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Entire projects translated for free...
Thread poster: psicutrinius

psicutrinius  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:45
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Dec 2, 2011

...as samples?

I have bumped into this somewhere within the net:

"Example: An agency has nailed a big contract. They advertise and contact hundreds of translators from a database. Let's say about 100 respond. The agency sends "tests" out but remember, the tested text is different. Result: The entire project is translated free of charge."

Now I have received such requests (350 words) as a condition to enter a few really BIG projects.

I might be a bit paranoid, but I am also afraid that this might of course happen -and go entirely unnoticed- provided the culprit takes a few precautions -diversify the translators to be contacted, so that each of them does not receive such queries too often / too many times, projects are different enough, possibly working in association with a few other [crooked] agencies...

I know that to identify, or detect, this (or to prove that it is definitely paranoia) is more difficult to do than to define, but I certainly believe that something should be done. I have some initial ideas:

Either by (for instance) checking how many translators receive the request, the length of the project and the length of the test: For instance, a project with 70.000 words, sent to 200 translators and requesting a 350 word test from each decidedly smells quite rotten.

Another way would be checking whether the project has been FIRMLY allocated to a translator (or a team of them) or not.

I believe that ProZ have the data (or access to them), so this could be silently checked, at least initially. But in any case, I would like to see comments, both from colleagues and from the staff.

psicutrinius


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Urban legend Dec 2, 2011

psicutrinius wrote:
"Example: An agency has nailed a big contract. They advertise and contact hundreds of translators from a database. Let's say about 100 respond. The agency sends "tests" out but remember, the tested text is different. Result: The entire project is translated free of charge."

To me this is pure urban legend.

As sensible protection, it is always worth charging for translation tests requested by new customers. If they do not want to pay... they are not genuinely interested in your services.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:45
French to German
+ ...
Been here, seen that Dec 2, 2011

Been there, seen that.

A French outsourcer wanted "tests" of about 600 words for the translation of a booklet dealing with the basics of yachting (10,000 words).

I managed to find some colleagues who also did the test and we saw that each test was different.

The booklet was published and credited the agency owner for the translation job.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
And... Dec 2, 2011

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:
The booklet was published and credited the agency owner for the translation job.

OK, OK. I take it back.

Now, I hope you have posted a not-so-good Blueboard entry about this agency?


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Marinus Vesseur  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
We all like to believe in miracles if it suits us Dec 2, 2011

This particular scam has happened, but it's rare, seeing as it would be hard to continually make a living out of it. You're going to run out of translators at one point. Changing your identity all the time gets wearisome, too.

If you follow the postings here a little you'll see that it's much more common for an agency to assign a large job to two or three translators, sell the first result to the client (often another, more reputable agency), cash in and disappear. That too is a lot of trouble, but apparently still worth it. It does reveal that even seemingly reputable agencies outsource to other, completely unknown agencies, mostly in Asia, that claim to be able to handle, say, Swedish-German, at a very low price.

That is what baffles me. It doesn't take a lot of thought to come to conclude that the Asian supplier cannot do this himself. Ergo, he too has to outsource in exactly the same way as the first agency has. Simply said: they too have to find a Swede or a German who can do this. These translators tend to live in Northern Europe, not Asia. Consequently the price is more or less set by the circumstances there. And yet this apparently obvious train of thought is put aside on the prospect of making good money with a quick job assignment.

I think we all recognize the temptation of quick money and how one can tend to push aside nagging doubts about the reasonableness of the offer. Miracles are extremely rare and should not be counted on in a business environment. It would not be "due diligence" to do so and is often even illegal.

Still, it happens, so it pays to approach every new request for a test translations with reasonable care. It's up to you to decide whether you can risk spending an hour of your time on the (off) chance it may be used for monetary gain against your will. It would be unfair and thus infuriating, but looking at it rationally, not a great loss for the individual translator.


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GerSi  Identity Verified
Slovenia
Local time: 10:45
Member (2010)
German to Slovenian
+ ...
a modest first-aid solution Dec 2, 2011

As I was reading your post psicutrinius, I got an idea.

We, the translators, could do a small thing to at least make the scamers' life a bit more miserable.

What if the community would apply a new rule and if the translator community would implement a standard to submit test translations with watermarks or in pdf format as a picture? At least they would have to put in some effort to get to the text. But then again, so would we by creating such documents ...

The other solution is actually an upgrade of your suggestion. What if Proz.com would provide a system that would enable the client/agency to submit test translations to translators that show interest and meet criteria. This way the translators would be better protected, because the system could allow sending only one text to several translators. It is just an idea, but I am sure that with some polishing it could be useful.


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 08:45
Japanese to English
Unlike Laurent I don't have proof Dec 2, 2011

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:

Been there, seen that.

A French outsourcer wanted "tests" of about 600 words for the translation of a booklet dealing with the basics of yachting (10,000 words).


Unlike Laurent I never found out for sure whether it was a scam or not, but an Indian outsourcer wanted "tests" of around the same size, with a very urgent turnaround time, which sounded very fishy to me. I've heard of tests and I've heard of urgent jobs, but "free urgent tests"? Hmm.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:45
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Wow! Dec 2, 2011

GerSi wrote:
What if the community would apply a new rule and if the translator community would implement a standard to submit test translations with watermarks or in pdf format as a picture? At least they would have to put in some effort to get to the text. But then again, so would we by creating such documents...

Wow! This is the best idea I have seen all this year.

Indeed, what they want is our translation to evaluate our quality, right? A watermarked, bitmapped PDF document for all tests sounds like a perfect idea!! I will discuss this internally with my team here.

There are several things to consider here:

- The watermark should be a neutral one, not containing our surname or contact details, in case our customer (e.g. an agency) wants to send it over to another person (e.g. the end customer's in-country people) for their evaluation.

- There is always the possibility that our customer (e.g. an agency) wants our test to be reviewed by a second person. In the case of a PDF, I reckon they would have to add little yellow notes to the PDF and send it back to us for a new version, instead of simply editing in a Word document, for instance.

- Genuine, serious customers might reject this kind of test, since it sort of criminalises them a bit. However, new customers should simply accept this kind of test with no problem at all.

What's your view about these things?

On the technical side of things, the watermark:

i) Should not obscure the text when read by a person, but should make it difficult to OCR the document and obtain the text from it. I have never tried this, but I am sure there are ways of making some halftone-based image that makes it difficult to OCR the text out of the PDF.

ii) Could convey some message, in the sense that the translation was done by a professional, full-time translator. Not just "This is a translation test"...

I really think a new forum should be opened about this.

(Edited for some obvious mistakes.)

[Edited at 2011-12-02 20:21 GMT]


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:45
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Not really feasible... Dec 2, 2011

The whole idea is absurd...

A text translated by 200 (?!) people would not be of poor quality - it would have no quality at all, as it would hardly resemble a translation. Not only because there would be zero consistency, multitude of styles, spellings and linguistic preferences. Out of random 200 translators maybe half of them would produce a text of decent quality, easily one third of the samples would be utter rubbish. The whole text could be revised, of course, but then the cost of editing would make the whole enterprise questionable. In other words it would be cheaper to hire one mediocre translator and deliver his work unedited - and the quality would still be better.

Such scheme might work if there were four, maybe five translators, the editor was very good and cheap and the quality of the final text was not essential. Otherwise it is pure fantasy.


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crista_b
United States
Local time: 03:45
French to English
+ ...
Point is kind of moot in this situation... Dec 2, 2011

Jabberwock wrote:

The whole idea is absurd...

A text translated by 200 (?!) people would not be of poor quality - it would have no quality at all, as it would hardly resemble a translation. Not only because there would be zero consistency, multitude of styles, spellings and linguistic preferences. Out of random 200 translators maybe half of them would produce a text of decent quality, easily one third of the samples would be utter rubbish. The whole text could be revised, of course, but then the cost of editing would make the whole enterprise questionable. In other words it would be cheaper to hire one mediocre translator and deliver his work unedited - and the quality would still be better.

Such scheme might work if there were four, maybe five translators, the editor was very good and cheap and the quality of the final text was not essential. Otherwise it is pure fantasy.



Well, obviously we - translators and those in the language industry - understand that, but the people who do understand your point are the same kinds of people that wouldn't dare try a scheme like this. Someone willing to go to such extents for a free translation clearly knows nothing about how translation truly works and probably also doesn't care too much about quality provided there is a "translation" in the end - and I use the word "translation" very loosely in this kind of case.


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Maria Stella Translator (BR-PT)
Brazil
Local time: 05:45
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Possible but not common! Dec 3, 2011

In theory, that is a possible thing. I suspected already from tests I received some time ago and never got a reply for "success" or "failure". It happened to me twice, and I also don't want to be paranoid but I agree with GerSi regarding the following:

"What if Proz.com would provide a system that would enable the client/agency to submit test translations to translators that show interest and meet criteria. This way the translators would be better protected, because the system could allow sending only one text to several translators. It is just an idea, but I am sure that with some polishing it could be useful."

As a community of "Translators" there are solutions, ways and possibilities to enable us to avoid such schemes. Unfortunately, lots of agencies contact us by e-mail, not necessarily through Proz.com. But it is a good start GerSi! A system using technology, from the community, would be the best option I can think of now.
Just editing to say I did not have time to read all of the above opinions, but I will as soon as possible, this is an important subject!

[Edited at 2011-12-03 00:42 GMT]
Edited again to say that living in a Country where the most unbelievable corruption schemes are out on newspapers everyday, I must say it is possible!

[Edited at 2011-12-03 01:05 GMT]
And again!!! ... When you study a little about human psychology, you start to see that if a scammer does not care about the translator, he is equally not giving a d... about the quality or the client, or consistency ... those things are for professionals. Scammers function in a different way.

[Edited at 2011-12-03 01:13 GMT]


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:45
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Urban Legend II Dec 3, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

psicutrinius wrote:
"Example: An agency has nailed a big contract. They advertise and contact hundreds of translators from a database. Let's say about 100 respond. The agency sends "tests" out but remember, the tested text is different. Result: The entire project is translated free of charge."

To me this is pure urban legend.

As sensible protection, it is always worth charging for translation tests requested by new customers. If they do not want to pay... they are not genuinely interested in your services.


Aside from Tomás' point, there are other ways to protect oneself from doing free translations.

1. never do a test translation of more than 200 - 250 words, least of all, for free.

2. keep sample translations of various topics and in various fields. (You could use parts of non-confidential translations you've done before that don't include any leads to that particular client.) You can offer to submit a field/topic related similar test translation. If the potential client insists on having his/her larger sample translated and without paying for your time, then this "offer" should be processed to "File 13".

Stella wrote:
"What if Proz.com would provide a system that would enable the client/agency to submit test translations to translators that show interest and meet criteria. This way the translators would be better protected, because the system could allow sending only one text to several translators. It is just an idea, but I am sure that with some polishing it could be useful."


I don't know if this would be feasible or if ProZ.com would be willing to do it, but it's definitely worth a thought.


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psicutrinius  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:45
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I believe that Dec 3, 2011

The watermark idea is a quite good one (thanks, GerSi). What I do not know is how to get one that makes getting it OCRd difficult (again, thanks for the idea, Tomás). Any suggestions?

The other one is that I believe that these occurrences could be tracked fully by ProZ with little effort (in fact, unless I figure it all wrong -which might happen, of course- all the data get there along the process of publishing the request / tracking the responses / recording who got the job).

The specifics need not be published, of course, but -if it IS a scam, or seems to be one- ProZ could approach "privately" the author for a satisfactory explanation and then take the appropriate course.

If it proves to be a scam, however, the author should be banned and the reasons for the banning and its name should be published, of course.


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Anne Pinaglia
Netherlands
Local time: 10:45
Member (2011)
Italian to English
+ ...
Technicalities... Dec 3, 2011

Whenever I submit a sample (read: small) translation for someone I always include a little note at the bottom that reads something like "This sample translation is for reviewing purposes only. I do not authorize its use in any other manner that is not agreed upon in writing."

In my mind, I feel like should I ever see that exact translation used in any document that they produce (I know, small chance), I could send over a note about how they "breached the contract" and invoice them for the work. Of course they wouldn't ever pay, and whether or not my note justifies a "contract" I'm not sure, but it at least serves to let them know they've been caught, then they'll be blacklisted.

In the end it probably doesn't offer me much (if any) protection, but I feel like including that information may make them think twice.

Certainly a watermark would be cool, but the text could just be transcribed. I suppose it would make things more difficult though, which may deter some.


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Yelena Pestereva  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:45
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Do we really... Dec 3, 2011

Do we really have to take all these tests? There are thousands or may be much more translation agencies in the world and I receive a request to take a test virtually every day. Meanwhile when I was recently deleting old files and found a folder named "Tests" with some 50-60 tests I had been silly enough to take I didn't find there any tests from my regular clients. None of my regular clients working with me for many years has ever asked me to take a test. And all those who made me spend so much time and efforts disappeared into thin air.
But, to tell the truth, I never asked anybody to pay for a test. Does it work? Is there really anybody willing to pay for tests? My apologies for typos.

[Edited at 2011-12-03 15:13 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-12-03 15:13 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-12-03 22:08 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-12-03 22:47 GMT]


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