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Translator outsourced job to a colleague; what to do?
Thread poster: Rifraf
Rifraf
Local time: 20:54
Sep 8, 2010

Dear All,

As an agency owner I'm faced with the following dilemma/problem:
We had to call one of our translators to tell her to temporarily postpone a job she's working on, because the client will send a revised version of the document soon. She answered that she would tell the translator currently working on the project.

I was dumbfounded. We gave her the job, assuming she would make the translation, not some colleague of hers. She said, that when she's too busy, she works with him; but she never told us this. FYI: We've been working with her for a couple of years now.

My problem:
She translates into an Eastern European language, which we can't "really" assess in-house. We pay her a very good price - for all I know she has outsourced the job for a couple of cents and now earns her money the easy way, cause all she has to do is read through the translation of her colleague.
If we receive a mediocre translation, there's almost no way for us to tell. But I do know that we never had complaints about "her translations".
I told her that she will be ultimately responsible for the translation, but I know that we as an agency are, so that doesn't help to get rid off the nasty feeling I'm left with.

Does anyone have advice on how to go about this?


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:54
English to Croatian
+ ...
Awful. Sep 8, 2010

That's just very unprofessional and disrespectful toward you and your agency.

The fact that you didn't receive any complaints about her outsourced translations as of yet may just mean you were being lucky. I wouldn't bet that a person working for a few cents is going to provide a translation that complies with professional standards.

If she did that to me, I couldn't continue working with her, because she did a very serious breach of trust. Not sure what you should do about it now. Do not pay her for this last project, I wouldn't.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:54
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Rude, but not necessarily awful. Sep 8, 2010

I sometimes share work with a colleague, but only with the consent of the client or agency. I don't make any profit from it. I check the other translator's work and am responsible for it. I share the payment in proportion to the amount of work we each did.
This may be what she is doing, but without paying you the courtesy of asking your permission first. However, how do you know? maybe she is making a profit in the way you suggest.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 20:54
German to English
+ ...
i wouldn't assume Sep 8, 2010

she's paying her colleague "a couple of cents". My guess is that he's a pretty good translator (you've had no complaints) and gets paid accordingly - and/or she spends enough time checking it.
I would suggest asking your translator to put you in touch with him directly so that you can outsource directly to him when she is busy.
I also believe this is something a lot of us do when we're under pressure and while slightly unethical is not sometghing to get too worked up about unless the quality is poor. You could also get one of these translations checked by anotehr translator to make sure.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:54
English to Croatian
+ ...
Which is why it's awful Sep 8, 2010

Jack Doughty wrote:

I sometimes share work with a colleague, but only with the consent of the client or agency.


Her client wasn't aware what she was doing and was giving her all the credit for translation. It's called misleading, if you think "awful" is a harsh word

She even didn't hesitate of informing them that " she should inform another translator working on the translation" lol.. What was she thinking?!

@ David: your ideas are nice in theory, but that doesn't make sense, because then she would have connected Rifraf and that other translator right from the beginning. That's what she would do if she just wanted to pass on the work to a trusted colleague ( without making any profit from it).

[Edited at 2010-09-08 09:47 GMT]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:54
French to English
+ ...
Define the *actual* problems and discuss with the translator... Sep 8, 2010

Rifraf wrote:
My problem:
She translates into an Eastern European language, which we can't "really" assess in-house. We pay her a very good price - for all I know she has outsourced the job for a couple of cents and now earns her money the easy way, cause all she has to do is read through the translation of her colleague.


I must admit it sounds a bit unusual for a translator to outsource work they're doing for an agency. I don't see anything wrong with the arrangement per se, other than the fact that from a confidentiality point of view, they should have informed you.

My personal opinion is you need to firstly define more closely what you think the potential problems actually are, and then discuss them with the translator. If at the end of the day the person is, by whatever means, consistently supplying you with high quality translations which you can sell on to the end client at a decent profit, what are the reasons for caring whether the thing you're paying the "translator" for is their translation skills, their recruitment skills or their proofreading skills?

Incidentally, I think there could be reasons for caring-- from a confidentiality point of view, it's introducing a chain of trust that you have less control over-- but I think you do need to separate actual business issues from just being "generally irrritated" that they're maybe making an easy profit (which as I say-- if you're also making a profit, do you really mind *that* much?-- if they're helping you to make a profit, then maybe helping them to stay in business isn't such a bad thing).

Then, you should get some clarity from the translator over the details of this process. What is their relationship to the person they're outsourcing to, in terms of their translation ability and level of trust? Is the first translator actually thoroughly checking the second translator's work?

It's worth bearing in mind that having two *good* translators on a job can bring you a better quality translation. I actually work in this way myself sometimes (but for direct clients who are always informed of the arrangement!) and I think getting "two heads on the job" can give excellent results. But it does asssume that both people are skilled translators in the first place, and that the translator that you're contracting actually is going through the work. If they're just passing it on to the local orphanage for $0.01/word and then not checking it, that's a different matter...


[Edited at 2010-09-08 09:28 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Universal truths Sep 8, 2010

Rifraf wrote:
She answered that she would tell the translator currently working on the project. ... I was dumbfounded. We gave her the job, assuming she would make the translation, not some colleague of hers. She said, that when she's too busy, she works with him; but she never told us this.


There is assumed to be some universal truths in the translation world, such as the fact that you don't outsource without the client's permission. But how universal are these truths really? I have met several colleagues who think nothing of outsourcing to fellow-translators, and think that there is nothing wrong with it.

Now that I think about it... I myself would outsource in some cases (though mostly private, non-agency clients), without telling the client, if I believe the client would only become confused with the logistics of what goes on behind the scenes. It is easy to believe that some clients only want a translation, without having to deal with the details of what the translator has to go through.

Some translators outsource the proofreading, without telling the client. To put it differently, they ask a colleague to proofread their work, without adding the proofreading as a line item on the invoice to the client. It amounts to the same thing, if you think about it.

Can you do anything about it? No, I dont think so, unless you explain to each new translator that he is not allowed to outsource the work. Even if you write it in the contract, don't expect translators to know it because many translators sign NDAs and similar contracts without even reading it, because they assume that those contracts are standard contracts, and what is a standard contract other than simply a codification of common sense?


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:54
English to German
+ ...
Let other business owners manage their businesses. Sep 8, 2010

Outsourcing doesn't necessarily mean that a business owner makes profit from cheap labor and delivers shoddy work. The business owner will still take the full responsibility for the delivered work. You can not buy or rent a person and business owner for a couple of cents per word, no matter how great the pay may be. You can not order any service from any company and request that the work is done by the boss himself.

You are a business partner and a buyer, but you are not their boss.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:54
English to Croatian
+ ...
Confidentiality Sep 8, 2010

When I worked in-house, I saw people literally flying out of the workplace the same second if the supervisors learned they had shared content and materials with anyone from the outside world, in any way.

That's why I'm very surprised with some comments here " some translators outsource proofreading" , " some translators outsource translation" etc.


[Edited at 2010-09-08 09:50 GMT]


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Rifraf
Local time: 20:54
TOPIC STARTER
easy money Sep 8, 2010

Neil Coffey wrote:
Incidentally, I think there could be reasons for caring-- from a confidentiality point of view, it's introducing a chain of trust that you have less control over-- but I think you do need to separate actual business issues from just being "generally irrritated" that they're maybe making an easy profit (which as I say-- if you're also making a profit, do you really mind *that* much?-- if they're helping you to make a profit, then maybe helping them to stay in business isn't such a bad thing).


Of course the translator should make a profit and there's nothing wrong with it as we of course also make a profit.
However, there are translators in this language pair who work for let's say EUR 0.05 and our translator is being paid around EUR 0.14.

We pay such a good price, because our working relationship is good and we never had complaints about her work (assuming she DID make all the previous translations herself).
I can't help but feeling that maybe she did go for the easy profit here, by not making the translation herself (for which she had 3 weeks to deliver 8000 words)!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:54
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Then... Sep 8, 2010

Samuel Murray wrote:
Rifraf wrote:
She answered that she would tell the translator currently working on the project. ... I was dumbfounded. We gave her the job, assuming she would make the translation, not some colleague of hers. She said, that when she's too busy, she works with him; but she never told us this.

There is assumed to be some universal truths in the translation world, such as the fact that you don't outsource without the client's permission. But how universal are these truths really? I have met several colleagues who think nothing of outsourcing to fellow-translators, and think that there is nothing wrong with it.

Then I am sorry but they are cheating the customer and they should not be in business. When an agency choose a translator, it is with the goal of working with that translator and no third people. It is against any wording of professional rules to say yes to a job you are not going to do personally.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 20:54
German to English
+ ...
If you are a freelancer Sep 8, 2010

under Austrian social security law at least you must be allowed to outsource yourself. They are fairly pernickety here about people being in sham self-employment and one of the criteria for generuine self-employment is the ability pass on work to others. Otherwise you are in an employed situation, which is a very different kettle of fish.

I must add though that in the (few) contracts I have actually concluded with agencies, there is always a clause that defines what I can and cannot do here. If there is no contract, I can't see what you can do.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:54
English to Croatian
+ ...
Exactely. Sep 8, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

It is against any wording of professional rules to say yes to a job you are not going to do personally.


Unless you are registered and introduced to a client as a business/ or a team manager and the client is fully aware you are not going to do it personally. It is acceptably only under these terms.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:54
English to German
+ ...
Who is the employee of whom Sep 8, 2010

Lingua 5B wrote:


When I worked in-house, I saw people literally flying out of the workplace the same second if the supervisors learned they had shared content and materials with anyone from the outside world, in any way.

That's why I'm very surprised with some comments here " many translators outsource proofreading" , " many translators outsource translation" etc



Good point - however, if you share work with any translator who is under your contract, the result is the same as if the two of you would work under one roof. Your contracts will always require the timely delivery of flawless work, period. That's what your clients rely upon to meet their own deadlines and fulfill their own contracts. I recall outsourcing jobs paying up to three times the rate out of pocket to the colleague because I was coming down with a cold and couldn't work properly, just to keep the client happy. Everyone happy, except me, who paid for it. But at least I did not breach any contract in terms of non-delivery.


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Rifraf
Local time: 20:54
TOPIC STARTER
But I do have a right to know with whom I'm doing business Sep 8, 2010

Nicole Schnell wrote:

Outsourcing doesn't necessarily mean that a business owner makes profit from cheap labor and delivers shoddy work. The business owner will still take the full responsibility for the delivered work. You can not buy or rent a person and business owner for a couple of cents per word, no matter how great the pay may be. You can not order any service from any company and request that the work is done by the boss himself.

You are a business partner and a buyer, but you are not their boss.


But I do have a right to know with whom I'm doing business!

I know the translator, we have credentials on her, I have her CV, I know how long she's been translating etc.... But I don't know anything about the person who's now making the translation on her behalf.

If I would have paid our translator EUR 0.09 there would hardly be any room for her to outsource the translation, don't you agree?


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