As we saw in Part 1 of the Revision Survey Results, the main reason respondents gave for not offering revision services on their website or social media profiles (91 people explained their response) was poor translation quality. This was corroborated by the next survey question, shown above left.
The next three questions all focused on the money-aspect of revisions. For an encouraging 25.8%, revisions are paid appropriately, but the majority (55.9%) holds the opposite opinion. Given that this question had an “Other” option, a number of comments were made, especially of the “it depends” variety.
“Like everything else, it depends on the client: Some see the value and are willing to pay, others don’t. With agencies, the answer is usually no.”
“When they are genuine revisions, maybe. When what the client really wants is a cheap retranslation or near retranslation, no.”
“It depends, sometimes it’s an awful work, and companies use revisions to hire low-paid translators. When I realize that’s the case, I don’t accept the job.”
“Depends on the quality of the translation. If it is good, the pay comes out to adequate. If the translation is awful, I wouldn’t say the pay was worth the efforts.”
“It depends who translated the text originally. Every now and again, it would in hindsight be better to have translated the text myself.”
Quite a few were happy with the rate because they charge per hour, which is certainly how I prefer to charge for my revision work.
“I suspect not, but I charge £40 / hr so I’m happy enough with the few that I do.”
“If paid by the hour, yes.”
But some agency clients refuse to pay hourly rates, which is when the whole issue can start to get problematic.
“They should always be hourly rate, but many want price per word at less than the price for repetitions in an actual translation.”
As a few highlighted, it can be quite tricky sometimes to earn a decent sum for revisions as they find it challenging to determine both the real quality of the text and the time the job will take.
“I don’t have sufficient experience to comment in general but revisions I have done that were paid by word count resulted in a low hourly rate.”
“I set my own price based on the standard of the text, but frequently undercharge because I think it’ll take me less time.”
This respondent suggests charging 1/3 of your translation rate. For me, that would be too low. If I’m not charging an hourly rate, I generally charge 50%, sometimes even slightly more.
“It goes both ways. I think 1/3 of the translation price is fair. If it’s a high quality translation, the revision can be lucrative!”
As some people pointed out, it’s your own fault if you accept a revision rate that leaves you feeling you’ve been diddled somehow.
“Set rates are laughable, as long as you choose to respect them.”
“Agencies tend to pay far too little, partly because translators undervalue their time and do not calculate fees based on what they earn per hour. It’s okay working for direct clients but not for agencies.”
“I think in general revisions are not paid enough, but it is possible to negotiate good rates.”
“I set a deliberately high rate to make sure they are! (And to reduce the volume I’m asked to do)”
A comment I wholeheartedly agree with because I’ve definitely been there and done that.
“If it were revision work, yes, but often as not the text requires translation work!”
Because, as another respondent so aptly put it, it:
“Depends on the quality of the translation and the terms and conditions for revisions.”
One respondent had quite the opposite view, undoubtedly highlighting another of the issues with revisions in general, since revisers can do more harm than good if they have no idea of the subject matter.
“Very often people get high rates for revising a document that they cannot understand.”
When asked if more money would be the incentive they needed to do more revisions, 52.9% said yes.
Some colleagues stated that this isn’t an issue for them because they are paid what they ask.
“I charge an hourly rate I am happy with.”
“I charge by time, otherwise will not accept them.”
“If clients are prepared to pay my hourly rate and allow for the number of hours a job is likely to take.”
“If everyone charged even a bit more, the question wouldn’t arise.”
“If you don’t like the rate, don’t do the work.”
“I get my rate or I don’t do it.”
“I tend to charge by the hour and the pay is fine that way, but it’s simply annoying to be correcting stupid formatting mistakes and quasiliteral translations; the occasional whopper you can share with friends is not enough to offset the frustration. However, I’m very happy to revise the work of good translators! I learn from both revising and being revised. We all make mistakes.”
For others, charging more would probably mean pricing themselves out of their market segment.
“Yes, but then I’d be charging almost as much as translation and I wouldn’t get clients.”
Others would still refuse revisions of bad-quality translations.
“Not if it will still mean the translation is poor in quality.”
“Only for trusted partners!”
“I only correct translations of translators I know or if I know it wasn’t a cheap translation or machine translation.”
For some, however, given that they don’t much like revising regardless of the quality, pay is not an issue.
“Wouldn’t be my first choice of job.”
Some respondents don’t actually get asked to do revisions very often.
“I would do them if they asked me to. I do not think enough companies consider it an important part of the translation process.”
And one pointed out that the subject of the translation has a bearing on accepting a revision or not.
“It depends on other factors such as the field in which the document is written.”
Another issue that’s quite common in revision was also mentioned.
“The hard part is most agencies don’t send the translation along with the offer. They expect you to accept the job sight unseen.”
I have sometimes agreed to do the revision of unfinished translations. It’s a bit like gambling, really, and I generally only do this when I’m being paid per hour. And yes, sometimes it has ended up with the client paying more than they had anticipated.
Other thoughts were:
“I would like to revise (and be revised) more by colleagues.”
“Only if delivery dates become realistic.”
I asked the next question because it is one of the accusations I see most often in forum discussions on revisions. It is deemed one of the main reasons why translations are such poor quality in the first place and as justification for not accepting such work.
I think it’s interesting to note that not one of the 228 colleagues that answered this question chose the “Never” option and nearly 80% believe this is a relatively frequent occurrence.
“It wouldn’t surprise me, but I have no concrete evidence it’s true. The absolute worst material I’ve ever reviewed was by some relative expensive (€0.12/wd) translators found on the ITI’s website.”
Quite a few of the “Other” responses for this question were “don’t knows”.
“Not sure, the translations I received for revision were not too bad actually.”
Specifically, one respondent said:
“I hear stories, but I do not know for sure.”
These comments do make me wonder whether all the respondents (especially the above-mentioned 80%) have based their answer to this question on facts or whether they have been swayed by hearsay.
Part 3 focuses on the quality of revisions, and translators’ and clients’ satisfaction with the work revisers do.