Translation and Proofreading and reduction of rates
Thread poster: Erwin S. Fernandez

Erwin S. Fernandez
Philippines
Local time: 00:47
English to Pangasinan
+ ...
Mar 17, 2015

I understand that translation requires proofreading but these two are paid separately unless the job is TEP (Translation, Editing and Proofreading). Since a translation is never perfect, a good proofreader could improve the translation. But can an agency claim to reduce the payment of translation due to an alleged bad translation? At first the agency claimed that it hired a copy editor to rework on the translation and it said another thing that it hired a native translator. In fact it only needed a proofreader to revise the whole thing. Is it ethical for this agency to ask for reduction of payment when the proofreader relied on the translation as there are terms that remained in the original version? Isn't this an ingenious attempt by the agency to evade full payment as it will pay the proofreader including the translator but on a reduced rate? If the translation is really bad, why would it pay the translator? Your thoughts on this will be appreciated.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:47
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Well... Mar 17, 2015

Erwin S. Fernandez wrote:
I understand that translation requires proofreading but these two are paid separately unless the job is TEP (Translation, Editing and Proofreading). Since a translation is never perfect, a good proofreader could improve the translation. But can an agency claim to reduce the payment of translation due to an alleged bad translation? At first the agency claimed that it hired a copy editor to rework on the translation and it said another thing that it hired a native translator. In fact it only needed a proofreader to revise the whole thing.

That depends on how much work needed to be done in the first of the two revision steps. If the bilingual revision results in an awful lot of changes then a final proofreading is certainly necessary: it's well-known that substantial editing will both fail to find some of the more minor typos (as film-goers rarely notice continuity errors - they're engrossed in the plot), and may well even introduce additional typos. Proofreading of the target text alone is then necessary, and this is best done by a native speaker. Final proofreading would also be necessary if the first review was done by a source-language native speaker who understood the source perfectly but was unable to express themselves in the target language in a perfectly natural way.

Of course, for really important texts, all three steps always have to be performed, and this should be budgeted for. But reviewers (editors and proofreaders working on bilingual and monolingual texts) generally charge by the hour. A budget that has been estimated on the basis of light, and therefore fast, editing will quickly be eaten up by partial rewrites.
Is it ethical for this agency to ask for reduction of payment

Well, each professional should do their work correctly. If they don't, i.e. the result is unfit for purpose, then the client should surely not expect to pay the full price. If you buy a product that fails within days, then you expect a refund; if a plumber repairs a leak that immediately fails then you expect either a free second repair or you demand a reduction/partial refund at least. Of course, ultimately this may need to be decided in a court of law - the client does not have the right to decide unilaterally how much the job is worth, having authorised the work.


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Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:47
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Alleged bad translation Mar 17, 2015

Did the agency provide proof that the translation was a bad one? Ask it to substantiate this claim and give you a chance to repudiate or provide proof/reason that the terms or wording or style you chose were better, and acknowledge where the translation was improved by the changes the editor or proofreader made. Proofreaders/editors make mistakes too or might be unaware of certain terminology especially if they are not familiar with the particular subject. That is how it should be but it will not happen if you do not ask to see the changes or what was considered wrong or why it was a bad translation.

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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:47
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Seen both sides of the coin Mar 17, 2015

I've seen both sides of this issue. Without a doubt, anything that may give rise to a rate reduction is open to abuse. However, quality is an aspect which can be abused by either party.

I had a case where the end client pretty much ripped my translation to shreds to try to force the agency to accept a payment reduction. The agency was reasonable enough to explain the situation and forward the amended document, so that I could go through the client's comments. The end client's objective was obvious in that case, given that their internal reviewer didn't have adequate English skills and I had to note "term/phrase does not exist, literal translation of components of the word" for every third comment. There was one typo in the entire file, nothing else I could agree with. We received an apology and further orders from the end client.

I dare say, however, that many agencies would simply have passed such a reduction on to the translator, especially if they are operating at the lower end of the market.

On the other hand, I have been asked to proofread translations which were incomprehensible and would have required very heavy editing. Some I have taken on, others had to be declared uneditable. I fell out with one agency because it was obvious that the text provided was a machine translation and it was such an extreme case that it really was impossible to do anything with it. They kept trying to argue that this was impossible because of the amount they had paid for the translation. In this case, a reduction of payment would have been more than justified. The subjectivity of the quality aspect equally lends itself to abuse by translators, and in this particular case, the payment had already been made...

Most quality issues will move somewhere in between those extreme scenarios and much will depend on the interpretation of the issue by the parties involved. I have to agree with Josephine that the agency should provide opportunity to amend the text or comment on the allegations before enforcing a payment reduction.


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