CAT Guilt
Thread poster: DJHartmann

DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Dec 12, 2014

I just received an updated PO from a regular multinational agency that I work for, with the finalised target* word count and I have a sudden and strong feeling of guilt. Do others sometimes feel this way when you know how simple the project was made thanks to your trusty CAT tool?

The project was a string of email conversations, mostly English with some Thai mixed amongst it. I was assigned 12 main sections within this 52 page string and had to separate them into individual .doc files. My first instinct was of course to load it all into Wordfast Pro.

The first file (1900 wd) took the longest, but by the time I was half way through it more than 50% of the sections had been auto-propagated.

The next 11 files took much faster than anticipated, to the extent that 7000 words took me 6 hours of work.

I was so shocked by the amount of repetitions that I had to take a video of the 'translate until fuzzy' action on one of the files, amazed as the screen up green (queue slot machine sound) as each 100% match was found.

So, here I am left with an overwhelming sense of shock, mixed with guilt and of course delight that one day's work was worth almost a grand. The company in question is worth $400 mill. and the purchase of Wordfast was compulsory upon starting with them, so I don't fear for their demise from this one project. Likewise, the end-client is also a multinational worth millions, so no worry there.

It's just a personal feeling, so I ask, where do we stand ethically on this issue?

Regards,

DJH

*Thai-English jobs use target word count because of the inaccuracy of source word counts.

[Edited at 2014-12-12 23:53 GMT]


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The Misha
Local time: 23:48
Russian to English
+ ...
Count your blessings and stop playing Mother Teresa Dec 13, 2014

Why would you feel guilty about taking advantage of the productivity gains afforded you by the use of technology? After all, you bought that technology and paid for it.

What would really seem unethical to me under such circumstances is predicating your actions or lack thereof on the type of the client you are dealing with. Boooo, it's a big, bad multinational corporation - let's fleece them. Oh, those poor little ... insert your favorite beneficiary... and the selfless non-profit bureaucrats that serve them - let's give it to them for free. That's unethical if you ask me - establishing your rate based not on what the job is worth to you but rather on your perception of what the client is worth and can afford to pay.


[Edited at 2014-12-13 01:36 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:48
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Where is the ethical issue here? Dec 13, 2014

You purchased the tool with your own money. In fact, the agency requested you to purchase it, before you started working for them, correct? So, you were out several hundred dollars to begin with, and now you are feeling guilty for actually using it?
You purchased this tool to be more productive and more consistent with your work, right? That benefits your clients because you can provide higher quality through consistency, and are able to adhere to shorter deadlines. Why do you feel guilty? The client pays for the end product. It doesn't matter how you create it. Let's say somebody without a CAT tool would have taken longer time to provide the same result. Should the payment be different? I hope you are not thinking that you purchased an expensive tool just so your clients could pay you less?

On another note, from your description this was an approx. 10,000 words job, and you charged under a $1000. That means your rate was about $0.10, which is a low rate, IMHO.
Sometimes people do offer discounts based on repetitions (when it makes business sense), but the base rate is usually much higher. If you started with a decent base rate and had 50% repetition throughout this project, and you applied some discount for that (it is customary to charge proofreading rate for such segments), the average per word rate would still be higher than what you charged.
So, I am sure the agency is still very happy with the overall price of the project, because the end client pays more than twice to them, and you can be sure the agency is not offering repetition discounts to them.

So, my advice is to not feel guilty, and re-assess your business strategy. If you want to offer discounts because of the benefits you derive from using your own CAT-tool, make sure you have a high enough base rate so that it would make sense. I am not familiar with your business situation, but I doubt it would make sense to offer any discounts when your base rate is 10 cents.
More here, at "4.2 CAT-based discounts":
http://wiki.proz.com/wiki/index.php/Determining_your_rates_and_fees_as_a_translator


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Christophe Delaunay  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 05:48
Member (2011)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Katalin just said it all Dec 13, 2014

and I couldn't agree more with her, including the low rate for a quite special language pair (if the count is right, that is).

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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
Incorrect calculation Dec 13, 2014

The last time I checked $1000 at 7,000 words was $0.14! This is at the upper range of this language pair, as per my experience.

Apart from the lecture on rates, I do agree and accepted the updated PO.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ethically Dec 13, 2014

Ethically speaking, I think this sounds too much like an advertisement for a CAT tool that has given me nothing but problems and far from making into a 1,000-a-day kind of guy, has wasted a lot of my time and slowed me down.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 11:48
Chinese to English
Take it where you can get it Dec 13, 2014

I know the feeling - I've had jobs like that, too. But I have too many 100 dollar days not to accept the 1000 dollar days when they come. In a more rational world, we'd be paid less for the highly repetitive questionnaire responses, and much more for the history texts. But that world isn't here yet, so we just have to set whatever policies make the job work on average.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:48
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Calculations Dec 14, 2014

DJHartmann wrote:

The last time I checked $1000 at 7,000 words was $0.14!


Well, you wrote 1900+7000, and that is about 9000, and you said you got under $1000 (which is 900-something), so I quickly simplified it to approx. 10 cents.
Now you say the total was 7000 - that wasn't clear from your post.

This is at the upper range of this language pair, as per my experience.

Maybe here, on ProZ, or with the particular agency you are talking about (their rates are very much depressed, one may say exploitative), but please remember that what you see on ProZ is just a tiny slice of the market. There is a whole other world out there, especially if you are translating from a rare language into your native English.

If you are interested in what various translation companies charge US federal agencies, you can consult this site:
http://tinyurl.com/GSA-res

The federal government always negotiates low prices, so you can be sure that they charge much higher rates for other clients.

[Edited at 2014-12-14 05:22 GMT]


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DJHartmann  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2014)
Thai to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
OK Dec 14, 2014

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:

Well, you wrote 1900+7000, and that is about 9000, and you said you got under $1000 (which is 900-something), so I quickly simplified it to approx. 10 cents.


I apologise if this wasn't clear, the first file was 1900 words and the total was 7000. However, the rate per word and being grilled by you about it was hardly the point of this post.

I have to agree wholeheartedly with those who say take it while you can get it, because so often I've been dealt less lucrative jobs.

The Misha wrote:

What would really seem unethical to me under such circumstances is predicating your actions or lack thereof on the type of the client you are dealing with.


I agree with this and deny that this was in anyway the action that I was taking. My rates vary according to the content, not the client. However, I would feel worse about it if this same situation happened again to a direct client of mine, or someone else who I was more familiar with.

Tom in London wrote:

Ethically speaking, I think this sounds too much like an advertisement for a CAT tool

I was talking about all CAT tools, just happened to mentioned the one that I use. Sorry Wordfast Pro isn't your number one choice, but I like it and it works on my iMac!


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:48
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The rate is very much part of it Dec 14, 2014



I apologise if this wasn't clear, the first file was 1900 words and the total was 7000. However, the rate per word and being grilled by you about it was hardly the point of this post.


I was trying to explain that the amount you were getting paid was not overcharging in any way, because those people who do offer discounts based on repetitions would probably end up with the same (or slightly higher) average rate. So there is no need for you to feel guilty. That was the point. I apologize if it wasn't clear.


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Niina Lahokoski  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:48
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
No reason for guilt Dec 14, 2014

I agree with the others, there's no reason for you to feel guilty! You can think of it as compensation for those other times, when a client wants a discount for fuzzy matches and you end up using more time editing them than if you translated from scratch.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:48
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
If it's an agency, they accept it Dec 15, 2014

DJHartmann wrote:
I just received an updated PO from a regular multinational agency that I work for, with the finalised target* word count...


You say that the agency required you do use Wordfast, which means that they probably also have Wordfast, which means that they do (or should do) file analyses using Wordfast to calculate word counts for the job. It is therefore not dishonest towards them if you gain an advantage using the CAT tool, because they would be aware of it (or should be aware of it).

If the client was not an agency, and may reasonably not have been aware of the advantage that a CAT tool might bring, then you could begin to talk about the ethics of charging a lot of money for much less effort than the client would think that the job involves. It is, after all, kind and friendly business practice (which has a passive marketing benefit for the translator) to lower the client's costs if it can be done with little effort.

But agencies know better, and if they're happy, then so should you be.

It's just a personal feeling, so I ask, where do we stand ethically on this issue?


If you are paid per hour, and the job takes fewer hours, thanks to the CAT tool, then you have to charge the client for the correct number of hours that the job actually took (and not for the number of hours that it would have taken if you didn't have a CAT tool) (unless the "hourly" quote is actually a fixed quote that is merely based on an estimate of the number of hours).

However, if you are paid per word (or per page, or per job, or per product that you deliver), then you have every right to keep the savings to yourself, since you are the one who were clever enough to find a fast way of working.

Even if your rate were 10c per word and a 10 000 word job consisted of 99% repetitions, it would be completely ethical to charge the client EUR 1000, even though you "translated" only 100 words in total, because what the client pays for is the final product.

It is quite ethical, then. Whether it is an entirely smart business decision is a different matter. After all, the client might discover later that he could have gotten the translation for much cheaper if he had only known about this or that, and that might turn the client against you, which would lead to bad publicity for you, even though you did nothing wrong ethically.


[Edited at 2014-12-15 08:46 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 05:48
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Even in the old days of cut-and-paste, clients asked for deductions Dec 15, 2014

Even in the old days of cut-and-paste, clients asked for deductions for repeats.

I remember the agency where I worked firmly telling them they had to mark changes in a 20-page contract tht was updated to the tune of a couple of lines here and a few figures there, mabe 50 - 100 words a page, so we could skip the rest if they were not going to pay for it. (In-house translators could not be asked to do anything else with their time... we had to be paid our monthly salary in any case!)

Otherwise we had to check the new version against the old and catch the differences manually, which was quite time consuming. The client must know that your technology wil do it for you. In this business you win some, and you lose some...

I would never feel guilty about taking advantage of my CAT, but my work is not just a commodity sold by the kilo.

If I work for a client who did not know about how CATs work, I might make a different offer, but as Katalin and others have said, you need to set your rates accordingly. I would charge for the job as a whole.

A text is far more than just the sum of its words. That is why translation has not been fully automated ages ago - so maybe you should ease your conscience by proofreading an extra time and making sure that the result is also readable.

Do you need to adjust pronouns, link up a sentence or two, add a different conjunction, or other small language-specific adjustments?
I frequently do, even when the text does rattle through my CAT as you describe.

That is why I charge a percentage for repeats and 100% matches as a rule.


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