Bidding for translation jobs / Bieten für Übersetzungen

Céline has an excellent post, Why I don’t like bidding systems, on the problem that translators seemed to be judged by how cheap they are. She suggests that lawyers aren’t treated in the same way (and this is true whether or not their prices are fixed – in Germany there is a fee scale, but lawyers can contract out of it). Of course, lawyers usually have a monopoly. Unlike quite a number of translators in Germany, I don’t believe translators should be “verkammert” [umlaut removed, ed.), and I think payment has to be left to the market.

Since I first read the post this morning, there have been a few comments. The first is by Christian Hansel of Babelport. I can see that those who run such websites have different interests from the translators who use them, but they seem to be successful. I can’t accept the suggestion that there is anything altruistic about them, since running such a site either brings in money through advertising or charges, or if not, it helps create a reputation and therefore goodwill, which has an economic value.

Trevor also comments.

13 thoughts on “Bidding for translation jobs / Bieten für Übersetzungen

  1. Sad to say, language hat’s right. The consequences of a bad translation aren’t usually as dire as bad lawyering or sloppy tax preparation. Society doesn’t have as vital a stake in good translation – or good writing, for that matter – as it does in many other areas.

    Which means we don’t need to be chartered, licensed or what have you. We just need to be good.

    Be good, and they will come!

    PS – Nice to see I’m not the only one pulling a graveyard shift here…

  2. I agree with Steve that the consequences of bad translation aren’t usually noticed. I don’t quite follow your logic: no need to be chartered, but be good, and they will come. But OK, you need to do things like delivering on time and producing presentable work.

  3. Sorry. In my incoherence, I was trying to say that society hasn’t deemed translation to be so essential to the social fabric that it needs to be institutionalized.

    Institutionalizing something incorporates and enshrines it in society so that it has to abide by fixed guidelines.

    What we do is more transgressive: it pushes the envelope; expands the language. Rather than maintaining the current social order, we stand outside it, undermine it, add to it and embellish it.

    I’m not saying that translation couldn’t become a regulated profession. But I don’t know that we would necessarily recognize it as translation anymore if we had to follow the same codices and rules that, say, accountants do.

    God, I’m starting to sound like a drunk college student at a frat party. Time to call it a day and go home.

  4. I was about to say that I’m not sure what I’m saying either. I received an email this evening telling me how the one-man law firm Metford Metford-Sewell got its name, but it confused me. I would like to go home too, but I’m already there.

    Is there some double use of ‘pushing the envelope’ there, thinking of agencies?

    Perhaps I need to be institutionalized.

  5. Hi Margeret,

    I don’t think I ever said my service was altruistic and I certainly won’t deny that I have my own interests in drawing many visitors and members to babelport.com.

    I do insist, however, that there are benefits for both sides.

    Apart from that, I agree that introducing a “chamber” (Gibt es das Wort “verkämmert” wirklich?) won’t solve any problems. I for one, believe that the core of the discussion does not deal with a specific trade but with the nature of freelancing. (Sorry but I am not willing to retype here what I ‘ve just commented on Céline’S blog)

    And I also agree that the price already vary when it comes down to target groups, target products, target media, which is regulated by the market.

    I am not pleading for Verkämmerung (I kind of like it) but for sharing information, education, experience between freelancers as a form of self-sustaining self-organzing regulation.

    But I fear, I can’t make myself clear enough to get that point across the river of misunderstanding

    But as I said before, I invite everybody to join the babelport dicussion : http://www.babelport.com/community/showthread.php?forum=11&thread=64

  6. Hi Chris,

    Sorry, of course it should be verkammert / Verkammerung (that’s what they say in the BDÜ). But I don’t think you want me to correct your English, do you? As long as you understand what I mean, umlaut or not…

    Of course there are benefits for both sides. There’s no need to repeat anything here – people should read Céline’s post and the comments there.

    Personally, I don’t use these sites to get work, so I can’t express a well-founded meaning about them. I think it’s good if these things are discussed, though, and especially outside the sites themselves (as well as inside – I looked at your thread). Good luck with Babelport!

  7. Bidding systems need not always be bad. It all depends on how such a system or site is run.

    Personally, I don’t think much of it, because in Canada, translators have pretty much the same status as lawyers. Plus, I am inundated with work every day, so would I go out and auction myself off for even more work.

    Yes, occasionally, I do place a bid (once in a blue moon), but this is really more for fun and to see what sort of responses this might trigger.

    As for Trevor’s comments, mentioned by Margaret, Trevor calls me a racist on his site (which is a libellous statement), because I insist that people translate into their first language only.
    Trevor should consult a dictionary and look up the word “racist” before he abuses the word again. Requiring native competence in the target language does not come under the definition of “racism” but of “common sense”.

  8. Sorry, one sentence got all mangled up:
    Old:
    Plus, I am inundated with work every day, so would I go out and auction myself off for even more work.

    New:
    Plus, I am inundated with work every day, so why would I go out and auction myself off for even more work?

  9. wow, now this is what i call a domino effect! chris must be really busy defending his position in all those blogs…;o) my opinion: bidding = price dumping and we as translators are in such a tight position because for years and years the community (translators + clients) has tolerated undercutting of prices and delivering poor translation quality. i want to see some changes here and apparently i am not the only one.

  10. Yes it does keep me busy, but I enjoy the discussion, too. It does give me inside information, which I will certainly consider for integration.

    But I agree with InkaMaria, that not only portals like mine can be made responsible for the pricedumping problem.

    I.m.h.o. many (esp. young and part-time) freelancers (no matter what trade) don’t really know their “best” rates, which makes it easy for outsourcers to demand low rates…

  11. I don’t see that clients who base their decision on price are going to change their criterion if the bidding system is removed*. By the same token, those who base their decision on quality-related criteria are not currently ignoring their standards and chosing by price simply because of using the bidding systems. In other words, it’s not the bidding system that controls the client’s criteria; it’s the client’s own philosophy, needs and foresight.

    Before internet translation forums, what did the price-driven client do? Searched via the yellow pages, and chose the translator who gave the cheapest quote. Or asked his friend whose niece’s boyfriend’s cousin spent six months in country X a couple of years ago. I don’t agree that it’s bidding systems that have increased the prevalence of the price-first-and-only criterion, all they have done is to broaden the scope of the search for the client who is already thinking this way. If, on the other hand, you (as the client) do care about quality, why would you change your mind and switch to chosing a translator by price simply because you now have access to a more global supplier market?

    OK, you could make a counter-argument that low-priced translations can be equal in quality. My personal observations suggest that these must be very rare among translators registered at such sites.

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