Friday, April 27, 2012

Does the Blue Board tell more about bad translators than about bad translation companies?

I've just received from an English translation company, which will remain unnamed, the following message:
Dear Riccardo, 
My name is [...] and I am a Linguist Manager at [...].
We are looking long term English to Italian translators located in the US time zone. We are contacting you as we believe you would have the expertise to help us.
We are working with translation rates of 70USD per 1000 words translation and 20USD for proofreading per hour. We will require for you to take a 300 word test (free of charge) as part of the recruitment process. [...]  
If interested in the collaboration, please reply to this email with an updated CV and I will provide more details. Kind regards,
Now, 70USD per 1000 words is 7 cents per word: clearly unacceptable.

But they can afford to offer such bottom rates because apparently there are plenty of people very happy to work with them: their Blue Board rating is 4.9, and full of comments like "Professional and reliable company with professional and friendly people", "Great collaboration, prompt payment. Very reliable", "I've worked for [...] for a few years now, and with several PMs. They've treated me right".

They may be "professional and friendly", "prompt with payment", even "very reliable", but if what they pay is so low, I hardly think they can be said to have treated translators "right".

So once again the Blue Board proves useful: not so much in identifying a good company to work for, but rather to help find translators happy to work for peanuts.


  1. What is even more scary is that for the pair English-Italian it seems more and more common to offer as little as EUR 0.02 (about USD 0.04) which is simply ridiculous!

    1. EUR 0.02 is not about USD 0.04... it's about USD 0.0265 (at today's rates). But I'm not worried by those rates. Anybody who pays such rates is probably actually overpaying: as others have said, for the quality they are likely to get they should instead use Google Translate and save their money.

      As regards the English-Italian pair: we have recently increased our rates (and they were on the high side for E-I, to begin with), and the work has actually increased.

      In my opinion, many Italian translators run scared for no reason, and are too ready to accept conditions from translation companies, instead of setting their own rates.

  2. Hi Börn, I removed your comment because it had so many links that it could only be considered spam. If you would like to comment again (without all those links), please do so.

  3. Dear Riccardo,

    What I wrote was that we all need to promote quality and refuse the temtation to go for the "cheap solution" that is a responsibility that rests with us as a translation agency.

    We work globally and meet translators from all over of the world and the "standard pay" differs of course enormously and so does the quality. When you in the morning hire a highly qualified Chineese translator from Shanghai at EUR 0.02 the price for a qualified Italian rings as being high at 0.08.

    We have to fight that and make sure that translators are payed fair for their services.

    All the best

  4. Bjorn: Excuse me, but even when you are exchanging views or comments more or less informally, if you speak as a translation agency, your spelling should be correct: The "Chineese" I am ready to discount at a typo; not so the statement that "translators are 'payed' (which should of course be 'paid'). I am not a native English speaker, but I am a professional translator and care a great deal for the quality of my texts, irrespective of whether they are in my native or my target (adopted second) language.

  5. Oops. I meant "discount AS (not 'at') a typo"

  6. Rates are always controversial. What is considered a low rate in the US may be a totally acceptable one in Spain, Italy or Portugal. I myself work in Spain, mostly from English into Spanish, and let me tell you 0.07EUR would be considered a very high rate for my language combination in my country. These things are not comparable cross-culturally.

    1. Anonymous, I think you didn't read the message:

      1) "We are looking long term English to Italian translators located in the US time zone" that is, they are looking for translators in the US or Canada (precious few English to Italian translators, further South in America)

      2) The translation company making this offer is from England (another place with a high cost of living),


      3) The rate quoted is in US dollars, not in Euro (so the rate in Euro is actually about 5 Euro cents a word).

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  8. I cannot but agree with what you say, Riccardo.
    I've noticed a gradual decline on ProZ, from the fora - where most questions relate to Trados and the rest to issues that national translators' associations should be competent to provide answers to - to job ads. For some language pairs, I see that job ads are frequently posted by the same resellers who of course look for the cheapest deal and payment in 60 days. I say "of course" because to me it seems the idea or concept of the site is to do just this.

    I do not refer to these companies as "LSPs" or "TPS" because this widely accepted terminology is incorrect and as such misleading. The name "Language Service Provider" or "Translation Service Provider", when it refers to these "translation companies", creates a false image and expectations. In my opinion, whatever is not named right cannot work right. I propose we start calling things by their real names.

    I noticed that some direct clients have gone the same route on Proz.
    In the past year, Microsoft, for example, has sought translators and "editors" - in quotation marks again, because the term "editor", as generally used by translation resellers, distorts the facts. Accurate terminology in this field distinguishes between editing, revising, reviewing, proofreading.

    Microsoft accepted my bid but asked me to lower my price and accept a "Trados discount scheme" with a basic "no match" price set so low it could only be acceptable for someone looking for pocket money while enjoying free education, room and board and holidays. I had a hearty laugh when a few months ago I saw their head terminologist fish for term freebies on their site. No context, no research, just please offer a translation and receive exposure. Good grief.

    As for tests, I can only laugh again: resellers on ProZ also hire cheapest "editors". Twice in the past, for I have learned my lesson and do not "do tests" anymore, the reseller had the source text wrong (!) and the editor was not smart enough to notice.

    Finally, I am also the end reader of (poorly) translated content on web pages, product inserts, in help files, magazines, books, subtitles and the news served by the daily press. Language quality has also fallen dramatically in the past five years and continues to fall. Spar, Aldi and Lidl of course want me to buy in their stores - as much as anyone else, be it Lexus or Ford, but do any of them give a rust cent about the impression their language hygiene leaves the consumer with? With the exception of an occasional viewer now and then that cries out in outrage and desperation at the documentaries shown on cable tv, subtitled by incompetents, people seem to have learned to just not bother. I confess: I can no longer watch the cable, just as I no longer read translated books or even magazines with translated articles if they fail the test: three randomly chosen pages suffice to know whether I'll enjoy it or be sorry for wasting the time, and I doubt this is just the downside of the work I do. I understand it must be difficult for corporations domiciled at the center of the world to comprehend the linguistic needs or even traumas of end readers living at their outer rim, but I often wish they would try harder. There is a difference between "Sanjate o Bogatstvu? Rešite Online Test. Preverite svoje Možnosti, da Obogatite" and how we really say and write about things in normal life, although Google may tell you otherwise. But then, the editor of Kapital would never know. Too busy checking the stocks, I suppose.

  9. As a translator, you know your price and it is just proper to decline such low offer.

  10. their Blue Board rating is 4.9, and full of comments like "Professional and reliable company with professional and friendly people", "Great collaboration, prompt payment. Very reliable", "I've worked for [...] for a few years now, and with several PMs. They've treated me right".

    You may not accept these rates, but there are lots of people who are accepting and working on these rates, So i think its not there fault but our who are accepting those offer ?

    What do you think ?

    1. I think what I said in the post... that such blue board entries tell more about (certain) translators than about the translation company in question.

      Specifically, such high votes for translation companies known to pay little indicate that the translators who are so willing to translate for them are ready to accept very low rates.

      If that is the impression they want to give to potential customers, they are certainly entitled to do so.

      I just don't think it's a good idea.

  11. Hello,

    I have just read all of your comments and of course do agree with what you exposed. One should not work for such rates, but: there is always people that do. So, obviously dumping prices exist and always will. Now, let´s say one is a correct professional and a good translator, delivering high quality that is appreciated, but: does not get work?? Because of not accepting these low rates, or...??? I have seen myself in the condition of not working for several weeks because I did not accept dumping rates. And obviously, I need work as much as anybody does. How to proceed?

    Thanks for answering on this topic.

    Kind regards

  12. Well, I would mention that this comes out to about 22 dollars per hour, and there are plenty of people with similar degree levels working for that or less, even. It also depends alot on where you live - and translation companies are increasingly looking for people in cheap areas of the world.

    But 22 dollars per hour isn't the end of the world. It's low, but that depends on your level too, and what you are able to translate.

  13. Never the less Proz remains a popular tool to find translators. This search for cheaper will always continue because not everyone believes quality comes at a cost. That's why a BMW would always sell lesser units than a General Motors! There are significantly more number of buyers at a lower price.


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