Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A pan-European agreement on translation working practices?

Pic of panel discussion with European flags behind
Future-proofing panel at EC Rep. in the UK © Anglicity

At the French CNET conference, Miklós Bán of Proford explained how a 16-page agreement had transformed the translation business climate in Hungary. The agreement was worked out between AHTI (the Hungarian Association of Translators and Interpreters) and Proford (the Hungarian Association for Language Service Providers). I believe that s similar agreement should be worked out not only in France and the UK, but across the European Union - and maybe even worldwide in the future?

Pic of European Union flag
Towards a Pan-European agreement? © md3d

Miklós Bán is the Chairman of Proford, the Hungarian Association of Translators and Interpreters. Proford is a young association by comparison with the French CNET network founded in 1977 or the UK's ATC founded in 1976. It was founded in 2012 and has just 11 members. CNET has a membership of 30 French LSPs and the ATC has a membership totalling nearly 150 worldwide LSPs.

A future for the British translation industry? © UMB-O

Historically, there had been a lot of animosity between the freelancers and LSPs in Hungary. Cooperation was difficult and tough market conditions had exacerbated the situation. It was in the LSP's best interests to reach an understanding. After all, they need good translators for their businesses to function well.

Miklós viewed freelance translation and translation companies as essentially two different professions. There was a lack of understanding between the two sides. They needed a point of reference - a document that could act as a professional standard to outline what each side could expect from the other.

Recommendations for translation company associations to reach a similar agreement included:
1. Start any improvements on your own side first.
2. Do not criticise the freelancers.
3. Be prepared to make the first gesture - in fact, make the first 15 gestures to establish trust.
4. Invite freelancers to translation company events free of charge.
5. Work under the International Federation of Translators' (FIT) umbrella - for an external viewpoint, to check proposals against international practices and legal issues.
6. Recognise that in any conflict, there is generally fault on both sides. Always criticise your own side first.
7. Encourage any translator employees or freelance translators to join the freelance associations - especially younger generations with fresh viewpoints.
8. Share viewpoints on the whole translation process - companies often can't see the freelance viewpoint and vice versa.

FIT Conference in 2014  © Anglicity Ltd

Drafting the agreement
The agreement set out the rules between the parties and had several key stages:
1. agreement on the topics to be covered and scope
2. drafting
3. editing
4. lock-up
5. compromise
6. acceptance and endorsement

By the end of stage 3, they had two separate 16-page documents - a freelance version and an LSP version. At this point, they locked the two sides in a room together to work on a single, unified text. It took 8 hours. 

Pic of Silhouette of handshake against sunshine
An lock-up lead to the final agreement © pict rider

1. Definitions
They used those set out in the European translation standard EN15038.
2. Terms of cooperation
Covered non-disclosure, no sub-contracting, NDA, NCA, certification and references.
3. Quality
Mutual requirements. What input is needed? Who does what?
4. Complaint management
5. Technology
CAT, MT, IT, infrastructure
One of the biggest issues was over intellectual property (IP). Case argued for translation memory as client's property.
6. Payment
·      Capacity and output
·      Basis of payment
·      Payment terms - not the exact terms, but they have to be specified in advance and accepted. Payment has to be respected by the LSP.
·      Public procurement

Minimum rate
Proford tried to set a minimum rate. (I will return to my discussion with Miklós in the break on this subject in a separate blog).

The tricky points
Miklós outlined the tricky or sticking points in the negotiations between the two sides.
1.    Gain insight and empathy for the opposing viewpoint. (The viewpoint of the company owner may be far removed from the freelancer, if no project manager experience).
2.    Mutual reality checks on the right way to do business together
3.    Ownership
4.    Basis of payment
5.    Money
6.    Terminology/identity - what is an LSP?
7.    Change - climate change, openness, commitments, responsibility

Pic with great perspective looking down the road over the Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary
A chain of agreements from Hungary to UK/Europe?  © H.Peter

The Hungarian document now offers an endorsed outline on best practice in the translation industry. Proford would like to share it outside Hungary. Having worked on nearly all sides of the industry (client, translation buyer, freelancer, project manager), I have witnessed the lack of trust and its consequences for all parties. I believe that this proposal should be given serious consideration and support by all national associations and the European Union.

For further information on Anglicity's services, email

Karen Andrews runs
Anglicity Ltd. She is a
technical writer and 
translator with over
15 years' marketing
experience. Anglicity offers
marketing consultancy and
content marketing with a 
particular focus on innovation.

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