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Translation bullshit

Full rant here:

http://antyx.blogspot.com/2006/01/translation-bullshit.html

Cliffnotes: Translation bureaus will try to screw a freelancer at every opportunity.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
January 30th, 2006 5:07am
Why is the measurement in *translated* words not in original words? No one can dispute how many original words there were. Also seems they should have told you about their estimate (and how much they were gonna pay) or provided you with the s/w beforehand.
Permalink bring out da punk 
January 30th, 2006 11:02am
Flasher:  How many languages can you speak/write? 

As a backwards American who only speaks English (and very, very bad French), I'm impressed.
Permalink  
January 30th, 2006 11:52am
Because they pay for the work I did, not for the work someone else did translating it from English into Estonian. If Skrivanek employed actual project managers who know how translation works, not glorified secretaries with a Javascript that thinks I should only get paid for translating the word "carburettor" once even though it appears 30 times throughout the text, they would have an idea of what the final volume of the text can be and give the client an estimate accordingly.

Naturally the bureau charges the customer significantly more than they charge me. The idea is that the bureau represents the translators; it's the bureau that gives *me* the order, their dealings with the customer are not my concern - otherwise there is no point in having a bureau. This one, it seems, represents the customers instead.

Bullshit like this works because there are a lot of people doing mediocre translation work and attempting to make a living out of it; they are scared to lose the good graces of the bureaus, so they'll put up with anything. Me, I am a very good translator (objectively) and I do translation on the side, so I'm not reluctant to yell at the blonde on the other end to get paid for work that I did at their request at the rate they offered.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
January 30th, 2006 11:55am
My mother tongue is Russian, the language of Estonia is Estonian, and I have a university degree in English. Estonian is actually my worst language, in that I can translate from it into either English or Russian perfectly well, but I wouldn't want to translate into Estonian and claim high quality.

On an everyday level, I am fluent in English, Russian and Estonian, and can understand very basic German and Finnish. I can also understand most Slavic languages in written form, very generally at least - but that might be more due to my linguistic training, knowing how to analyze text based on parellels with languages I'm proficient in.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
January 30th, 2006 11:58am
I have NEVER known translation rates not to be based on the original text. To charge for the number of words in the translation, as you are trying to do, is non-standard and I can fully understand no reputable client or translation bureau wanting to work with you on that basis.

The rate can be based on the word, on the line (considered as 75 characters when I did translating), or on a standard defined page, but the price is always fixed according to the original, as this way both parties know what the price is beforehand, and there is no opportunity for fiddling.

How their software counts words differently from you is a mystery (surely all you need to do is use the Word Count feature from MSWord?). In English there would be the argument as to whether contractions counted as one or two words - is there sometning similar in Estonian? Alternatively they might simply have setup the software to shave a little off so they can cheat you.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
January 30th, 2006 2:45pm
BTW, I have to agree with Stephen from a common-sense point of view - paying per word of product seems a bit like paying per line of code - the guy getting paid now has incentive to game the system instead of just produce the result.

That translating "tank" into Estonian may be more or less words than German should simply be a factor of the rate per word. Paying by the word of product encourages things like "der automobilen mit der gross gun und der heavy schteellen und der troopen"

Philo
Permalink Send private email Philo 
January 30th, 2006 3:04pm
When Dumas started writing serialized novels he was paid by line. The result was like this:

"Villain!"
"Fiend!"
"Coward!"
"Liar!"
"Zut alors!"
They drew swords.
"Take that!"
"Any you!"
"Touche"

and so on. As Leavitt remarked in "Freakonomics" it's all a matter of incentives.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
January 30th, 2006 3:22pm
"I have NEVER known translation rates not to be based on the original text."

Then you have never worked as a translator.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
January 30th, 2006 3:44pm
"BTW, I have to agree with Stephen from a common-sense point of view - paying per word of product seems a bit like paying per line of code"

This is my point: you are thinking like the person ordering the translation. Of course you'll want to pay for a fixed cost. I'm thinking like the person doing the translation, and I'd like to get paid on the work I actually do. Paying for the volume of original, in your simile, would be like paying the programmer per line of the functional spec.

Yes, the customer needs to be told how much the translation will cost; this is why the translation bureau needs to be staffed with professionals who understand the basics of translation and can look at the text and charge the client accordingly. Otherwise there is no point in having a translation bureau.

Perhaps I would have conceded had they offered to pay for the volume of the original text; but they didn't, they wanted to pay for the original text shrunk by 5.7% through some inexplicable algorhythm, when it's clear as day to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the two languages that a translation from Estonian into Russian will grow in volume.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
January 30th, 2006 3:51pm
Oh yeah, I agree that it should be a flat rate per word on the original text, not some bizarre guestimate what the result will be.

And you should deal with complexity by having a sliding scale - x amount/word for english->russian, y amount for russian->estonian. Differing amounts for scientific text vs. novels.

I know I was paid by the page as a tech editor. (Oddly, they asked my rate *after* I finished the job - felt like a trap)

Philo
Permalink Send private email Philo 
January 30th, 2006 4:13pm
------"I have NEVER known translation rates not to be based on the original text."

Then you have never worked as a translator."-------

I worked as a freelance translator for years. The price was always based on the length of the original.

Your claim that the number of words in the output language represents the amount of work you have put in is bizarre in the extreme. True for a data entry clerk but not for any higher level work. Apart from anything else a good translation is nearly always shorter than a bad one.

I don't know about the algorithm you are referring to. It appears even more bizarre than your wish to be paid by the number of words in the output language. Are you sure there isn't some simple explanation, such as contractions being counted differently, or words inside illustrations not being counted by the program (which would happen if you used Word Count).
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
January 30th, 2006 4:50pm
Paying per original is what makes the most sense, Flasher T. It's easily measurable by both parties, *before* the agreement. And as Philo said, a two-variable (language from, language to) function determines the rate per word.

And unlike function specs (a really bad analogy on your part), the original is well-defined and complete. Your work, Mr T, is to translate the original text - that's the stuff you're paid to do (ot whatever it is you "like to get paid for doing"). If you can do in less words, more power to you.

You are are right, the whole translation-program-word-count is utter nonsense and would never have come up had you'all agreed to measure by the original word count to begin with.

(Maybe they were annoyed about your word inflation, and that's their counter-negotiation ploy.)
Permalink bring out da punk 
January 30th, 2006 5:00pm
"Your claim that the number of words in the output language represents the amount of work you have put in is bizarre in the extreme. True for a data entry clerk but not for any higher level work."

Every single profession that involves the creation of text pays for the output volume of text.

"Apart from anything else a good translation is nearly always shorter than a bad one."

No it isn't. Estonian has a lot of composite words; in Russian, they are rarely used. Two composite words in Estonian can very well become six in Russian, and there is no way to do it shorter, simply because technical Russian is indeed very formal.

If a translation becomes shorter, it means you are condensing text. In technical translation, this is frowned upon, because if you're condensing text, you're condensing meaning, and meaning needs to be painfully obvious. If you had any sort of translation training at all you would know this.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
January 31st, 2006 2:12am

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