Guest post: translator pet peeves

This is a guest post by Interpres incognitus, a US-based freelance translator who prefers to remain anonymous.

“The client doesn’t want a translation, he just wants to know what it says.”

This is a direct quote from a project manager at a translation agency and the perfect way to introduce my guest post. We were discussing translator pet peeves at a recent networking lunch of the Colorado Translators Association and Corinne invited me to write a post for her blog. Here are some of the things that drive me crazy about working with agencies:

Remember, I am not on staff at your company.
I was recently asked by an agency to do a translation sample for free because they were trying to win a new client and wanted to provide the sample to them at no charge. I am always amazed at these kinds of requests, the expectation that the translator should bear all the risk. It’s not like the project manager or the sales manager at the agency will be donating the time they spend working on this project, putting fewer hours on their timesheet that day because they are handling a sample job, but they routinely expect the translator to be willing to do so.

Don’t expect me to bear the brunt of fixing your mistakes.
If you have failed to properly assess the scope of the job, it’s not my responsibility to pick up the slack. I was once asked to work on site because no time had been allowed for file conversions from an unusual file format. They decided the solution to their dilemma would be my working from their facility in the original file format, being paid by the hour rather than by the word, and commuting one hour each way to their office, unpaid of course. Thanks, but no thanks.

I don’t give discounts for numbers and common words.
A couple of times in my career I have been challenged about charging for numbers because they are not really words. My response to that is “I’ll leave them out and you can insert them where you think they go.” I have also had agencies complain about ifs, ands or buts being included in the word count. Again, I’ll be happy to leave them out.

Don’t provide misleading information about the scope of the job.
Don’t tell me the document is 140 pages and then expect me not to notice that it is actually 290 when I get it. And no, under these conditions, I can’t be expected to meet the original deadline.

All translators are not created equal.
Sending a query about a job to “Undisclosed recipients” or “Dear vendor” is basically a “first come, first served” approach to assigning a job. This tells me as a translator a lot about how your company operates. If you were hiring a new employee to work in your office would you really hire the first person who answered your ad sight unseen without checking to see if they had the requisite experience?

Common courtesy.
I have received queries about my availability and when I respond, I never hear back again. How hard would it be to give the translator the illusion of respect by sending a quick e-mail that says, “Sorry, we placed the job elsewhere” or “Thanks, but no thanks.” Are you actually so busy that you can’t write back or so sure that you will never need to contact me again in the future?

This list is by no means meant to be comprehensive 😉

18 Responses to “Guest post: translator pet peeves”
  1. jillsommer July 9, 2009
  2. Loreto Riveiro July 9, 2009
  3. Bob Kerns July 9, 2009
  4. Victor Dewsbery July 9, 2009
  5. Christine Schmit July 9, 2009
  6. Fabio Said July 9, 2009
  7. Ofer July 9, 2009
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  12. Cristina Silva July 9, 2009
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  14. Patrick July 13, 2009
  15. Mariènne Botha July 22, 2009
  16. Mariènne Botha July 22, 2009
  17. radfordka December 4, 2019
    • Corinne McKay December 4, 2019

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