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How have you adapted to changes in the translation industry in recent years?
Thread poster: Henry Dotterer
I continue not thinking too much about changes Jan 28

full stop

Tom in London
I follow the news on MT and can see little progress in understanding Jan 29

The recent progress in the neural MT is not followed by much understanding in how to use it in practical work. I mean by agencies. They are trying to lower the word price, while the MT brings much results in the interactive mode, so the term "post"-editing already seems to be obsolete nowadays. The system is becoming more and more interactive, and the agencies remain years ago, as there is no more this "post"-editing - it's "on-the-fly" translating using the MT.

Henry Dotterer
Henry Dotterer
How are LSPs and end clients adapting? Jan 29

Alexander Somin wrote:

The recent progress in the neural MT is not followed by much understanding in how to use it in practical work. I mean by agencies. They are trying to lower the word price, while the MT brings much results in the interactive mode, so the term "post"-editing already seems to be obsolete nowadays. The system is becoming more and more interactive, and the agencies remain years ago, as there is no more this "post"-editing - it's "on-the-fly" translating using the MT.

I have noticed this among some agencies.

I would be interested in hearing about how you see your clients, LSPs or end clients, adapting to technical change. (LSPs and end clients, feel free to comment if you come across this thread.)

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Adapting by rebranding Jan 29

Hi Henry,
This is actually a topic that I and my colleagues have been talking about on our own over the past two years.
We have two answers for you: One for direct clients, and the other for agencies.

Since I began translating in 2003, my services have evolved organically. First, direct clients wanted proofing or audits that their translations were correctly localized to the market. Then, they wanted copywriting directly in English from French reference materials or interviews. Then, they asked for voice-over along with the translated scripts.... In the end, I've noticed that direct clients are becoming more content savvy and they are looking for someone who can combine services. Translation becomes just one part of a whole. So, I rebranded as a content creator in English.

We know we have to adapt to changing market needs in general, and right now (in France in our language pairs) if we want to work with agencies it has to be by post-editing MTs.
Last year a major agency even called me in to consult with them and give them my feedback on how to charge for post-editing jobs since it's a newish sub-profession. They were about to launch their own MT tool using their database of translations. I did my best to advocate for rates that would be fair to freelancers, but I don't expect such agencies to prioritize our earning potential over their own margins.... Sorry, I digress...

I hope this helps. If you're interested in more info for your presentation, don't hesitate to contact me directly. Since it's a subject we've been passionate about for a while now, I've managed to dig up other examples of end clients adapting and adopting new technical solutions.

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cross selling approach and beeing more selective Jan 30

Dear Henry and collegues

Thansk for your topic, I'll be glad to help on this project since I'm a lecturer at Unige.

As far my experience, the best way to create your future is to create it.

Since 2010 I've been adopting a cross selling strategy mainly focused on web copywriting and marketing services in order to be more selective and get rid of the most "toxic customers", paying attention ony to cut your fees

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Henry Dotterer
Would love to hear more, Silvina and N.M. Jan 31

Thanks for your offer to share more information, Silvina and N.M. I will take you up on that outside this thread.

Adapting versus transforming Jan 31

You asked about an exit strategy, and that may be necessary if the profession changes too much.

At the start of my career I did a certain amount of proofreading, and yes, it WAS mainly proofreading. I was the second pair of eyes, someone who could read the target text without seeing the source, and check for fluency, typos, that kind of thing. Only later would I check against the source for completeness and accuracy. There were very few changes to make as a rule.

That task has transformed, and is now called revising and editing. If the translation is done by humans, they are often beginners who need a lot of help, and if it is machine translation, I really hate it. Except for very short passages, I resist post editing machine translation, because the result is never as good as preparing first and getting the translation right first time. It is not even quicker in many cases!

PEMT calls for a different approach from plain translation, and beginners will have to decide whether they want to do that or find a different profession.

As long as people are happy with the changes, they can adapt, but some of us have already adapted a lot from typewriters to computers, from snail mail to the Internet... learned to use CAT tools and gone from libraries full of books to online resources. So far, so good, but at some point, the job may no longer be what we signed up for, and then it is time to leave!

A pension or alternative career will depend on the individual, and the same has happened in many professions and industries, but it is something we all need to think about.

Jennifer Forbes
Robert Forstag
Christel Zipfel
Peter Weeks
Mariusz Kuklinski
Specialise and diversify...and continously reinvent yourself Feb 4

I have to agree with the concept of specialising. If doctors, engineers, writers, photographers and many other professionals master a particular area of their trade, I don't see why translation should be any different. Mastery and proficiency take time and practice and if it were easy it would be done overnight.

Also, like in many other professional areas, diversifying is key. Whether we like it or not, the demands of the market are not only more in depth knowledge from the translators, but the nature of such market are creating the need for translators to tap into different fields. It is a juggling act. Reinventing ourselves has become the norm. Previous generations could count on their skills to carry them throughout all their working lives. Time has passed and the longevity of "current" skills does nothing but decreasing. Knowledge and skills updating in a shorter period of time is now a constant.

Languages, technology, subject matter, practices, PR, marketing, networking and above all passion for what we do and support amongst colleagues will keep translators in good company.

Pascale Cotton
Christine Andersen
Glad I had a plan B Feb 4

I really enjoyed translating mainly medical texts for many years, and it provided for me and my children for a long time. Due to the kind of translations I do I have mainly worked for translation agencies who are asked to translate medical texts in several European languages at once. A good reason to hire a translation agency.
Unfortunately, too many translation agencies do not do their work properly: they do not look for their own end clients, but take on work from other translation agencies. In several instances I discovered there were several translation agencies (sometimes up to 5) between me and the end client! Really incredible, and no wonder it is hard to get answers to the questions I might have about a translation. It also meant more often than not I no longer could get access to a contact person of the end client to discuss terminology, if necessary.
And of course all these translation brokers skimmed a part of the rate the end client was willing to pay for the translation, thus asking me to do my work for far less than feasible, no longer giving me the chance to earn a fair rate. That is why I call them translation brokers, they do not deserve the name 'agency' in my eyes.

In the past ten years or so, rates have dropped considerably (nowadays they are often lower than they were in 1996), and then still clients want me to give additional discounts for using a CAT tool with a TM of their making, which often contains many mistakes, which more often than not takes me more time, not less, to do a good job.


- My expertise is questioned more and more by editors who do not understand Dutch and ask me questions about my translations that no Dutch speaking person would ask.

- The deadlines given in first instance are usually such as if they really expect me to be twiddling my thumbs, waiting for them to send me work, resulting in me being so glad that I will instantly drop what I am doing to fully concentrate on their project, preferably for more than 8 hours a day without a rush fee, and then take their time to edit my work, if that is still done!
Strangely enough, when I ask for more time (which I started to do every time, unless the deadline was reasonable to begin with) there usually was indeed more time available! Then why try to make me work too hard for no good reason?

- I used to have good working relationships with the PMs I was working with, but nowadays they seem to switch jobs so often that building a working relationship in which some personal details are sometimes shared too, often is not really possible anymore.

- Some clients seem to see consistency as a religion: they edit my work on that respect, not allowing any synonyms. I can understand that for specific terms, but they do give me 'bad marks' when I am not consistent with the 'simple' words, mainly due to the fact that, as said before, their editor simply does not understand Dutch! So I am forced to edit perfectly fine translations, while I am not allowed to edit typos in the parts of the text that is not being updated! Or to explain in English why my choice for a Dutch translation is perfectly fine, while their solution is not. Such a waste of my time, and not something that should be included in my translation rate. Sometimes, when these comments were too many, I told them I would only comment on their unnecessary comments as a result of them not understanding Dutch, if they would pay me for it.

- More and more, inexperienced translators were asked to edit my translations. In my translation training I was told editing should only be done by experienced translators. But more and more I had to undo the changes made to my translations by these inexperienced translators who really didn't seem to have a clue yet. And who could not distinguish personal preferences from errors. And who were not able to understand that the sentence order in Dutch should not necessarily follow the sentence order in English, since that leads to Dunglish, not to Dutch.
If there were too many unneccessary changes that were no improvements at all, I would then ask the agency to ask the editor to re-edit my text and mark only the real errors found, if any.

- Thus to my clients quality no longer seemed to be the same as what I regarded as quality. So I discoverd I no longer took pride in my work, since in my experience more often than not a good translation obviously was no longer the goal, only a 'defendable' translation. Such a pity.

- Editing machine translations is so time consuming and more importantly: so irritating!, that I simply refused to do that from the start. As said before here: it often takes more time than translating from scratch, and it cannot lead to a translation of the quality a new translation can be. And noone can pay me enough to get this irritated.

- Many PMs are (forced to?) informing translators that they have plenty of other translators willing to work for less and do a faster job. If that indeed is the case, then why were they still contacting me? The only reason I can come up with is that they were lying and were trying to manipulate me into accepting lower rates and shorter deadlines.

- So when a project was sent to me, I made it my custom to always ask for a longer deadline and with new clients I always also asked for a higher rate. And in most instances both were possible. I do think that many freelance translators also have themselves to thank for this downfall of the working conditions in this market, since too many of them do not want to see themselves as entrepeneurs (which they are!) and are not negotiating enough with their clients. Or simply refusing jobs with unreasonble conditions.
I know that too many freelance translators feel like they should be glad to be given any work at all, since they love translating! In that case, look for work as a volunteer, plenty of useful work there, without spoiling the market.

- Many of the good translation agencies I used to work for have been taken over by translation (broker) giants, and I knew each time it was only a matter of time before their rates would drop, their deadlines would become shorter and communication would have to go through their very impersonal portals, taking up more of my time for my project management, simply to be able to decide on taking on a project, making it harder for me to get answers to the questions I had and forcing me to do part of their project management too, by not allowing me to send my invoice the way I want to, but to have to do it their way. And all of that for the reduced rate they offered me. I passed most times. Didn't like those hoops at all.

- Payment terms were often unrealistic: even 30 days is long, and is law in Europe, so why does it often have to be so much longer? I am not a bank, I do not have a banking license, I am not allowed to give out loans. Still clients that take their time paying are using me and my colleagues as such. And some even went as far as only be willing to pay me when their client had paid them! Once one even suggested not to pay me since they had not been paid! Really? How would that be my problem? Do they not understand what entrepeurship is about?

- Over time, one page NDAs turned into 20 page long contracts, often forcing me to sign completely unreasonable clauses, like not being allowed to work for any of their clients, while at the same time they were not willing to give me a monthly updated list of their clients which I would need to be able to comply. And yes, each time I asked for it, I never got one.
So even if I would have wanted to comply (which I didn't, since they did not guarantee me any work at all) I would not have been able to.
Or there were clauses forcing me to pay incredible amounts in case of any mistakes or other undiserable behavior. I was often surprised by the things they came up with.
These often were all kinds of clauses that would not hold up in court, at least not in the Netherlands.
One client even added a clause that they would have to be granted access to my home office to be able to check my computer to make sure I followed all their instructions! When I commented on that, their reply was that the law of their country demanded that. That is strange, since I had other clients in that country too, and they did not demand that of me. Needless to say, I passed on that contract too. And they said they would not enforce that clause. Then why did they want me to sign it?

Thus I feel that in ten years time I seem to have been reduced from an appreciated (medical) English into Dutch language expert to a 'nearly machine translator' whose only job is to jump through hoops, without being given much appreciation anymore.

I am really glad I decided on a plan B quite a while ago, and I feel lucky I can now earn my living in another way.

I have kept those clients that I feel respected and appreciated by. And I do appreciate them and do the best I can for them. They are few, these days. And that is fine by me.

[Edited at 2019-02-04 08:30 GMT]

Joëlle Bouille
Christine Andersen
Elena Polunina
Mariusz Kuklinski
Samuel Clarisse
Grace Anderson
More lawyers involved Feb 4

One problem that has not been mentioned here, as far as I can see: Agencies tend to demand "agreements" that are very one-sided, taking care of agency worries, but not translator worries. I suppose this began in the United States and I remember George W. Bush saying that the amount of legal stuff involved in business is harming the businesses. Seems he didn't do much about it, got other problems.
Now I have lost my oldest and most frequent agency client (been with me since 1993) because of the fact that lawyers also in my country convince the agencies that they need 40 pages to regulate the relation with me to their advantage. I said thanks, but no thanks.

Joëlle Bouille
Ineke Kuiper
Mariusz Kuklinski
A difficult and changing market. Feb 4

Most of Henry's points are spot on. The market is changing rapidly; a lot of mergers, a lot of resource gathering for sales purposes, increasing number of ridiculously low payers and many Mt providers not understanding it's not there as yet. Additionally, most agencies now have their own systems making invoicing lot more arduous. And more and more clients expect to pay much less than a fair rate as they think this is easy... Just use Google translate. I specialise in legal and medical and that helps. But I am looking for other employment.

Ineke Kuiper
Christine Andersen
Mariusz Kuklinski
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