Do the math

I don't like doing so-called "native checks," or proofing other translators' work in general. It just turns into a bad experience way too often.

I'm candid about this with clients. I tell them I prefer not to do that sort of work. Sometimes they ask anyway, and if they're good clients (i.e. they send me lots of the kind of work that I like), then sometimes I'm not too busy to do it.

The other day, a client I occasionally work for (the one that was having quality issues with another translator) called me and asked me to proof their new translator's work.

Feeling vaguely sorry for them because of their lousy past translations, I said I'd do it. They asked me to quote a rate for doing this proofing work, and I quoted roughly one third my translation rate, softy that I am (a lot of people charge half).

Now, this client obviously knows what I charge them for translation. From my turnaround, they should also have a decent idea of what I earn per day. And they know that I don't like proofing. So when I gave them my rate, did they thank me for the great deal I was cutting them? No. Instead I get the sucking of teeth, and asking me to work for an hourly rate instead of the per-word rate I quoted, for what amounts to less than a third of what I can make translating.

Let's see: translate for some other client doing work I enjoy, or work for less than a third of the money doing something I hate. Tough call!

Come to think of it, the reason for this company's quality problems have now become a bit clearer.

3 comments to Do the math

  • William Taylor

    I often find checking this kind of stuff actually takes more time than writing it yourself!

  • Yes, IME most of the time you’ve got to rewrite the thing to turn it into a good translation. You can kind of clean it up a bit and turn it into a mostly correct, but still strange and stilted translation in less time. And that’s what sucks about these kinds of jobs: the economics of the situation force you to pass through a sub-par translation, because they’re paying you for a rescue job — aka “English check” — not a translation.

    By the way, I turned them down in the end. Said I’d never charged by the hour and wasn’t prepared to work in that style.

  • Zak

    I believe that we should start doing “professional” checks. The native speaker is this mythical creature who seems to incorporate all the ideals of the Chomskyan grammarian. Not true, unfortunately.

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