Posted by: patenttranslator | November 13, 2014

So This Is How They Do It


As I was taking a well deserved nap yesterday afternoon after several hours of heavy-duty translating (I need to do that at my age now just about every day), my phone rang and my Panasonic phone announced in a genderless, computerized voice “CALL FROM SKYPE”. I have a talking phone, a source of constant entertainment to me because I get a kick out of how it totally mispronounces everything, but not in an accent of any recognizable human language.

It was a man with Russian accent who called himself Chip, an unusual name for a Russian, who said that he was calling from a translation agency in London, England, called Travod and that he was eager to help me out should I be in need of assistance with a translation project in any language. His English was pretty good, although he was obviously just reading something from a sheet of paper, and his accent was not very strong, although I found it really strange to hear a Russian man pronounce the word “patent” in British manner (in England it rhymes with latent).

So to get back to my nap as soon as possible, I told Chip to go ahead and send me an e-mail with a price list for his company’s translation services. Incidentally, I could not get back to sleep after that, but I am not really mad at Chip, I know that he just does what he has to do to get by.

Anyway, if you are curious as to what was in the e-mail that Chip who bravely makes cold calls to what he thinks are translation agencies and then sends them e-mails sent to me, here it is:

Dear Steve,

Following the phone conversation I had with you today, I am sending you an email with the details of our company to see if there is any way we can become a strategic partner in translations for PatentTranslators.

Please note that we do translations in over 130 different languages and we work with more than 2500 freelancers all around the world. All our translators are native speakers of the target language, and have a minimum of 5 years experience in translating. Whenever you get big and urgent projects hard to complete or you don’t have a specialist to translate for a specific industry or language, you could assign the whole translation project to us (translation + editing + proofreading + DTP if needed).

Here are some examples of our discounted rates for translation:

European and Scandinavian languages to English = 0.11 USD/Word; Proofreading – 0.05 USD/Word

German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch, Danish + other

Asian languages to English = 0.11 USD/word; Proofreading – 0.05 USD/Word
Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Mongolian + other

African languages to English = 0.11 USD/word; Proofreading – 0.05 USD/Word

Of course we do handle much more languages besides those listed above, it would be my pleasure to assist you on any future inquiries.

I can send you few names of some of our biggest customers, agencies that constantly use our services – The Big Word, Transperfect, Translate Plus UK, MCIS Canada, Turkish Translations Office Turkey, Fox Service Czech, RWS Group, CTS Language Link etc.

Attached you can see our regular rates, for your consideration, but of course I am opened to give you discounts up to 40% for larger projects and long-term partnerships that definitely should make you happy working with us.

Looking forward to hearing back from you.

There was also another sheet attached listing rates for about 60 languages, all hovering around 11 cents per word.

Chip, Sales Manager, Travod International.

Note: Certificates and reference letters proving the experience available upon request. Translators ready to start immediately if necessary, TRADOS or other related software available.


Travod is clearly created from two words: the first word is the first part of the word “translation”  and the second part is the end of the word “perevod” which means translation in Russian. Very clever. Another blogger wrote an interesting post about Travod last year called “Travod and how to win your client’s trust: nice pics of skyscrapers, dogs and a few phony addresses”, so I think that I will end the post here, especially since I have to translate a Japanese contract that I haven’t started yet although I need to finish it by tomorrow, and then something from Czech followed by two patents from Russian.

Incidentally, according to the post from Translation Ethics linked above, Travod pays to its translators under two Euro cents, which is why and how they probably still make plenty of profit even though they just work for other agencies rather than for direct clients.

But I am wondering, didn’t these fairly large and fairly established translation agencies, as far as agencies go, that are listed in Travod’s e-mail make Travod sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting disclosure of any information relating to the work that Travod is doing for them, such as the fact that these translation agencies send their translation to some guy who may or may not be located in England, but probably lives and works mostly in Moldavia where the cost of living is much lower?

And since Chip is so cavalier with this kind of sensitive information about these translation agencies, who are his dear clients but who probably don’t want anybody to know that this is how they handle translation projects these days, what happens to even more sensitive information of the clients of these translation agencies contained in the documents that they sent to Chip for translation?

Who knows how many people in how many countries will have access to the information contained in the often highly confidential documents being translated by the crème de la crème of these corporate translation agencies who can’t seem to resist getting a really great deal from a subcontractor like Travod, who in turn may be sending the translation to yet another subcontractor in a country where living and labor costs are even lower than in Moldavia, perhaps in China or India?

Oh well, as long as the end client makes the first subcontractor sign a non-disclosure agreement, the first subcontractor makes a second subcontractor sign another non-disclosure agreement, and the second subcontractor makes a third subcontractor sign yet another non-disclosure agreement (if there is a third subcontractor), I am sure everything will be just fine.


  1. Thank you for the explanation of the name, understanding Russian is certainly an asset in this case.
    With their 2500 perfectly qualified translators, why do these people bother us and fill our inboxes with requests for new translators?
    I have an other mail from “Manager Travod” in my trash of last week, and tens of it that I forgot to delete in my history.

    Good luck to them if they work for TheBigWord and Transperfect, always serious competitors for the title of worst payer on the planet, but I would not like to have them owe me any money with such debtors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. @ Didier

    You are welcome.

    Being able to understand the meaning of names is important to me. For a long time I thought that the first part of the name of the British telecommunication company “Vodafone” has something to do with water because “voda” means water in Russian and other Slavic languages.

    But it has nothing to do with water as the name comes from vo-ice, da-ta, + fone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “But I am wondering”

    As long as you keep wondering, they will keep deceiving. When you witness a crime, what do you do?


  4. “When you witness a crime, what do you do?”

    Take the money and run?


    • “Take the money and run?”

      Irrelevant. Listen again. Someone else, not you, has taken the money and run. You are the witness of this theft (this crime). You know the name of the thief, or thieves. What do you do then?
      a) keep silent;
      b) write an article on your blog, exposing the name(s);
      c) report the theft (the crime) to the relevant authorities.


  5. Chip was awfully cavalier indeed with the details of his price list and client list.

    And thanks to you being the true gentleman that you are, Steve, I see clearly now the very different tone used by Chip’s principal when addressing people who may be sources or revenue, as opposed to the tone used to address the hapless 2,500+ who are gullible enough to believe that the price of a translation on the international market has gone down.

    Forget Katie Melua and Dvorak, cue Dire Straits, as your title suggests.
    Methinks keeping confidentiality (not Chip-style obviously) could turn into a unique selling point and attract a huge premium in future.

    Just think, somewhere on the planet right now there is a PM thinking that a translation is just like a sausage in a sausage factory. Sausages and chips.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. @ Allison

    Hey, hands off Katie Melua!

    One commenter on Youtube under the “I’d like to kill you” video said “Katie, please, kill me next”. That’s how I feel when I listen to her songs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing this experience, Steve.
    I know few others who are also hybrid-translators like you and got similar offers, but didn’t care to discuss this publicly.

    I think that this article gives a much needed insight for unsuspecting and naïve translation buyers more than for translators.

    Translators are often already familiar to some degree with the inefficient structure of some market segments in which agencies exist only to serve other agencies, while adding an unnecessary and sometimes damaging link to the (non-)value chain.

    This extra link needs to get funded, and guess by who? Not by the agency that chose to pass the work down to another broker (their margins are promised, don’t worry), but by those paying for the service.

    This is essentially cheating the translation buyers out of their money, while betraying all professional and ethical responsibilities. The translation buyer pays for the first time to fund the overhead and profits of all the middlemen involved, and then pays for the second time by receiving a service that was rendered by someone who accepts what is left after all the middlemen took their (generous) cut, who is likely to be a cheap, unskilled, inexperienced (and sometime borderline fraudulent) service provider — a far cry from the “network of millions of experts” that the translation buyer was promised.

    This should be shared with many translation buyers as possible.


  8. “This is essentially cheating the translation buyers out of their money, while betraying all professional and ethical responsibilities.”

    Exactly. That’s why I could not resist writing about it. Incidentally, they called me back 3 or 4 times to close the deal, but I let the call go to my answering machine.

    “This should be shared with many translation buyers as possible.”

    I agree, but unfortunately, blogs like mine are probably mostly red by translators rather than translation buyers,


    • “I agree, but unfortunately, blogs like mine are probably mostly red by translators rather than translation buyers”

      Probably, but you can never know, and this could serve as a good reference if and when an opportunity arise.
      If one is involved with shady business, one should conduct them in the dark. The way these people operate makes it harder for them to stay in the dark in the social media age, but more people should speak up instead of being afraid of the consequences.


  9. […] That is why one of the novel managerial techniques of what is called the translation industry is the modern practice of sub-sub-subcontracting, very popular among large translation agencies. […]


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