translators who are out of their depth
Thread poster: David Hollywood

David Hollywood  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:29
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 31, 2011

this one is directed at people who would like to respond to the question about how to react to translators who have bitten off more than they can chew ... we have probably all been in the situation in which you get something that is beyond your scope so, being honest, how do you react?

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Signe Golly  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:29
Danish to English
+ ...
politely decline Jan 31, 2011

I simply let them know that, unfortunately, the project in question falls outside/beyond my areas of expertise and so, keeping both of our best interests at heart, I respectfully decline to take on the task. I wish them the best of luck in finding someone more suited for the project and say that I hope we can work together on another project soon.

Of course I'm running the risk that they end up liking this other translator better for one reason or another but I hope that they can appreciate the fact that I don't want to deliver an incomplete product filled with errors and thus take that as an indication of my level of commitment and quality of the projects that I do accept.

But perhaps there's a better way to go about it?


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María Eugenia Wachtendorff  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 01:29
English to Spanish
+ ...
My own policy exactly! Jan 31, 2011

Sgolly wrote:

I simply let them know that, unfortunately, the project in question falls outside/beyond my areas of expertise and so, keeping both of our best interests at heart, I respectfully decline to take on the task. I wish them the best of luck in finding someone more suited for the project and say that I hope we can work together on another project soon.

Of course I'm running the risk that they end up liking this other translator better for one reason or another but I hope that they can appreciate the fact that I don't want to deliver an incomplete product filled with errors and thus take that as an indication of my level of commitment and quality of the projects that I do accept.

But perhaps there's a better way to go about it?


No, there is no better way. I have done this several times during my freelance career, in most cases with executives from old, faithful direct corporate clients who were looking to have video games and scientific literature translated into Spanish for their children. In all cases, I introduced them to specialized colleagues.

People understand and appreciate professionalism


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:29
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Honest Jan 31, 2011

Sgolly wrote:
I simply let them know that, unfortunately, the project in question falls outside/beyond my areas of expertise and so, keeping both of our best interests at heart, I respectfully decline to take on the task. I wish them the best of luck in finding someone more suited for the project and say that I hope we can work together on another project soon.

Completely agree.

One thing to remember for the future is that you should ALWAYS get a reasonable sample of the job, or ideally the whole of the file, before you decide about doing the job. If you are not 100% sure about the contents of the file, ask for it and see for yourself. You can then decide and politely decline to do the job.

If what you mean is that you have already started working on the job, the best you can do is to be honest to the customer. Any other approach puts yourself and the customer of ending up with an awful translation that will help nobody.


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
Member (2005)
English to Japanese
+ ...
No harm to both parties Jan 31, 2011

María Eugenia Wachtendorff wrote:

Sgolly wrote:

I simply let them know that, unfortunately, the project in question falls outside/beyond my areas of expertise and so, keeping both of our best interests at heart, I respectfully decline to take on the task. I wish them the best of luck in finding someone more suited for the project and say that I hope we can work together on another project soon.

Of course I'm running the risk that they end up liking this other translator better for one reason or another but I hope that they can appreciate the fact that I don't want to deliver an incomplete product filled with errors and thus take that as an indication of my level of commitment and quality of the projects that I do accept.

But perhaps there's a better way to go about it?


No, there is no better way. I have done this several times during my freelance career, in most cases with executives from old, faithful direct corporate clients who were looking to have video games and scientific literature translated into Spanish for their children. In all cases, I introduced them to specialized colleagues.

People understand and appreciate professionalism


I fully agree with Sgolly and Maria. I've declined many jobs in the past which were out of my scope (of course, this doesn't include jobs like 3000 words in the next 6 hours or something like that), and I honestly tell my client(s) that this kind of material is not my cup of tea. Their response? They are very satisified with my candidness and honesty.


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:29
French to English
+ ...
Honesty is the best policy Jan 31, 2011

I find this is the best way of dealing with this situation - especially to one longstanding agency client who just will not take no for an answer unless I say the job isn't in my specialist areas - then she backs off quickly. I'm sure clients respect your honesty and I've certainly found people do come back again.

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Nikita Kobrin  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 07:29
Member (2010)
English to Russian
+ ...
* Jan 31, 2011

Sgolly wrote:

I simply let them know that, unfortunately, the project in question falls outside/beyond my areas of expertise


I do the same.

Nikita Kobrin


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Kelly Gill
Italy
Local time: 06:29
Italian to English
agency got angry at me for saying no! Feb 1, 2011

Yesterday an agency (I've never worked with them before) called me for a 150 page "not too technical" project "to look over and just make everything flows in English"
a project that "is very easy since it's already been revised 3 times"

Say what - 3 times? (yes translated once - revised 3 times and the customer is still not happy with the translation)

Ok - so I told them to send it on over and I would have a look it and get back to them asap with an answer.

I look at the project for a nanosecond and immediately thought to myself "whoooaaa, no way - this is way out of my league"

Wrote back to the agency and basically said sorry, can't do it - I have no experience on the subject or anything remotely related to the subject.

Reply from agency was basically "we understand that you don't have any experience with the subject but you only have to read and revise/proofread a text in your mother tongue ---
and then some nonsense about how they were adding me to their list of "unwilling" translators.

Geez!
As if the threat of being put in their black list would make me say "oh no -- please don't . Ok - I will do the job for you. And then, when the work I do sucks, you can complain, not pay me, and get it revised/proofread for the 5th time!"


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Referrals - networking Feb 1, 2011

María Eugenia Wachtendorff wrote:
In all cases, I introduced them to specialized colleagues.
People understand and appreciate professionalism


Socrates said that we don't know what we don't know. So it's justifiable that it may take a while for us to learn what we don't know. Now I don't mean to learn the subject itself, but to learn that we don't know squat about it.

It took me the first 35 years of my translating career to learn positively that I don't know enough about medicine, biology, finance, and accounting to translate anything intended for practitioners in these areas. Of course I can translate anything on these matters for the general public that includes me.

I was lucky enough to find truly specialized translators - all of which I know personally - in these areas.

For medicine (and possibly biology - hasn't come up yet), I refer to two women, medical translation specilists who often work together, and who charge exactly my rates. So, for the client it's about the same, just a matter of settling on their preferred payment method. I have a backup guy, who happens to be a MD, however his translation rates are sky high.

For finance/accounting, I happen to be friendly with the two men considered to be the best in this specialty, in my language pair. Their rates are about 25-30% higher than mine, however it takes money to deal with money.

On any query, I'll immediately provide the prospect with the corresponding e-mail addresses, and let them all be happy.

In return, I know a highly competent legal translator who told me she memorized my phone number. If any client ever mentions "video", "dubbing", or "subtitling", she'll immediately recite my name and phone. She told me that whenever she wants to watch a DVD at home, she'll call her husband to insert the disk in the player and get it running.

This is how networking works.


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Signe Golly  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 06:29
Danish to English
+ ...
very nice Feb 1, 2011

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:

María Eugenia Wachtendorff wrote:
In all cases, I introduced them to specialized colleagues.
People understand and appreciate professionalism


Socrates said that we don't know what we don't know. So it's justifiable that it may take a while for us to learn what we don't know. Now I don't mean to learn the subject itself, but to learn that we don't know squat about it.

It took me the first 35 years of my translating career to learn positively that I don't know enough about medicine, biology, finance, and accounting to translate anything intended for practitioners in these areas. Of course I can translate anything on these matters for the general public that includes me.

I was lucky enough to find truly specialized translators - all of which I know personally - in these areas.

For medicine (and possibly biology - hasn't come up yet), I refer to two women, medical translation specilists who often work together, and who charge exactly my rates. So, for the client it's about the same, just a matter of settling on their preferred payment method. I have a backup guy, who happens to be a MD, however his translation rates are sky high.

For finance/accounting, I happen to be friendly with the two men considered to be the best in this specialty, in my language pair. Their rates are about 25-30% higher than mine, however it takes money to deal with money.

On any query, I'll immediately provide the prospect with the corresponding e-mail addresses, and let them all be happy.

In return, I know a highly competent legal translator who told me she memorized my phone number. If any client ever mentions "video", "dubbing", or "subtitling", she'll immediately recite my name and phone. She told me that whenever she wants to watch a DVD at home, she'll call her husband to insert the disk in the player and get it running.

This is how networking works.


Sounds like a very nice system to keep everyone happy and working. I have had a few clients ask me for referrals upon turning down a project. However, I have yet to build up a network like yours. Hopefully in time, I will!

@Kelly: I think "good riddance" would be the appropriate response!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:29
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No reciprocity implied Feb 1, 2011

Sgolly wrote:
Sounds like a very nice system to keep everyone happy and working. I have had a few clients ask me for referrals upon turning down a project. However, I have yet to build up a network like yours. Hopefully in time, I will!


One point in networking is that there is no implied reciprocity.

In other words, the fact that I refer all medical/financial jobs that hit me to these four individuals doesn't mean that they'll refer all HR T&D jobs (my specialty) to me. The two med-gals quite often take these, and I'm ready to help them over Skype if they have trouble. One of them helped me today with a term in sewing (an instruction DVD for such a machine). Other translators refer HR T&D and video jobs to me, in spite of me not referring any jobs to them. Sometimes the mismatch is the language pair, however it works the same.

One good way for a networked translator to have first-choice on many jobs is to become known as "s/he does a great job in his/her speciaty and language pair(s); nevertheless whenever s/he can't take a job, be it for languages involved, specialization requirements, or even availaility, s/he always refers me to someone just as reliable to do it".

It's just a matter of each one bouncing the jobs they're unfit for to anyone in the network who is adequately skilled to do it. Networking is not so much of a win-win game, but an everybody wins setting, which includes the client.


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