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What can I do when my very good translation is ruined by the client?
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:24
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Jun 4, 2009

This seems to happen quite frequently.

I work day and night, thinking carefully, researching, polishing, printing out, rereading, modifying, improving a long and complex translation that uses a particular "official" language style that it is my job to capture in the translation.

Finally, feeling quite proud of my work, I send it off to the outsourcer, a very nice and professional person.

An hour later the end user sends it back to the outsourcer, who sends it back to me for my comments.

Horrified, I see that the end user has ruined my careful work. I don't understand why end users who don't understand the target language very well, may only have studied it at school, and certainly don't have a professional understanding of it, nevertheless allow themselves to make corrections to the very translations they commissioned because they were not capable of doing the translations themselves !

What's particularly galling is the fact that they have placed my kind outsourcer in an invidious position. The outsourcer now wants me to go over the whole thing again, rewriting thousands of words, for no extra payment, and making my translation worse, not better.

What should I do?


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:24
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Stand by your work Jun 5, 2009

Hi,

Definitely a tricky situation, this has happened to me twice before and both times were unplesant situations.

You have to stand by your work. You have to defend it and not budge or you are admitting you could have done a better job, which by the way you describe your work process seems to be far from the case.

I know this might sound strange, but you need to forget the end client and concentrate on the outsourcer, they need to be convinced you did a good job, because then they will be willing to stand up to the client and defend you, if they have doubts, they may well take the clients side.

Both times this happened to me I was lucky to have a good outsourcer who new my work and my standards. This is a huge help.

Both times what I did was take one or two pages (if they have completely redone the work and there are a lot of pages you cant go over every single page or you might spend days at it) of the document and discussed one by one the changes done and why my translation was at least just as good and 90% of the time far better than the changes proposed by the client.

This shows the outsourcer you are taking the matter seriously and that you did a good job from the beginning, your comments should be as detailed as possible and include examples (websites or copies of other documents) where the same language is used. Make it clear that you have done a professional job.

Should the outsourcer not consider this sufficient you probably have a problem, but if you did do a good job and they are a professional outfit you should not have any problems.

If they do not change their mind and insist on you repeating the job, then it all comes down to how importante this outsourcer is to you, can you afford to lose their custom or do you need to keep them?


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Ali Bayraktar  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2007)
English to Turkish
+ ...
The truth always wins Jun 5, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

This seems to happen quite frequently.

I work day and night, thinking carefully, researching, polishing, printing out, rereading, modifying, improving a long and complex translation that uses a particular "official" language style that it is my job to capture in the translation.

Finally, feeling quite proud of my work, I send it off to the outsourcer, a very nice and professional person.

An hour later the end user sends it back to the outsourcer, who sends it back to me for my comments.

Horrified, I see that the end user has ruined my careful work. I don't understand why end users who don't understand the target language very well, may only have studied it at school, and certainly don't have a professional understanding of it, nevertheless allow themselves to make corrections to the very translations they commissioned because they were not capable of doing the translations themselves !

What's particularly galling is the fact that they have placed my kind outsourcer in an invidious position. The outsourcer now wants me to go over the whole thing again, rewriting thousands of words, for no extra payment, and making my translation worse, not better.

What should I do?


If I believe that I did an excellent work, I won't allow anybody to say even a word on my work.

And there is an important fact here: Yu are not a just graduated or amateur transaltor (I mean the risk of making mistakes), you have high respective experience in translation.

So, if you see nothing to correct then why touching again it?

Yu did your work (if you absolutely sure of course) and that's all!

Now they should prove their arguments.
I suggest to reject touching it and ask the outsourcer to find another translator (with the same experience) for providing arbitrary opinions on your work. And if they are right then you may deduct the second translator's fee from your invoice, if you are right they will pay.

Those are my humble suggestions.

Best Regards,

M. Ali


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 05:24
English to Hungarian
+ ...
easy Jun 5, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

The outsourcer now wants me to go over the whole thing again, rewriting thousands of words, for no extra payment, and making my translation worse, not better.

What should I do?


Just take it up with the outsorcer. If it is a professional company - and you are right - then they will have a look and find out in ten minutes that you are right. Then they can go back to the end client and let them know there is no point in the corrections and/or they can only have them done for a fee.
It push comes to shove you can go over a page or two like Alex Lago suggested, just to prove your point.

[Edited at 2009-06-05 18:00 GMT]


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:24
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
The price of incompetence Jun 5, 2009

Tom in London wrote:
What should I do?


You're a creative guy; I'm sure you can see many options. And not all of them involve emulating Ted Kaczynski.

I had a similar situation a few months ago where a moron at a direct customer was looking to score points and ruined a 70 page translation of considerable marketing importance. Although I pointed out several times that the "correction" was dangerously incompetent, I was asked to "go over it" and "see what could be accepted". Politics, politics. I did leave out a word in one sentence. It wasn't critical, and they missed the "error", but I put it in for the sake of completeness. No other changes. I was asked again to "go over" the job. I gave it to my partner, who went nuclear over the whole thing, spent about 20 wasted hours writing an angry commentary and sent it off without showing it to me. I figured I had lost the customer at that point, but several months later we're still doing business, and the individuals involved are all collecting unemployment. I think they used the bozo's "corrections".

If I had it to do over again, I would have commented the first 10 items for free, then offered to do the rest at € 75 per hour for the "English lesson". I charge a bit less for editing work on those rare occasions that I agree to do it, but there's a certain piss-me-off-premium to be considered. Make that € 100 per hour. Blood pressure meds may be cheap here in Germany with semi-socialized medicine, but the time in the doc's office is time I can't bill. Well, not usually. I would make an exception in cases like this.

[Edited at 2009-06-05 20:14 GMT]


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:24
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Documented Editing Jun 6, 2009

I've been saying it for years: WE ARE THE ONLY MARKET IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM THAT ACCEPTS UNDOCUMENTED REVIEWS, WHICH ARE NOT EVEN ACCEPTED IN HIGH-SCHOOLS. Did you ever write an undocumented essay in highschool without getting an "F"?

When the agency DEMANDS documented editing (explanation and documentation of each change), then we notice that the "reviewer" doesn't make any changes at all.

Instead, the practice is as follows: "the reviewer made some undocumented changes and you have to guess why" (!!!!!!!!!!).
That is why I call this market a kindergarten. The real "checks and balances" standards are below zero. No explanation and no documentation. In a court of law, it would be 100% invalid.

It's like sending a message to Boeing "your airplanes are not good but I'm not telling you why, you go figure it out" (!!!).

If you keep ignoring the issue of undocumented reviews, you will have more and more instances of that nature, more editing cost without a reason, more waste of your time, and decreasing quality.

Note: have you noticed that these "incidents" are common among certain agencies only? In one case, I translated documents for a large company, split between two agencies. I used the same language and terminology. The first agency said the client was happy, the other agency said the client had made some changes. Identical subject (marketing). The first agency works smoothly, the second agency keeps coming back with changes.
Reason: It's not the client who asks for these changes. It's an intermediate team, hired by the second agency. They' re liars.

If the agencies want to make more money through efficiency and better quality control, they will demand that the reviewers actually perform the work for which they are paid: Document and explain the changes.

If the client files a lawsuit against the agency, then the agency has only one (1) document on which to rely: the documentation and explanation of the changes. Nothing else.



[Edited at 2009-06-06 18:10 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Stand by your work.... Jun 7, 2009

...document your decisions so that everybody knows that you were right... and have a nice beer/coffee/wine in good company. You delivered a perfect piece of work, so nothind should alter your peace of mind.

If they insist that you should edit thousands of words, ask them for an hourly compensation for it, as you can clearly document that your translation is correct.

[Edited at 2009-06-07 07:52 GMT]


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:24
French to German
+ ...
Is this perhaps what is called... Jun 7, 2009

educating the client? And showing them you were in line with their initial requirements on terminology and the like?

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

...document your decisions so that everybody knows that you were right... and have a nice beer/coffee/wine in good company. You delivered a perfect piece of work, so nothind should alter your peace of mind.


[Edited at 2009-06-07 09:33 GMT]


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 12:24
Japanese to English
Stand by your work ... and be prepared to lose the client Jun 7, 2009

I had one client like that, and after I refused the second round of changes on the grounds that the changes were a) only synonyms, or b) inappropriate, the clients stopped sending me work. Ho hum. The worst part of it was, the end client was a government department, wasting my taxes to fool about with words instead of doing valuable work.

Other clients like that I have fired.

Either way, they're bad news.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 05:24
French to German
+ ...
Shoppers! Jun 7, 2009

Rod Walters wrote:

I had one client like that, and after I refused the second round of changes on the grounds that the changes were a) only synonyms, or b) inappropriate, the clients stopped sending me work.


Bad news, indeed, but such clients are usually shoppers in addition of being nitpickers. They will usually try out every-single-agency-they-can and still be unsatisfied, no matter how "good" or "bad" the agencies and their subcontractors are.

That kind of game is an endless and sickening merry-go-round.

Laurent K.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 05:24
English to Croatian
+ ...
Perhaps we should implement a new type of charge/rate Jun 7, 2009

... titled " hourly rate for tutoring the client". It's like giving them lessons in the target language structure, project management, translation procedures etc... A lot of things to do.

Tom, I really don't know what to advise you, but it looks you are in trouble your target language being English and it is a fact of life that everyone in the world firmly believes they can speak English ( even when they clearly can't).

Perhaps just use argumentative thesis/ analysis to prove your points, and charge them for that additional work ( per hour).


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Lauren Butler
Local time: 04:24
Russian to English
+ ...
being your own advocate Jun 7, 2009

Lingua 5B wrote:
it is a fact of life that everyone in the world firmly believes they can speak English ( even when they clearly can't).


YES.

I'm sorry about your frustration, but I admit I'm a bit relieved to find that this happens to others as well. I don't mind someone asking me about word choice or a particular technical phrase, but I'm not going to stand for someone "correcting" my English.

I suspect these "editors" need to show that they're contributing something to the project; they want to put their stamp on it.

This has happened to me in interpreting as well: someone who knows a little of the target language trying to jump in when they recognize a phrase, or "correct" me if they believe I should have used a different phrasing. This was much more common when I was younger. A quick, "Let me interpret here," is usually sufficient to nip this in the bud.

I think it's a function of being a freelancer; no one really has your back, so you have to be your own best advocate and put your foot down when people try to discredit/devalue your work.


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:24
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Two options to be a winner Jun 8, 2009

In my experience and opinion, you got two options:

a) Demand documented editing. When the "client's reviewer" is forced to provide explanation for the changes (a.k.a. "Professional Editing"), then they hardly make any changes... usually none.

b) Ask for a purchase order with your minimum charge and a minimum per hour charge for such work (work description: "reviewing of editor's opinions").

Don't put any emotions to it. No frustration needed. It's an opportunity for more paid work. In the case (b) you will just generate more business for yourself. In the case (a) you will have justification of your work. In either case you win. Agencies will force their reviewers to provide documented reviews to avoid extra charges (if we all start charging in such cases). This will eventually benefit both the agencies and the professionals. Let's not forget that in our industry, unpaid and indocumented work leads to very low quality.



[Edited at 2009-06-08 20:01 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:24
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Best suggestion of all Jun 8, 2009

Eleftherios Kritikakis wrote:

In my experience and opinion, you got two options:

a) Demand documented editing. When the "client's reviewer" is forced to provide explanation for the changes (a.k.a. "Professional Editing"), then they hardly make any changes... usually none.

b) Ask for a purchase order with your minimum charge and a minimum per hour charge for such work (work description: "reviewing of editor's opinions").

Don't put any emotions to it. No frustration needed. It's an opportunity for more paid work. In the case (b) you will just generate more business for yourself. In the case (a) you will have justification of your work. In either case you win. Agencies will force their reviewers to provide documented reviews to avoid extra charges (if we all start charging in such cases). This will eventually benefit both the agencies and the professionals. Let's not forget that in our industry, unpaid and indocumented work leads to very low quality.





All the answers were interesting and helpful but this one is the best so far. Thanks, Eleftherios - I think I can make that work for me !

And I hope everyone will take note. If we *all* start taking this approach, we'll establish it as a standard practice.

[Edited at 2009-06-08 20:06 GMT]


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Eleftherios Kritikakis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:24
Member (2003)
Greek to English
+ ...
Standards Jun 9, 2009

Translators educate the clients, that's for sure.

- A large agency is paying 50% more for "weekend work". Did you know that? They got used to that practice from the "good old days" when translators were asking for it. They still do it.

- Other agencies always send the "reviewed" document back to the translator to "accept or reject" the changes. They also pay the translator for the extra time (reasonable compensation).

Overall, these have proven to be good practices; the end client respects the agency ("they are confident about their work") and the translators respect the agency ("they are good to me, they treat me like a real professional and they respect my time").

That's why I say Tom, each and every one of us should:

a) establish the average work standards for himsef/herself.
b) establish also the minimum standards and never never never go below those minimum acceptable standards. If minimum standards are not met, then it's not worth the trouble, find another job.
c) Try to educate clients on the value of documented editing (even for legal purposes - if the client sues the agency, the only proof the agency has is the documentation and explanation of the changes made during editing).

===================================================

NEVER forget: This job doesn't have insurance, doesn't create valuable (REAL) work history for the corporate world, doesn't provide specialized training other than translating, doesn't create valuable social-professional contacts (real personal contacts, not just emails), and its future is highly uncertain, especially for translators in smaller markets (such as my "Greek" market - where the most popular way to generate new business is to trash the good work of others).

As a person who spent lots of my time recruiting in the corporate world (for my own financial services team, for a computer company, and for my own small factory once upon a time), I can say that all translators' resumes that I've seen are good only for translations, nothing more. If I were to hire them in any position, I would have to even make sure they have not forgotten their basic social skills to live in a "team corporate" environment, since they spend so much time working by themselves...

The only thing that remains for this job, is the value of every week's work.




[Edited at 2009-06-09 00:59 GMT]


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