The Couch

The Couch – Guidance required

The Couch is a learning place, not only for its contributors but also for our readers who engage in the ensuing discussions. This time procedures are in question. What to do or not to do when changes to a text create an issue?


Thank you, NAJIT, for creating this space for us blokes to ask our stupid questions without feeling embarrassed.

I don’t mind making changes to translations after they are delivered. That happens all the time. But this one case made me feel like I was being taken advantage of.

I sent my translation to the client and I get a comment back regarding the use of certain words. Word choice is always important but there are times when it is a matter of personal preference. In this case, it was the latter.

stack of coins in the foreground with a clock in the backgroundThe thing is, the agency did not give me a glossary and now they wanted me to make changes to the document and not pay me. It was not a matter of find and replace: there were gender changes which meant articles and adjectives had to be changed too (Latin-rooted languages can be hard sometimes).

In a situation like that, when the client (agency, in this case) forgets to send you the client’s glossary, how do you accommodate changes to the translation in your invoice? Especially when they already said they do not expect charges?


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7 Comments
  • G. Daniel Bugel-Shunra
    Posted at 20:47h, 05 July Reply

    This happens all the time. My principle is that the client is king, and unless a client wants to introduce mistranslations, I’ll be happy to implement their preferences. Of course, if they did not provide a glossary before I started working on the project, this is not something that I do retroactively for free, especially since if the client knows what they want, there is no particular reason for *me* to implement those changes. They could do it themselves.

    If they do, and if they make the effort of making those changes in a Word file in Track Changes mode, so that all I’ll need to do is accept or reject them, I’m usually happy to do one round of reviewing their changes at no charge, and sometimes I even add an explanation why I rejected something. But if they make their annotations in any other way than TRK, or if they have multiple rounds, it’s unnecessarily laborious for me, so it’s a paid service, by the hour, and subject to my minimum rate for each round.

    Just make sure to be upfront about your charges before you start working, and ask your client or the agency whether they wouldn’t rather do this internally. Give them the choice!

    FWIW, I have found agencies to be very understanding when I charge them for my time. And if they need the changes to be implemented with a particular urgency, they’ll often agree to pay a rush rate too. Especially since they often pass those costs on to the client with a markup.

  • Jeff Staflund
    Posted at 20:53h, 05 July Reply

    You don’t mention having had prior issues with the agency, so I’m going to assume this is the first time this has happened. I would make the changes, free of charge, this time, but send a note explaining that there will be a charge in the future should the agency forget to send the glossary and briefly describing the work involved.. I think that strikes a good balance between taking responsibility for the quality of your work while also defending your professional and personal boundaries. If the agency becomes a repeat offender, I would seriously consider leaving it. It might also be worth mentioning this up front to new agencies that you work for in the future. That’s my two cents’ worth!

  • Maria Bolivar
    Posted at 22:22h, 05 July Reply

    I will share what works for me, but not as a rule or law… I prepare a letter of intent where I talk about modifications after the translation has been accepted. I talk about a period of questions usually 15 to 30 days depending the length of the translation. After that period, future changes or editions are done on the clock and will be charged. But I give them a discount-30 to 50%- depending on the time involved. At some point you have to explain when those changes become independent consultations and suggest a review, and spell out a new agreement. My experience tells me that when you let the client know in advance how you will deal with changes those dynamics rarely come about. Be firm and clear from the get go.

  • Alfredo Babler
    Posted at 14:37h, 06 July Reply

    I proofread work all the time and you all would (or perhaps would not) be surprised at the garbage so called “professionals” turn in as their final translation. Honestly, it is so freaking bad nowadays that I wish for mediocrity. Seems a lot of “professionals” have become adept at running PDF files through OCR software and then using machine aided translation engines, doing a half-ass edit of the utter crap those things put out, and turning that in as their final “translation.” I’ve been around for a while now (perhaps too long) and I am honestly very disappointed to see the complete lack of quality control effort put in by translators that market themselves as experienced, proficient and expeditious. So, to the patient on the couch, if you’re just bluffing and the proofreader at the agency simply said, “Good grief! You need to review this carefully and make changes so it doesn’t read like you wiped your butt with it,” or something maybe not as colorful but carrying the same connotation of displeasure at the work turned in, then start from scratch or, if you are incapable of taking on the task and you just bit more than you could chew, pay a true professional out of your own pocket to get it done right and fix the karma flow because, as I mentioned – in not so many words – the practice of sending clients machine produced transliterations from Hades is rampant these days and MUST stop. Okay, now that I’ve taken that 8” dagger off my chest, if it is truly a question of semantics (doesn’t sound like it is) and the proofreader is being unnecessarily persnickety (probably isn’t), then, to give you the benefit of the doubt (I probably won’t – Heheheh), you should point that out to higher manage at the agency, eloquently and in writing. I guarantee you the MS Word translator feature is not going to write that little grammatical dissertation for you and, if you’re bluffing and will take your BS to the very end of scorching Skynet Armageddon before you admit you’re not up to par for the task at hand (believe me, that is what must people do. It’s quite a curious circumstance. Appalling, even) then throw a hissy fit and pretend to be outraged, and convince yourself you should charge more to fix what you had a machine do for you to begin with.. BTW, this dovetails with the previous blog post about artificial intelligence being the future of the industry. Give me a break. Until Skynet launches the missiles and John Connor travels back in time chased by a T-1000 with a heavy Austrian accent screaming, “Get in tze choppa!!” use a dictionary and half a brain to do your translations, for crying out LOUD! Sanaganich! I oughta be on the darn couch, eh? Right? Sorry guys, again, I just woke up and made my Saturday morning cup of java, sat down and read some news on this iPhone doohickey, and then strolled in here, and I guess I need to try the decaf. It’s all in good humor. I jest. But seriously now, cut it out! Just kiddin’… but… love ya’s. Have a nice weekend.

    • Gio Lester
      Posted at 12:59h, 07 July Reply

      Alfred, this diatribe begs the question, “Did you bother to read or do you simply like writing without a purpose?” You are so out of the ballpark here. No one is talking about errors in the translation. The agency forgot to send the client’s glossary to the translator and now wants the text adapted to accommodate those word choices by the client. Period.

      Read more carefully next time.

  • Alfredo Babler
    Posted at 14:46h, 06 July Reply

    PS
    And for the record, most people that have been around don’t use translation engines. Most of them really take pride in their work and know that language translation is a human, pretty and sacred art form and a science combined, and respect the process. Thank God for them!

  • Alfredo Babler
    Posted at 19:47h, 07 July Reply

    Gio, I know my reading and comprehension are not up to your standards. I should’ve completely overlooked the painfully obvious find replace comment, followed by the gender changes comment, followed by the articles and adjectives changes comment, all seemingly rooted from a glossary prepared by the (“client”/end user) that was never facilitated to the translator. Of course that happens all the time. And of course I ought to just have read; D’uh Blah Blah Egad NARF! Period. My bad. See, it’s just that after millions of translated words proofread over 30 years or so, my discernment is kind of cloudy and I tend to gaslight myself in ways that would make Freud’s head spin. I apologize and thank you for taking my crappy home run and keeping it in the ballpark and within your league. From this moment, I shall checkity-check myself before I wreck myself.

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