What does a specialised Spanish translator really earn?
By Amaia Gómez. Translation Mary C. BLACK.
In the same vein as a fairly recent post, specifically the one from the 15th of April of this year on the current state of technical translation (http://wp.me/p1CP3Z-8e), and another post on rates I wrote some time ago, on the 21st of June 2012 (http://wp.me/p1CP3Z-1U), and the eternal timeliness of this topic – let us recall one of the talks given at the first edition of a successful event on entrepreneurship in translation which was held in the state capital last May (http://t.co/AkjnewZ9Ty) and the recent reminder by the board of a translators’ association of on Defence of Competition Law 15/2007 (3 July 2007, http://www.boe.es/diario_boe/txt.php?id=BOE-A-2007-12946), which does not allow rates to be mentioned even in a distribution list since the Competition Defence Tribunal may consider it an infraction of that law and may fine all subscribers – I want to tell a personal story obviously without the intention of setting any parameter but instead only to provide some objective information on several episodes that have happened to me by coincidence in less than a week’s time which, I believe, clearly illustrate the real situation we are facing on many fronts, as much as it hurts my perennial optimism (as reflected in the first of the two posts mentioned above).
On Thursday the 23rd of May of this year, an old acquaintance of mine got in touch to request a somewhat urgent technical translation. He contacted me on behalf of a public higher education institution. I sent him an estimate (modest but fair, I thought) which stated a 30-day payment period, since that institution has a 90-day payment policy despite the current Law on Defaults, which stipulates that these periods must be shorter (http://www.axesor.es/BLOG/post/2013/02/05/Ley-de-Morosidad-nuevos-plazos-de-pago-para-2013.aspx). I did that because we already know what the public coffers are like today, and for months I’ve had problems with the payment periods in cases like this one. Warning!!! He responded that unfortunately, given the state of affairs today, the institution was applying a 100-day payment “policy”. I told him I had to decline the project because I have had the misfortune to learn firsthand that they don’t even abide by their own policies, and it has taken more than twice the time that this contact stated as the deadline for some invoices to be paid. Trying to assuage the situation, he offered to pay more per word to cover this awkwardness, but I know of many colleagues, in this case technical translators, who have been caught out trusting that the administration pays, late, but it always pays, because in today’s world you can’t even trust Murphy. As a result, I’m increasingly conservative: less risk, fewer problems.
The next story happened a day later. On Friday the 24th of May a Spanish translation agency got in touch with me after being recommended by another technical translator in my circle, asking me to work with them on an urgent technical translation that meant working all weekend long. I sent them my rates (lower than what I had proposed to the public higher education institution, since this was a translation agency), and I even sent them my CV, a copy of my national identity card and the signed confidentiality agreement, such was their interest in my services… But in the return email they told me that they had decided not to assign me the project because they could only pay €0.05/word. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not forget that we are talking about a SPECIALISED URGENT WEEKEND TRANSLATION!
And to conclude, I’ll tell you about another episode that happened the following Monday, the 27th of May. Don’t think that the solution can always be found abroad (some foreigners probably think that we Spaniards are dying of hunger and that we’ll grasp onto anything). That day, another translation agency (although I tend to think that it was a freelancer who subcontracts services from colleagues, as many of us do), this one from England, asked me to do an urgent technical correction. Once again I sent in my rates, and once again my contact answered that they could not close the deal with me because they could offer no more than €0.02/word.
So there you have it! There is work out there for translators, I have no doubt about that, but I also have no doubt that we are all becoming vultures.
At my home we’re going through hard economic times. Just like many other families, we’ve survived many years (since 2008) dealing with a work and economic situation that is only getting worse, because the overall situation is becoming less and less promising, contrary to the way it should be. But until we are literally dying of hunger, as some foreigners seem to think we humble Spaniards are, I will carry on trying to keep my dignity as a professional and as a person and will fight for fair rates, just as I strive to offer services that, while perhaps not optimal, because we all make mistakes sometimes, do always keep this goal in mind, as I try to learn from my errors every time they occur. I encourage you to join me in the struggle for values, as only in this way can we rescue this diseased society that is devouring us.