More translators’ tricky situations

Following my post advice to a translation student, a reader has asked me what I would do in the following situations:
You send your translation to the client. The client is not happy. You know the translation is good, how do you convince him/her?
This happened to me only yesterday. My client, an agency I’ve been working with for 8 years, sent me a translation I did in December. The client had corrected roughly 75% of it and the agency asked me to comment on the changes. When I looked at them, I saw that the reviewer had changed the majority of the technical terms that I had used in the text. These had been given to me in a reference document which I had been asked to use for consistency. I also noticed that several mistakes had been added to the text.
I wrote a report detailing the various types of changes, underlining that the terminology used was no longer consistent with former French translations and that the new text should be proofread, as it contained a few mistakes.
You are asked to edit a translation before it gets sent to the client; it’s full of errors, what do you do?
If it comes from a new client, I never accept an editing or proofreading job without having a quick look at it first. Too many companies hire unqualified people to do translations and I don’t want to correct a document that should be retranslated from scratch. If the job comes from a trusted client and it is really bad, I will first contact the client to explain that the translation isn’t of an acceptable standard and that I will charge them higher than my usual rate as the work will take longer than it should.
For more difficult situations, see 10 Tricky Situations Translators Might Find Themselves In and How To Get Out of Them.

By |2016-10-18T15:49:17+00:00January 16th, 2009|Freelance Translation|5 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Corinne McKay January 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    These are excellent tips! Personally I have a policy that unless I know the translator involved, I only charge by the hour (never by the word) to do editing, for exactly the reason you mentioned. Unfortunately a lot of agencies use the “lousy translator, experienced editor” model, and then you’re essentially translating for 4 cents a word or whatever you charge to edit. I think that charging by the hour makes the client think twice before they send you something substandard. Great post!

  2. Daquya January 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm
  3. Judy Jenner January 20, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Good advice here! We are very reluctant to take on editing/proofing jobs, and as we work almost exclusively for direct clients, luckily it doesn’t come up much. If we were to do more of it, I completely agree with Corinne on charging by the hour, which is certainly very fair (and might discourage unprofessional agencies from sending work to edit after their “translation” came was done by Bablefish).

  4. Bela January 20, 2009 at 2:29 am

    I have been in both situations in the past. I did more or less what you do, Céline. I’ve also had to explain points of French grammar to people with hardly any knowledge of the language but who thought ‘it looked funny’. Writing those reports – for no money, of course – was such a waste of time. And they used to drive me nuts.
    I’ve always charged by the hour for editing.

  5. Adam Warren February 3, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Bela’s remark about writing reports strikes a familiar note: I now post a surcharge for any revision (“proofreading”) requiring completion of a structured document (e.g. awkwardly divided into several Excel sheets, entailing provision of statistics), asked-for by some agencies. This is really to deter clients from asking me to spend unbudgeted time on these reports, which are designed for the agency’s arcane purposes, with little regard for the translator’s time and energy: unheard-of categorisations such as “highly visible”, and no “mistranslation” or “register” anywhere in sight.
    Obviously, I keep my own report form handy (a chapter-&-verse table in a Word template) should I have any major quality issue to report for an input translation.

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