Acting as mentor and outsourcing projects
Thread poster: adriaticfellow

adriaticfellow
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:53
Aug 2, 2013

Hi,

I know an established translator (family member) who has agreed to give me work and proofread my translations (i.e. a mentor).

How does a mentor outsource work ethically though? It seems only fair that the agency/client should be informed that some of the translation is being done by an inexperienced translator and then being proofread.

Would agencies/clients be put off by this?


 

Joshua Pepper  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:53
French to English
+ ...
A translator who outsources should use his judgement Aug 2, 2013

It's not necessarily unethical for a conscientious translator to outsource work. He (or she) will be proofreading, so his expertise will by in play, his reputation on the line and he will bear liability. In order to be ethical, he just has to make sure that the work that he sends to his clients really is up to the standard that he promised. I personally don't believe that in such a case he needs to notify his clients or agency. I certainly believe that some inexperienced translators can produce quality work, although it is also true that it will often require tweaking.

Of course, all of this is my idea of "ethical outsourcing", and can only happen with a small amount of generalistic, non-sensitive work that any decent translator could do. If a translator has been hired based on his specialization or technical expertise, it would simply be dishonest to fob it off onto a low-quality substitute, or one of dubious reliability, and pass it on unceremoniously. But what if the expert outsourcer painstakingly pores over the subcontracted work until it's as good as he can make it? I'm against outsourcing such specialised documents, but only because I can't really believe that it will be worth the specialist's time to do something like this, and so the real reasons are probably ugly cost-cutting manoeuvres. But, if such an outsourcer could demonstrate to me that the quality of his work really wasn't affected, I would probably not bother him any further. Again, it's all about guaranteeing quality - if you can't, you shouldn't outsource, but if you can: why not?

On a separate note, if you judge a document to be confidential with an (possibly unspoken) expectation of privacy, then you should also have qualms about passing it on, especially without telling the client. Obviously all client work should be treated with some confidentiality, but if your client is translating a publicly available webpage it's not that big a deal to add a few people to the circle of conspirators.

If he has a no subcontracting clause in his contract, he should of course honour it.

In reality, even for non-sensitive work some agencies and clients probably would be put off. But maybe only those that are bunch of chickens who don't understand much about the translation process. You don't have any obligation to tell your clients you are outsourcing (except if one is explicitly included in your contract), so although I can understand that your conscience encourages you to be transparent, it perhaps simply wouldn't be helpful. The nature of your relationship with your clients is at the end of the day an economic one - what matters is primarily results, along with some privacy considerations. Sometimes it's better to let a service provider do his own thing.

[Edited at 2013-08-02 14:36 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:53
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I don't think I'd feel comfortable with not telling Aug 2, 2013

Joshua Pepper wrote:
It's not necessarily unethical for a conscientious translator to outsource work.

That's maybe true, as long as there isn't any clear instruction to the effect that it is not permitted. However, I think it would be much more ethical to mention it at the start of the outsourcing arrangement. If problems occur several months down the line, because you had a rush on and so skipped the proofreading stage just when your translator was struggling with a hangover/flu/..., then it's going to reflect badly on you. You're going to be seen as guilty on two counts, and you'll have lost the trust of your client.

But why call this outsourcing? I would avoid that word altogether and put a totally different spin on things. If you're a mentor, it's because you're a respected member of the profession, with wisdom to impart to the younger generation of translators. That's a bit different from someone who gets in work and passes it onto a colleague. Tell your clients how lucky they are to have you, and how they will be part of the future of the industry. In fact, as a 'consultant translator teacher' you should be charging them extra, but as they are such valued clients...

If you're the mentee, I don't think you should worry unduly what your mentor does or doesn't do, as long as you're getting what you want from the relationship. Your contract (verbal or written) is with the mentor, nobody else. However, you should always respect the end client's right to confidentiality, even if you never sign an NDA.

BTW: do make sure you get good feedback and guidance from your mentor. It can be a good way for a translator to charge normal translation rates, pay their mentees very low rates, give the text a quick proofread, and make a nice little profit. But of course mentees will not learn unless they see the changes at least, and preferably receive a full explanation of why they were required. Hopefully, a family member wouldn't skip that part, but it can be tempting.


 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 22:53
English to Polish
+ ...
... Aug 2, 2013

adriaticfellow wrote:

Hi,

I know an established translator (family member) who has agreed to give me work and proofread my translations (i.e. a mentor).

How does a mentor outsource work ethically though? It seems only fair that the agency/client should be informed that some of the translation is being done by an inexperienced translator and then being proofread.

Would agencies/clients be put off by this?


If you forced me to choose black or white here, I'd say it's okay as long as the mentor 1) proofreads and edits the work to be of his own standard (this is important), 2) takes responsibility for the work, 3) does not violate some really specific obligations.

Agencies should generally be concerned with two things: 1) final quality and 2) confidentiality.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:53
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree with, Lukasz. Aug 2, 2013

I think it is Ok. I hope they paid you for your work, though.

 


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