I received the following e-mail under the heading “Translation Offer” a few days ago:
Could help us [sic] with a FR>EN test translation we currently have to prepare in the course of a tender published by the [name of the government office advertising the tender]? The parts of the attached document which have been highlighted with the help of red boxes (approx. 1,400 words) have to be translated by 8 am GMT tomorrow. Would that work for you?
I look forward to hearing from you.
[name of the coordinator]
I was pretty sure I never worked for this agency. I checked out the website of the agency and I had a vague memory of having been contacted by them at some point in the past because the website looked familiar. It was one of those websites of translation agencies that is filled with stupid marketing lingo that gives the reader no idea whatsoever what kind of translation the agency is specializing in – mainly because the agency specializes in everything, from translation and consultancy all the way to “transcreation” and “your total solution” (which to me sounds like Endlösung, or The Final Solution in German). But that’s me, it probably sounded good to the marketing geniuses who created the text on that website.
I never mention names of translation agencies and persons on my blog, except when I am praising them, which does not happen very often, so I will stick to my rule also in this case. I was kind of put off by the fact that they thought that I would translate 1,400 words for them for free although I don’t know them from Adam. Qui, moi? Jamais! But I did Google that particular tender and I found it. So had I wanted to do so, I could have just submitted my own proposal for that tender. I did not do that because the subject was not really my cup of tea. It was not technical and it had nothing to do with patents.
I went downstairs to brew another cup of coffee for myself and by the time I was back with the cup full of life saving liquid and a tiny blackberry/nectarine pastry in my greedy hands, I had another e-mail from them in my mailbox which said:
Just a quick note that I’ve just been able to place this job.”
Man, that was quick, I thought to myself.
And then I thought, of course it was quick. Every day I have to delete from my e-mail dozens of résumés from people all over the world who are hungry for work. There are hundreds of e-mails with the heading “Perfect Translation Skills Available” there right now as this has been for some reason the most popular heading for spam from hungry translators for about the last two weeks. So I assume that some of these hungry translators must have ended up in the database of this translation agency and one lucky recipient of the same e-mail that I received from them will be translating 1,400 words from French to English ….. for free.
It is possible that the translation agency will snag the prize of this particular tender. But I think that it is not very likely. People who are eager to work for free and who have the time to fit in a job within a day are usually without work for a reason. I think that the chances are that this particular “first responder” will not do a very good job on that particular translation, although it did not seem very difficult.
I also think it is quite likely that a translator with an entrepreneurial spirit has found the tender just like I did and then submitted an offer directly. Or that several translators did exactly that, depending on how many persons received the same e-mail.
If I had to submit a bid to a potentially important client and needed a translator for a language that I don’t translate myself, I would call in person the best translator known to me in that language and subject combination, explain the situation and ask her or him very nicely whether s(he) could do the translation for me at a somewhat lower rate than usual.
This is because I believe that asking people to work for me for free is not only extremely rude, but also immoral, especially if I don’t know them.
But that’s just me. I realize that The American Civil War did not really end the era of free labor in 1865. There is plenty of free labor around us. They just give it different names, like free tests, internships, “stiffing”, etc.