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What annoys you? August 25, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Translation Sites.

Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer features an article entitled “What annoys you? PDQ asks readers to share what gets under their skin.” The article interviewed people in different occupations asking “In the course of your job, what’s the one thing people do that annoys you the most?” in the “not-so-subtle hope is that the people doing these terrible things will read these answers, and, well, um, stop already.” It was a fun little read, and I thought it would be fun to ask you all what annoys you the most. I’ll start…

The thing that annoys me the most is when project managers at large-scale agencies send a job query e-mail to an unspecified number of BCC: recipients asking if you are available to translate X number of words by X date (usually an impossible word count with an equally impossible deadline) – without mentioning the subject matter involved – and then the job has already been assigned once you respond (even if you respond within 10 minutes of receiving the e-mail). This is the main reason why I prefer to work with smaller agencies.

OK, your turn. Whether you are a project manager, freelance translator, in-house translator, or someone not in the translation industry who just stumbled upon this blog during a random Google search, what is the one thing that annoys you the most about your job?



1. Sonja - August 25, 2008

I feel very annoyed when projects managers do not respond to my enquiries, especially if I have terminology questions or need to clarify ambiguities, or if I simply want them to confirm receipt of my translation. Usually the same project managers require you to respond within 5 minutes when they have an enquiry regarding the deadline for a job (“Are you going to deliver until this-and-that time, as we agreed???????”).

2. therealpotato - August 25, 2008

I’m a PM, and what drives me the craziest (I think… it’s a tough decision) is when I’ve got a project almost completed, I’m formatting translated, edited text in 10 languages, and suddenly the client sends ‘just a few little changes’ to the source text.

Honorable mention to the client who asked me whether Chinese and Japanese were different languages.

3. Corinne McKay - August 25, 2008

OK, I’m admittedly a focus-on-the-positive kind of a gal, but I guess I have a few pet peeves:
-people who think that one translator translates EN>FR and FR>EN
-people who want their French grandmother’s 500 page journal translated into English, maximum budget $250
-people who call me asking for advice about how to become a translator without asking if I’m busy, then disagree with anything I say that hints at any possible weakness in their qualifications

4. MT - August 26, 2008

I have numerous pet peeves, and I thank you profusely for giving me space to express them. 🙂

The ATA. People don’t know how underwhelming the organization is until they experience other professional organizations. And then inevitably you’re, like, whoa, the ATA kind of sucks. (The ATA Chronicle sucks, too.)

3:00 a.m. phone calls from people have NO understanding of time zones.

Agencies (European ones are especially bad about this) that think that they don’t have a responsibility to proofread files from translators before delivering them to the client.

Agencies that try to place a job on Monday at half the normal rate for most translators doing my language direction, and then on Thursday getting contacted about the job again because they couldn’t place it, and now they’re paying a huge rush rate because it’s due on Friday.

Captious client feedback.

Worse: clients arrogant about their English who make edits that actually introduce errors to a document.

“Can you edit this document I had translated?” (It was translated using an free online machine translation service.)

Fuzzy-match discounts. Please.

Requests for U.K. or U.S. English from a nonnative speaker of the other dialect–expecting a simple spell check to do the trick.

The inability of the translation industry to really settle on the TMX standard and start letting everyone use their own preferred (and affordable) CAT tool and just exchange TMX files. (Corollary: agencies with proprietary CAT tools.)

Microsoft Word bookmarks in CAT tool-processed files.

I could go on. 🙂

5. jillsommer - August 27, 2008

@MT – I could not disagree with you more about the ATA. I look forward to attending the ATA conference every year. It is a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues and share my knowledge with others. It’s also great to be among like-minded people who “get me.” I also read the Chronicle as soon as I get it and have written several articles about web design, computer and Internet privacy, etc. You get out of it what you put into it. If it wasn’t for the ATA I wouldn’t be as successful as I am today. I constantly get contacted because a company or agency heard about me from a colleague or found my listing on the ATA website.

6. MT - August 27, 2008

I have no doubt, Jill, that many people get a lot out of the ATA. However, it is not as robust or responsive a professional organization as others are of comparable membership and size in the United States, and I urge translators to join other professional organizations in- and outside translation not merely to see what they’re missing but also to enjoy professional-organization benefits that the ATA does not offer, or has not until recently (e.g. group-rate health care, industry contacts, etc.).

As for the Chronicle, perhaps it’s a matter of taste, but I’m certainly not the only person who shrugs their shoulders after reading a given issue, which isn’t to say that an occasional article isn’t interesting or helpful. Truth be told, I read and enjoy several articles a year in it, but honestly it’s geared very much at newbies and not at experienced translators, I feel. Like you, I have had my work published in it in the past. Even so, I’ve often thought the Chronicle would be more useful if it came out less often–that would save trees and money and allow the journal to publish less “filler” material and focus on meatier fare.

As a social organization, however, the ATA is obviously very useful and convenient–you’re certainly right about that! When I do attend the convention, the social events are certainly what I go for the most.


7. Barbara - August 27, 2008

What annoys me most: constantly having to ask for a deadline, even from fellow translators!
Second pet peeve: answer to deadline question “as soon as possible”.
Third pet peeve: answer to deadline question “how soon can you do it?”
Fourth pet peeve: giving a reasonable deadline, then having the client come back with a specific deadline (why couldn’t they say so right away?). Then having to go back, in some cases, to explain why it’s not possible.. or working till midnight to do it.
Fifth pet peeve: clients who think I sit here waiting specifically for their request to come in so I can get to work on it right away… like I have no other clients.

8. Judy Jenner - September 5, 2008

First: love your blog, Jill! Ist echt total super. 🙂 I agree with Jill on the ATA — I have had nothing but wonderful experiences, including meeting some of the brightest (and nicest) people in the industry who really are the folks I trust and learn from. Jill and Corinne are two of them. I am really looking forward to the Orlando ATA in November.

I recently switched from being an in-house translator and content manager for a large corporation (online travel site) to full-time freelancing (yay! no more cubicle!), so I have pet peeves from several point of view, as I worked extensively with software developers, product management, etc. on developing optimizations to the websites, so here are a few:

*Internal customers who don’t keep track of previous translations and ask me for the same translations several times. There are, of course, thousands of translations, but they are not that hard to keep track of. Conclusion: lack of coordination between departments, not surprisingly.
*Friendly co-workers (engineers, developers, product managers) who just put a little “placeholder” in the code because they don’t have time to ask me for the correct translation, which is then not caught in QA or testing because that page is never sent to me. This is how Bablefish Spanish ends up on a big travel website. I appreciate the intentions, but the results were pretty horrifying. And of course, getting the mistakes fixed takes another software release, another round or prioritization…. 🙂
*As a freelancer: people asking me for quotes without sending me the text.
*Potential clients who ask for discounts. Translation is a highly specialized professional service, and our rates should be treated as such. One wouldn’t go to the dentist or an attorney to haggle, so I really don’t understand why clients want to haggle with translators. Well, I do know why: many, unfortunately, don’t consider translation a professional service, which is the stuff for another blog entry!

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