How do you deal with clients who mess up your translation?
Thread poster: Yuski

Local time: 22:11
Japanese to English
Jan 18, 2013

Hi, I just signed up. I'm new here. I'm based in Japan working as a Japanese-->English translator.

What I want to know is, does anyone else have trouble dealing with non-native English speaker clients who insist on "proofreading/rewriting" your translations? They mess it up completely, then insist on having it native-checked again, for free. It's ridiculous. If they insist on tampering with the translation of a professional, native English-speaking translator, they do so at their own risk.

I think it's partly because people in Japan feel irritation and despair toward globalization, or maybe they're just clients with inflated egos... in any case it's a phenomenon that I've been coming across more and more often these days. I'm wondering if the translation companies I work for are just trying to take advantage of me, because they can't be bothered dealing with the situation themselves, or if it's part of an overall trend.

I won't refuse to do it for them, but if the extra work takes up an unreasonable amount of time, I make it quite clear that I'm stepping beyond my responsibilities as a subcontracted translator, and clients can normally expect to pay an extra fee. But it's a fine line between providing good customer services and being taken advantage of. I also fear that if I complain too often translation companies are just going to find someone else who cares nothing about the bottom falling out of the market, and is going to work twice as long for half the price.

Has anyone else working in Japan noticed a similar trend? If so, how do you deal with it?


conejo  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:11
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Advice Jan 18, 2013

I am an English native speaker and live in the US. The bad-quality re-editing by native Japanese thing has only happened to me a couple of times, so it wasn't any kind of an ongoing problem. However, if you have a client who is doing this to you almost all of the time and won't listen to you about it, I think that would just be too much aggravation, and also dangerous, if someone somewhere ended up thinking that you wrote those bad changes. I would quit working for a client who insisted on doing that all the time. There is such a thing as "level of frustration" that damages your interaction with clients... If the frustration level is too high, and they are not paying you an amount that you feel compensates you for that, and you can't get them to stop doing that or start using a good-quality editor, I'd say it may be time to find some new clients. Just my 2 cents.


Local time: 22:11
Japanese to English
Thanks for your advice Conejo Jan 19, 2013

So it's happened to you a couple of times too? I understand what you mean by a threshold level of frustration.
BTW it's not the in-house editor that's doing this, but the end client. It's happened to me five or six times, all quite recently, involving several companies. I complained and they stopped, but at the same time I feel the companies have stopped sending me as much work as they used to. I was wondering how other people handle such situations (whether they just take it all in their stride, complain about it, refuse to do it, etc.) If companies are not sending me as much work as they used to, it suggests that there could be others out there who don't complain, which to me is a real mystery, because I'm not talking about 10 minutes here and there. It's more like 30 minutes or even an hour rewriting translations that have been completely messed up by clients.

[Edited at 2013-01-19 13:06 GMT]


Alex Farrell  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:11
Japanese to English
Sometimes you can educate your checker Jan 21, 2013

I've run into the same situation many times. You should charge an extra fee, explaining that checking and rewriting, two separate tasks, are separate from translation and incur additional charges accordingly. Politely explaining why the client's (I assume a direct client, not an agency) revisions are wrong will help convince them. Then they can choose whether to order these additional services from you, which you could outsource to other people, as ideally the same person should not perform all three steps: translation, checking and rewriting.

* About Agency Checkers *

I think many people have also had similar problems with agencies, and I assume this is not your case, but I would like to bring it up just in case anyone out there is suffering from an overzealous checker. First off, there is probably not any malicious intent to frustrate. The checker (my personal preferred term over "proofreader") may simply lack the English skills required for the job and is thus just trying to do more than he/she can handle.

If you work with one of these checkers on a regular basis and it seems that the agency may continue to offer you profitable assignments in the foreseeable future, then I would suggest teaching the checker how YOU translate and what he/she does NOT need to mess with. Send back the revised document with politely written explanatory comments replete with links to online dictionaries and other sources to prove that your original translation was correct. I know (quite well) that it's time-consuming, but it can be a good investment in the long-term. Plus, you'll earn the respect of that checker, who will then for the most part only make worthwhile comments and corrections to your translations. Oh, and if the checker is also the coordinator, then that respect will then translate into more translation requests. And even if not, an in-house checker certainly talks with the coordinator(s) on a regular basis and may say nice things about you.icon_smile.gif

On a related note, I had a checker whom I'd educated like this who recently left her company. When the new guy took over and I sent him my first translation for him to check, I took the initiative of informing him how I had worked with his predecessor and suggested that he first refer to the previous work we had done. And I made sure to emphasize that this was for HIS benefit, to make his job easier. (Of course it made mine easier, too.) The results have been great, with no disruptions whatsoever.

But of course if you feel that the agency is just a hopeless pain in butt, then move on and find someone else to work for. I've had to do that on occasion, too.

Good luck!

(Edited because at first I misunderstood that you were talking about an agency checker.)

[Edited at 2013-01-21 06:38 GMT]


Local time: 22:11
Japanese to English
Thanks for the great feedback, Alex Jan 21, 2013

I've actually experienced this with both end clients and agency checkers. In a way I'm relieved that I'm not the only one who has experienced this (it's a small consolation).

I know what you mean by "educating checkers." I've done it myself on several occasions but it's extremely time consuming, sometimes taking as long as 6 months before coming to a mutual understanding. And then when that person quits, you have to start from square one again... but I liked your idea of informing a new checker about previous work.


Local time: 22:11
Japanese to English
I have had this issue. Jan 27, 2013

I have been working in Japan for over a decade. I have had clients who want me to explain the most minute parts of a translation. I did not want to offend them, but it became a huge hassle. I finally told them that for anymore "extra" work, explaining why I used this word or that word, I would be charging a fee.

I do not mind questions, but not questions that a student in junior high could answer.

Hope this helps!


Local time: 22:11
Japanese to English
I've had that problem, too Jan 28, 2013

I have come across clients like that, too, on many occasions. It's as if they jump on the opportunity to "learn" English, or to try and pit their skills against yours. I taught English in Japan before becoming a translator, and I often came across students like that, too.

If it's just a few questions, I will take the time to explain the reasons to them. But if the questions look like they'll take more than 10 to 15 minutes to answer, I'll just answer a couple of questions to prove that I'm capable of defending myself, then give them a general explanation about how I am a native English speaker, and they needn't worry about my capabilities in English. If they persist even after that, I will tell them (extremely politely) that I am a translator, and "teaching English" unfortunately is not a part of my job.


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