The Irony of ISO Certifications

ISO certifications have become a trend amongst translation agencies. Such a certification undoubtedly sounds like a mark of professionalism and commitment to certain standards, and of course it is reassuring to potential clients. Sadly, it is one of those things that “look great on paper but”: the new demands this creates can prove detrimental to the agency-translator relationship.

In the UK, a professional translator is usually at least an Associate, if not a full Member, of either the CIOL and/or the ITI. This means that our qualifications and references have been checked, that we Continue reading

Commodity Translators vs Service Translators

The translation agencies’ race to the bottom – endlessly undercutting each other’s rates and claiming to provide the best for less – has led many new starters and less confident translators to accept unsustainable rates, creating two increasingly apparent categories: the “commodity translators” (slaves who translate for agencies or clients unwilling to pay decent rates) and the “service translators” (business-aware linguists who work primarily with direct clients for reasonable rates and who do more than just Continue reading

Translation or Localisation?

An agency once sent a translation with some complaints from the client to me by accident. The problematic translation was a Belgian French version of a text that I had translated for them into French French. The agency had commissioned two translators to work on the same text into two different variants of French. While adapting the text to each country is sensible, translating the text twice into very similar variants of the same language is not the most cost-effective way to do it. Continue reading

The Joker in Disguise

Last month, this mass email landed in my inbox from a translation agency that regularly sends assignment offers that I rarely accept due to their unrealistic deadlines. This one was beyond unrealistic, however; it was surreal. It was sent on a Monday evening, just after 6pm:

“Would you be available to Continue reading

Talk to the Expert Direct

It is somewhat unsettling to receive panic requests from agencies asking whether I would be available to translate some urgent medical text. I do not touch medical documents and my professional indemnity insurance would not cover me in case of subsequent incident. Do agencies ever go back to the client and admit that they could not source a competent person in time to meet the tight deadline they had promised? Or are there individuals who do take such assignments on despite their lack of Continue reading

The Downward Spiral

Translation agencies never cease to amaze me. A couple of weeks ago, an agency I have never worked for emailed a list of professionals (including myself) saying that they work extensively with machine translation and are therefore recruiting post-editors. To try and convince translators to drop their standards and self-esteem and accept such work, they list the following “benefits”: Continue reading