Last week I ignored a potential translation job from German because the e-mail that was sent to me from a translation agency that I know very well did not address me by name. When an e-mail is sent to me and to a number of translators, I ignore it because when I see a mass e-mail, I automatically assume that somebody somewhere will do it cheaper and faster.
Somebody somewhere did translate it cheaper and faster, but he or she could not be located to certify it according to an e-mail that I received a few days later. The guy who runs the tiny agency was asking me (and an unknown number of other translators) whether I could certify it.
I ignored the e-mail again because it was not addressed directly to me and because I don’t see how I could possibly certify another person’s work. But somebody somewhere did proofread it because a couple of days later I (and a number of translators) again received an e-mail from the same agency asking about my (our) availability for retranslating a part of the German text that was translated last week.
Some of the reasons why the proofreader refused to certify the translation, although it was “reasonably okay” according to the reviewer, were as follows:
1. There are many places where German words were left untranslated in graphics. ?????
2. Symbols for chemical compounds are written without subscripts. ?????
3. Some terminology is misspelled in some places, while it is spelled correctly in other places. ?????
4. Some spellings are British, not American, while American spellings can be also found. ??????
These are relatively minor problems, but combined together they make the translation unusable. I took a look at the German original, and it was a very simple text from a PowerPoint presentation. But although the German text is quite simple, the whole text or at least most of it must be now retranslated.
I sometime have to deal with problems like this when I function as an agency, which is happening more and more frequently. But since I normally only accept projects in languages that I can at least read to some extent myself, I can usually save a job like this when I proofread it myself, which means that I only have to pay the original translator who will never hear from me again, rather than several translators and a reviewer.
But as most agencies do not specialize in only a handful of languages as I do, they have to spend a lot of effort and money in order to save a mediocre or pretty bad translation in cases like this.
So in the end, this particular translation that I chose to ignore will be very expensive because instead of one translator who would be probably charging a somewhat higher rate than the “subprime” translator who tackled this fairly simple PowerPoint presentation, at least three translators will in the end have to work on it in order to produce evidence that can be used in court.
It will cost at least twice as much as what it would have cost had the e-mail been addressed only to me or to another experienced translator.
This is an example of how a bidding game aimed at minimizing the cost and ensuring a short turnaround time can result in a much higher cost and a late delivery of the translation. I am no genius, but I do know that I can’t leave German words untranslated, even in graphics, I put subscripts in chemical compounds, my spelling is consistently American, etc.
And I can be always easily located to certify my own work.