Posted by: patenttranslator | December 23, 2015

You Will Only Find What You Bring In

You will only find what you bring in.

Master Yoda

About seven or eight years ago, I was asked by a translation agency in the UK bidding on a tender for translation services to send them my CV, samples of my work and a copy of my university diploma. Although I had never done this before, and although I had never worked for the agency before and didn’t know anything about it either, I sent them what they wanted. What do I have to lose? I thought to myself.

After the agency received all of this information from me, they thanked me for sending it, but after that I never heard from them again.

Now I know that I was very naive. Stupid would be in fact a better way to put it because I did have a lot to lose. When people you don’t know have a lot of information about you, they might misuse it and what you will lose in such a case is your good name.

What probably happened in that case seven or eight years ago was that the agency submitted its bid and either failed to win the tender, or won the tender based on the qualifications of translators who like me obediently supplied them with information about their education, experience and other qualifications, and then decided to go with cheaper translators.

There is absolutely nothing preventing a translation agency from doing that and many are doing exactly this. This kind of professional identity theft, for lack of a better term, is very popular in “the translation industry”. Personal information and translator résumés now represent a valuable commodity that is used not only by real businesses, but also by any number of fly-by-night operations, say, a guy sitting with a laptop in a kitchen, not a very clean kitchen at that, who may be promising to successfully undertake and complete a very complicated translation project for a few pennies a word based on a few résumés obtained in an unsavory manner and a completely made up Internet identity of a translation business that doesn’t really exist. A made up business that exists only temporarily on the Internet and that can easily disappear without a trace and leave you holding the bag, which is exactly what dozens of them do.

What should you do if an unknown translation agency contacts you with an urgent request to send them your information, a copy of your college diploma and translation samples to help them win a potentially lucrative project?

I don’t think that giving your information to a complete stranger e-mailing you out of the blue from “the translation industry”, which Master Yoda would describe as The Dark Side, is a good idea. I did it myself, but only once and I will never do it again. It could be a guy sitting in a kitchen with a laptop who may do serious damage to your reputation. Even if you do the work and do it well, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get paid for it.

I prefer not to give a lot of information about myself or my services, even to translation agencies that I know that really exist because I worked for them at some point. I’ll quote them a rate and a fee for a project if they have one and show it to me, but other than that, I ignore them. Sometimes I ignore them even when I know them, or because I know them.

Yesterday I received another e-mail from an agency in Europe that I did some work for about five years ago.

Dear translator,

I hope you are well.

Last week I contacted you in regards to a tender we are applying for … The translators should have previous experience working for UN organizations (WHO, UNIAIDS, EMA, etc.) within the fields of medicine, pharmaceutics, life sciences and similar … I am really looking forward to your reply as I think your profile would match this project well!

I didn’t respond to the e-mail from last week and I’m not going to respond to this one either. I translated several long Japanese patents for this agency about five years ago and they eventually paid me, although I see in my files that I had to send them a reminder before I finally received the money.

But back then the Euro:US dollar rate, which is today about 1:0.92, was about 1:1.37 which means that my fee would be 26% higher at the same price in US dollars, and thus most likely too high. So even if my résumés helped the agency to win a bid, they probably couldn’t afford me anymore even if it isn’t one of the many dishonest brokers who at this point seem to represent the bulk of “the translation industry”.

After my initial patent translations for the translation agency in Europe, I’ve periodically been receiving e-mails from this agency in which a project manager was asking me again to send him or her my résumé and my rates. Because I have been receiving these inquiries about once a year and every time it was a different project manager, the manager burnout rate at this agency must be pretty high.

I ignored these e-mails as well because even if I did send them my information, and even if the agency could afford me, next year there would be a different project manager asking me the same information again.

As Yoda put it, “You will only find what you bring in”. And the problem with so many translation agencies these days is that they expect everything from us translators, without bringing in anything. There are so many “linguists” in their database, they don’t even bother to remember who you are anymore.

The project manager who needs my résumé to bid on a translation tender didn’t even have the time to input my name in the e-mail that she sent to me. How long would it take to use a name instead of saying just “Dear translator” when you send the same e-mail to a dozen translators? About 3 seconds to input the name, x 12 = 36 seconds.
But according to calculations of the corporate business model in the current version of “the translation industry”, a dozen translators aren’t worth even half a minute’s time of a project manager, who is probably young, underpaid and who will be probably replaced in a few months time by another project manager who will be younger, cheaper, and even more clueless.

I will end my silly post today with another inspirational saying of Master Yoda, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.

Once you start down the dark path of trying to please people who never really bring anything to a transaction between two parties and never really try to establish a real relationship with their translators because to them translators are interchangeable and easily replaceable cogs in the magnificent machinery of corporate profit, mere translators who to the translation agency are just as easily replaceable as its project managers, consume you it will.

Better to stay away from the Dark Side.

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Responses

  1. (Does some quick back-dating…) If that job involved a certain globe-spanning intellectual property outfit, you didn’t miss out on much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so right about this. I am always being asked for a copy of my ATA certification which is utterly redundant because the ATA website clearly states my certification and surely it is more reliable than a photocopy? I was also approached by an agency that claimed that they were bidding for a tender from the Translation Department of the EU and for this purpose they needed not only my c.v., credentials, etc. etc. but a list of references! They even reproduced the demand from the EU. Clearly the translation dept of the EU must have been hoodwinked so many times by scammers that they now require all this stuff, but I am damned if I am going to hand out references to these people who will merely steal them, especially if the references I give them are direct clients.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those kind of e-mails get deleted immediately.

    What is UNIAIDS (sounds like something nasty you might pick up in college) and when did EMA become a U.N. organisation?

    May I digress completely and ask if I’m the only one receiving a constant stream of Christmas e-mails from agencies I don’t remember ever having any contact with?

    Like

  4. I receive Christmas e-mails too, although it’s just a trickle, not a constant stream. And I also started sending them to direct customers. I know it’s cheap and crass … but sometime they respond and send me their best wishes too. I just want to stay on their radar for a few more years.

    Like

    • I was just wondering why so many e-mails from people I’ve never worked for.

      There’s nothing wrong with sending Christmas e-mails and I love this time of the year but I never quite know what is a suitable greeting that most people would be happy with. I haven’t quite got round to embracing the American “Happy Holidays”.

      Like

      • I got used to bland language US style. It does not bother me one bit.

        Happy Holidays!

        Like

  5. “What probably happened in that case seven or eight years ago was that the agency submitted its bid and either failed to win the tender, or won the tender based on the qualifications of translators who like me obediently supplied them with information about their education, experience and other qualifications, and then decided to go with cheaper translators.

    There is absolutely nothing preventing a translation agency from doing that and many are doing exactly this. This kind of professional identity theft, for lack of a better term, is very popular in “the translation industry”.”

    Word (unsupported, of course) has it that this happens fairly frequently. Of course, the terms of the tender will be that the agency is to use those translators whose names it has given in the tender, but that doesn’t always happen, either because those translators aren’t available or because the agency is unscrupulous anyway.

    “What should you do if an unknown translation agency contacts you with an urgent request to send them your information, a copy of your college diploma and translation samples to help them win a potentially lucrative project?”

    My policy is only to work with agencies I know, and where I am reasonably sure they are on the level. With others, I may say “feel free to contact me if you win the tender, but I can’t give you my details now”.

    “So even if my résumés helped the agency to win a bid, they probably couldn’t afford me anymore even if it isn’t one of the many dishonest brokers who at this point seem to represent the bulk of “the translation industry”.”

    True, especially given how the euro has been against the pound recently.

    “There are so many “linguists” in their database, they don’t even bother to remember who you are anymore.”

    That’s the trouble with databases: they can be very dehumanising. Efficient, sometimes, but dehumanising.

    “The project manager who needs my résumé to bid on a translation tender didn’t even have the time to input my name in the e-mail that she sent to me. How long would it take to use a name instead of saying just “Dear translator” when you send the same e-mail to a dozen translators? ”

    Was it not a mass mailout, then?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. About 6 months ago, a PM from an agency in Bucharest asked me to send her a copy of my college diploma and my translator authorization. I stupidly did, never heard a word from her since… Now another agency from the Czech Republic is asking for my CV and diploma, claiming they need them for the… EU tender they are competing in. I was hesitating about it, but you’ve just convinced me not to send them anything.

    Like

  7. So I did something good today, Raluca. If they don’t know you well, they should not be using your personal information as if you were their translator.

    Like

    • Indeed! Thank you, a (very) useful article, as always.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for this post, Steve. It is important to tell younger colleagues again and again not to send anything to that kind of agencies and to explain them why.
    Of course I have been receiving a lot of similar mails in the past asking me to send a copy of my diplomas and so on, and I am still receiving them today, occasionally. In the past, I used to answer politely that I would send them what they need as soon as they give me the first assignment. I never heard of them again. In the meanwhile, I ignore such mails.

    And, yes, @Lisa, every year, I get mails with season’s greetings from agencies which I do not have any contact with. They thank me for the collaboration during the past year, and bla bla bla. :-)))

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Some feed from the other end of the globe:

    Dec 11 2015, Trud (Labor), a Bulgarian newspaper:
    Orchid-94 Ltd filed a claim with the Prosecutor General saying that Interlang Ltd presented false contracts for the provision of translation services. These contracts, asserts Orchid-94 LTD, were drawn by the manager of Interlang Ldt to meet the tender requirements.
    http://www.trud.bg/Article.asp?ArticleId=5168989 (in Bulgarian language)

    Sep 19 2012, a Bulgarian blogger (long inactive):
    To participate in translation tenders for various government departments, the intermediary companies would give the names of approved translators working as freelancers. Subsequently, none of them would be used; instead, translations would be assigned to other translators, not to the ones included in the tender documents.
    http://zakonprevodachi2012.blog.bg/novini/2012/09/19/posting-4-za-kachestvoto-na-prevoda-prevodachite-i-novite-do.1001312 (in Bulgarian language)

    Like

  10. I was at a seminar a few weeks ago with Mónica García Soriano from the External Translation Unit of the European Commission Directorate-General for Translation, and she was quite adamant that, for their tenders at least, (1) they did not expect agencies to send in the CVs of all the translators they would use and (2) the strategy of sending in “good” CVs and then using “bad” translators would not work, because all external translations are quality checked in-house and they have procedures in place to ensure that poor-quality providers do not receive further work. Of course, just because the strategy will not work is not enough to stop some people trying it…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think my interaction was the most bizarre.

    A few years ago an agency–from Spain if I remember correctly–asked for my CV, certificates &c. for them to participate in an EU tender for translating a bazillion words into Portuguese and other languages. I asked them whether they needed Brazilian Portuguese–from their message, this seemed unlikely but not impossible–and explained I only did Brazilian Portuguese.

    They replied telling me to send the stuff asap because the deadline to file the bid was approaching!

    Some 2-3 days later, they wrote saying they didn’t need it anymore.

    Like


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