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Copywriting vs translating
Thread poster: WML

WML  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
German to English
Nov 4, 2013

I completed a translation several months ago and have now been told the end customer was not happy - I have seen the comments made and in my opinion, basically the customer wanted copywriting and not translating - the final text is nothing like the original. I spent a couple of hours looking at it, explaining things, made a couple of changes, but pointed out to my customer that the translation was correct, the new text was no longer translating. The agency now does not want to pay me for the translation (€450 worth of work) as "we needed other translators to edit the complete files and had a lot of extra costs"

I am not prepared to just sit back and not be paid at all for my work. Any suggestions what I can do? I have already spent too much time on this and am not happy!


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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:58
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Several months of waiting for payment? Nov 4, 2013

Aside from the obvious change in the job description that happened 'after the fact', you wrote that you translated the text several months ago, which means that you should have been paid long before this 'incident'.

Does this mean that you have been waiting for payment for several months? If so, you should have taken appropriate action a long time ago. If I were you, I'd send a firm but polite reminder and enlist the services of a collection agency if your client (i.e the translation agency) fails to respond accordingly.


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WML  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
@ Steffen Nov 4, 2013

translations was submitted September 9th and complaint was made on October 9th, just as I was processing my September invoices (a little late, I admit). Thanks for your advice, I will look into collection agencies if I get no joy - never had to do this before!

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Adrian Liszewski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 17:58
English to Polish
+ ...
What kind of agency is that? Nov 4, 2013

First, I would stop doing any other projects for this agency. First, they should discuss any problems just after the translation was returned to them. If there is a problem, they should contact the original translator (that is, You) and ask for a needed amendments. Also, usually the translation is considered as accepted if no provisions or remarks are provided within reasonable time (like 1 week or 30 days) after its completion. Second, I suppose you are paid like 30 or 60 days after completion - looks like they had a little delay with it. Did they made other payments on time? Third, the issue of some people considering "the customer is always right" - this saying should be applied up to some limits, and they should also "defend" their translator by convincing the customer that the text received is correct. Fourth, usually the agencies have a "penalty" around 20 to 30% that is deducted from the amount if the text is translated poorly - but no more. Please check in your contract. Fifth - it is possible that their customer is postponing his payment to the agency - this is obviously not a translator's problem.

All of this sums up to one thing - they have a serious problem with their attitude. An official request for payment is the only appropriate action here. And don't take any more assignments from this company.


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Steffen Walter  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:58
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
Thank you Nov 4, 2013

WML wrote:

translations was submitted September 9th and complaint was made on October 9th, just as I was processing my September invoices (a little late, I admit). Thanks for your advice, I will look into collection agencies if I get no joy - never had to do this before!


Means that it happened not that long ago apparently. However, the fact that the agency complained four weeks after submission of your translation appears somewhat dubious to me - they should have done so much earlier if their complaint was indeed serious/well-founded.

[Edited at 2013-11-04 11:21 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:58
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Depends a little on the type of text Nov 4, 2013

We can't tell if the end client had any justification for complaint, but the agency certainly didn't handle things in a correct way. The shouldn't even have delivered it if it was so unsuitable - the client need never have known! And if the client does complain then the agency should come to you first. Only in extreme cases would zero fee be seen as acceptable by a European court.

What I wonder is whether this text was in the area of marketing/tourism/advertising or similar. I see you handle these areas as well as technical scientific and legal translations. In that case, maybe it really was a too-literal translation. I know my clients (the ones who really know what they want) would have problems with that. They pay me to translate the message behind the words rather than the words themselves. I wouldn't call it copywriting but it is sometimes called transcreation. Just a thought, though, which may not apply.


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dropinka  Identity Verified
Italy
English to Italian
+ ...
Exactly Nov 4, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

We can't tell if the end client had any justification for complaint, but the agency certainly didn't handle things in a correct way. The shouldn't even have delivered it if it was so unsuitable - the client need never have known! And if the client does complain then the agency should come to you first. Only in extreme cases would zero fee be seen as acceptable by a European court.

What I wonder is whether this text was in the area of marketing/tourism/advertising or similar. I see you handle these areas as well as technical scientific and legal translations. In that case, maybe it really was a too-literal translation. I know my clients (the ones who really know what they want) would have problems with that. They pay me to translate the message behind the words rather than the words themselves. I wouldn't call it copywriting but it is sometimes called transcreation. Just a thought, though, which may not apply.


I will only refer to the thread title here ("copywriting vs translating") and not discuss the agency's behaviour. I believe any client would expect transcreation and not translation when it comes to marketing and advertising texts (tourism being one of them), so if the text falls into such categories you are expected to re-create the copy as if it had been devised in the target language and culture right from the outset.

Claudia

[Edited at 2013-11-04 11:44 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 17:58
French to English
Transcreation Nov 4, 2013

I agree with Sheila and Claudia, although of course the issue should not have come to light only after invoicing.

Texts for the tourism industry are deceptively simple: we all understand them, because they have been written for the general public, to entice us to a location or hotel. Yet the text has been carefully crafted by people who have studied advertising techniques, people who are well versed in culture, who know about the mindset of the people they are reaching out to.

An example I like to give is that of a text about restaurants in Burgundy. This is where the biggest and fattest snails are to be found in France so of course they crop up on many a menu. The French text could be translated literally as "Come sample our wonderfully luscious snails in a sophisticated setting". The sentence does sound good doesn't it? unless of course you're English, with a morbid horror of snails and frog's legs. So, to lure an Englishman into the restaurant, I figured that we'd have to appeal to something other than his tastebuds. The text I delivered actually said something like "you can't say you've been to Burgundy unless you've had a taste of our snails. We dare you to finish the plate!". Poetry out, challenge in!

Of course, the client has to pay for this type of thing. It takes a fair bit of marketing on your part to show them that you know your stuff and that going the extra mile will be worth it. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not prepared to even touch the translation unless they agree to giving me carte blanche.


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Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
This is called copywriting Nov 4, 2013

Claudia Benetello wrote:

you are expected to re-create the copy.


I don't think we're talking about literal translation vs. marketing translation here. A translator is not expected to create a totally new text based on the target text, because it's a copywriter's job. These types of work are close but different. In many cases it depends on client's requirements and clear instructions. If a client simply says "please translate this text by Monday", these are not instructions.


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dropinka  Identity Verified
Italy
English to Italian
+ ...
This is called transcreation, which in some countries is called copywriting Nov 4, 2013

Natalia Mackevich wrote:

Claudia Benetello wrote:

you are expected to re-create the copy.


I don't think we're talking about literal translation vs. marketing translation here. A translator is not expected to create a totally new text based on the target text, because it's a copywriter's job. These types of work are close but different. In many cases it depends on client's requirements and clear instructions. If a client simply says "please translate this text by Monday", these are not instructions.


As far as I know, this is called transcreation (you adapt marketing and advertising copy written in the source language/culture into the target language/culture) to be exact, as opposed to origination (you create marketing and advertising copy from scratch in your native language).
In English-speaking countries both origination and transcreation are considered/called copywriting. In my country, only origination is called copywriting.

This said, it's obvious that marketing and advertising texts should be dealt with by a copywriter/a translator with copywriting skills. A straightforward translation may often been useless.

Claudia


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Jackie Doble  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:58
Member (2011)
French to English
Agree - you must deliver the text in the same style Nov 4, 2013

As a translator capable of transceation (I didn't know it was called that) thanks to 8 years working in ad and Pr agencies, I can only agree that you must deliver the translation in the appropriate style, otherwise the text is worthless, for the client's purposes. The unfortunate thing is that it is paid as a translation as not as copywriting. (although it takes much longer to translate), but that's another matter, for another forum question!!

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 23:58
Chinese to English
Instructions must come in advance Nov 4, 2013

On tourism translations in general: I hate 'em and I should stay away from them. I seem to keep getting hit with clients who want transcreation, but neglect to tell us (the agency or me) up front. Then when they don't like the text they get back, they don't actually know how to tell us what's wrong with it. So I get comments like, "It doesn't sound professional enough." (Really?! That's odd, because your source text reads like it was knocked up by a highly professional secretary...)
Anyway, rant aside, you need instructions in advance. A translator is not allowed to take liberties unless explicitly told otherwise, ideally in the form of clear stylistic instructions.

Specifically to the OP, though, your fight now is not with the end client, but with the agency. And everything above is right. You do not have a relationship with the end client. You have NO duty to deliver a good text to the end client. You have a duty to deliver a good text to the agency, and if they accepted your text for two months, they don't have a right to turn around later and tell you there's some problem.

Obviously, the agency was messed around by their client - who wanted transcreation but neglected to tell the agency that. But that's the agency's problem. They hired you to translate; you translated; now they must pay.

You don't want this to get legal. The best way to avoid that is to be absolutely unwavering in your position. Be polite, but the message is: shut up and pay me.


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Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
I agree with Phil. Nov 4, 2013

Phil Hand, yes, absolutely, every word in your statement is true! I sometimes have to remind it to my customers while working on a revision assignment, and it wouldn't be necessary if they were clear about their goals from the very beginning.

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dropinka  Identity Verified
Italy
English to Italian
+ ...
Marketing and advertising texts have their own"rules" that should be clear to those translating them Nov 4, 2013

I may be biased because my bread and butter is marketing and advertising texts (both origination and transcreation), but if I specialise in such texts I don't need clients to tell me they don't want a faithful/straightforward translation -- I know it myself. Translations never have to sound like translations, of course, but when it comes to marketing and advertising texts it takes more effort to make the target copy sound natural and relevant to the target audience [compared to other types of texts where style doesn't play a role]. But since in this particular field a faithful/straightforward translation is worthless in most cases, I don't believe we should offer such a faithful translation by saying "the client never stated I could take liberties" etc. *We must* "take liberties" when it comes to such texts, and *we have to know* we must.

Claudia

[Edited at 2013-11-04 16:16 GMT]


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Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
What does "taking liberties" mean to you? Nov 4, 2013

We all understand that straightforward translation is not an option, but the final product can be made and submitted using two different approaches: one option is to translate the text taking into consideration culture, style, target audience etc. (translation), and the second option is to create a totally new text based on the target text (copywriting). These are quite different, but there could be hybrids if the client specifies their requirements.

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