Posted by: patenttranslator | March 29, 2018

One of the Biggest Problems with the “Translation Industry”

One of the biggest problems with the “translation industry” is the astonishing ignorance of the people who run the “industry” and work in it.

A few years ago, I was contacted by a project manager of a translation agency I had never worked for before about my availability for a major potential project involving translations of many emails and other documents from Russian to English.

Just for the heck of it, I asked the project manager in my response to her email whether the project was really in Russian. Well, not just for the heck of it, because it did happen to me many times that a project that was offered to me by an agency’s project manager as a Japanese document for translation was in Chinese or Korean.

In fact, when a translator receives an email about something called by the project manager simply a “document”, it’s clear that the poor PM has absolutely no idea what’s in the “document,” because otherwise the title or the subject of the document could be mentioned and it could be described as an unexamined patent application, examined patent application, published patent, office action, company profile, medical autopsy report, computer game manual, etc.

I mostly translate myself, but when I work as a translation agency, I never send a “document” to a translator. I always identify the potential translation project because I actually know what’s in the “document.”

But when I deal with a translation agency, something like that happens only if the “document” is already provided with a summary in English.

The content and the nature of “documents” that are in languages such as French or Spanish can be often guessed by monolingual PMs who only know English, but this is not the case with documents that are for example in Japanese or in Russian.

The answer to my cheeky question about the upcoming project was “Well, it must be in Russian because the documents are written in Cyrillic.”

The poor PM not only could not read Russian, but on top of that, she was also completely ignorant of general basic facts about an important group of languages that were foreign and completely opaque to her: such as the fact that although the documents for translation that appeared to her to be in Russian because they were written in the Cyrillic alphabet might have been in Russians, they could also have been written in several other languages including Ukrainian, Belorussian, Serbian, Bulgarian, or Macedonian, and as a result of Russification during a long era of Soviet rule, also in languages spoken in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, or even Mongolian.

I did not make myself available for the project because I know from experience that ignorant PMs often create problems that will be eventually blamed on the translator, even when the crux of the problem may have been beyond the powers of a mere translator.

For example, in my example of a PM who is unable to even read the files that she is assigning to different translators because they are in the Cyrillic alphabet, a big problem can be created when the PM sends documents written by the same person on the same subject to several different translators who will be using different terminology, instead of making sure that they are sent to the same translator.

And the PM in my example, an example from real life of a real translator, was clearly unable to do so.

If there is a problem with a translation: “Shoot the translator!” is generally the typical response from the “translation industry.” And given the depths of ignorance on the part of the people running the “industry” and working in it, this is really the only kind of response that the “industry” is capable of, isn’t it?

For example, should a customer have a legitimate complaint about a problem in a translation, how was the PM that I mentioned in the introduction to my silly blog post today supposed to find out what the actual problem was?

Of course, it is not humanly possible for a translation agency’s project manager to understand every language or every subject that he or she is asked to manage. But therein lies one of the biggest predicaments of the “translation industry.” The “industry” is eager to advertise itself as being imminently qualified to translate every subject from and into every language, which is of course an impossibility.

It is obviously not possible for a translation agency’s project manager to know all of the thousands of languages spoken on this planet. It is possible for a translation agency to hire project managers who can at least read several languages and who are thus much more likely to prevent problems before they occur, for instance when the wrong document is sent to the wrong translator (because the PM not only has no idea what is in the document, but also is unable to ascertain the quality of the work that is done by the translator.)

Based on my experience and based on my interactions with the “industry” for more than three decades, relatively few translation agencies hire PMs who are multilingual or at least knowledgeable about translation issues and other languages than English, mostly because people like that are generally more expensive than fresh college graduates who don’t really know anything about anything, at least not in the vast field that is referred to as “translation.”

The single-minded emphasis on short-term profits in the “translation industry” logically results in hiring of project managers and translators who are willing to work for the least amount of money, and who are often located in countries where human labor is much less expensive than for example in the United States or Western Europe.

This is combined with efforts to incorporate machine translation and other aspects of what is called “language technology”, such as creative efforts at disqualifying some words from being reimbursable at the same rate as other words in the translation process as much as possible, which in reality are crude and patently illegitimate efforts at wage theft.

This emphasis on short-term profits means that most, although not all, translation agencies are bravely willing to tackle translations from and into every language and in every subject.

Their mission is clear: find in their databases, presumably containing thousands of profiles of highly qualified “linguists”, or on the internet, a translator who claims to be able to do the job at hand, and to do it at the lowest rate in order to maximize the profit of the translation agency.

And since they can generally always find warm bodies willing to do the work, the result of the recent version of the “translation industry” is predictable: translations that range in their quality from not very good to really awful and unusable.

Generally speaking, because the largest translation agencies have higher expenses than smaller operations, they usually pay their translators less than smaller translation agencies, although some small translation outfits are just as greedy as the big ones, if not more.

So what is the solution for clients who need translations that will be actually useful to the clients who pay for them?

Well, I think that the solution for these clients is to stay away from the “translation industry” as much as possible and instead to establish a working relationship with a small and highly specialized translation agency, or with an individual translator specializing only in the languages and subjects that these clients need.

Because no single translation agency can translate every language and every subject under the sun, a translation agency that specializes in every language and every subject does not really specialize in anything and most likely does not know anything about anything.

But there are many translators and translation agencies specializing in subjects such as financial translation, translation of computer games, medical translations, or translations of patents from and into a given range of languages, which happens to be what Mad Patent Translator has been specializing in for some three decades.

False modesty aside, I think the main reason why I have been able to do what I am doing, which is to say translating patents for a living for such a long time and making a pretty good living doing so, is that unlike in the example of the ignorant translation agency project manager mentioned in the introduction to my silly post today, I actually know what I am doing.


  1. March 30, 2018: “Day Translations is looking for a professional localization project manager to work with us in a long-term and growing position. We need someone who understands and has experience in managing large localization projects using the most updated localization software.

    In this job, you will be.

    1. Managing localization projects in all languages.”

    (and blablabla…).

    You are so right when you denounce those LSPs’ methods! Crooks, all of them…

    So, to summarize: the most important thing is that the future PM masters software programs designed for the sole and only purpose to extort undue rebates from their victims.

    This is much, much, much more important than knowing the languages that he or she will be dealing with…

    The entire translator sector is going down the drain, I am telling you – all that because of the SDL psychopaths (maybe pervert psychopaths) and a few crooks who created platforms, pushing rates further down (with the help of a few naive freelance translators, it’s true – but those platforms would have existed anyway, I guess…).

    As long as there are customers willing to pay for that kind of garbage…

    Even online patents are not reliable any more. I used to rely on their online translations blindly, but recently I noticed more and more errors…

    This is the consequence of a market falling progressively into the hands of total crooks who compete on price… until they reach 0.01 EUR or USD for so-called PEMT and other synonyms…

    Only half-savages located in monkey countries (sorry, the modern synonym is shithole countries,I guess?!) can afford to work at those prices – and even they complain that PEMT takes much longer than translating from scratch…

    When I think that translating should be reserved to highly educated, university-trained elite – which is why the profession was not regarded as needing barriers… until recently, since nowadays just anyone equipped with an online PC, bilingual or not, can claim to be a “translator”! The same goes for intermediaries, by the way…

    The ball is in the camp of the customers: if they prefer to keep on feeding those crooks, that’s too bad, but they are increasingly crying that no matter what intermediary they are using, the quality is never what they had expected. Because they refuse to understand that the entire market is based on sub-slavery since the advent of the Internet.

    It used to be reserved to an educated elite.

    Now it’s in the hands of just any monkey connected to the Net.

    With a parallel market of super-monkeys sub-sub-sub contracting out from sub-contracting crooks: they share 90% of the profits, leaving peanuts to their translating victims – and the end-customer is TOTALLY UNAWARE of this dirty game, of course…

    So, if customers don’t start finding their own translators directly on the market (and not just only via recommendations: that’s silly), they will kill a market that they need…

    The ball is in the camp of end-customers.

    They must learn to cut the middleman, or at least rely on REAL translators, who UNDERSTAND the translating PROCESS (and thus volumes achievable per day, for example), linguistics and LANGUAGES, and the SPECIALISATION areas that they work in.


    All the more that the market is sliding into the hands of the above-mentioned monkeys, so the formerly good agencies have to follow the trend…

    The ball is in the camp of end-customers – some of which are still convinced that a “small translator” cannot “handle their large volumes”!

    The very low education level (and intelligence level) of the contact persons for freelance translators in commercial companies is appalling, as if the university-trained people that we are were not entitled to speaking to other university-trained people – only to brainless secretaries, which is insulting per se and denotes a blatant IGNORANCE OF WHAT TRANSLATION IS ALL ABOUT.

    The mental image of the average freelance translator that is being carried by those amateur intermediaries is that of a typist who translates at the speed of typing… Some poor soul who is supposedly happy with the few peanuts thrown at him or her. Thus not deserving more. Ah, and someone TOTALLY unreliable that has to be SUPERVISED by some agency, TESTED (freely, of course: from peanuts to working for free: what’s the big difference?) – and robbed part of their peanuts on the ground that some words in the SOURCE text are repeated, even if they have to be translated differently.

    It’s up to freelance transltors to EDUCATE END-CUSTOMERS, either in person, or in their mailings, or over the phone.

    Customers are CLUELESS.

    So they are easy preys to the LIES of the CROOKS who pretend to be translation “agencies”.

    99% of translation agencies are slave-owners… and total crooks…

    This is the state of the translation market in 2018, 18 years after the advent of the Internet.

    I have just sent away some new Canadian agency “expanding its business” and imposing (which is ILLEGAL per se) EUR 0.05 per source word LESS the fuzzy match rebates, since they are obviously very eager to know which fucking “CAT” tools we might be owning and using…

    I told them they don’t belong to the “translation world”…

    Have a nice Easter week-end…


  2. Reblogged this on Translator Power.

    Liked by 1 person

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