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When non-payment is justified?
Thread poster: Alexander Kaz
Alexander Kaz
Russian Federation
Local time: 12:41
English to Russian
Sep 6, 2016

Imagine a situation where you as a client have hired a translator. When the translation is delivered, you discover that every fourth segment contains a mistake of some sort. The translator agrees with the claims but demands 75% of the fee to be paid because "75% of the text is correct". How should one handle such situations?

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Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:41
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Fit for purpose Sep 7, 2016

Based on the information you provided alone, I would say the translator's argument is not right because with that many mistakes, the translation is probably not fit for purpose (not usable in the condition the translator delivered it).

Whether the translator should be paid and how much would depend on a lot of other factors, I think. For example, whether the deadline was rushed, whether the source text was of poor quality, whether the mistakes the translator made were serious or minor, whether the mistakes are actually even all mistakes or just a question of style.... If the client has insisted on conditions that would affect quality and the translator warned them of this, then I think the translator may have a case for seeking payment on the basis that the client knew they would not get a perfect text and commissioned the job under those conditions anyway. I mean ideally the translator would decline a job where they thought the quality would be THAT bad, but I'm just trying to cover all the bases here.

Those are my thoughts off the top of my head.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
What is a mistake of some sort? Sep 7, 2016

I am not sure how I would handle this if I was buying a translation.

What is a "mistake of some sort"? Can we see some examples please?


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Alexander Kaz
Russian Federation
Local time: 12:41
English to Russian
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification Sep 7, 2016

I cannot disclose the text in question, for obvious reasons. We have hired another translator to review the text, and this is what they said:

***
Regarding the translation:

- punctuation rules are followed properly in most case (some discrepancies with the source)

- there are a few errors/typos here and there (acceptable but not perfect)

- there are several clumsy sentences suggesting the translator did not proofread his or herself

- there are many wide approximations / non-translations, suggesting the translator is either unfamiliar with language and context or was allowed way more freedom than simple translation

- there are many misunderstanding of English idiomatic expressions in the source, leaving the translator's mastery of the English language in question

< ... >

Given the fact that more than 20% of the segments must be corrected or re-translated (and I was more 'tolerant' than I usually am about matching translation and source), my advice would be to have the project fully and properly retranslated rather than this heavily edited.
***

We ended up hiring another person to do the job, and now are debating if we should pay the original translator a fraction of agreed amount, or none at all.



[Edited at 2016-09-07 13:22 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-09-07 13:24 GMT]


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Paulette Romero  Identity Verified
Colombia
Local time: 04:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
Edits? Sep 7, 2016

I agree with the above poster. What is considered a mistake?

Also, did you give the translator a chance to go back and edit the mistakes before telling him that you simply were not going to pay him? Sorry, but I don't agree with your stance since he did still the work.

If you hire a lawyer and the lawyer makes a couple of mistakes do you stop paying him for his services? No, right? You still have to pay him for services rendered although you can definitely complain about the mistakes all you want.

I had a situation like this with my ex-employer. He made up a new contract and then gave all of the in-house translators this new contract stating that we would not get paid for the whole translation should a mistake be found but the contract did not stipulate anywhere what was considered a mistake. Long story short, I got fired for going to the Ministry of Labor and questioning the contents of the contract and then I sued him for wrongful termination.

So you can't just say that there is a mistake without actually laying out on the table what you consider to be a mistake. You need to be specific.


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 11:41
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Translator's right to correct their mistakes Sep 7, 2016

In my opinion, the translator should always be given a chance to review and correct any mistakes (within a reasonable time) before discussing discounts. If the text is still unusable after this review, a discount would be in order - depending on the actual costs and damages to you caused by the 2nd review re-translation, delays, etc.

Any discount schemes like "25 % contains mistakes -> 25% discount" are inaccurate and unfair, as they don't take into account the severity of the mistakes, for instance. Complete non-payment is of course off the table here.

I personally would ask the translator to correct their text, ask for an explanation for the mistakes, and, depending on the situation, negoatiate a discount and/or simply never use that translator again.

[Edited at 2016-09-07 13:55 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 10:41
French to English
percentages Sep 7, 2016

I'm not sure you can say that if the translation was 75% correct you pay that percentage. I mean, if you leave the word "not" out of a sentence like "This is not the case here.", it doesn't matter how correct the rest of the paragraph is, the whole is completely wrong.

If the deadline and rate were all reasonable then you need to take into consideration the time and money spent on improving that 25% and factor something else in to cover perhaps not making the client's deadline because of that time, in order to decide what to pay the translator.

Personally I'd cut my losses and pay the translator, but then never ever work with that translator again.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:41
Member (2008)
French to English
Who is responsible for hiring such a translator? Sep 7, 2016

Alexander Kaz wrote:

Imagine a situation where you as a client have hired a translator. When the translation is delivered, you discover that every fourth segment contains a mistake of some sort. The translator agrees with the claims but demands 75% of the fee to be paid because "75% of the text is correct". How should one handle such situations?


The question could be asked, how did you manage to hire a translator who delivers a mistake in every fourth segment? It would seem there's something amiss with the hiring process. So the responsibility is not only with the translator. And if the hiring process is not up to scratch, how do you know the proofreader is qualified? There are spelling and grammar errors in the proofreaders report, assuming you have cut & paste the comments to this thread.

[Edited at 2016-09-08 14:14 GMT]


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Álvaro Espantaleón  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:41
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You should be more specific Sep 7, 2016

but yes, it can be rejected like any other service. Does the translator have terms and conditions?

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Andrea Diaz
Mexico
Local time: 03:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not a good situation. Sep 7, 2016

I imagine it would be justified if the translator completely disregarded the deadline. In the case of a faulty translation, I agree with everyone else: the translator should be given a chance to correct the text. Then, if it's still not satisfactory, we can discuss a discount.

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
List five mistakes appearing in a row for us. Sep 7, 2016

List them here, so we can check your editing logic.

Then we can discuss further, otherwise it's just a blind guess.


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:41
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Comparison with lawyers Sep 7, 2016

Paulette Romero wrote:

If you hire a lawyer and the lawyer makes a couple of mistakes do you stop paying him for his services? No, right? You still have to pay him for services rendered although you can definitely complain about the mistakes all you want.



And unless he's working on contingency, you also usually have to pay him even if you lose your case/get convicted (i.e., he delivered the exact opposite result of what you hired him for!).

[Edited at 2016-09-07 15:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-09-07 15:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-09-07 18:11 GMT]


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 16:41
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Holder of copyrights again Sep 7, 2016

Alexander Kaz wrote:

Imagine a situation where you as a client have hired a translator. When the translation is delivered, you discover that every fourth segment contains a mistake of some sort. The translator agrees with the claims but demands 75% of the fee to be paid because "75% of the text is correct". How should one handle such situations?


I assert that the translator still withholds copyrights of such poor translation, and deserves payment. But reasonable reduction of price is essential.
In my ongoing dispute with one of the globally largest translation agencies, the agency alleged that my translation was poor. The allegation was subjective, and legal processes are likely to settle the final payment.

Soonthon L.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:41
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Seconded Sep 8, 2016

Niina Lahokoski wrote:
In my opinion, the translator should always be given a chance to review and correct any mistakes (within a reasonable time) before discussing discounts. If the text is still unusable after this review, a discount would be in order - depending on the actual costs and damages to you caused by the 2nd review re-translation, delays, etc.

Exactly my views and, I think, the general approach followed in most translation services.

There could be a lot of factors involved, like a late delivery to the end customer because of the quality issues. If the work is unusable because it comes too late for the purposes planned by the end customer, then the matter gets worse.

Whenever a translation by a newly appointed freelancer does not show the expected quality I think that:
- The outsourcer has failed in his/her duty to carefully select, evaluate and test this translator, and/or
- The translator has misrepresenting his/her capabilities and qualifications

If no actual test was carried out of the translator in this dispute, non-payment is out of the question. Since the second situation is true as shown by the reviewer's comments, a hefty discount in the payment would be a way to teach the translator not to misrepresent the quality of his/her work. Should the translator not be honest enough to admit the poor quality of the work and "learn the lesson," this person should never be hired ever again.


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:41
German to English
Reviews are subjective, too Sep 8, 2016

Don't forget that reviews are subjective, too.

Alexander Kaz wrote:


- punctuation rules are followed properly in most case (some discrepancies with the source)


Discrepencies with the source in terms of punctuation? As in, sentences were combined or separated? Punctuation rules are different in every language, and so saying that there are punctuation discrepencies with the source text puzzles me and already makes me suspicious of the reviewer. Combining sentences or separating them can improve the readability of the translation. I'm not saying that was the case here, but I feel like the reviewer stated this criticism very strangely.

Alexander Kaz wrote:
- there are a few errors/typos here and there (acceptable but not perfect)

- there are several clumsy sentences suggesting the translator did not proofread his or herself


Sounds like a proofreading problem, and in that case the translator should be given the opportunity to proofread the text again himself. "Clumsy sentences" is also subjective. It might be true or it might be just the reviewer's stylistic preferences. Without seeing the sentences, it's impossible to know.

Alexander Kaz wrote:
- there are many wide approximations / non-translations, suggesting the translator is either unfamiliar with language and context or was allowed way more freedom than simple translation


I'm not sure what to make of this one. Did the approximations mean the translation was much easier to read than a literal translation would have been? Was the translator given any sort of instructions about how closely to follow the source text? Is it a technical text where approximations could cause serious misunderstandings, or was it a literary text where approximations can be a necessity at times? It also appears to have been a translation out of English. I know in German there are a lot of English phrases and words that are just used without translation. I don't know whether that's the case in the target language here, but maybe the translator thought the English terms were so ubiquitous in the target language that it would be strange to translate them? Maybe not, but it's a thought.

Alexander Kaz wrote:
- there are many misunderstanding of English idiomatic expressions in the source, leaving the translator's mastery of the English language in question


*misunderstandings
If English idioms were missed, then of course that is a problem.

< ... >

Alexander Kaz wrote:
Given the fact that more than 20% of the segments must be corrected or re-translated (and I was more 'tolerant' than I usually am about matching translation and source), my advice would be to have the project fully and properly retranslated rather than this heavily edited.
***

We ended up hiring another person to do the job, and now are debating if we should pay the original translator a fraction of agreed amount, or none at all.


So... 80% of the text was ok, you didn't give the translator the opportunity to correct the errors, and now you don't want to pay them at all?
I suggest you pay them a large percentage of what was promised and then don't work with them again.

You may have received an awful translation - that's something we can't judge since you can't share examples. But there have been plenty of stories on these boards from translators who have had very bad experiences with reviewers who found mistakes that weren't mistakes and the translator ended up not getting paid for a translation that was fine.


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