Fresh out of the oven, yet another job ad on ProZ, for a Greek-to-English translation.
“We have a small certificate to be translated from Greek into English.
We are looking for translator who is immediately available.
Please send your resume with your best possible price per word in subject line at [ e-mail address ].Source format: PDF DocumentPoster country: India”
First of all, why on Earth is this request coming from India? The original certificate is in Greek, so the person who wants it translated is most likely Greek. Why would that person send it to an Indian translation agency? Or maybe he sent it to a Greek agency which then sent it to an Indian agency, which in turn posted it on ProZ. The point is that some Greek person sent it over to India. Why? It baffles me. Do they think there are many Greek-English translators in New Delhi? Or do they expect Hindi translators to speak Greek and English fluently and to be able to translate an official document from Greek to English? (side note / question: Who would notarize the translation?) What is the logic here? I guess the Greek person/agency hopes for a very low price. Fine, but in the end, who receives that very low price? The Greek-English translator. Does the Greek-English translator live in India? Probably not. Can he survive with Indian rates? Probably not.
So let’s follow the journey of our Greek certificate. The Indian agency receives it from Greece and posts an ad on a site like ProZ to find a Greek-English translator. Then it selects one of the translators that bid on the project. This translator most likely lives in Greece (statistically speaking), or maybe in the US or the UK or Australia, in any case in a country where Indian rates are probably not a viable option. Let me repeat this, to stress the absurdity of the process: the document is sent from Greece to India and it ends up back in Greece or another country other than India for translation. It gets translated and then is sent back from Greece (or that other country) to the agency in India, and then from India back to Greece to the person who first requested it. So the certificate takes a very long and uninteresting trip, and in the meantime the price has dropped to sewer level. Doesn’t this even cross the mind of the person that needs the translation? And doesn’t it cross his mind that, in the end, the person receiving the sewer-level price will be the Greek translator, who lives in a country with the same standard of living as him? He probably thinks “Great, I got a good translation and I saved some euros, no harm done”. But no, there is harm done, and it’s significant; to that particular Greek translator, to all translators, and to the translation market in general. In this case we’re talking about a one- or two-page document, at a rate of $0.04 per word versus an average rate of $0.14 per word, i.e. a total of $8 versus $28. We could be talking about a much larger document, of 10 pages, and then the price would be $120 versus $420 (assuming about 300 words per page). Or it could be a 30-page document, $360 vs $1260; you get the picture.
Now, as if the low price requested in the ad weren’t enough, the agency needs a translator that is immediately available. This normally calls for a surcharge for urgent work. Also, note that the source format is PDF, which means that the translator will have to use OCR (not always very successful with Greek) or recreate the layout manually from scratch; another surcharge would be in order. Would the agency be willing to pay these surcharges? My guess is that no, no way, what a funny thing to say… Not only may the translator not charge extra, but according to the ad he should give his/her “best possible price”. “Best”, as we all know, means “lowest”. They want the lowest possible rate. Why? Why should the translator give his lowest possible price for an urgent translation from a PDF?
Some years ago, when translators responded to such ads, it was very often to complain about the ridiculous conditions of the work. Of course when ProZ went from being “The Translators Workplace” to “The Translation Workplace”, a new rule appeared that forbade translators to contact the outsourcers for anything other than bidding for the project. So there you have it, you’re not allowed to complain on proZ, it’s a free market, if you don’t want to do the work, don’t do it, but don’t bother the outsourcer with your complaints and don’t try to influence other translators who might agree to do the translation for a fraction of the cost and spend two hours on a certificate so they can buy a small bag of peanuts. On the other hand, is it really the Indian agency’s fault? They simply agreed to take on a project someone assigned to them. I think the problem lies with the lack of common sense of the person or agency that decided to outsource the project to India; lack of common sense and blindness caused by a frantic search for low prices.