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Translators' collaboration and quality issues
Thread poster: Arina Evtikhova

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
English to Russian
+ ...
Mar 6, 2011

Translators' collaboration and quality: shall we provide a 100% quality translation to a colleague who outsources a job to us or shall we consider such colleague a "project manager" who will take care of proofing and putting your 'raw translation' in order and hence not bother about quality too much? Opinions needed following a real case:

Preamble: my old loyal client asks me to make a translation in the language pair with which I don't usually work in writing (EN > FR). So, I transfer the inquiry to a colleague who works with this language pair, we agree on the rate and deadline, I receive the translation in due time and passe it on to the client. The client (direct) returns to me immediately, saying the translation is very bad and unacceptable (my knowledge of the target language not allowing a full quality assessment, I trustfully assumed my colleague had done a good job) and requests it to be proofed by a native French speaker (the colleague in question being a native French speaker). I ask another colleague, also a native French speaker, to proofread the translation, and she returns it to me saying "This translation is a piece of sh..., and I doubt it was even done by a native speaker."

Now, as the rate had been agreed on and I did not include any margin or extras into it, I ask the translator to modify her invoice due to the very bad quality of her work, otherwise I will have to pay the proofreader out of my pocket. In response to which, I get a very interesting statement: "You are a project manager in this case, so it was up to you to provide for quality control and assure your client gets a 100% quality product." In other words, the young lady didn't even bother to have warned me that her job would request proofing as I am not an end-user of her translation (otherwise, she states, she would definitely assure impeccable quality).

The question is: is that a normal trend? Am I lagging behind some new standards? From all my collaboration experience so far (and I've been in industry for about 13 years now), it's always been a matter of honor to provide the best possible quality, not to let a peer down, to discuss any difficulties together... I'm somewhat dumbfounded, I shall admit - so, opinions needed: what do you think about such situation?

PS: Oh, btw, and now the young lady threatens to put me on the Payment Practices blacklist if I don't pay her the full price as agreedicon_smile.gif


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:51
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agreement Mar 6, 2011

It is always most prudent to have a formal agreement up front on all such matters. Once the problem arises and there is nothing in writing on it, you have problems of this kind. It has nothing whatsover to do with any trends; it has everthing to do with your agreement, for you must remember, not everyone is honorable. Of course it is best by far to avoid those who are not honorable in the first place if you possibly can, because even a good agreement will not always save you.

 

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The opposition is still bizarre Mar 6, 2011

Thank you for your reply - an agreement is vital, and we did have a quotation signed.
I was simply very genuinely surprised with such a strange (to me) division between a direct client - for whom she'd make an impeccable translation - vs a peer who outsourced a job - for whom a crappy translation can be made since they are a 'project manager' and hence shall obligatorily hire a proofreader to check her job. I am somewhat missing the 'fine line' here.
It might have something to do with the 2-year experience of the person in question as a project manager in a translation agency. She seems to have simply transposed the agency rules into her freelance activity. And still, even understanding of the sources does not diminish the absurdity of this opposition (in my eyes)


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:51
English to German
+ ...
A question Mar 6, 2011

Did the rate that you paid to your translator include a margin for proofreading by a third party? If the agreed rate was set for translation only, then unfortunately you can not expect the translator to pay a third party out of his/her pocket.

 

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's not a question of rate Mar 6, 2011

No proofreading by a third party was requested initially, the translation was into the translator's native language, the topic was nothing too specific or technical. Hence, nobody expected the translator to pay a proofreader unless she'd find it necessary herself - all that was expected and requested was a good quality translation.

However, the latter had many issues from poor syntax and non-existent punctuation to, as it turned out, even some minor grammar mistakes. So, having assumed that a person who states on her website that "XXX is your guarantee of 100% quality, 100% professional service." will provide simply a good translation I simply trapped myself. It's not a big amount to pay, it's just the strange opposition in this person's mind between the 'different kinds of clients' (direct client vs intermediary peer translator).

It somehow didn't even occur to me to discuss the issue of quality as I take for granted that translators provide good work, subject to further proofing or not - don't you?


 

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:51
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Taking quality for granted Mar 6, 2011

If you act as an intermediary then I feel you are largely responsible for the translation that you deliver to the client. So I wonder why you were willing to take this risk if a) you weren't making any money on this and b) you didn't know the translator in question?

I certainly wouldn't take a translator's quality for granted. I have proofread a lot of native speakers' translations and I can assure you that it's a big world out there, full of people who make careless mistakes/ cannot write decently/ do not have a good grasp of the source language/ do not understand the subject matter. Luckily there are a lot of highly competent translators too, but unfortunately it seems that your translator was not in this category.


 

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Dear Emma Mar 6, 2011

Answering your questions:

why you were willing to take this risk if a) you weren't making any money on this
- it's my old and very loyal client who sends a lot of work in my language pairs my way, and this translation was nothing big (2 pages) on which I would earn a lot. So, as a courtesy to the client and not to turn him down, I decided to take it up and pass it to a translator who works with the requested languages.

b) you didn't know the translator in question?
- this is not quite accurate: I met this translator at a translation conference, and we had tried to exchange a few projects before which never worked out for different reasons (rates, deadline, etc). The person has a professional website which among other things states "Every project we handle goes through a rigorous quality assurance process conducted by our talented native translators who worked on a variety of projects pertaining to business/marketing, finance, technical, real estate, tourism, hospitality, websites, telecommunications, fashion, press, art area, etc." I mean, it's not someone off the street, they look, act, and present themselves professionally enough.

What bothers me in the whole situation, as I said before, is the strange opposition "peer vs direct client." I was just wondering if it's perhaps something widely-accepted that I missed out there.

And, oh yes, as a Russian living abroad, I am very well aware of 'native speakers' incapable of making up two coherent sentences in their own language or conjugate correctly, but having been born in the USSR, proclaiming themselves translators and interpreters. That's not the case though.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:51
Chinese to English
Bad quality is bad quality Mar 6, 2011

I agree that you are responsible to the client, but that translator is responsible to you. I would always be willing to revisit a translation if I messed it up, and to accept reduced/no payment if I couldn't provide a good finished product.
You should stop worrying about what your role is or is not, and just tell the translator: you were responsible for giving me a good French translation. You haven't done that yet; how shall we solve this problem?


 

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Phil Mar 6, 2011

My position is the same as yours.

The quality issue is resolved, my loss will not be too significant, still around 40 euro - not too bad a price for learning a lessonicon_smile.gif

It is good to know that good old school still exists and there are other translators who believe their work has to be done well no matter if it goes to an outsourcer or to a direct client/ end-user.


 

B D Finch  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
What is a "raw" translation? Mar 6, 2011

There is no way that proof-reading by a colleague is meant to substitute for a proper job by the translator. If the translation was really as bad as you say, then the person concerned should not be working as a translator (or at least not in that language pair). Proof-reading is an extra pair of eyes, not a substitute for translating properly and proof-reading one's own work before sending it to the proof-reader or client. Agencies refuse or reduce payment for sub-standard work. You contracted to pay a price, but then she contracted to provide a translation.

However, I am not altogether happy with the practice of outsourcing work in other language pairs rather than either recommending to the client one or more translators in the language pair required, or pointing them in the direction of a website where they might find a translator. Why take the responsibility (and commission?) as though you are an agency, when you are not. If you are outsourcing work in your own language pairs, that is another matter, as you would not want to introduce direct competitors to your client.

Barbara


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:51
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Impressed Mar 6, 2011

Arina Evtikhova wrote:
"You are a project manager in this case, so it was up to you to provide for quality control and assure your client gets a 100% quality product."

How cheeky can people get?

This person should have sent you a translation in a professional quality. Clearly you should pay this person the amount agreed minus the proofreader's charges minus the time spent by you dealing with the corrections. And this person should be thankful that you don't sue her for putting your prestige at risk.

Furthermore, I entirely agree with Henry. You skated on very thin ice by hiring someone without having tested the person before and without an agreement. And the ice broke under your feet.

As a general advice, maybe you should refrain from hiring other people in languages you don't speak? I decided to do that long ago, and I am so happy I did!


 

Arina Evtikhova  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Indeed, Mar 6, 2011

"the road to hell is paved with good intentions"icon_smile.gif The translation was very urgent, so to save some time for my precious client I decided to deal with the subcontracting myself.

And I certainly will refrain from such practice in the future - lesson learned. As for the agreement, as I said, a quotation was accepted in writing; in France any written word has legal force by default, so I cannot say there was no 'agreement' at all. My only fault was that I didn't expect the translator to have such elaborate quality system for various types of clients.

But I was shocked that two native French speakers independently assessed so poorly the quality of work of a person who positions herself as a professional translator - the client assessed the translation at 4.5 at the scale of 10. I'd need to make a serious effort to screw a translation that badly in my native language.


 

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:51
French to German
+ ...
Now, Arina! Mar 6, 2011

Arina Evtikhova wrote:

Now, as the rate had been agreed on and I did not include any margin or extras into it, I ask the translator to modify her invoice due to the very bad quality of her work, otherwise I will have to pay the proofreader out of my pocket. In response to which, I get a very interesting statement: "You are a project manager in this case, so it was up to you to provide for quality control and assure your client gets a 100% quality product." In other words, the young lady didn't even bother to have warned me that her job would request proofing as I am not an end-user of her translation (otherwise, she states, she would definitely assure impeccable quality).



This reply of your (our?) colleague is what I call pure [CENSORED, but you get the idea]...

As every aspiring translator should know (and this applies to the $ 0.01 per word jobs posted here and there in the same way), the least we can accept from a professional translator is that the translation makes some sense in the target language, with or without proofreading.

Proofreading is only the final step in the quality process, ironing possible wrinkles out - it does not mean "redoing the job from scratch".

It infuriates me that people will use the most preposterous arguments to keep their head out of the water, even when they know they produced below-MT job.

I am also quite certain that I know this person by name - too much similar cases and quite the same behaviour as one of my personal black sheep.

Let her take you to court - she cannot win. She may argue that she had only an obligation of means (obligation de moyens as stated for example in the GT&C of the SFT), but then again the fulfillment of this obligation is not something vague like in "Anything will cut hot butter quite easily".

[Edited at 2011-03-06 21:28 GMT]


 

Daria Bontch-Osmolovskaia
Australia
Local time: 06:51
English
+ ...
proofreading Mar 6, 2011

I never outsource jobs that I cannot proofread myself, because I don't want to be responsible for someone else's work (or screw ups). In a situation like yours, I probably would have suggested a couple of colleagues who can do the translation in that language direction and washed my hands off it. That "young lady's" behaviour is shocking, I would have blasted her out of the water and paid her the absolute minimum I had to, IF I had to - her cavalier attitude could cost you your relationship with this client, and it's damaging your reputation and business.

Personally, if a colleague outsources their work to me, I proofread my translations at least twice before delivery, and I am very, very careful to deliver the best I can. It's not just my reputation that's on the line but my friendship with that colleague, and of course their reputation.

That said, I do a lot of proofreading/editing, and there are some appalling translators out there, who take on jobs way outside of their competency comfort zone, just for a quick buck.icon_frown.gif


[Edited at 2011-03-06 23:39 GMT]


 

Simone Linke  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:51
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
With Arina Mar 7, 2011

I'm absolutely with Arina.

Yes, maybe she shouldn't have outsourced the job because of the responsibility issue, but leaving that aside: that's the same situation that many clients are in. They don't speak the language and they need a translator, and they need to rely on the translator's ability. You can't always hire people whose target language you understand yourself. Sometimes you simply need additional languages and then you need someone who takes the job seriously.

And clearly, this fine young lady does not. How in the world can you argue that shitty quality is fine for some clients?

And worse, that logic is even flawed! When you work for a direct client who doesn't speak the target language or doesn't proof-read the text, a typo here and there might go unnoticed, but when you know (or assume) that others will proof-read your text, why in the world would you intentionally deliver crap? It's your reputation that's at stake, and clearly, this fine young lady lost Arina as a client. Way to go!

I work for a couple of agencies that proof-read many of my jobs and send me feedback scores and such. And even if I score like 99% with just one missing comma or similar, I say to myself "dooooh! stupid mistake!" I can't believe that some people intentionally (or due to lack of skills) mess up and then blame it on the outsourcer.

Arina, thanks for giving us a warning about said lady. And I'm totally with you: judging from her website, I would never have expected to receive as bad a translation as you describe. Luckily, you didn't lose a lot of money.


 
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