Tag Archives: Proz.com

Orbe and Manta Translations: Walks, Quacks, & Swims Like a Scam, and ProZ is Helping!

It isn’t clear how much more would be needed to convince translators that Henry Dotterer and the entire, disastrous ProZ model has done more damage to the profession than ten global recessions, but here’s yet another piece of evidence for the affirmation that Dotterer doesn’t give a damn about translators or translation. (Please don’t stop sending in your annual dues, though!)

The low-paying agencies Manta Translations and Orbe Translations (well, to be precise, they are “low-rate-offering” — the equivalent of $0.04/USD per word is reportedly their typical pay) have been on a phishing expedition. Lately, they’ve even been abetted by ProZ, which recently sent a mass recruitment mail on behalf of Manta to thousands of ProZ members. Not that Manta isn’t doing a great job of spamming translators on its own, with a flood of other emails sent to addresses evidently gleaned from various online groups and mailing lists. (A certain “Raffaella Isaia” wrote to Italian translators; the entire sad, rambling email, in Italian, is at the bottom of this post.)

Orbe Translations and Manta Translations are, to begin with, one and the same company. Both websites are registered to Javier Bergero at Lautaro 642, Córdoba, Argentina (543514616764, javier@gb-software.com.ar and marcelojavierbergero@hotmail.com).

The agencies, however, send messages from an IP in Romania. They also claim to have had an office in Turin, Italy since 2002, though they do not appear in the Turin yellow pages and their phone number (02.36311200), includes a Milan city prefix rather than a Turin one. If you research Manta’s supposed street address on Google Maps (Via Duchessa Jolanda 21bis), you’ll see a window sign for Fidiline, apparently a real-estate lending agency, whose logo is surprisingly similar to the logos for Orbe and Manta and whose office, according to its very minimal site (www.fidiline.net), is supposedly in Milan.

But no sign of Manta, at least not from outside the building.

Curioser and curioser.

Manta Translations is on more than one translator blacklist and is the subject of a recent “scam alert” on LinkedIn. Questions about Manta were being raised on the Italian-language translator payment-practices list, “The Checklist,” as early as 2005. On the WPPF (WorldPaymentPracticesFree) Group on Yahoo, Manta is also blacklisted and is reportedly “renowned for low rates.”

Meanwhile, the English on the Manta site demonstrates the mediocre, non-native quality typical of third-rate bottom-feeding agencies who trade in non-native translators and heavily hammer the idea of CAT tools and translation memories (which Manta/Orbe helpfully provide). 

Interestingly, Orbe/Manta also profess to provide translations exclusively using teams of in-house translators which is, first, a fairly obvious lie for the volume of business they claim and the geographic area they say they cover. But they only adopted that model because of their concern about the terrible “suffering” of freelancers, which they aim to remedy:

Not having a suitable place of work, suffering interference from other household members or the monotony that solitary work can cause are factors that are usually reflected in the quality and level of (freelancers’) productivity. Also, freelance translators are often forced to accept very large or complex jobs for which they do not have sufficient knowledge. They do this only in order to preserve continuity of work and to not risk losing a customer. These difficulties lead to insecurity, stress or a state of distress for fear of failing to meet delivery commitments.

Isn’t that thoughtful? An agency that really cares about translators! Being underpaid or having to hound your client for payment, that’s not stressful. But working as a freelancer … that’s stressful. So does that mean Orbe/Manta is offering full-time jobs with regular employment contracts? Sounds unlikely, doesn’t it?

Then there’s the alarm bell that starts to sound when they talk about their “training programs”:

Manta Translations provides courses for internal personnel as well as for students and professional translators. These courses take place in our own offices or in the offices of other institutions. The most popular courses are those related to computer-assisted translation (Transit XV/Nxt, Trados Studio, Across), Microsoft Office oriented translation tools and graphic programs. Also very popular are the translation workshops, project management courses, quality control systems courses and the introductory course to the overall translation market.

Following the email blast, several of our colleagues in various language combinations wrote to Manta to seek clarification about the company’s/companies’ specific offer, rates, contracts, etc. As of this writing, none of them has received a response.

Now, it took TranslatorLeaks less than an hour to gather the information above. No one can be even slightly shocked that agencies like Manta exist, especially in an Argentinian market destroyed by greedy translation wholesalers who took advantage of that country’s currency devaluations (read Aurora Humarán’s Globalization Gone Awry in English or Spanish on the No Peanuts! for Translators site) and in Italy, where years of “crisis” panic have produced substantially the same result.

But we might have thought ProZ would do a little of its own due-diligence research before helping Orbe/Manta shaft translators. But that’s our ProZ. Still “enhancing the lives of its members” after all these years.

______________________________________

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Manta Translations <manta@manta-translations.com>
Date: 2013/11/8
Subject: Proposta di collaborazione
To: “ProZ.com Member” <proz-lists@proz.com>

Cari Colleghi,

mi chiamo Raffaella Isaia, abito a Torino, e sono la Rappresentate
di Manta Translations per il mercato Italia.

Il mio primo contatto con la Manta Translation avvenne nel maggio del 2012 ma all’epoca, malgrado fossi molto allettata di far parte di questa grande organizzazione, non avevo la possibilità di dedicarmi interamente alle traduzioni in quanto collaboravo all’interno di un’altra struttura. A settembre del 2013 mi posi nuovamente ed esclusivamente in contatto con la Manta Translations dando piena disponibilità lavorativa e, da qui, iniziammo a collaborare. Come avevo immaginato, l’impatto fu molto buono: l’organizzazione, la professionalità, l’ambiente lavorativo ed il supporto mi stupirono in positivo. Inoltre, col tempo e in base alla mia personale esperienza con altre agenzie di traduzioni italiane e straniere, sono giunta alla conclusione che la Manta Translations è una compagnia profondamente seria, il cui scopo è quello di sviluppare e superare le continue sfide del mercato delle traduzioni.

Grazie al lavoro degli ultimi anni, la Manta Translations ha iniziato una nuova politica di espansione e crescita che prevede di creare diversi gruppi di lavoro sia in Europa sia in altre Nazioni. Tra le altre, da ottobre di quest’anno è operativa la sede della Romania, a Bucarest, a carico di Irina Zbravoz che rappresenta un esempio eloquente di come la Manta Translations desideri instaurare il rapporto con i propri collaboratori: il primo contatto tra Irina e l’azienda risale a giugno del 2012.

Dopo diversi test ed interviste via Skype, a novembre dello stesso anno iniziò la sua collaborazione con il gruppo. A febbraio di quest’anno la Manta Translations ha invitato Irina a recarsi presso la sede argentina per un periodo di cinque settimane facendosi interamente carico di ogni spesa e del compenso. Ne è emersa un’esperienza positiva e motivante: Irina è rimasta favorevolmente impressa dal gruppo di persone, dall’ambiente di lavoro e dalla professionalità dell’organizzazione. Quelle settimane le son servite per stabilire legami con gli altri colleghi, stringere amicizie e, soprattutto, per capire la filosofia di base dell’azienda. Una volta tornata a Bucarest, per lei è iniziata una nuova fase di crescita professionale tanto che attualmente è la rappresentante di Manta Translations per la Romania ed il capo ufficio della nuova sede di Bucarest.

Manta Translations non solo è alla ricerca di traduttori ma anche di professionisti che vogliano diventare veri imprenditori per gestire nuovi clienti e diversi settori, province o regioni del mercato Italia. Per riuscirci, potete contare pienamente sull’esperienza e sull’appoggio della Manta Translations.

Se reputate interessante l’idea di far parte di questo Team, Vi invito a leggere con attenzione le informazioni contenute nel nostro sito web www.manta-translations.com che Vi permetteranno di avere un’idea più approfondita dell’azienda. Vi invito, inoltre, a caricare sul sito il vostro Curriculum Vitae e di utilizzare il nostro indirizzo email (manta-it@manta-translations.com) solo nel caso in cui si verificassero problemi o errori nel sito. Si accettano esclusivamente caratteri minuscoli (a-z) e maiuscoli dell’alfabeto latino (A-Z), punti (.), numeri e spazi. Per favore, non utilizzate lettere accentate o con altri caratteri particolari.

Infine, desidero informarVi che la Manta Translations nel mese di giugno 2014 organizzerà un incontro con tutti i suoi collaboratori residenti in Europa per scambiarci opinioni e rispondere alle Vostre domande. Per partecipare, potete mandare un’email al seguente indirizzo: manta-it@manta-translations.com.

In attesa di incontrarvi personalmente, Vi porgo i miei più cordiali saluti

Raffaella Isaia
Rappresentante
Manta Translations
Mercato Italia

—————————————-
This message was sent to you via the ProZ.com directory.
Sender: Manta Translations
Sender’s profile: http://proz.com/profile/1843439
Sender’s IP address: 86.120.84.155

IP Geolocation Information

COUNTRY: Romania ro flag
STATE/REGION: Bucuresti
CITY: Bucharest
LATITUDE: 44.4333  (44° 25′ 59.88″ N)
LONGITUDE: 26.1  (26° 5′ 60.00″ E)
Advertisements

ProZ.com – Proposal for Reforming the Jobs Board

Following up on the late-February “Translators’ Petition Concerning ProZ.com’s Job Policies,” the “PropoZals Working Group” and some 50 cosponsors have formally submitted the following proposal to ProZ.com’s Henry Dotterer.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for some real change at ProZ!

Proposal for a Reorganization of Proz.Com’s

“Translation Industry Jobs” Board

to:Henry Dotterer, Proz.Com

from:The 51 Proposal Cosponsors and the PropoZals Working Group

date:19 March 2010

Our overriding desire in drafting these proposals was to encourage ProZ.com to continue to act in ways that serve translation professionals and provide “comprehensive … services, resources, and experiences that enhance the lives of members.” Given that a significant number of translators and interpreters in many different language combinations confirm that ProZ.com’s job postings contain detrimental working conditions or fail to offer them a living wage, such goals are not being met.

ProZ.com is considered influential in the translation industry. Because of that influence, ProZ.com is in a unique position to establish ethical standards for the translation community and to create trends that will become established throughout the industry. With that in mind, and pursuant to the “Translators’ Petition Concerning ProZ.com’s Job Policies” signed by 844 translators and interpreters in February 2010, the following proposals are intended to respond to the adverse conditions identified in the petition.

1.Job-Posting Form

a)Outsourcers should no longer be permitted to indicate the price they are offering or intend to pay for a given translation or interpreting project, and that portion of the job-posting form should be eliminated.

b)Outsourcers should not include pricing or rate information anywhere else in the body of their job posting. To that end, job postings should be monitored and removed, if necessary.

c)Outsourcers should be advised clearly of the reason for such changes on the form they use to post a job.

d)Pursuant to c), above, we propose that ProZ.com feature the following statement prominently on its job-posting form: “ProZ.com has removed pricing information from the job-posting form because we believe that translators, as professional service providers, are in the best position to determine their own rates, which vary according to type and format of the text involved, the subject matter, the level of urgency, and the technical expertise required, among other factors. ProZ.com is convinced that quality in translation is ensured not by seeking the lowest rate available but by choosing skilled, competent translators. In keeping with the years of commitment and training required to become qualified professionals, translators and interpreters deserve adequate compensation for their work.”

2.Emailing of job offers to individual translators/interpreters using ProZ mail

a)Because of the above policy—that outsourcers may not indicate pricing information or maximums in their offers to translators and interpreters—we propose that the same vigilance be extended to first-contact email messages initiated by outsourcers using the ProZ.com messaging systems. In initiating first contact with a translation professional via such messages for the sole purpose of soliciting candidates for a project, outsourcers may not indicate specific price ranges, limits, or maximums. ProZ.com already possesses the ability to monitor system messages for violations of ProZ.com policies (the profile message form itself states: “Messages may be subject to review or vetting by site staff”); thus, we propose that ProZ.com extend such monitoring to messages initiated by outsourcers for the sole purpose of soliciting services from one or more translation professionals.

b)In addition (or, if the above proposal is not accepted, in the alternative), we propose that ProZ modify the warning language (“Rules for sending profile messages”) that accompanies the email form to include: “Outsourcers initiating first contact with a translation professional for the purpose of soliciting services may not indicate specific pricing, price ranges, limits, or maximums in their messages.”

3.Translator Education/Continuing Education

a)In keeping with its commitment to enhance the lives of translators and interpreters and contribute to their professional preparation, ProZ.com should immediately undertake the following efforts/programs:

i.Create an information sheet for translators/interpreters that clearly explains the importance of establishing and maintaining a living wage and of resisting low-rate offers/downward rate pressure. This information should be sent to every existing member, whether paying or not, and should be sent in future to each new member immediately upon signing up. Thereafter it should continue to be prominently visible—perhaps on the member’s profile page, for example.

The information sheet should include a consideration of the damage done to colleagues and to the profession by consistently accepting low-rate offers or setting below-market rates for a given language combination; further, it should emphasize, in a profession made up of independent freelancers, that the individual translator/interpreter bears a fundamental responsibility for ensuring that living wages continue to exist for her/himself and for other translators and interpreters.

(We propose this because: we are aware of numerous translators who found ProZ at the beginning of their careers and assumed that the low-rate offers on the jobs board were normal for their language combination. Not knowing any better, and trusting in ProZ.com’s authority, they set or lowered their rates accordingly.)

ii.Initiate and continue a public-education program, potentially including periodic online seminars and conferences, whose purpose is to inform translators and interpreters of the importance of setting their own rates and working conditions and offering strategies for managing and resisting downward trends, low offers, and pressure to accept rates that do not afford a living wage, including a consideration of the damage done to colleagues and to the profession by consistently accepting low-rate offers or setting below-market rates and of the fundamental responsibility that the individual translator/interpreter bears in ensuring that living wages continue to exist for him/herself and for his/her colleagues.

iii.Initiate and continue a public-education program aimed at outsourcers, potentially including periodic online seminars and conferences, whose purpose is: 1) to educate agencies and translation/interpreting clients of the importance of respecting the right of translators and interpreters to set their own rates and working conditions; 2) to offer strategies for managing and resisting downward trends on the part of their end clients; 3) to inform outsourcers about how to recognize and choose professional translation-service providers; and 4) to provide practical information regarding how to identify and communicate the level of quality that is appropriate for any given project.

iv.Provide, free to paying members and at low-cost to non-paying members, ongoing online seminars and conferences in the marketing of translation and interpreting services, preferably adapted for local conditions.

v.Pursuant to ii, iii, and iv above, establish a “Continuing Education” program on ProZ, offering credits to translators/outsourcers who attend/complete such training, fungible in the form of KudoZ points, discounts for future purchases or conferences, or in some other way.

vi.Modify the ProZ.com “Professional Practices for Language Service Providers” pledge with language that reflects the signer’s: (1) commitment to establishing his or her own rates and working conditions and (2) recognition of the fundamental responsibility borne by the individual translator/interpreter in ensuring that living wages continue to exist for her/himself and for other members of the profession.

4.Corporate Image/Interaction with the Translation Community

a) Establish a ProZ.com translator’s blog, hosted on ProZ but moderated and written independently, that offers up-to-date information from working translators and interpreters regarding the translation industry and provides education regarding pricing, rates, and managing and conducting business as a freelancer.

b) In order to counter the negative impression that ProZ.com condones low rates and encourages agencies to take a use-and-discard approach to translation professionals, begin to work regularly and interactively with existing translation bloggers, online translation journals, Facebook groups, translators lists, etc. to upgrade ProZ.com’s corporate image. We specifically propose that ProZ.com take measures to respond to concerns that “ProZ doesn’t care,” that “ProZ is only in it for the money,” etc., specifically in the area of protecting the livelihoods of individual translators and interpreters. (NB: We do not argue that any of these impressions is necessarily true, but we do argue that they exist and that ProZ.com should address them.)

c) Reduce the ability of ProZ.com monitors to stifle criticism and dissent among ProZ.com members, creating a clear, accessible channel by which legitimate complaints and useful suggestions regarding ProZ.com’s services can easily “rise to the top” and be considered appropriately.

GoTranslators? No, Don’t Go: More of the Same with ProZ.com Lite

Let’s not let ProZ.com take all the credit for exposing its translator-members to dumping.

Let’s not let ProZ.com take all the credit for allowing translation clients and agencies to engage in price-fixing.

Like ProZ, GoTranslators.com also allows clients to dictate maximum prices to translators. (Such as the Italian-&gt;English offer we received this morning from Bangalore-based Adith Multilingual Services Pvt. Ltd. Adith Multilingual describes itself as “one of the leading translation sweatshops multilingual organizations in Asia.” The offer? $0.03/word (the equivalent of €0.02/word).

The Attractive Nuisance

GoTranslators.com insists that it is not actually guilty of these practices for two reasons. First, it says that job posters cannot indicate prices directly in online postings (this is true, and it is a major step forward).

The positive, however, is immediately cancelled by the negative. GoTranslators.com does allow job posters to send so-called “private” mass emails to translators in a given language combination. In those emails, prices are indicated (such as the one from Adith Multilingual).

GoTranslators.com says it’s a good guy because such offers are restricted to “private” emails. We say it’s a distinction without a difference.

GoTranslators.com and similar services have created the equivalent of an “attractive nuisance,” a legal concept that means, in short: if you create a hazardous condition on your property that is likely to attract others who cannot appreciate the risk posed by that danger, you remain legally liable if they are injured.

Classic example: You install a swimming pool in your  yard but do nothing to restrict access to the pool. Neighborhood kids come into your yard when you’re not home, jump into the pool, and drown. You’re liable because you failed to fence the yard, cover the pool, or otherwise mitigate the potential danger that it represented.

Third-World Rates Need to Stay in the Third-World

Translators in the U.S. and Europe, meanwhile, are drowning.

We’ve written before about Indian translation companies and job offers that are unthinkable for anyone not living in the third world.

And before anyone starts working up a head of steam about the terrible racism of such an assertion: We understand all about the global economy. We’ve read the same books you have about China, India, and the practice of off-shoring jobs.

The point is this: God bless Indian translation companies. But they must stop demanding Indian rates from translators who live (pay rent, buy groceries, and purchase services) in the economies of the U.S. and the European Community.

If you only intend to pay $0.03/word, find a translator who lives in an economy in which $0.03/word is a living wage.

They must stop foisting such rates on the European and American market and convincing agencies and translation clients that such rates represent normal compensation. They do not, and translators outside of India cannot live on $0.03/word.

If Indian companies cannot find qualified translators in India, then they must pay European and American wages.

Instead, what Indian translation agencies are doing – and what GoTranslators.com is supporting and enabling – is disseminating cut-rate offers to large lists of European and American translators. The practice, by the way, has a name. It’s called unfair competition.

That’s the plain and simple truth.

ProZ.com and GoTranslators.com have the technical capability to allow job posters to restrict their postings to translators in specified countries or geographical areas. They need to stop allowing Indian companies to demand Indian rates from translators outside India.

If they refuse do it, ask yourself: Who is profiting?

GoTranslators? No, Don’t Go: More of the Same with ProZ.com Lite

Let’s not let ProZ.com take all the credit for exposing its translator-members to dumping.

Let’s not let ProZ.com take all the credit for allowing translation clients and agencies to engage in price-fixing.

Like ProZ, GoTranslators.com also allows clients to dictate maximum prices to translators. (Such as the Italian->English offer I received this morning from Bangalore-based Adith Multilingual Services Pvt. Ltd. Adith Multilingual describes itself as “one of the leading translation sweatshops multilingual organizations in Asia.” The offer? $0.03/word (the equivalent of €0.02/word).

The Attractive Nuisanc

eGoTranslators.com insists that it is not actually guilty of these practices for two reasons. First, it says that job posters cannot indicate prices directly in online postings (this is true, and it is a major step forward).

The positive, however, is immediately cancelled by the negative. GoTranslators.com does allow job posters to send so-called “private” mass emails to translators in a given language combination. In those emails, prices are indicated (such as the one from Adith Multilingual).

GoTranslators.com says it’s a good guy because such offers are restricted to “private” emails. I say it’s a distinction without a difference.

GoTranslators.com and similar services have created the equivalent of an “attractive nuisance,” a legal concept that means, in short: if I create a hazardous condition on my property that is likely to attract others who cannot appreciate the risk posed by that danger, I remain legally liable if they are injured.

Classic example: I install a swimming pool in my yard but do nothing to restrict access to the pool. Neighborhood kids come into my yard when I’m not home, jump into the pool, and drown. I’m liable because I failed to fence the yard, cover the pool, or otherwise mitigate the potential danger that it represented.

Third-World Rates Need to Stay in the Third-World

Translators in the U.S. and Europe, meanwhile, are drowning.

I’ve written before about Indian translation companies and job offers that are unthinkable for anyone not living in the third world.

And before anyone starts working up a head of steam about the terrible racism of such an assertion: I understand all about the global economy. I’ve read the same books you have about China, India, and the practice of off-shoring jobs.

The point is this: God bless Indian translation companies. But they must stop demanding Indian rates from translators who live (pay rent, buy groceries, and purchase services) in the economies of the U.S. and the European Community.

If you only intend to pay $0.03/word, find a translator who lives in an economy in which $0.03/word is a living wage.

They must stop foisting such rates on the European and American market and convincing agencies and translation clients that such rates represent normal compensation. They do not, and translators outside of India cannot live on $0.03/word.

If Indian companies cannot find qualified translators in India, then they must pay European and American wages.

Instead, what Indian translation agencies are doing – and what GoTranslators.com is supporting and enabling – is disseminating cut-rate offers to large lists of European and American translators. The practice, by the way, has a name. It’s called unfair competition.

That’s the plain and simple truth.

ProZ.com and GoTranslators.com have the technical capability to allow job posters to restrict their postings to translators in specified countries or geographical areas. They need to stop allowing Indian companies to demand Indian rates from translators outside India.

If they refuse do it, ask yourself: Who is profiting?

ProZ.com – "Translation Industry Jobs" Board

TranslatorLeaks could write a blog a day, if not six, about the crappy offers that appear on ProZ.com, the mammoth, eleven-year-old online translation clearinghouse.

ProZ.com claims that it “serv[es] the world’s largest community of translators…, deliver[ing] a comprehensive network of essential services, resources and experiences that enhance the lives of its members.”

For thousands of translators, however, the only thing ProZ is “enhancing” are the profits of its founder, Henry Dotterer.

In fact, in recent years, ProZ has earned itself a reputation as the go-to site for dumping, the predatory pricing practices that disadvantage workers–like translators–who have no union or other protection in the so-called “free market.” (Which is just another way of saying that translators are being allowed to finance the market so that others can profit — the “free market,” that is, doesn’t actually exist; someone always pays for it.)

Though ProZ makes no effort to reduce, if not eliminate, jobs offered at rates so low they deny translators the possibility to earn a living wage, it has become the industry leader in another nefarious and damaging practice: permitting clients to indicate beforehand what they intend to pay and, in so doing, to establish pricing practices.

Translators are service providers. They alone must set their minimum rates based upon the economy in which they live, buy food, pay rent and taxes, and so on. ProZ, instead, allows job posters to dictate the price of a job to translators.

The practice is unacceptable, but ProZ refuses to concede the point. Their weak argument–which, sadly, many ignorant, self-injuring translators parrot–is that anyone can refuse a job if the rates are too low.

After years of handing their enormous forum directly over to low-rate clients, however, ProZ has helped make it virtually impossible for translators to command higher rates. The choice is not–as ProZ would have it–between turning down a low-rate job in favor of one that pays your normal rate. The choice is between accepting a low-rate job and not working.

Here’s the correct analogy, meanwhile: You take your car to the mechanic. Before he starts work, you tell him, “This job is worth a hundred bucks, and that’s what I intend to pay.” And the mechanic — because the market has been so utterly and thoroughly distorted by entities like ProZ — has no choice but to accept.

Alternately: You sit down to eat in a restaurant. After consulting the menu, you call the owner over to your table. “This steak is overpriced,” you say. “I’ll pay half, and I want you to throw in a bottle of wine with that. If you don’t get everything on my table within ten minutes, though, the deal’s off.” And here again, the restaurateur has no recourse: he must accept or lose the chance to earn even 50% of what the meal actually costs.

For ProZ, all that’s A-OK.

Here are a few examples–taken from this week’s job postings in the Italian->English combination–of the dumping that is now standard operating procedure on ProZ:

(1) Wolfestone Translation Ltd
The Language Centre
Roy Allkin, Anna Milkowska
57 Walter Road, Swansea, SA1 5PZ
United Kingdom
http://www.wolfestone.co.uk
Ital>Engl: €0.04/word; $0.05/word

Note: in a European context (European-based client; European-based translator), anything less than €0.08/word is unacceptable. Especially for a job that requires–as this one does–same-day turnaround.

(2) Business Voice
Elisabetta Seffino
Viale Trieste 2, Manzano, Udine 33044
Italy
http://www.businessvoice.it
5 files, financial statements and budget reports, URGENT.
Ital>Engl: €0.03 gross/word, maximum of €0.04 gross/word.

Note: A freelancer who pays taxes in Italy turns over 40% or more of his or her gross to the government in taxes and other contributions. In actual terms, then, this rate is equivalent to €0.018/word $0.013/word. “Welcome to your Future” says Business Voice on its website: a future in which the professional translator has been annihilated.

(3) Servicio de Traducción KOMA
KOMALINGUA
Isabel Montejo
Spain
http://www.komalingua.com
Ital>Engl: €0.05/word. TECHNICAL translation. URGENT.

Note: Technical translations require just what you’d suppose: technical knowledge and the ability to use sector-specific terminology correctly. In a normal world, translators are paid more for this–perhaps that’s why Komalingua was so generous as to offer €0.01/word more than many of this week’s job posters. Normally, however, when you call a plumber to come to your house immediately because of an emergency, you expect to pay more for the service. The same goes for translation. Just not on ProZ.

(4) Dave Girotto
Holeckova 25, Prague, 15000
Czech Republic
http://www.idioma.com/contacts.html
Engl>Ital: €0.035/word (=$0.048/word)

Note: Fifteen pages (actually, roughly seventeen, based on 4000 Italian words), 42-hour turnaround. Even in the Czech Republic, Italian translators get paid badly.

(5) Orit Helzer
Argentina
(no company listed)
Ital>Engl: $0.056/word (=€0.04/word)

Note: Mx. Helzer demands: a) that the translation begin very soon; b) that the translator use Helzer’s proprietary translation software; c) that candidates show proof of academic translation/language studies); and d) that candidates complete a translation test. All that for a 4,700-word job that pays $263.20 (€190.72) before taxes. (By comparison, I wouldn’t consider a job like this for less than €380 or twice what Helzer is offering–and my rates, for someone with my experience, aren’t especially high). Perhaps Orit Helzer would also like fries with that.

Living Wages for Translators: Hey, ProZ.com, see that translator over there? The one holding a slingshot?

Here’s the analogy I’d like to start with.

In the middle of your town, there’s a dangerous stretch of road where numerous accidents have taken place. Wrecks have occurred because the road is full of holes in the summer and tends to ice over as soon as temperatures drop in the winter. Many people have been injured, despite the fact that they were themselves driving carefully. The area is badly lit, and even walking on the sidewalks isn’t entirely safe because of the cars skidding on ice or veering suddenly to avoid potholes.

Given the way your town is planned, though, it is almost impossible not to travel on that road or visit that area. It’s where almost all the businesses are located, the majority of the stores. If you want to buy groceries or grab a pizza, you have to go there. Your work and your kids’ school are on that road.

A group of citizens asks the city to take action. The city says: “We don’t have any authority over the weather. It isn’t our fault if the temperatures drop below zero and the road gets icy. We can’t control the fact that asphalt eventually breaks down. It’s a natural phenomenon! And you certainly don’t expect us to put someone in every single car to make sure the driver observes common decency or is respectful of others when he or she drives? Plus, at the end of the day, the sun goes down and the street gets dark–are you demanding that we control the sun, too?! You’re being ridiculous! Everybody knows what that area is like. We’re each responsible for our own personal safety. If you don’t like the road, don’t use it.”

In essence, this is what the owners of ProZ.com have to say to translators who—for years—have complained about the rock-bottom rates, detrimental working conditions, and unfair competition that ProZ promotes via the job announcements that appear on its site.

Translators who complain privately to ProZ about rates that don’t allow them to make a living wage receive this canned answer from the job board’s monitors: “We believe that each member should be entitled to set his or her own minimum rates.”

And so, not even a month after the Trust Traduzioni/Italian Ministry of Tourism scandal, in which ProZ permitted a job posting that included both an illegal payment condition and an obscenely low rate that equated to less than what people earn for cleaning houses or flipping burgers, ProZ has bought itself a boycott and a petition drive. (The petition is available online: A Translators’ Petition Concerning ProZ.com’s Job Policies; in the petition’s first six hours of existence, 380 translators signed it–more than one a minute.)

ProZ.com is the largest online clearinghouse for translation-related jobs. It’s not the only one, and it’s not the only one that gives job posters free rein to drag the market down. But it’s the biggest one and the most influential. Positive change on its part would ripple throughout the industry.

At issue are a couple of dead-serious errors of judgment on ProZ.com’s part. First, ProZ.com allows job posters to establish rates and conditions, a complete distortion of the way freelancing works. Translators are service providers. Companies, agencies, and individuals who want translations are clients. Service providers set rates, not clients. (For precisely the same reason that, when you sit down in a restaurant, you don’t have the right to tell the owner: “Your steaks are over-priced. I’ll pay half. And throw in a bottle of wine with that.”).

Second, because of its influence and international reach (ProZ boasts 200,000 members all around the globe), ProZ does not merely reflect the market, as it consistently claims. Rather, ProZ plays a significant role in shaping it. Low-wage conditions exist in part (not entirely, but in part) thanks to ProZ.

While we’re at it, in fact, it’s worth exposing the lie of the “free market,” which is the “reality” that ProZ claims to be “reflecting.”

Here’s a newsflash for ProZ and its owner, Henry Dotterer: The free market does not exist. All that exists is the question of who will pay for it.

In the case of ProZ (which currently charges its members €114 [or about $158] per year for a basic membership and more than double that for a “corporate” membership), its executives have decided that letting translators pay for the free market—in which every cog in the wheel except the translator has the opportunity to earn a profit—is a perfectly acceptable business model.

Rather than talk about such capitalist wet-dreams as the “free market,” though, I’d much rather talk about living wages for translators. Clearly, defining the concept of a “living wage” is complex, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that translators deserve to earn one.

When an Italian agency offers a job to a translator who lives in Italy and earns in euros, meanwhile, it isn’t too much to expect that agency to pay a rate that allows the translator who lives in Italy and spends in euros to earn enough to make ends meet. And that’s largely the kind of job we’re talking about: the kind in which the job offerer and the translator live and work in precisely the same economy.

Ever since the boycott and petition were first being discussed, of course, the naysayers were already tripping over themselves to say their nays. My feeling is: Who cares? You can’t have a revolution without counter-revolutionaries. Plus they allow one to recall happier times, when terms like “capitalist lackey of the running dog imperialist scum” had some teeth.

In the meantime, translators are doing something to bring attention to an untenable situation. They’re taking action. They’re helping themselves. They’re demanding, with the ProZ.com boycott as a first step, living wages for translators.

It’s the first time in years I’ve felt some pride in the profession I’ve chosen. Go sign the petition and see if you don’t feel a little better yourself.