Fiverr: Do you get what you pay for? (Part 2)

A friend and translation colleague, Natalie Soper, recently messaged me to tell me about a friend of hers who was considering using Fiverr to translate professional texts. The text needed to be translated from English into several languages and Natalie’s friend didn’t know where to start. We were both horrified that anybody would think Fiverr is a viable option for finding translators. Personally, if I can’t recommend a trusted colleague, then I refer them to the directory of a professional translation association, depending on the languages required.

 

So we decided to put Fiverr to the test. We selected a text from a newspaper website relating to one of our common specialisms: tourism. This is a field that is sometimes considered “easy” in comparison to other fields, say legal or medical. Yet it has its unique challenges, and this text was tricky, ready to trip up our translators in every paragraph. And it did. The least we’d expect from a professional translation is a text that reads fluently in English, that adapts to the new audience (with clear research and extra explanations where needed), has taken numerical formats into account and has creative solutions to the uniquely Francophone complexities… and we got none of that.

 

You can read more about how we selected the translators and the intricacies of Fiverr on Natalie’s blog.

 

Natalie and I also translated the text as if we were delivering for a client. We met to discuss our versions plus the versions delivered to us. I am going to outline a few of the parts we found difficult, and compare the translations.

Analysis

General

startup-photosFirst of all, it was plain to see that every translator used a machine translation tool and made slight edits to the output. We suspect they used Google Translate. The texts delivered by Translator C and Translator E were so similar in parts that I thought they may have been delivered by the same person. This is despite the fact that, as Natalie mentioned in her blog post, each translator claimed to translate their texts “manually”. (One translator also claimed not to use “spinning software”, whatever that means!) When we compared our own texts, they were vastly different but still accurate, which is what we expected from our Fiverr translators.

 

Two of our translators, A and C, used US dates and spelling, whereas B and E adapted the date to UK English but used US spelling conventions. As Natalie mentioned in her blog, none of them asked if we’d prefer US or British English, but we hoped that they would at least stick one style consistently.

 

For some reason, Google Translate added in a space at the end of the third paragraph:

The director general of Atout France, the French tourism promotion agency, confirmed that France “really started a recovery from September / October”, and that the end of 2016 had been better than expected “.

Miraculously, this erroneous space turned up in every single translation we purchased.

 

La France séduit toujours autant.

For me, the very first sentence was one of the toughest in the text. Each translator (including Natalie and me) dealt with it differently.

Translator A: France still seduces as much.

Translator B: France is still very attractive, […]

Translator C: France is still quite seductive.

Translator E: France still remains attractive as before.

These are all pretty literal translations, and some are less effective than others. Translator A’s solution is an outright word-for-word translation, and it doesn’t work. Nor does Translator C’s version as the French author did not mean seductive here. The verb ‘seduce’ has sexual undertones in English, which is certainly not what we were going for here. Natalie and I thought that ‘attractive’ was a better option, although Translator E’s version seems to be missing an ‘as’ (“remains *as* attractive as before”. Yet this still makes the reader wonder: “Before what?”) I used ‘attractive’ in my version: “France remains an attractive destination.” Natalie, on the other hand, went for a much more stylish: “France hasn’t lost its charm”.

 

Jean-Marc Ayrault

Another challenge came in the second sentence: “C’est le constat tiré par Jean-Marc Ayrault, qui a annoncé, le 10 février, que pour l’année 2016, le pays conservait sa place de première destination touristique mondiale.”

Being published on a French news website, the French text is mainly aimed at a French audience who is expected to know who Ayrault is. Yet a generalist English-speaking audience probably would not know who he is. Natalie and I both added his title in this sentence, but none of our Fiverr translators did.

Natalie: This was the conclusion made by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Aryault, who announced on 10 February that the country has held onto its crown as the world’s top tourist destination in 2016, […]

Me: This conclusion was drawn by French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault, who, on 10th February, said that the country remained the number one destination in the world in 2016, […]

 

Le directeur général d’Atout France

About halfway through the text, the author writes:

Le directeur général d’Atout France, l’organisme de promotion du tourisme dans l’Hexagone, a confirmé que la France “a vraiment amorcé un redressement à partir de septembre/octobre”, et que la fin 2016 avait été “meilleure que prévu”.

All of our translators came up with a different title for this man. Translator A chose ‘general director’, Translators B and C opted for ‘general manager’ and Translator E went for ‘executive director’. A simple Google search reveals two viable options for his title, CEO or Director General. I plumped for the former, whereas Natalie chose the latter. It’s important to get the person’s title right as he could be mistaken for somebody else, especially as his name was not mentioned in the text.

 

Umih

In the last paragraph, all of the translators stumbled on the following sentence:

2016 a été une année difficile pour nos entreprises, surtout à Paris et sur la Côte d’Azur”, a confirmé Roland Héguy, président de la principale organisation hôtelière, l’Umih.

In fact, Translators A, B and C all stuck to Google Translate’s version:

confirmed Roland Héguy, president of the main hotel organization, the Umih.

And Translator E wasn’t far off this with:

affirmed by Roland Héguy, president of the main hotel organization, the UMIH, simply changing “confirmed” to “affirmed” and capitalising the name.

The problem here is that Umih is a union, not a hotel organisation. A little bit of research would have helped our Fiverr translators here, as both Natalie and I managed to spot this:

Natalie: says Roland Héguy, President of the French hoteliers union, UMIH.

Me: confirmed Roland Héguy, President of UMIH, the country’s main union for the hospitality sector.

Conclusion

As highlighted throughout this post, the Fiverr translators depended on Google Translate, adjusting it slightly where they thought appropriate. None of them researched any part of the text or added glosses for aspects that English-language readers would not understand or be aware of, which a professional translator will do as a matter of course. Although these translations only cost $5 each, we got neither speed, quality nor good customer service – we basically paid for Google Translate with a few tweaks, some of which weren’t even appropriate. Was this a good investment? No. If anything, this exercise demonstrates that it takes much more than language skills to craft a good translation: knowledge of the subject of the text and target audience are also crucial factors, and although Natalie and I are clearly biased, we feel that hiring an expert translator is still the only option for translating professional texts.

 

Edit: here is the French text plus the translations we received.

Text for translation

Translator ATranslator BTranslator CTranslator E

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13 thoughts on “Fiverr: Do you get what you pay for? (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Fiverr: Do you get what you pay for? (Part 1) | Bellingua Translations

  2. Dear Hannah,
    As I said to Natalie on Twitter, well done on tackling this topic with empirical zest. My first encounter with Fiverr was a couple years ago regarding the design of a logo (I do graphic design and typesetting, that’s why —but I wasn’t offering my services on Fiverr). Anyhow, some people may reasonably conclude “a priori” that a service like Fiverr will do more harm than good, no matter how small their shoestring budget is.

    However, here’s my suggestion (almost recommendation): how about preparing a paper about this whole thing, using the hard data you collected, and publish it? Then, how about going to chambers of commerce and business conferences (not the ones for translators, that would be preaching to the choir) and offer a small presentation with these findings? Of course, there wouldn’t be any need to say “always hire a professional translator” because the presentation and the data will be self explanatory.

    • Dear Mario,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and offering the recommendation. It’s not something Natalie and I had initially considered, but it’s certainly worth looking into. I’m a member of the German-British Chamber of Industry and Commerce, so I’ll get in touch with them and see what they say. 🙂

      • Yes! Well, I can tell you that some chambers of commerce are more receptive than others. I remember a colleague in Florida invited me to copresent on translation and translators at our chamber of commerce meeting in 2005, so it is doable. Best of luck!

  3. An excellent article, and cleverly done across both blogs!
    I remember visiting a prospective local client a few years ago, and hearing nothing from them for the entire time I was there (it was a short meeting since it was just a waste of time, but the coffee was good) other than how they were really happy with Fiverr, but wanted to use somebody local who could visit their office whenever they needed. Unfortunately, my price was higher than they were expecting (and apparently I wasn’t prepared to be flexible enough about popping in to see them whenever they wanted) and they decided to continue as before.
    It’s good to know that such solutions exist for the non-discerning translation buyer, but ultimately it’s just another example of garbage-in-garbage-out, and leaves the way clear for proper translators to focus on proper, paying customers.

    • Thank you, Paul! Interesting story, and I totally agree that there is plenty of room in the market for professional translators who supply high-quality texts.

  4. Hi Hannah (and Natalie),

    Thank you so much for doing this! I have a French you keeps insisting I should look on Fiverr for direct clients as well as translators to produce marketing materials in my source languages. I am going to email her this right now.

  5. How interesting, thank you so much for conducting this experiment and presenting your analysis. I was particularly intrigued by the miraculous appearance of the extra space! 😉

    Have you thought about writing an article on your experiment for the ITI Bulletin, or one of the other professional association journals? I’m sure there would be a lot of interest.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jayne! To be honest, Natalie and I hadn’t expected our blog posts to garner this much attention, but an article in the ITI Bulletin is a great idea! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Webschau März 2017 – Sprachrausch | Büro für Sprachdienstleistungen

  7. Pingback: Fiverr revisited: can German translators do any better? | Hannah Keet

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