The worst job ever?

I recently took a job from a translation agency that will remain nameless. I had passed their test some time ago, but didn't do much work for them because their rates were usually too low for me.

They recently contacted me about taking part of a big job, and agreed to my usual rates, so I accepted.

Big, BIG mistake.

Firstly, they sent me the file, saying it was about 3 pages. Then they immediately sent me three other files, saying they were higher priority, so I put the first file on the back burner and did the high-priority ones.

Then I open up the "3-page" file and found that it had a lot more than three pages. I called them in a panic, because the translation was due the next day.

Me: This file has a lot more text than 3 pages. Is this the right file, or do you just need part of it done?

Agency: Whoops, sorry. I left off a "0" from the count. It's actually 30 pages.

Me: Holy crap, this job is due tomorrow and it's 10 times what you told me. But actually, the file has way more than even 30 pages.

Agency: Well yeah, actually it's 90 pages, but 60 pages worth are repetitions, so we just count the new stuff.

Me: ::boggle:: … Leaving aside how hard it makes it to schedule my time when you give me a word count 30 times lower than actual, I suppose that this means that you don't plan to pay anything for the repetitions that I translate.

Agency: Of course, since it's just a search and replace…

Me ::double boggle:: … Oh and by the way, I notice that you've done some sort of search and replace from your glossary, inserting English words into the middle of the Japanese text (and incidentally corrupting the file due to something wrong with the tool you used). I suppose that you don't plan to pay for the Japanese words that were replaced?

Agency: No, of course not, since we only pay for translation, and those words are already translated for you.

There's no way I'm going to do 90 pages in a day, no matter how much of it is "just search and replace" and helpfully interspersed with horrible translations from a glossary with sometimes comical results, but I agreed to do one third of the job because I made the commitment. But I am truly flabbergasted that a reputable translation agency could think that this is a normal way to deal with translators. Needless to say, this is the last job I will do for this agency.

5 comments to The worst job ever?

  • That is soooooo not cool. In that case I think I would have also told them to shove the 30 pages. You agreed to 3 – not 30. They breached the contract – not you.

  • Jamie

    It’s very tough when dealing with a client who has tight deadlines to force yourself to keep to your working principles. See the work load first (sign an NDA if you need to), quote specifically for that job and make a conditional agreement for that one piece of work – we all know how it works. Then you decide to bend a little bit too far for a new client, and it all goes pear-shaped. Tough break!

    Search and replace doesn’t get paid? I would be out on the street if that was the case in my line of work.

  • @Jamie

    I definitely bear a share of blame for not checking the file before accepting it. The thing is, I had done small jobs for this agency before, and they never even asked for a discount for repetitions, let alone the shady things they pulled this time.

    If nothing else, it was a good lesson for me.


    I turned in the 30 pages (of which I’ll only get paid for 10 … grr!), but in order to do so I had to make do with five hours of sleep, and juggle my other work. As a result, I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me … joy!

  • Just out of curiosity, is the “search and replace” job in JapaneseEnglish translation as frought with bugs as it is for HebrewEnglish translation?
    Am talking about bugs coming from text directions, mistakes due to structural grammatical differences such as, for example, gender declentions in verbs existing in the target language but not in the source one etc.

    Because we actually stopped working with TMs, since none of them have yet fixed these bugs and the investment in editing time far ecxeeded the gtranslation time benefit.

  • @Milatova

    Yes, very much so. For example, there is no grammatical distinction in Japanese between singular and plural. Plus there is no space between words, which can lead to some bizarre results when doing a blind search and replace.

    Also, because the grammatical structures of English and Japanese are very different, simply replacing words isn’t even half of the battle, even if by some miracle you’ve replaced all the words with their correct English equivalents.

    I do use translation memory, and it can be a huge time saver in some cases. But the belief that it completely eliminates any labor for repeated segments is fantasy. And thinking that blindly searching and replacing glossary entries will save labor is delusion.

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