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Are you a self-injuring translator? March 29, 2010

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

One of my colleagues posted this to one of my listservs, and I thought it was well-worth sharing with the rest of you. The post is entitled “Toxic Translation: A Twelve-Step Program for Self-Injuring Translators.” We need to keep reminding ourselves that the only behavior we can truly change is our own. My favorite quote from the post is “Translation rates are dropping because translators accept low rates. If you want rates to stop descending, you must take your finger off the elevator button.” If you are unhappy with the way an agency is treating you, you need to stand up for yourself and ask for what you want. And if the agency isn’t able or willing to give you what you want, you need to have the courage to walk away – and most importantly let them know why! If more of us walk away we will be in a better position in the long run. There are good and bad agencies out there. Let’s encourage the good ones and run from the bad ones. We need to stick together. United we stand, divided we fall!



1. Corinne McKay - March 29, 2010

This is *so* true, Kevin Lossner made a similar point on his blog this week (related to another issue). Agencies would not be offering 3 cents a word if translators would not accept that rate; nor could they ask for 10,000 words in 2 days if translators refused to accept that volume. I also think it’s important not to be an enabler; encourage your colleagues to refuse rock-bottom rates and unrealistic deadlines!

2. Tess - March 30, 2010

Amen to these! So true and well worth spreading.

3. Lidia Martynova - March 31, 2010

The reduced prices are now also starting to heavily backfire with low-quality translations. This results in bad end-user experience, impacting reputation of the translation industry as a whole. Moreover, when it comes to critical translations such as medical, poor translation can result in injuries for the end users. For this reason, I think that it is important to stand up for your reasonable price if you know that by agreeing to lower it under the client’s pressure or accepting an unrealistic deadline, you will be under the risk of delivering lower quality. It also shows the client that a professional translator finds this price justified, and using someone with a lower price might be dangerous.

4. Eric S. Bullington - April 1, 2010

Hi Jill,

Thanks for passing on this great post. I hope members of our profession will sit up and take notice of our industry’s changing economic environment. Prices are falling to an unsustainable level among agencies, downward price pressures among my agency clients is increasing, but at the same time that my direct clientèle list is growing (hmm, could these trends be related?). You, Kevin, and Wendell Ricketts are beating the right drum. I’m with you and your call for translator unity and have taken a firm stand against agency abuse. Let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot, shall we?

5. Translation Services - April 2, 2010

“Translation rates are dropping because translators accept low rates. – Very True.. As an agency representative i would say we are also facing rate issues as freelance translators are started working with the clients for a very low rate.

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