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Tips for Starting a Translators’ Association advice from Fire Ant & Worker Bee (more columns in Translation Journal


Dear Fire Ant & Worker Bee,

Yesterday a major French carmaker asked us to revise a text they'd had translated by an agency in Slovakia. My Slovakian being as rusty as my Slovenian, I turned down the offer.

"But the translation was from French into English, and it's terrible," they replied.

Here's the good part: "Please bill the Slovakians. After all, it's their fault. Oh, and don't bill them too much because they have extremely competitive rates".


  1. It's cheap but bad.
  2. The poor quality is the fault of the agency working, at the client's request, with two "foreign languages."
  3. Do it properly, bill the Slovakians (whom we chose) but don't charge too much in order to remain competitive.

We discussed it in-house, and our reply was:

  1. We won't revise it. We'll re-translate it or nothing.
  2. We'll bill you, not the agency.
  3. We'll charge you 25% extra for the rush.
  4. We'll charge you 75% extra for being so stupid

Were we overly aggressive?

Sandwich Bar 2


Dear Sandwich,

An exquisite exchange, thanks for sharing.

As a colleague points out, these people are perfect candidates for the Clients To Fire list.

Doing business on their terms hurts not just you, the translation supplier, but the whole profession. If you accept, you become an enabler, which makes you just as guilty as they are—only more so, since you ought to know better. Subsidizing shoddy suppliers in Slovakia (or anywhere) with a cheap rewrite guarantees that these same suppliers will continue to undercut your prices.

Bringing that message home to your clients firmly and professionally (we're assuming you added "for being so stupid" for our benefit) is the way to go. Your letter is a useful reminder that it is not just clients who need educating, but also translation providers.


Fire Ant and Worker Bee have five decades’ combined experience in translation. They believe that in addition to producing consistently strong work, translators benefit commercially from adopting an entrepreneurial outlook and exchanging tips and experiences.

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