Just a little bit…

As a translator you often build on existing texts: a product range is renewed or extended; a new brochure is published that contains bits of text from the previous one, and so on.
 If the quality of the first version is good, it’s just plain sailing and borrowing from the existing text is totally justified. However, if the quality of the translation leaves a lot to be desired, the translator has his or her work cut out to improve the style, make sure the terminology is consistent, carry out additional research…. In such a case, the translator absolutely deserves every cent for the whole job to turn the translation into a quality product.

Mistakes can take on a life of their own

If you have outsourced the revision work or new translation to a big translation agency, you run the risk that such errors will take on a life of their own and that they will continue to haunt you and — more importantly — the reader. In fact, translation agencies assume that anyone who calls themselves a translator can translate well, and therefore delivers a good job, but in my experience and to my amazement this is unfortunately not always the case:
- capteur translated as ‘sender’ instead of ‘sensor’; 
- projecteurs translated as ‘spotlights’ instead of ‘headlights’ 
- Kuchengabel translated as ‘kitchen fork’ instead of ‘pastry fork’ 
- The metal was casted; 
- grammatical and spelling mistakes such as ‘the’re casserole’, wierd, definately, 
- …

You, as the end customer, get a discount for the existing text content, and the freelance translator, who often does not get paid at all for that part, therefore does nothing to correct any errors in the existing text.

For years now, I have been appalled by these practices, which are becoming more common in large translation agencies, especially since, in most cases, the customer does assume he is getting a high quality translation and pays for it in its totality. That’s why I only take freelance work from the translation agencies that do allow me to revise the existing part, or at least take me seriously if I alert them to the poor quality of that content.

A good freelance translator is dedicated to his/her craft

If you work directly with a freelancer, you don’t have this problem. Unlike a project manager in a translation agency, who is just an employee, a good freelancer is dedicated to his or her craft. As far as I am concerned, quality is the highest pursuit, while the bosses of translation agencies are only interested in the bottom line.

If, as a freelance translator for an end customer, I have to rework an existing text that neither I nor my team translated prior to that, I grant a justified discount yet with sufficient margin to allow me and my team to optimize the text. This ensures that I produce a final text of consistent quality without having to pay for another person’s mistakes later on, or worse, hear from a customer that I’ve made a mess of the text in its [target] language.