Mark Sanderson wrote:
1) The source text was not an easy document to translate - a thesis on economics with lots of specialized terminology.
So the chances are that this is a student who didn't have a lot to spend, and the agency quoted really low and fast just to get the job. Does the student know the quality will probably be poor? Probably not, as he/she will have no idea of the cost or time needed. Will poor quality matter? Could have a major impact on the rest of his/her life. But it isn't your problem.
2) What sort of translator can translate 4500 words per day consistently, whilst reaching a suitable level of quality?
I think we can all go well over our comfort limit, maybe doubling our volume, but only within certain situations:
- only for one day, maybe two maximum, starting early, taking only sufficient pauses to go to the loo, down a drink, eat with one hand while typing with the other, and finish very late
- only when we're familiar with the subject area and have little need to research terms
- only when we already have an established relationship with the client i.e. we don't have to check up on them; don't need to get all the details in writing to cover our risk; don't have to be ultra-careful about how we word every email (particularly in our source language)
- only when there's no chance of file types and formatting issues getting in the way of productivity
- only when our workplace situation allows us to concentrate 100% of the time on work (no answering the phone, making coffee/lunch, dealing with kids...)
- only when we are almost 100% sure that there will be no problem collecting the client's full payment within the agreed deadline
- only when we are charging extra for the service; at least 25-50% extra and maybe more
- only when we are sufficiently motivated to want to make such an enormous effort
I think the last one is really important. We should never let these sort of jobs be imposed on us. That's bad for our health both in the short term and in the long term.
3) Where is the time to check going to come from?
I'm assuming that your 2000 words per day would be fully checked. With enough adrenalin coursing through your system then it's the number of fully-checked words that increases. Of course, the level of QC might drop slightly (I'm talking of very minor things like double spaces, typos that escape the spell-checker (form/from, to/too...) etc., not howling mistranslations) and your client should maybe be made aware of this (debatable point).
What are your thoughts on this? Do I need to up my game here? It is possible that as a new translator I am too slow?
Or, could it be that the other translator is a fantasist?
The truth could be anywhere along that line. You will undoubtedly speed up but you will always have limits and you don't need to apologise for them. The other translator may have taken on a nightmare job that he/she will never get paid for as it will be rubbish; or it might be someone ultra-experienced who uses all the latest technology to speed things up; or it might even be a pair of translators or a translator/editor working together.
You do need to be able to just shrug off jobs that aren't suitable for you for whatever reason. In this case, the other translator's welcome to it, surely? Even when jobs are 100% suitable, you quite likely won't be chosen, and you have to learn to shrug off that disappointment, too. Otherwise you'll find freelance translation a very stressful career.