Case Study No. 1 : The Qatari Commercial Code . . . What could have been
I was contracted by an agency to translate the Qatari Commercial Code (Law No. 27 of 2006), a public record document. They provided a “reference,” which turned out to be an English translation of Law No. 27 of 2006, the Qatari Commercial Code. Obviously, someone wasn’t happy with the original translation and wanted it to be redone, all 846 articles.
I had to inform the agency that the rate they were asking was so low it would guarantee a repeat of the first, unsatisfactory translation. We discussed options, but they moved on to find someone who would take their rate. If they had decided to use my services, they would have received a translation according to the sample I provided below.
Case Study No. 2 . . . As the months go by . . .
In May, an agency in Cairo contacted me for the translation of a series of international treaties. Here is their negotiating pitch: “l want to negotiate the rates with you to be fair for both sides, but the case by me is that our margin as a company became very narrow, because of the strong competition in the market, so kindly accept our below offer: 0.05 USD/Word.”
I said no thank you.
In July, I was contacted by an agency from Eastern Europe. They wanted me to proofread 20,816 words in one day for USD 300 (.0144 per word). These were the same double-taxation treaties from May (a public record document). Here is a sample of the literal translation of one sentence, all 112 words of it:
Likewise it is not taken into consideration while determining the profits of the permanent establishment the payments (except what is paid to restore the actual expenses) bore by that permanent establishment at the cost of the main office of the enterprise or any of its offices in a form of royalties or fees or similar payments in consideration of using patents or other rights or in a form of commissions in compensation of performing specific services or management or (except in the case of bank enterprise) in a form of an income from debt claims in connection with money lent to the main office of the enterprise or any of its offices.
The entire 21K translation would have to be redone, in one night. I said no thank you.
In August, an agency in London contacted me to check the translation of the same series of documents. The documents had been completely re-translated. Even though they needed numerous changes, it was a much better job. We arrived at a reasonable rate, and were able to provide the client, a name you would instantly recognize, with documents that reflected well on their organization. I went on to provide the translation of more of these treaties for the agency, who continues to enjoy its relationship with the client, who has one less thing to think about.
Here is the source document for the above example and my version, before consideration of any model treaties:
وبالمثل لا يؤخذ في الاعتبار عند تحديد أرباح المنشأة الدائمة المبالغ (خلاف ما دفع مقابل استرداد النفقات الفعلية) التي تُحمَّل من قبل تلك المنشأة الدائمة على حساب المكتب الرئيس للمشروع أو أيٍّ من مكاتبه الأخرى على شكل إتاوات أو رسوم أو مدفوعات مماثلة أخرى مقابل استخدام حقوق براءات الاختراع أو حقوق أخرى، أو على شكل عمولات مقابل أداء خدمات معينة أو مقابل الإدارة، أو (فيما عدا حالة المشروع المصرفي) على شكل دخل من مطالبات الدين فيما يتعلق بالأموال المقرضة إلى المكتب الرئيس للمشروع أو أيٍّ من مكاتبه الأخرى.
When determining the income of a permanent establishment, the following amounts, paid by that permanent establishment (other than for actual expenses) on behalf of the main office or any other office, are not considered:
royalties, fees, or similar payments for the use of patents or other rights, commission for services and management fees, (with the exception of banks), or income from debt claims for money lent to the main office of the enterprise or any of its offices.
Now look back at the initial translation and imagine reading 40 pages of this. How long would it take to read, and how long would it take to recover from reading it?
Case Study No. 3 – You Would Expect More
This last case I found on the site for the Islamic University of Gaza while doing research for an arbitration assignment. It is a compelling example of the type of translation you can expect if you go to an agency that uses non-native translators. Considering this is a university, and the document is posted for the world to see, you would expect more. I have provided the original Arabic of the study abstract, the original translation of this abstract, and my version.
Abstract and Comparative Translations of Arbitration According to Islamic Sharia and Challenges to its Implementation