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Client is accusing me of using Google Translate and now won't pay, what rights do I have?
Thread poster: Rebecca J M

Rebecca J M  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Spanish to English
Jul 13

Hi all,

As an emerging student translator (post-grad, Spanish), I have been bidding for small translation jobs on Upwork. They are very underpaid, but given the fact I am still learning and a translation student, I have been happy to accept the small fee for experience.

However, I now have a problemt. I have completed a small job (1300) words for a client (a clinical trial). They are now refusing to pay as they are accusing me of submitting a post-edited Google Translate translation. They said that they have run their original Spanish document through Google translate and that it is very similar to mine. Although they are saying that they are not identical. They initially stated in the contract that they did not want a post-edited machine translation. Before I confirmed I would do the job, I confirmed that I would not use MT but would however be using a CAT tool to assist with my translation, to which they did not object.

Now they refuse to pay (my measley $30!) because their in-house team has had to "edit" my copy "significantly". They also state that as I used a CAT tool, becuase they had stated no MT was to be used, that I am in breach of the contract. I have explained the difference between CAT tool and MT.

So now I'm not sure where I stand. I have asked them to provide me with a copy of the translation that their team has produced to compare to mine. I have asked them how can I be sure that they are not using my translation? Does the burden of proof lie with them to provide me with their post-edited copy of my translation. Surely, running any translation through Google Translate nowadays will provide a translation with lots of good word matches, as we all know, but the fact that mine is "different" (in his words) surely proves it is a human translation.

I just feel I'm being ripped off and also very sad that now I will probably recieve a negative review on Upwork, meaning that I may not get future work.

Can someone confirm that a CAT tool translation is NOT the same as a machine translation?

Any advice would be appreciated!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:30
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Asked them for an edited copy Jul 13

They claim that they have made significant changes to your text. They should prove it: ask them for the edited text as the very first step. They should also prove their assertion that the outcome of Google Translate on your source text produces something that looks very much like your translation: ask them to send you the result they obtained with Google Translate.

As for using Google or not, all I can think of is that Google Translate is statistical, i.e. if there are enough bilingual Spanish-English clinical trials out there in Google's databases, Google Translate has high chances of proposing a translation that looks like a clinical trial and with the usual/standard phrases.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:30
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Not very professional Jul 13

A few weeks ago one of my agency' clients' client accused me of the same thing, based on the "assessment" by a (non-translator) friend she had shown my translation to. When I told her (yes, there was direct contact) that I never use anything related to Google, let alone Google Translate, she apologized, claiming that she didn't accuse me of having used GT. Well, there was no way to misunderstand her statement which was actually an insult. The problem has been solved when I blacklisted her.

As Tomás has suggested, ask them for both the GT copy as well as for the "significant edits" that were allegedly required to obtain good quality. If your client is truthful about this, s/he will surely comply. If you don't receive those copies - in case of a dispute you are entitled to them, then send your invoice and let them know that you have completed the job and, since they were unable to prove their accusation, expect to be paid.

Be assured, Rebecca, using a CAT tool is definitely not the same as using MT.


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Rebecca J M  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
I have asked them for copies Jul 13

I have asked them for copies and awaiting their response.... They have now also stated that because I use MateCat that this is no better than GT.

I have run the original ES version through GT, and it came out completely different to mine (obviously!). I have sent them this and pointed out a few items that I changed, for example I changed a Valencian name to the more generic Spanish version (which GT wouldn't do!). Also, GT did not recognise bracketed acronyms had changed, which I pointed out.

I await their response.

This is really demoralising for a student translator



Thank you both for your help!


Rebecca


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 20:30
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
TMI Jul 13

Before I confirmed I would do the job, I confirmed that I would not use MT but would however be using a CAT tool to assist with my translation, to which they did not object.

Now they refuse to pay (my measley $30!) because their in-house team has had to "edit" my copy "significantly". They also state that as I used a CAT tool, becuase they had stated no MT was to be used, that I am in breach of the contract. I have explained the difference between CAT tool and MT.

Don't. This isn't organic farming - you are not obliged to disclose anything that you haven't been asked. You didn't have to disclose that you used CAT, and you certainly didn't have to explain what the difference is. You say one thing, and one thing only: Prove it, or pay up. Then you go back to your business until they come back with something specific for you to respond to.


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Joe France
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:30
Member (2016)
French to English
+ ...
Argue, fight, contest - then learn and move on Jul 13

Rebecca Metcalfe wrote:

This is really demoralising for a student translator

Rebecca


Yep, I can imagine that this must be pretty disappointing and frustrating for you - but look at it a different way: you're only willing to accept such a low rate, I presume, because you're a translation student and so either don't see yourself as somehow 'worth' a standard rate or because it's just a job you managed to get.

If it's the former, and your translations are up to standard, then you are worth the full rate - so charge it, or find someone who'll pay it! There's no such thing as a translation that's worth less. If it's not of a high enough standard, it's not a good enough translation - and if it is, they should pay a good rate for it! I passed my translation postgrad in the UK less than a year ago and set up as freelance after a short time in-house, and know how tempting it is to use such bottom-feeding companies to build up experience, but it's just not worth it as instances such as this will always, always happen. This could be because they don't know what they're talking about or, more likely, because they want to avoid paying you. What's more, you'll find that better-run agencies and outsourcers will be more rewarding to work with (financially and professionally), and you'll learn much more as well.

One of the risks of being freelance is that the industry is almost entirely unregulated - so finding reliable clients is the only way to survive and be successful. You could perhaps take heart from having learned this harsh lesson while a student!

This rather vague answer doesn't help you too much, and it's never helpful to have people lecture about what you coulda woulda shoulda done. I think in this case, all you can do is ask for proof of their editing (as your have), argue your corner, report the outsourcer to any site administrators, and threaten to leave poor feedback. I know it doesn't help - and you have my sympathy - but if they do turn out to be some form of scammer, take it as a lesson and don't make the same mistakes again. Keep fighting your corner and chin up!


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Texte Style
Local time: 13:30
French to English
similarities - bad faith - Jul 13

If you don't get the files you asked for, then the client is simply in bad faith and trying to bully you so you don't ask for your money. It's amazing that bullies try it even when they're getting stuff dirt cheap.

I would imagine with the type of text you're translating, that there are not that many opportunities for waxing lyrical, there must be a lot of standard turns of phrase, and you're not looking for synonyms to avoid using the same word twice, so it stands to reason that there would be similarities with what GT churns out.

One major principle in law is that the burden of proof lies with the accuser, so that is them. They probably think you'll just write off the measly sum they owe you. If you know a lawyer, you could see if they can write a letter for you. That usually prompts payment.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:30
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You have the right to your pay, and then the right to say goodbye Jul 13

Rebecca Metcalfe wrote:
a client (a clinical trial).

A translation agency? One of the big, all-languages, all-sectors ones? (Don't name them but more info would be helpful.) I'm just trying to get a feel for the situation.

They also state that as I used a CAT tool, becuase they had stated no MT was to be used, that I am in breach of the contract.

So they know nothing about professional translation tools? Come on, pull the other one! (Unless this is a medical direct client.) I can understand an agency stipulating no MT (if they really think it's necessary to say, which it probably is on Upwork), but confusing MT with the use of our own TMs? I doubt that there's any such confusion (again, if this is an agency); I think they're more likely trying to avoid paying you.

I just feel I'm being ripped off and also very sad that now I will probably recieve a negative review on Upwork, meaning that I may not get future work.

Don't take this as personal criticism, but did you really expect anything else on that sort of site at that sort of rate? Hopefully, abuse isn't inevitable there, but I rather suspect it might be widespread, at least. I know you'll be finding it hard at the moment, but why are you making so much effort there when you clearly aren't making an effort to get jobs here, a workplace that is at least dedicated to translation, even if it does have its share of sharks? That's what I don't understand. You're right to worry about your reputation, that's for sure. Reputation is all-important for freelancers, as it is for any small business, and ours is largely on on-line.

I'm sure you're in a hurry to get some real professional experience - and some money! But can I suggest that quality experience is more important to a beginner than quality? I'd advise you to at least triple your minimum rate, maybe more, and then stick to it. Clients have no right to expect a cheap translation from an inexperienced translator. You would normally be earning less than a more experienced one by working more slowly (more research, more checking and rereading, slower use of tools, less refined search techniques...) but you should hopefully be producing an adequate translation that's worth an adequate rate.


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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
So, did you? Jul 13

Reading through the explanations above, there is no real admission of whether you did or didn't use MT. All of our CAT tools have MT options, but MT can be turned off or disregarded. Just because your MT was within the CAT doesn't make it okay to use.

Only you can answer this. How much of the translation was completed without the use of MT suggestion or auto-propagation?

If the client clearly requested a clean non-MT translation and you delivered otherwise, I'd tend to agree with the client on this one.

Clinical trial work has a particular set of terminology, and the client can probably tell if a term was researched vs run through MT. My language pair for example, instead of the term 'study', if literally translated or run through MT, will come up as 'research project'. However a short amount of background research will show that no clinical trials are called research projects.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:30
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Welcome to the world of translations Jul 13

I understand this is a frustrating experience, but don't let it discourage you, the 'S-word' does happen.

Take your loss, count your experiences and go on, but stronger now. Like the greatest Dutch soccer player ever once said: 'Each disadvantage has its advantage' (literally translated).

[Edited at 2017-07-13 17:29 GMT]


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Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:30
Member (2003)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Google translate Jul 14

Give them a LWA of 1 and then tell them to pound sand.

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:30
German to English
Matecat Jul 14

I agree that the use of a CAT is obviously not the same as the use of MT.

However, I'm not sure that Matecat is a CAT in the normal sense of the word: Was it using MT to suggest translations to you and was it using complete strangers' TM segments to suggest translations to you?

DJ Hartmann's question made me curious and I looked up the Matecat site and the Wikipedia article about them and now I'm wondering whether the seemingly absurd statement that Matecat "is no better than GT" might actually make a lot of sense.

Still, the main question is whether or not your translation is any good. If it isn't, it doesn't really matter whether it is a MT, a post-edited MT, a translation utilizing a CAT or a translation done with a pen on paper. Does it read like and can it be effecitvely used as a clinical trial summary in the target language?

Legally speaking, I think all you have to do is send them your invoice and then, if they don't pay, send them an overdue notice. If they don't pay after that, then you initiate a small-claims procedure against them. Unless they contest that claim, you don't have to prove anything.

I don't know how many hours it took you to do the translation, but it might be worth asking yourself if there is really any significant financial difference between working for $x per hour and working for free. If there isn't, why work in a completely dysfunctional situation when you could use that time to more productively prepare yourself for your future career?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:30
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Did you use MateCat's big memory? Jul 14

If this was done with MateCat, the following question makes sense: to what extent did you use MateCat's big TM? I suspect that, if you used the big TM, its contents could have misled you into wrong terminology, poor equivalents/idiomaticity, or even gross mistakes. Unfortunately, all free TMs and corpora I have seen have big quality issues (they are generally filled with lower-quality translation work). The only one that is more reliable is Linguee, as they rely upon official translations in many cases. However, even Linguee is to be taken with three or four pinches of salt when it comes to non-official stuff.

If you did the translation on your own, i.e. no assistance of public TMs or machine translation, my proposal above still aplies.


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Henriette Saffron  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:30
Member (2013)
English to Danish
Can’t you file a dispute through Upwork? Jul 14

I was on Elance until it became Upwork, and I seem to recall that Upwork offered some sort of dispute resolution.

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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:30
French to English
All work completed has to be paid for Jul 14

Whether they like what you produced or not, they have to pay you. They have proofreading teams in-house. Some jobs they will consider they need to spend a lot of time on, others almost none. The fact they are only paying you USD30 and that they know you are starting out is a clear indication that they, as experienced professionals, know that they may have to spend more time on work you supply. If they were to pay the full commercial price and solicit someone with 15-20 years’ experience, they would expect to do much less and also expect to pay a fuller price. They are not adopting a professional attitude towards you. Stick to your guns, do what you can to get your USD30 and don't work for them again.

It's hard when you have this sort of experience. After having gone back to full-time study, reduced my translation workload and now I am translating full-time again, I'm working with a couple of agencies. Dreadful rates, less than half I would invoice direct clients, and scared that if they go belly up, their 2-month payment terms leave me with 2 months income down the tubes. Still, it's giving me regular work as I rebuild a new direct client base.

However, I did get narked when on a 35-page project, it came back with the comment "our proof-reader found it full of mistakes". I asked them to supply the corrected copy indicating where the alleged mistakes were. I did rush the end of the job to meet the deadline, but "full of mistakes" I did not expect. The agent's reply was: "you just need to read through it again and compare yourself". I was pretty surprised at this attitude and clearly but politely said so. Based on the he-who-asserts-must-prove principle, I was expecting them to come back with "so we're expecting to pay you less", to which I was ready to counter-reply with "you already pay a pittance that you justify precisely because you have in-house expenses such as proof-readers, so no".

In fact, I decided to call their bluff. I did the comparative read-through. It took me hours and I was angry. There were mistakes indeed; 7 typos in their original source text, 5 in the translated part of the document that had been done prior to my work on the text and, effectively, and with extreme regret three typos on my part: a single consonant where I should have had a double one for UK English, an additional space between a figure and a unit of measurement and a missing letter. I supplied the marked copies and heard no more. The job was paid in full and I continue to work for them.

Yes, we strive for perfection and it is unattainable, and yes, typos are embarrassing, but "full of mistakes" for three typos is not a world disaster and the proofreading picked them up. However, being "accused" of someone else's mistakes is not good and a proof-reader complaining when he/she finds a couple of typos in a 35-page document is particularly irritating. Should I put her out of work by producing 35 pages with nothing to correct? I have decided not to accept jobs over 20 pages as I can't be bothered to have this sort of hassle again. I've done a lot of work for them and have never been corrected for turn of phrase and we have had interesting exchanges on the choice of certain terms. Sometimes mine are better, sometimes theirs, but when I'm working for something that works out as close to a cleaning ladies' hourly rate with a three masters' degrees and more than 20 years on the job and translation experience, I shall be glad when I have finally rebuilt my own clientele and can ditch them. I mean, to get the same income, I have to work at least twice as fast, which increases the risk of compromised quality, which is then complained about by someone whose job it is and which is the reason put forward for lousy rates? Come on...!


[Edited at 2017-07-14 11:42 GMT]


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