Sworn translators and agencies
Thread poster: xxxL.G.F.
xxxL.G.F.  Identity Verified
Spain
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jun 1, 2010

Good afternoon dear colleagues,

Since over the last couple of months I have been translating legal documents for a Spanish translation agency I would like to start this topic. I think one of my clients is taking advantage of my "short" translation experience.

To begin with, this agency has not offered me any non-disclosure contract or similar to work for them as freelance, and I am paid for each sworn translation per target word. The amount of money earned, to be honest, is really low. For example, when I translate one birth certificate and the target text has 132 words, I am finally paid EUR 0.08 per word (EUR 10.56). As far as I know, every sworn translation has a minimum charge of EUR 50.00 in Spain irrespective of how short the document is. Is it really the way agencies deal with sworn translators? Is the translator usually so underpaid?

On the other hand, interestingly, I am recently receiving legal documents not to be sworn translated from the same agency. The PM excuses herself saying these documents are not required to be certified for the clients, but I do actually think it is because they are swearing my translations somehow in order not to pay me that much. It is a very good way to make money, isn´t it?

I am really intereted in knowing how agencies deal with sworn translators and how much they are usually paid for each job assigned.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:53
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Charge per hour Jun 1, 2010

Hi Lucas,

I charge sworn (certified) documents per hour with a minimum of one hour, regardless of whether this is for a direct client or for an agency.

Explain to the agency that the translation itself is not what takes the most time but the formatting (assuming that you try to keep the translated document formatted exactly like the original). In addition there are costs involved in being sworn or certified that you need to recover. Here in Canada these include membership in my professional organization, liability insurance, and the cost of the actual certification stamp. The agency is asking you for a special service over and above the actual translation and they should pay a special price for that (which they can pass on to the end client).

Some agencies do indeed have their own procedure for getting documents certified and there is not much you can do about that. However, 8 cents per word seems low pay for legal documents, assuming that you have expertise in this area.


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xxxL.G.F.  Identity Verified
Spain
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much Tina. I would appreciate more experiences. Please, talk it out! Jun 1, 2010



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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Impose a minimum Jun 1, 2010

Yes, this happens all the time. The only way you can get round it is to work with a minimum. I would say that €15 is the standard minimum for translators in Spain though it is true that a lot of agencies work with a minimum of €50. Personally I don't work with a minimum but I rarely receive short documents.

Many agencies have someone in-house who swears documents so they just ask you for an unsworn translation. If the agency is a one-man band and doesn't have a sealer they often send the translation on to be sworn to someone who charges next-to-nothing.


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xxxL.G.F.  Identity Verified
Spain
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Tatty Jun 1, 2010

I would like to add something that happend to me as well some days ago. It has to be with the same agency (maybe I should consider to take or leave my work with them). Anyway, I was assigned two long terms to be translated into English, my native language is Spanish, though my second language is British English. The field of expertise, quite complicated, construction. They tried to pay me just one euro fifty for the translation. Obviously, I said straight away no! In such an embarrassing situation, the PM said "ok, I can pay for it twelve euros", but just because I replied that there was a minimum charge for every translation job. She tried to trick me!

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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agencies Jun 1, 2010

in Andalusia always seem a little bit dodgy to me, besides they always work with such low rates. In any case, you should stipulate your per word price (with or without a miniumum) and they should agree to it before you do the translation. I've never heard of agreeing the price afterwards.

Good luck to you.


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Cedomir Pusica  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 21:53
Member (2009)
English to Serbian
+ ...
Few things... Jun 2, 2010

Dear Lucas,

I think there are several fishy things about your relationship with the agency. First, them paying by the target word (actually, this might work in your favor as Spanish texts are normally around 16% longer than their English counterparts).

Second, are you a court certified translator? If not (and I understand that you are not), you have no basis for complaint. What the agency does with your translation (whether they have an agreement with some court certified translators to put their stamp on your translation) is not of your concern.

You should charge what you feel comfortable with, meaning - a price that is in line with the quality of your services. If you are not happy with the fee, well... raise it or look for other clients.

I don't know if this helped you change the perspective of looking at things?

Regards,


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xxxL.G.F.  Identity Verified
Spain
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I disagree Jun 2, 2010

Dear Cedomi,

I regret to inform you that I am sworn translator of English and Spanish by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Why did you say "I understand you are not"?

When a translation needs to be sworn, the person who translates the text, swear it.
On the contrary, the other person swearing it would be responsible if any inconsistency or false sense were made by the real translator.

Apart from it, I do not really think it is ethical. Maybe things work different in your country and translator associations or organizations, government, stipulate different things than in Spain on grounds of court certified translators.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Andalusia is a big place Jun 2, 2010

Tatty wrote:

in Andalusia always seem a little bit dodgy to me, besides they always work with such low rates. In any case, you should stipulate your per word price (with or without a miniumum) and they should agree to it before you do the translation.


Andalusia (in Spain) is a big place. One of my best clients is based in Andalusia. They generally agree my price for each translation and always pay by transfer within a couple of days of receiving the work.



[Edited at 2010-06-02 09:33 GMT]


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Division of labour Jun 2, 2010

Good for you John.

If an agency sends a translation done by one translator (certified or not) to another (certified) to be sworn they are doing no wrong. It is a completely legitimate practice.

HTH


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