Ridiculous Golden Week Job Offers - Why???
Thread poster: Alex Farrell

Alex Farrell  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:57
Japanese to English
May 1, 2009

Hello everyone. I'm hanging around with the apartment all to myself on a beautiful Friday afternoon before the Golden Week weekend, windows open and enjoying the feel of the fresh air. I plan to rock out on some guitar with friends and go to a BBQ the next couple days, all the while completely (well, mostly) forgetting about translation until the end of next week.

Not everyone will be having such a nice holiday, though. In the past week or so I have received at least half a dozen job offers for massive projects requiring large teams of translators. They're all very urgent, of course, and they're paying oh so reasonable rates of around US$0.06, US$0.05, US$0.03, even the delightfully low bargain rate of US$0.02 per target word! I know I'm a fool to pass up such wonderful opportunities, but I guess I'm a lazy slob who doesn't know how to lend a helping hand to a kind agency that took on more than it can handle and will end up delivering their client a messily, poorly translated pile of garbage.

I say not everyone will be having such a nice holiday not because there are project managers stuck dealing with these messes, but because I imagine there are actually some translators who are taking these jobs. If you live in a place with generally low prices like China then I guess I can understand, but I hope none of us in Japan are taking these rotten offers. I'd make more money teaching English, but I became a translator because I wanted to get out of that dead end career!

This is my second year as a translator, and I noticed the same phenomenon last year, though it seems to be bigger this time around. So what's the deal? Is it because everyone's on holiday in Japan that companies here are outsourcing a bunch of translation work abroad rather than to domestic agencies? Is the high volume also related to the beginning of the fiscal year a month ago? And why are the rates such crap? Furthermore, am I just imagining that the problem is worse this year? I have no idea because I don't want to be involved by actually accepting any of these offers, even though the past month was a little slow for me. (Besides, my wife would kill me if I worked and partied with my friends all Golden Week while she's stuck with the baby!) I guess I'm just curious about how this all came about.

Enjoy the holidays and fine weather,

Alex


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:57
English to Japanese
+ ...
Not Everyone is Enjoying Golden Week Worldwide May 1, 2009

Hello Alex,

I understand your point. But there are people outside Japan who doesn't know what a Golden Week holidays are, and it's a custom that Japanese companies outsource huge volume of work before New Years holidays, Golden Week, and Obon holidays. Many translators in Japan do plan a vacation during those times, and Japanese companies cannot find translators in Japan during those seasons, and that's why they're outsourcing them to overseas agencies.

It's at your discretion whether to take the job for 0.02 USD target word or not, and nobody is forcing you to do so, so just leave it behind and enjoy your holidays. I guess Japanese-English translators living abroad work as usual during this season, and I bet there would some translators in that pair living abroad who could live with accepting such a low rate job.

Personally, I don't adapt my working schedule to the Japanese system when work comes;
I do it even on Christmas or New Years day or Golden Week if I'm available (Actually, I'm fully booked during the Golden Week with work).

Yasutomo


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:57
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Here is the deal May 1, 2009

Alex,
I don't think Golden Week is the main player here.
I got such ridiculous offers, and saw ridiculous posting at job sites during the past week or so, too. However, I also got offers from agencies I know to be decent, with decent rates, with the other parameters of the jobs being the same as the Cheap Jacks'.
These offers, job postings seem to be all related to the same project. If you are in Japan, you probably know about the recent mergers and acquisitions in the electronics industry. These mergers generated a monster-size translation project, which had been put out to the market, and several agencies were or still are bidding for it.
Given the sheer volume of the materials for translation, you can imagine all kinds of scenarios happening.
It is possible that the end client would split up the job between several agencies, and give each a portion of the contract. Now, these agencies have to find enough translators to do the job. So, they send out/post their offers. Among those that apply, there will be other agencies, and the first agency may actually award them part of the job. Now, the process repeats at the level of the second agency. You can imagine a few more rounds of this, while the rates paid out decrease at each subsequent level. That's one reason why it is possible that I got offers for this very same job at the rate of X, X/2, and also X/5. The other reason may be sheer greed, the agencies simply trying to find cheap labor, justifying it with the (also ridiculous) concept of "volume discounts". The offers I got came from Japan, India, China (2 agencies), the US and Singapore. All talking about the same job but different rates.
Depending on where you are in the chain, you can work for 2 cents per target word, or a multiple of that per source character, and you would be still doing the same work. Fun, huh?
So, this is the deal.
Katalin


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Tracy Greenwood  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:57
Japanese to English
I responded May 2, 2009

I'm just getting back into the game after finishing law school. I responded to one of those ads for a massive translation project with several translators.

Maybe I'm just a skeptic, but I saw red flags all over their conditions and declined the work.


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Minoru Kuwahara
Japan
Local time: 06:57
English to Japanese
+ ...
Thanks for thoughtful post of a thread May 6, 2009

Alex,

I guess Katalin-san's input and supposition mostly say it all.
After the end of fiscal year with mergers and acquisitions in the electrical industry, a huge volume of Japanese-English translation of email communications, business plans and alike are sprouting, which causes multiple translation agencies to seek for ANY ONES of us who could handle J-E, no matter what native speaker or how experienced we are during this period.
Believe or not, being a native Japanese translator mostly handling E-J translation, I (yes, even me!) was offered by one of the decent agencies, in Singapore, I know upon this assuming rush flow of requests which are apparently of the same project you are talking about here. The period of that was just before Golden Week - April 24. And I only accepted the first batch of several files and cancelled all following portion.

I don't know there could be the second or third intermediate agencies behind the fact that the offered rates could be such a crap, but the reason why I accepted those files is that the project manager explained that they, the end client, do not need top quality translation, but only ask us to deliver rough scripts, at least, correctly conveying the original meaning. Presumably, I guessed, this is a case where urgency should come first over quality, I thought I should help him at the occasion, well, with an apparently low rate of 0.04 cents per target word (without deadling with J-E for a long time, I was actually not sure if this is truly a low rate). I even supposed this is reasonable considering the situation plus that I'm not a native English translator.

Meanwhile, I noticed there was a post via ProZ.com of a "mass mail" possibly regarding this project, which I preferably just ignored after browsing.

For now, I'm hoping my decision to cancel following files would have been just all right reading your posts.

mulberryvalley
Minoru Kuwahara
mkuwatr@ybb.ne.jp

[Edited at 2009-05-06 03:03 GMT]


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:57
Japanese to English
Roughly May 11, 2009

they, the end client, do not need top quality translation, but only ask us to deliver rough scripts, at least, correctly conveying the original meaning.


Here you are, I found after a short while that I couldn't economize sufficiently when using my fingers, so I typed the last 80% with my elbows.

It occurs to me that if some of these electronics companies had paid just a percentage of the attention they devote to manufacturing to marketing* instead, maybe they wouldn't have fallen so far down the recession hole this time.

* Like, good translations.


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miguelrene
Local time: 06:57
Japanese to English
In bed with the devil May 11, 2009

Hi,

I responded too. The volume of work is insane. I don't know where it all comes from. Yes, it's cheap, cheap, cheap but I'm very new to this and am using it as a way to build my skills up as a financial translator. Staying up late hammering away at a keyboard and staring down the barrel of a deadline is what got me into university, through university and into my present work. No, this client is not going to make anyone rich but I hope to take the experience I get back to my employers, present and future. So far, it's working.

On a totally unrelated issue, does anyone know of a site called "www.softblock.com"? They have a super cheap copy of TRADOS for sale and I am tempted but if looks too good to be true. Before I send my credit card number into a game of Russian roulette, where the Gun only has two chambers and one bullet, I thought I would ask some pros. Lemme know please.

M_R

[Edited at 2009-05-11 13:12 GMT]


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:57
Japanese to English
Softblock - batsu! May 11, 2009

That site you linked to looks like one of those rubbishy advertising search aggregator pages and not a purveyor of fine CAT software. Best leave well alone. What CAT tool are you using at the moment, if any? I'm trying out the free version of MemoQ which you might find helpful if you're not currently using any tool at all.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:57
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The mega-project saga still goes on May 14, 2009

Going back to the original topic:
The saga of that Japanese-English mega-project still goes on. Just today I got four solicitations for the same job (one from India, one from a multinational agency, and two offers from two different agencies through another translation job portal).
The only offer I took seriously regarding this project was two weeks ago, from an agency I have worked for in the past quite a bit. They said they definitely have the contract, although not for the entire project, as the client decided to split it between several agencies due to the sheer volume. I signed the project specific NDA, so they could send me a sample. The PM said he was just downloading the files and promised a sample right after that. That was two weeks ago, and I have not heard anything from him since.
Should I laugh?
I have a hard time taking this mysterious mega-project seriously anymore...

Katalin


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 06:57
Japanese to English
Good projects either side of GW May 14, 2009

I've had some cracking good projects on either side of GW - large volumes, with tight deadlines, at full rates - jobs that bulk out the monthly average in a few (albeit hectic) days. I think I may have been sounded out for something to do with the 'ridiculous offer', but I politely turned it down and was offered something at my normal rate instead.

But the many little jobs from all sorts of places don't seem to be around in the same numbers that they used to be. Is that how it is generally?

I'm hoping that jobs linked to the 'Green New Deal' will start entering the pipeline soon. And if Mr Okada becomes the next PM, I have a feeling that things will be more interesting for us.


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