May 3, 2014

Dey wanna be like U!

Dear Mr/Ms,

We are a new, aspiring translation and interpreting office at the Munich Zoo. Please visit our web site to get to know us.

We are contacting you today because we might be able to offer you a large assignment for translation or review. We are taking part in a request for tender from the German Federal Ministry of Monkey Business.

If we are awarded the contract we will receive German text of a general political, legal, economic, engineering or scientific character which is to be translated into Englisch. The project is expected to begin at the end of May or beginning of June and must be delivered no later than July 10th. The order will be about 20,000 pages or 5 million words altogether.

Are you generally interested in being part of this project?

One requirement to participate is the use of a CAT tool, because the client will give us a list of terminology. If you do not have your own CAT tool, we can lay you Across our knee and provide you with access to ours.

We offer you a fee of 7 peanuts per word for translation, 3 peanuts per word for review and, for successful contribution to the project, a bunch of ripe bananas and a written reference confirming your successful participation in this big project. Of course your successful collaboration will be followed by offers of many other translation projects ;-)

If you are interested in this assignment we look forward to your positive response. Please submit the attached non-disclosure agreement, signed, no later than April 28, 2014 along with your CV emphasizing your expertise in the subject and a reference list of your customers from the past three years. 

Thank you very much for your understanding and cooperation.

We look forward to your response and the possibility of working together.

Your lingoking Team

Ima Dyantochukup

lingoking GmbH

Alas, I had intended to post this opportunity last week in time for hungry colleagues to take advantage, but such is the way of the profession that ones like it will surely come again. If you hang out near the seedy watering holeZ of wordworkers, you may hear these summons to the feeding trough often enough, CALLING ALL TRANSLATORS!!!

The "crowdmanager" title is real. Seriously. I had to wonder what a corporate or government client must think when seeing such a title in the signature of an e-mail with a service quotation. Most of those I have met would rather not have their texts masticated and regurgitated by a crowd and feel that qualifications generally ought to go beyond a CAT tool and opposable thumbs. But then I try to hang out farther up in the rainforest canopy where the branches usually won't support big, fat snakes and other predators.

The request for the list of clients from the past three years is also real. Quite up front, unlike the attempt of the owner of the now-defunct Language Promotion in Zurich to get a list of my clients and their contact details by using a false name and posing as a medical device company prospect with a €50,000 project. But just as sleazy in its own way. Think about it. If I want to be a lazy sneak about my marketing in an area I target, I could post a "potential" job on a translation workhouse board, specifying the desired subject and qualification profile and demanding any number of specific references for past translation work in that area, and I then have a good list with which to begin approaching the clients of these suckers and selling my own services. It happens. There are also frequent enough instances of CVs submitted to fraudulent service providers who then use that information to impersonate translators that one ought to consider how such information should be restricted and protected and whether it should be provided at all. In some cases I may refer someone to a professional association directory or official list of court-sworn translators in which I am listed, where there has already been some rigorous screening of certain qualifications. The occasional suggestions one sees of "profiles" or marketing-oriented qualification summaries rather than a résumé or CV are also worth listening to and considering. I haven't heard a peep of complaint from anyone receiving one of these. It's perfectly legitimate to want to know a bit about the person with whom one intends to do business, and this often covers that need more than adequately.

The above call to swinging translators is also typical of the recurring problem of a great number of unscrupulous language sausage providers (LSPs) suckering translators into providing their details for large EU or other government tenders. These companies often bait and switch, using the records of highly experienced, qualified professionals to get the contract, but with most or all the actual work being done by cheaper and off much less qualified persons willing to accept a handful of shells for their work, the peanuts inside taken to feed the more deserving zookeepers. I'm not saying one should never support a business partner in an RFP, not at all. But be sure that you are really dealing with a partner, and perhaps consider a few terms of your own. Next time I have occasion to chat with a qualified attorney for contract law, I would be curious to see what that individual might think of a binding, signed letter of agreement from an authorized representative guaranteeing a certain volume of business upon the condition of a successful submission for the tender.

Many of these tenders are, I am told, open to individuals or at least smaller organizations, and it might be worth considering submissions with a favored small agency or a team of trusted colleagues rather than support a sausage producer with business goals which may be at odds with values you hold. Information on European public procurement can be found here: Others which may be of interest:
(Thank you to colleague Christine Schmit for providing those links!)

1 comment:

  1. The good old dangling the carrot of some random odd project as a ploy…

    I strongly agree with you that regardless of their unprofessional, unethical, and quite rude nature of these requests, many (if not most) of them are used to harvest business critical data from the "competition" to obtain proven translation buyers leads in an attempt to undercut the very same "competition" that provided that information.

    I had a colleague that quite foolishly answered one of these requests with all the details they asked for, only to get a phone call about a day later from his client, telling him that he just got an email from some translation company that knew he is buying translation services in the legal field and offered to provide the same service only cheaper. Luckily that client had the decent sense to suspect that something fishy is going on. I have heard of similar stories (even at the forums of the WateringHoleZ) from other people as well, and those forums are also filled with stories of identity theft.

    I also think that the future of the professional market segment is partly in creating small groups of specialists (that will also communicate and collaborate with similar groups in other fields and/or languages) that will take the place of the "corporate" (or simply fraudulent) translation agency model that is driven to the populate and compete in the cesspool market segment by the very people who run it. No professional or aspiring professional translator should join the ride to this toxic inhabitable destination.


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