Translation request / Anfrage

This Friday morning at ten past ten I had a phone call from a local translation agency I don’t know.

bq. Die Stadt Nürnberg bringt ein Bildband über die Stadt heraus. Der zu übersetzende Text ist etwa zwölf Seiten lang in Word. Das Problem ist: die Stadt Nürnberg braucht die Übersetzung bis Montag.

This explains a few things about the quality of translations about the city of Nuremberg.

9 thoughts on “Translation request / Anfrage

  1. Hi Margaret

    I get requests like that almost every Friday. Most of them won’t even accept the need for a price markup for weekend work. You are absolutely spot-on about the low estimation on the part of the customer as to what is involved in such a turnaround.


  2. Yes, of course, but how often does the weekend rush job relate to an illustrated publication for a large city? How long did the German author have, I wonder? And talk about no mark-up – I do not think this will have been very profitable. By profitable, I mean bring in an hourly rate that covers the rent.

  3. Did you accept?

    PS. I also get requests like this almost every Friday. Mainly from agencies with whom I have never worked before, i.e. agencies whose regular translators have said “Sod off, it’s Friday”.

  4. No, I didn’t accept. I did not even test what they were paying, although I suspect that even if a weekend surcharge had been accepted, the payment would have been low. I do get requests every Friday.
    What I was commenting on was the fact that the City of Nuremberg wants to produce an illustrated volume with English texts and only allows three days, including a weekend, for the English text. I’m sure they found someone, though.

  5. Clients think that translation is just typing in another language. In many firms the in-house translators are just a wee bit above office assistants.

    The time allowed to the German and French translators of the sixth book of Harry Potter series is really a shame.


  6. Eine explanation fur die people who nicht Deutsch sprechen?

    How much did they want you to do in three days? I must lead a charmed life – I hardly ever get unreasonable requests on a Friday.

  7. Jez: it isn’t really the amount – 12 pages in Word, they said, whatever that means. Translation:

    ‘The City of Nuremberg is publishing an illustrated book about the city. The text is about 12 pages in Word. The problem is that the City wants the translation by Monday.’

    If I plan to work at the weekend and have no work yet, it’s probably OK to enquire on Friday morning about 12 pages, depending on how much that is. What I found bad was the nature of the work. This is not an urgent translation for some court case or employment contract, but probably a coffee-table book that is going to be bought by more English speakers than the German original. It may even be in connection with the World Cup in 2006 – Nuremberg is one of the host cities, and it’s a big publicity thing. That book is unlikely to appear in very good English.

    The other commenters don’t seem to feel my pain, though. Your charmed life may have to do with Britain versus Germany.

  8. I, too, have these requests from unChristian sources, albeit non-Sabbath observers, with no respect for weekends off and family life. The pain is that we know that we/Margaret can do a better job of what sounds to me like an interesting topic if we had more time.

    My retaliation to unknown trans. agencies and private clients: let’s have the whole estimated payment upfront and into my UK or Austrian bank account by close of banking business Friday afternoon in either country. Otherwise, no go.
    I also quote the UK Solicitors’ admonition Margaret is sure to be well aware of:

    ‘I/my firm will not start working on the case until the GBP 750/ 1,000 payment on account of (legal) costs is in the firm’s account. Unless a banker’s draft, the cheque has to be cleared. If it bounces, I will stop working on the job right away.’

    The City of London law firm I used to work for described this as the ‘slot-machine principle’. The clients first have to insert the coins in the one-arm bandit that won’t accept pleas for credit. Then they can play the game.

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