четверг, 1 августа 2013 г.

The Blame is Mine. Whose is Liablility?

There’s a translation company that joined the list of my clients quite a few years ago. All in all, I’m satisfied with the way it goes between us: jobs are more or less regular, some of them being long-term projects lasting for years; invoicing via their web-based platform is simple; payment absolutely reliable; the rates are average but I never thought of raising them due to the above factors. Common Sense Advisory lists them in the Top 100 global language service providers but that didn’t turn them into an over-bureaucratized MLV. In  fact, it’s a small and friendly company.
Recently, they sent me a few documents for translation. Their customer is to celebrate the company’s anniversary, and they decided to bring their best clients onsite to take part in the festivities. The batch of documents included a questionnaire, invitations, program, etc. – very easy basic texts. The PO was for just above €100.
I made two very silly mistakes that qualify as major by all and any assessment criteria (I won’t focus on why it happened: even the best of chefs oversalt their salads once in a while, and it’s irrelevant in this case.) They trust me in the agency and so didn’t proofread my translation. Their customer got the papers printed, with their logos and all, sent the invitations to the guests, and only then the errors were noticed.
The director of the agency emailed me telling that the client was quite angry (obviously, for good reasons), and himself, upset (same); the customer requested 100% discount on the Ukrainian translation (mine) and 20% on the entire project that included 20 other languages. The director said they were forced to cancel my PO.
In this case, figures don’t matter. First, €100 won’t ruin my wellbeing. Second, the damage to the translation company’s reputation may range from zero if it’s a longstanding good customer of theirs to huge amounts of potential profit lost if it’s a new one. Third, the €100 or even 20% discount may be quite inadequate as a moral compensation for the awkwardness of the situation end customer found himself in – situation created by mistakes in the translation.
My conclusions deals with other aspects.
Such thing as an absolutely reliable structure doesn’t exist in nature. In translation it means that:
  1. Translators may make errors. Even the best and most experienced ones. The craziest of them often occur in seemingly simple situations: missing a key word if suddenly distracted; automatically translating “right” as “left” when the tired brain is on the verge of switching off; shell parakeet landing on the keyboard and adding a few letters to the already proofed text (that actually happened to me a few times – luckily, before proofreading). The nasty thing is that when proofreading we mostly focus on the target text checking spelling, grammar, style and things like that assuming that the meaningful part is OK and thus take no notice of the obvious blunders.
  2. Outsourcers should remember – see 1. On a practical level, proofreading should never be omitted on such ground as “the text is quite simple” or “we work with this translator for years, and s/he has proved his/her reliability” for high-profile projects. Here, the “high profile” definition is an absolute parameter which has nothing to do with the text simplicity/complexity or size.
A thought that just popped up: in the situation I described, my error caused problems for all three parties involved - something to ponder about...
Opinions welcome.

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