Wednesday, February 03, 2010

When translation rates are too high

You often see translators bemoaning falling translation rates and complaining of translation agencies that want to pay only a pittance.

Same of those translators, however, should pay much more attention to what they do than to the failings of translation agencies:

I've recently been asked to quote on an editing project where the Italian translator consistently misspelled "" as "si", "detto" as "ditto", "quel" as "quell", in addition to other mistakes such as "calico" for "calcio", "scora" for "scorsa", "so" for "si", "do" for "di", "siento" for "sento", "blocci" for "blocchi", and so on and on. In a short span of 107 words, I counted seven misspellings and two other errors, before giving up and telling the customer that this should be retranslated from scratch, not edited.

When they are paid a few cents a word, some translators are actually overpaid.


  1. Perhaps that company should have taken their selection process more seriously, and make sure that they were actually hiring a translator, even if they had to pay a bit more, and not some John Doe who would do the job for a pittance...

  2. I fully agree, of course. The strange thing is, this is a normally reputable company which, in the past, did not balk at paying translators a decent rate, so I don't know what happened with this Italian translator: might even not be a case of going for the cheapest translator, but some other issue in their selection process.

  3. Although the Italian spellchecker sometimes

  4. You are kind, Riccardo, to refer to those who would produce such a sloppy job as "translators". *Wannabees*, and the agencies that hire them (regardless of the rate paid), cast umbrage on the profession as a whole. Sadly, from what some of my (direct) clients tell me, this happens more often than we think and costs the end client a bundle: in time, image, and money.

    This is where **professional translators**, whose rates are often commensurate with the quality and level of service provided, can leverage their USP and prove to the client that, when all elements are considered, an 'expensive translation' is often the least costly one.

  5. Although the Italian spellchecker sometimes performs in a funny way (*inaccuratezza* is not recognized!), this person did not even bother to run it. I wonder what the reaction of the agency was…
    @Riccardo. Sorry for the broken comment, I accidentally pressed post! Welcome to delete it

  6. 1) "Are you sure the translator was Italian,"
    2) "living in Italy,"
    3) "using a word processor with an Italian spelling checker?"
    1) Not sure, probably not
    2) Not relevant, plenty of good Italian translators living and working abroad, plenty of bad ones living in Italy (although I freely admit bad translators living in Italy tend towards different kinds of errors)
    3) Not sure, probably not, but in any case clearly used improperly, if at all

  7. It is a shame that some translators do not take their work seriously. To deliver work to a client with such simple errors really puts doubt into what errors could be found if you really analysed the translated document. I doubt the translator even glanced back at the doc, and if they did, what type of translator are they? Sounds like a receive, translate, save, attach, send job!

    I think a further point (one of many) could be added

    4) Was the translator rushing the job due to too much work as a result of lowering their rates? (Answer: This is probably the main reason in my opinion why the agency selected them)

    Sounds like both translator and agency will loose out in the long run if they keep this up.

  8. I understand your point and as a translation agency or individual translator you can never be too careful, just as in any other business your ultimate goal is to gain a recurring customer and its referral. What you describe above is as simple as the difference between a job being well done and a poor job. Sometimes, it is true that "you get what you pay" and other times, unfortunately, it is lack of responsibility.


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