Since we first wrote about TransPerfect more than three months ago, we’ve heard from numerous translators who have their own stories of horror to tell.
Liz Elting = the Dark Lord of the translation industry?
Well, there’s a lot of competition for the title actually….
TransPerfect’s new “strategy” for cheap, quick translations is crowdsourcing (as a translator makes clear in one of the comments below, TransPerfect now breaks up virtually all translations and sends pieces of them to multiple translators at the same time) coupled with a demand that translators provide deep discounts for CAT-tool “matches.”
As a business model, it sounds like utter panic to us. Does anyone actually still think TransPerfect is capable of providing quality translations?
From a July 27, 2010 job offer for English to Spanish (rush – same-day delivery):
I have an new translation job for you for, EN> ES.
This is due 7/27 by 8am EST
I could pay $100 for this job.
So: less than $0.05 per word for a rush job (and, of course, TransPerfect will provide a transaltion memory and will insist that fuzzies and 100% matches be discounted or subtracted from the word count).
“How low can we go?” the translator asks. We can’t be sure yet, because TransPerfect is still digging.
Another translator tells Il Segno:
[Y]our blog helped me finally make a decision regarding my relationship with TransPerfect….
When I first began working with TransPerfect, it seemed to be a very serious company. Their rates were low, but not as low as many other companies, and within what I considered the “bare minimum” I would be willing to accept…. My first jobs with TransPerfect were smooth … and I received a check within 30-45 days. I worked with them a few times and was happy with their professionalism.
Unfortunately, much of this has changed. My first negative experience was last fall, when they wanted some help with a huge project they were distributing among translators. I took some files and translated them, I believe, well. A few days later, I received a startling e-mail stating there were some quality issues with my work and to look over the comments of the proofreader. When I looked at the documents, I realized that the majority of the documents with which they had a problem and which they wanted me to review were a)not the files I had translated and b)proofread by someone with no knowledge of the document’s subject. TransPerfect wanted me (reduce my invoice) because they had associated my name with files I had not translated and with which an unqualified (for that field) proofreader had issues.
This is when I began to realize there was a problem, especially with distributing files among several translators, getting the assignments confused, and ensuring that the both the translator and the proofreader understood the subject of the translation….
Since this incident, I have noticed many other things that indicate the company’s commitment to quality is not what it once may have been. There are many mass e-mails sent asking for availability; sometimes these blast messages seem personalized, but, when you write to give your availability, you receive no reply. The translations being offered are many words in a short amount of time (sometimes only hours), for very little money….. The company continually tries to lower the rates being offered, wants translators to complete impossible translation feats in little time (all jobs seem to be rush jobs now), now requires WordFast for most jobs, and has a habit of splitting jobs (even those that are large but not huge) among translators in order to complete them more quickly, rather than giving one translator a couple of more days to ensure uniformity in the translation….
My biggest complaint with this company is the lack of respect for the translator. Recently, I was sent a mass e-mail about a job. I answered and offered my availability. The project manager responded, sent the files for me to approve, and we had a discussion via e-mail to confirm rate and deadline. Everything seemed agreed upon, so I set aside the time and waited for the Purchase Order, which never arrived. After an hour, I e-mailed the project manager to ask him to send the PO or to let me know if he had given the job to someone else so I could accept other jobs. Two days later, I am still waiting to hear from him. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but, unfortunately, this is the second time this has happened, with two different project managers, and I am afraid this will mark the end of my association with this company.
And, finally, a former employee offers this insight:
As a former employee, I am in agreement with your article on TransPerfect; however I don’t think putting up the names of individual project managers in the comments serves your purpose.
With the exception of Amy DiTrani, none of the others have been there longer than 3 years. They work 12+ hour days and are often called in over the weekend. They are underpaid ($35-$50K in one of the most expensive cities in the world). They themselves are unlikely to make excuses for the company. The sales people undersell the jobs and hand them over to the project managers, who then have to find someone to translate it. They have to meet a stated mark-up of 2.1 (or the sales people get no commission) and an implicit markup of 3.1 (or the project managers get no bonus, which many count on to balance their checkbooks at the end of the quarter). Their profit centers (which is where their bonuses come from) are docked $300 for every faulty PO and other slip-ups.
While it may not seem like it from the outside, most of the project managers who work at TransPerfect are victimized by the company at least as much as the translators. For one, they can’t say no or press delete when a new message comes in, asking them to turn 40K words around overnight for a budget that leaves only 4 cents per word. Linking their names to TransPerfect makes it seem like they are the problem, but they are but cogs in the machine.
We have no difficulty believing that TransPerfect treats its sales people and project managers badly, using punishments and “incentives” that sound like a cross between the robotic excesses of 1980s Japanese-style corporate management and the personal charm of Gordon Ramsay (the “F-Word,” indeed). But that doesn’t get them off the hook.
No more “we were just doing our job”; no more “we’re just foot soldiers.” If they have direct experience regarding the rot in TransPerfect’s human and business model, they should stop helping the business exploit translators.
Or, better yet, they need to mount a serious media campaign to let the public know what TransPerfect is, what it stands for, and how it is harming translators and the translation profession.
So we say again, write them and make your position clear:
Liz Elting, CEO: firstname.lastname@example.org/ Amy DiTrani: email@example.com / Anne-Claire Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org /Cristina Farelo: email@example.com / Hyojin Park: firstname.lastname@example.org / Jennifer Adie: email@example.com / Jennifer Bucci: firstname.lastname@example.org / Michael Petrigliano: email@example.com / Pearl Leo: firstname.lastname@example.org / Sara Hutchison: email@example.com / Sung Ha Lee: firstname.lastname@example.org / Zachary Eldridge: email@example.com