Charlie Bavington @ C Bavington Ltd

French to English Translation Services

Meeting translation needs since 2003

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Charlie Bavington - French to English freelance translator

Who sets translation prices?


("Background? To what? Where am I?" - Link to the article this stuff is the background to.)

Joy unconfined. May 2010, and after Proz lives up to expectations but not hopes, and after "United Translators" spectacular demonstration of being anything but, up pops no peanuts. To be fair, they seem to have solved the problem quite succintly, reaching much the same conclusion in 10 words (or possibly even just four) that it took me 4,000 to reach.

The piece has been updated (March 2010) in the wake of two recent events.

1. The first was a biggish if short-lived hoo-hah over the translation of the website in Feb 2010, which culminated in an anti-Proz petition proposing a boycott. Sadly, the petition (now seemingly lost to posterity) was a mishmash of issues, most of which I could not agree with. As I said elsewhere:

It includes a bit of almost every contentious issue in the trade - perhaps that's why the kerfuffle. One could write a small book on the various issues. I'll confine myself to what seem to be the salient points.

Boycotts. I have nothing against them. I apply a few in my everyday life. I don't buy meat, for example, and I have my own personal blacklist of countries that I don't buy products from, and that I have no intention of visiting to spend my hard earned cash in. I never buy from Tescos. And so on. However, whether or not they work or have any point at all, insofar as they do either, the general thrust is usually that of customers boycotting "suppliers", not the other way round. I know the UN has a big thing about an embargo on Iran at the moment, but we all know it's idle posturing. Someone will supply them.

So in terms of proz, although there is a middleman role being played as well, it strikes me merely as a refusal to supply. And yet part of the underlying cause of the situation giving rise to the calls for a boycott is excessive supply over demand. And that would apply even if proz were the only website in the world, which it isn't. So what will this boycott change? If it were astonishingly successful, the best that could happen (from the petition-starters' viewpoint) would be that proz could fold. As regards the underlying issues - sod all difference.

Solidarity. I'm good with solidarity (see also: boycotts). I'm all for removing exploitation and I know some of the words to the Red Flag. BUT solidarity and exploitation, these are issues that affect the oppressed, those with limited choices in life. And translators are always banging on about being professionals, educated, worthy of the respect given to architects and lawyers and suchlike. Most of us have the intellectual capacity not to be exploited or oppressed, and the ability and initiative to follow other paths if we prefer them or feel the (financial) need. You don't see Norman Foster calling for a worldwide union to include no-hopers who would struggle to sketch a shed. I could go on, but you get the idea, I hope.

The truth is, you could replace "proz" with almost any other website of its kind in the petition text, and it would apply equally. The only specifically proz element is the part relating to the mission statement and enhancing lives. Otherwise, it's just railing against the way of the world. Proz may be the biggest and ugliest, but even if it went under, nothing that petition objects to would change, nothing. Hence it is pointless. IMVHO, naturally.

- - - - -

I entirely agree with ALL the reasons for not signing. Nobody forces anyone to work for any rate. Some of the petition comments are the usual tired, ill-thought-out, ignorant and plain stupid bollocks, frankly, that plague every bloody thread on the subject. This particular job seems to have touched a nerve somewhere, but I can't see how it differs in essence from dozens of others. The thought of adding my name to a list that includes some of the whining bilge on there gives me pause, definitely. As does the idea of signing a petition that I essentially do not agree with (and have no intention of acting on, in terms of resigning or boycotting), merely because I can see a potential spin-off benefit (i.e. that proz might actually live up to its mission statement of "enhancing translators' lives").

It is not beyond the realms of imagination to conceive of a site that had quality criteria for job posters too. Not regulating the business, just telling some outsourcers they are not welcome for quality reasons - length of business experience, willingness to publicly display their terms and conditions on a web page, membership of a local chamber of commerce or equivalent, D&B credit rating criteria .... just thinking out loud. Quality filter, not price fixing/regulation. I'm not suggesting proz will do that, just saying it's not beyond human imagination that a website could (and charge accordingly, I imagine).

And so, on the grounds that just because we can't achieve everything, does not mean we should do nothing, I signed, hoping that it might just inpsire proz to improve the quality of its job postings. Yes, ceteris paribus, those agencies will simply go elsewhere, but meanwhile, the website that may represent 1% of the market (as HD says here) might improve...

And for the record, I should clarify that there is a difference between a "refusal to supply" as mentioned immediately above, and the ideas expressed in the actual article. The latter describes a change in the entire market that an individual operates in - to no longer accept jobs in that segment, period. I understood a boycott to mean simply a refusal to accept such jobs from a particular channel. Which would not change anything.

2. The new (March 2010) "United Translators" group on Yahoo, which did not even last until the end of April.

A selection of the threads that inspired the original rambling back in Dec. 2008:

agency lowering rates and also same agency lowering rates

The agency in question was Thebigword group (the website linked to above prohibits discussing outsourcers by name), and the demand/strong recommendation for a 6% rate reduction from that particular agency was specifically mentioned in the FT at the time, but not on the company's own website. (Article updated to remove broken links to bigword's own website.)

lumpsum offers

fixed rates

the end of the world as we know it

There are many, many more out there...

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Berate me for being a mutton-headed buffoon here, or direct at cbavington at gmail dot com.

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