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Might be getting stiffed on $1250.00 project
Thread poster: Eric Stone

Eric Stone
Taiwan
Local time: 12:44
Chinese to English
Nov 15, 2016

I did a large translation project for an agency I had worked with before. They had 0 issues with my translation, and eventually paid in full (though much slower than other agencies I've worked with; about 4 months before the full payment came through).

Then came the next project.

4 months after turning in the project and asking about the unpaid invoice, they told me that their client has rated the translation as extremely poor, and I wouldn't be getting the $1250 remaining owed.

I am still working things out with the agency, so I don't know how they are going to handle things, but what really irks me is the evaluation - I went through it line by line, and of the 55 errors listed, there were 5 small errors that could be fixed, in addition to 50 instances of perfectly good quality translation that was changed arbitrarily to something with the same exact meaning (I'm guessing the original translation was too colloquial for the evaluator to understand), and for the most part even changed to what I can only describe as broken English!

A few examples (note that these are fragments of sentences, as they are subtitles):

"what are you doing, going off becoming a monk?"
changed to
"how come you end up becoming a monk?"

"The worst thing to happen in my life was meeting you, you traitor."
changed to
"The worst thing to happen in my life is to meet heartless man like you."

"Her?"
changed to
"She?"

"Her?"
changed to
"She?"

"She's in the middle of a killing spree."
changed to
"She's in the middle of a slaughtering rampage."

"I'm sorry, it was an accident."
changed to
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean this."

"You say I've betrayed the people."
changed to
"You say I've betrayed the people in the world."


The real question is, is the agency I'm working for itself being scammed, or am I being scammed by them? They told me they are taking away that money because their client did this evaluation and as a result (all of the examples I listed were consider "critical" or "serious" errors) they aren't getting their full payment, but it couldn't be more obvious that the person who did this evaluation isn't even a native English speaker!

*sigh* Any advice? I've told the agency of my concerns in the greatest detail I can.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:44
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
It's taken your client a long time to object Nov 15, 2016

I'm sorry to hear of the unhappy time you're having with this client.
In my opinion, it's taken your client far too long - four months - to raise objections to your translation now. Surely there must be a time limit for raising objections, requiring alterations or demanding a "quality-based" discount.
Remember that your contract is with your client, not your client's client with whom, I presume, you have no relationship.
Perhaps you should point out to your client that, if he/she found alleged errors in your work, he/she has had four months in which to point them out. He/she did not do so and it is too late now.
Good luck.


 

Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:44
Member
French to English
+ ...
Insist on a second opinion Nov 15, 2016

From the examples you have given, it seems indeed as if the person who "corrected" your work was not a native EN speaker, has made questionable stylstic changes of a nature that would not normally reflect an actual translation error — and in some cases, seems to have actually introduced grammatical errors!

As Jenny said, 4 months is unacceptably long for them to find fault with your work — although it's entirely unofficial, for myself I consider that if problems are not pointed out at least within the 30-day settlement period, then it is too bad.

What you need to try and find out, fo course, is whether this end customer did actually pay your agency or not; if they didn't, then the agency is perhaps at fault for not having dealt better with the relationship with their customer. What is possibly more likely is that the customer asked for a reduction for these supposed 'errors'.

I would definitely get back to the agency and insist that they get an outside opinion to justify their decision not to pay you, or else you will need to take legal action against them. Merely requesting this to be done is, it seems to me, the minimum first step you owe it to yourself to take.

We've all had customers who "think they know best" — and almost invariably, they are basing themselves on the opinion of a non-native speaker. I had one instance recently where Iw as asked to proof and polish-up a voice-over script, which needed to have a style suitable for voice performance. I expended a great deal of effort to produce something that was punchy and upbeat, as called for by the marketing context — only to have it "corrected" by someone who was not an EN native speaker and had obviously just got a "Collins Gem Dictionary" and learner's grammar book! I gave them hell, and they did reinstate all of my original text; luckilly for me, the financial stakes are not as high.

By the way, talking of that, and given the value of your project and hence I aussme its quite hefty volume, EVEN IF those 55 really had been errors, to be honest, in my view that is far too low a percentage to justify total witholding of the payment — maybe a request for a discount...


 

Eric Stone
Taiwan
Local time: 12:44
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
My head is pounding Nov 15, 2016

Perhaps you should point out to your client that, if he/she found alleged errors in your work, he/she has had four months in which to point them out.


Being an agency rather than a direct client, I kind of just always went with what they said, and signed whatever contract they gave me under the thought that "If it works out I get paid, if not I just don't work with them again."

Given the volume of the project, however, I guess this was somewhat a mistake. Maybe it's better to risk rejection and try and renegotiate with agencies? Though generally speaking I think agencies have the same agreement for all their vendors, so asking for changes may be a good way to get rejected.


By the way, talking of that, and given the value of your project and hence I assume its quite hefty volume, EVEN IF those 55 really had been errors, to be honest, in my view that is far too low a percentage to justify total withholding of the payment — maybe a request for a discount...


Yes, that's from a source file of 42,000 words.

We've all had customers who "think they know best" — and almost invariably, they are basing themselves on the opinion of a non-native speaker. I had one instance recently where Iw as asked to proof and polish-up a voice-over script, which needed to have a style suitable for voice performance. I expended a great deal of effort to produce something that was punchy and upbeat, as called for by the marketing context — only to have it "corrected" by someone who was not an EN native speaker and had obviously just got a "Collins Gem Dictionary" and learner's grammar book! I gave them hell, and they did reinstate all of my original text; luckily for me, the financial stakes are not as high.


Sounds like what I'm going through exactly! I've been very vocal, and keep asking to be put in touch with someone within the agency who speaks English as a first language, but I've mostly been ignored.

I would definitely get back to the agency and insist that they get an outside opinion to justify their decision not to pay you, or else you will need to take legal action against them. Merely requesting this to be done is, it seems to me, the minimum first step you owe it to yourself to take.


I'm not sure what legal action I can take, though unlike with a $50 project, the stakes would probably be worth it

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes and advice


 

Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:44
Member
French to English
+ ...
Blue Board? Nov 15, 2016

Does this agency have a Blue Board record? If so, what is it like? Maybe others have had simialr experiences?
Have you yourself entered a Blue Board comment? if not, it might pay to do so; it seems that very often leaving an unfavourable comment has often resulted in immediate settlement.

I must say, one of the biggest arguments I had on this sort of issue was with a well-known, large translation agency in China, and I came up against the same problem: non-EN-speaking staff, and "corrections" made by a non-native EN speaker, who was no doubt at least in part reluctant to back down for fear of losing face.


 

Toon Theuwis (X)  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 06:44
English to Dutch
+ ...
Sorry to hear that Nov 15, 2016

Zhiming Shi wrote:

Yes, that's from a source file of 42,000 words.



It hurts when a fellow translator gets treated in an incorrect way, so I feel sorry for the way things are going with this project and I hope the issue can be resolved soon enough.

It might be dangerous to draw conclusions from the rate you worked for, but if you worked for $0,03/word ($1,250/42,000=$0.029), maybe the translation agency was dubious from the start. I'm not familiar with the average price for the language pair in this project, but $0,03 seems... how should I put this.... well in my language pair this is something some translators would get very upset about.

Best of luck.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:44
German to English
Simplest solution? Nov 15, 2016

Based on your presentation of the facts, everything seems pretty clear.

Why don't you just demand payment by a certain date or you will begin debt collection proceedings? If they don't pay by that time, then do whatever people in the countries involved do when someone has an outstanding debt and refuses to pay.

If they want to avoid paying, then they will have to prove that you did something wrong. You don't have to prove you were right. Or did you sign some kind of problematic contract (as your last post seemed to suggest)?


 

Katarzyna Slowikova  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:44
English to Czech
+ ...
Get assertive Nov 15, 2016

Zhiming Shi wrote:
*sigh* Any advice? I've told the agency of my concerns in the greatest detail I can.



It's not an established practice to apply fines to translators without having second opinion, apart from client's complaint. So they're obviously trying to rip you off and I don't think it makes any sense trying to explain to them "your concerns". Threats may be something they'll respond to - as others suggested, Blue Board entry, threats of sending warnings to all translator groups and a threat of legal action.

As to the rates, Toon, you're aware of the fact you operate at a different market then somebody doing Chinese to EN? The agency is dubious but not because of the rates they pay for this language pair.

Wishing you all the luck, Zhiming! (hope I didn't use your surname...?icon_smile.gif)

[Edited at 2016-11-15 18:02 GMT]


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:44
Member
English to Italian
Community Rates Nov 15, 2016

Katarzyna Slowikova wrote:

As to the rates, Toon, you're aware of the fact you operate at a different market then somebody doing Chinese to EN? The agency is dubious but not because of the rates they pay for this language pair.


Heh, according to the community rates, it would seem ZH>EN commanded the same rates as EN>NL...


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:44
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
People keep suggesting a blue board entry Nov 15, 2016

but will a negative entry be allowed if the client has quality concerns?

 

Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:44
Member
French to English
+ ...
Plenty of precedents Nov 15, 2016

jyuan_us wrote:

but will a negative entry be allowed if the client has quality concerns?


Well, there are plenty of existing examples in the BlueBoard where clients have exercised their right to reply in order to claim quality issues; but the longer they have let it drag on, the more hollow their claims sound...

Admittedly, in a few of those cases, I do happen to know the client was right... I am very often asked to arbitrate in such disputes, and sadly it has to be said that some translators do turn in appalling work, which I personally would refuse to pay for.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:44
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
About debt collection Nov 15, 2016

Michael Wetzel wrote:
Why don't you just demand payment by a certain date or you will begin debt collection proceedings? If they don't pay by that time, then do whatever people in the countries involved do when someone has an outstanding debt and refuses to pay.

What do you think a debt collection agency would do with an amount being deputed? I don't think they could do anything about it because they are not the judge. It might be very hard to find an agency that would accept the case, because it will be too hard for them to secure the money.


 

Eric Stone
Taiwan
Local time: 12:44
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Half Nov 16, 2016

Toon Theuwis wrote:

Zhiming Shi wrote:

Yes, that's from a source file of 42,000 words.


It might be dangerous to draw conclusions from the rate you worked for, but if you worked for $0,03/word ($1,250/42,000=$0.029), maybe the translation agency was dubious from the start. I'm not familiar with the average price for the language pair in this project, but $0,03 seems...

Best of luck.


I didn't explain - $1250 is for the remaining half owed on the project (the other half has already been paid). Thus, the actual rate was $0.06.

$0.03 would indeed be ridiculously low in the ZH-EN market.


 

Eric Stone
Taiwan
Local time: 12:44
Chinese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Nov 16, 2016

Thank you to everyone for the support and advice.

I'm happy to report that the issue has been solved.


....
Sorry for this big mistake.
I have checked all the QA reports and scores from my client. Yours is actually in high-quality. I will create the PO for your remaining payment later.
Sorry again. And hope we will have another corporation in the future.


I suppose the lesson is stand by your work and make sure you take every step necessary to clear up any mistakes and make sure you get paid for your work.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:44
German to English
I don't know if my point was correct ... Nov 16, 2016

... or not, but I was saying that the debt collectors do not need to judge. For example, an EU order for payment (as well as a German order for payment) does not require the person who is owed the money to prove anything. They just make the claim and if the recipient of the order of payment does not contest it, then the person owed the money receives a legal title that a debt collecting agency can use to secure the money. I've never gone through this process (I should have done it once, but didn't, and that is the only real crook I have dealt with in my career so far), so my understanding of it may not be particularly accurate.

I don't know how things work in other areas of the world or even domestically in other EU countries, but an order for payment suddenly puts a lot of pressure on the debtor to decide whether they are legitimately witholding payment or not and whether or not they want to go to court about it or propose a more reasonable compromise or simply accept the translator's version of the facts.

The other issue is whether the translator signed a contract that made some kind of dubious arrangements regarding quality issues and whether these clauses are deemed likely to hold up if it comes to a legal battle and how far the agency feels the translator is willing to go to get his money.


 
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Might be getting stiffed on $1250.00 project

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