 1 topic Dec 3, 2007

It cannot be expected that a single translator should be competent to translate all topics. Grouping files with disparate subjects is a poor business practice that can only have a negative effect on quality. You should have the opportunity to review the files before accepting a translation job. The agency's failure to provide the files in advanace has a potential negative effect on the quality of the translations and is unfair to both the translator and the client.


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Large jobs on many different topics

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