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Proofreading if translation is bad
Thread poster: Rolf Kern

Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 22:16
English to German
+ ...
Nov 23, 2015

I often do proofreading of bilingual files. The rates paid for this work are relatively low, because you are just expected to read the translation through and make this and that correction. But how about if the translation is rather bad and you practically have to remake it? Till now I had three such cases.
- In the first case I did all the corrections and did not receive any answer whether the agency would pay me a little more.
- In the second case I did the corrections on the first five pages or so of the file. The agency reacted that since I was commissioned to do the proofreading of the entire file, they will not pay me anything.
- In the third case I did all the corrections in one relatively small file of eleven files and told the agency that I reject this task. Their reaction: Thanks, we have found somebody else to deal with this proofreading job. And, of course, no payment whatsoever.

What is your experience in such cases?


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Some ideas Nov 23, 2015

1. Look for better clients. If you get low-quality texts, it's probably a cheapskate agency.
2. Check the quality of the texts before accepting them.
3. Bill reviewing by the hour.
4. Ask the client to outline what exactly they want done.

Good luck.


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mughwI
United States
Local time: 16:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
Evaluate before accepting Nov 23, 2015

I do quite a bit of proofreading (target text only, post-DTP), and charge by the hour.

What you are describing seems to be something completely different (editing/reviewing).

Regardless of how the client/agency words it, anything that requires working with both the source and the target text would need to be evaluated before accepting the job.

Depending on quality (good-excellent or acceptable), I charge per word, or per hour, respectively. If the quality is bad, I inform the client/agency that fixing it would cost much more than translating it properly. It will be up to them to decide what they want to do.

One thing is clear; charging per word for editing/reviewing a badly translated text, will invariable end in tears.

It's just not worth it.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Number five for Thomas's list Nov 23, 2015

5. Start running a business!

I'm sorry, but if you ask a professional to design your website or set up your computer, are you going to expect to be able to treat them like that? Or will you expect them to tell you what it will cost and how long it will take?

Here's another list:
1. Tell the potential client that you can only give your hourly rate until you've examined the complete file.
2. When you've examined it you should have a fair idea of how long the job will take. Then you can quote in one of several ways:
a. a fixed total for the job (i.e. just the price)
b. a total of time needed (i.e. a number of hours, where a simple multiplication gives (a))
c. a rate per word (i.e. another version of (a))
d. an estimate of the maximum time required, with actual time up to that maximum to be invoiced.
The first three all rely on you quoting accurately. If not, either party may lose out - you or your client. Quote (c) also has the disadvantage of tying you into a rate. Quoting 0.02 (any currency) for a relatively correct translation will tie you into quoting only that for worse ones in the future with that client.

I use quote (d), rounding up the time taken to the next quarter hour in most cases when I come to invoice the client. For my quote, I estimate the amount of time needed if all goes well, and add about a third. If all does go well then I'll invoice for a third less. I'm happy because I've been paid what I deserve; the client is very happy - it's almost as though I've given a discount! If I've quoted 10 hours maximum and it takes me 12 hours, well I've learnt a valuable lesson! Of course, a regular client won't expect you to quote for every job. S/he will get to trust you and will just pay for your time. If it looks like being a really long job as quality is abysmal, you can renegotiate - you'll have a good business relationship with mutual trust so that's always possible.


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yam2u  Identity Verified
United States
Member
English to Malay
+ ...
Agree with the three above comments Nov 23, 2015

Bottom line, never accept an editing/reviewing job without checking the quality of the translation, especially...

1) from clients you have never worked with before, i.e. that you know are reliable and professional in their transactions with subcontractors

2) if the number of words is more than what would take you a hour [or your minimum quote] to review.

On the off-chance you accepted the job and started work before remembering 1 & 2 above, stop after the first paragraph or 100-150 words or as soon as you realize you are about to embark on a "deep-cleaning" job for pittance and advice the client or withdraw from the job without delay.


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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Not the first time this subject is being discussed Nov 23, 2015

And my answer always was, and still is: 'Ask an hourly rate'.

In that case I don't care how bad a translation is. I am paid for the time I put into it, so the worse the text, the more time it needs, the more I get paid. You won't hear me complaining.

That is the bottom line, and if the agency doesn't agree, well let them find another proofreader.

I am totally ready with this "cheap proofread scam".

[Edited at 2015-11-23 19:54 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-23 19:55 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-23 19:55 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-23 19:56 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 22:16
English to Croatian
+ ...
On what level is it bad? Nov 23, 2015

Can you give us an example of "bad" error please?

If a translation is critically bad, you should report it as soon as you notice it rather than remaking the full translation (unless you are being paid your full rate).

I'll give you an example. One time I was assigned a task to proof an already proofed work. So basically I followed the tracked changes done by the first proofreader who kept correcting periods (period missing here, period missing there) and similar minor staff, while missing a serious semantic error in the translation. Have no idea who the proofreader was but they couldn't see the forest for the trees.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:16
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
There are some clients I do not proofread for Nov 23, 2015

For some reason they pay OK for translation, but I know in advance that proofreading from certain agencies means trouble. If I suspect the translation is poor, I simply do not take it on.

Although I am happy to help competent colleagues and possibly serious beginners with proofreading, I find I simply do not have the patience any more for people who should not be translating or trying to write English.

The results are never good, no matter how long you spend editing them. If it is necessary to make a lot of changes, consistency and style suffer, and in the end it is easier to re-translate from scratch, even if it does take a little longer.

So there is no point in encouraging people who are never going to be good translators, regardless of whether they pay for your time or not. I can always find more rewarding jobs to do!

We have to combat this idea that anyone can translate, as long as they pay a few peanuts to get it 'tidied up' afterwards. It is all part of restoring respect for our profession and our work.


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:16
English to Russian
+ ...
Hourly rate rarely helps Nov 23, 2015

While hourly rate is supposed to deal with surprises of this kind, most agencies still want at least a ballpark estimate of the total cost when the proofreader accepts the job. If the translations are done by a serious professional, it may be fine. My biggest client agency, however, is rather indiscriminate in hiring translators, so I had to establish a firm policy not to accept proofreading jobs until I have seen the actual translation, or at least a text in the same field translated by the same person. The agency's response to the tune of "don't worry, it's one of our best translators" is not to be believed. If the translation is outright bad, I usually don't bother accepting it, as the moral damage of dealing with is rarely worth the pay; instead, as a token of cooperation, I just give a very brief summary of the deficiencies I noticed right away.

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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Noble Nov 23, 2015

Anton Konashenok wrote:

If the translation is outright bad, I usually don't bother accepting it, as the moral damage of dealing with is rarely worth the pay; instead, as a token of cooperation, I just give a very brief summary of the deficiencies I noticed right away.


But I am not "my brothers keeper". It is a commercial business we are in, in short, we both are trying to make an income, and we both have our own standards to achieve our goals.

How much I would love to be, I am not a saint, and I also have bills to pay. That is why I am working. I symply give the agency my conditions. They can accept or decline them. Up to them.

[Edited at 2015-11-23 21:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-23 21:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-23 21:07 GMT]


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Rebecca Davis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:16
Member (2008)
French to English
+ ...
30% rule Nov 23, 2015

Take a look at the first few paragraphs. If more than 30% of the text needs correcting, offer the client a re-translation at your full rate. Otherwise, as others have said, don't get involved.

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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:16
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Might be the right thing to do.... Nov 23, 2015

Rebecca Davis wrote:

Take a look at the first few paragraphs. If more than 30% of the text needs correcting, offer the client a re-translation at your full rate. Otherwise, as others have said, don't get involved.


.... but why should you. Not all, but many agencies are trying to squeeze us with their so called "best rates" and grids, so they can pay us less then we deserve (please read my threads on this forum), and still I see "docility" among a lot of us.

Like I said in my former thread (or at least that was what I meant to say), it is business, and it is a 2-way street too. I have my price, so take it or leave it! Of course there is always room for negociation, but professional agencies don't do that, because they know my rate!

Deliver quality (they all want that), but more important deliver on time!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:16
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I just avoid it Nov 24, 2015

Agencies in general feel tempted to hire a cheap translator for a translation stage and try to lure experienced translators into fixing the mess for a low fee. Wise agencies, however, know how to protect their business by hiring the right person from the beginning.

I systematically avoid proofreading work and accept proofreading jobs only rarely and when a good customer is in a bind.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Dangerous, in my experience Nov 24, 2015

Rebecca Davis wrote:
Take a look at the first few paragraphs.

My experience is that very often the first page, or even the first few pages, are reasonably good. Then reality sets in. Maybe a quality-conscious translator has stepped far outside their comfort zone so is having to do an awful lot of research. That's fine at the start but after a while the research may become too onerous, or it's simply a question of the clock clicking its way to a deadline, and so quality declines. Maybe they are proofreading each section as they go - until that deadline overtakes their careful work. Maybe they're burning the midnight oil and working and cat-napping at the same time. Or maybe a perfectly capable translator simply outsources the second part to another, incompetent one - who delivers too late for proper proofreading to be done.

Whatever the reason, the risks of looking just at the first page are too high.


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Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 21:16
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
Seconded Nov 24, 2015

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Agencies in general feel tempted to hire a cheap translator for a translation stage and try to lure experienced translators into fixing the mess for a low fee. Wise agencies, however, know how to protect their business by hiring the right person from the beginning.

I systematically avoid proofreading work and accept proofreading jobs only rarely and when a good customer is in a bind.


The same here. Since long ago already, I have stopped undertaking proofreading jobs. The reasons are exactly the ones indicated by the topic starter: lots of work, low pay.
I do, however, some proofreading now and then but mostly when an agency needs a "senior translator's" eye to evaluate new candidates. Then it is paid by hour for 1- or 2-hour units.


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Proofreading if translation is bad

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