La Stampa Criticizes a Translation for Being Too Expensive — And Entirely Misses the Point

It seems worth saying before anything else that La Stampa’s Anna Martellato is a lousy journalist.

In her 19 July 2013 article about the “scandal” caused by the decision of the health department in Mirano (Veneto), Italy, to spend nearly €30,000 to translate the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) into Italian, she gets the name of the Act wrong and misspells Barack Obama’s first name (twice).

Second, both she and Moreno Teso, Veneto Regional Council member, right-wing politician, and would-be whistle-blower, are a pair of jackasses if ever jackasses there were. Their attempt to play “let’s expose government waste” may have started with the shred of a good intention — it is very reasonable to ask why the Mirano health department needed a translation of the Affordable Care Act in Italian in the first place — but neither Teso nor Martellato understands the first thing about translators or the sorry state of the Italian translation market. And they clearly did no research to educate themselves.

If you’re going to complain that a translation cost too much, shouldn’t you first know what translations actually cost?

In fact, the scandal here is not that an Italian government agency spent €29,403 on a translation. The scandal is that the Mirano health department hired Eurostreet of Biella — notorious for its low-quality translations, cut-rate services, and exploitation of translators.

Eurostreet, by the way, is the same agency that won a huge annual contract with the Region of Lombardy for translation and interpreting services in 2010. In short, Italian government agencies are still sending translation work to third-rate translation mills like Eurostreet.

If Moreno Teso wants to investigate something, he should investigate that.

Moreover, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act comes in at just about 387,640 words (for those who think in cartelle — which is the “page” of 1500 keystrokes including spaces that’s commonly used in Italy — the Act contains roughly 1700 standard, non-editorial cartelle).

So let’s do some math. Before Italian taxes, the actual cost of the translation was something like €23,522 and, in fact, that’s about in line with what Eurostreet says it charges its clients for EN>IT translations — €14.50/cartella.

But Eurostreet’s translators, according to an email Eurostreet sent in a recent translator-gigging expedition, receive €11 for a cartella without spaces (an abomination invented by Eurostreet for the sole purpose of fleecing translators). That reduces the translator’s pay by about 15%. Italian taxes take another slice of that pay (20% at least).

To put it in clearer terms, a translator translates 1700 cartelle but gets paid for about 1400 or, on a per-word basis and after taxes, can count on putting barely €0.025/word into his or her pocket.

So what is the upshot? By insisting on using agencies like Eurostreet and Trust Traduzioni (the agency involved in the Ministry of Tourism scandal of early 2010), the Italian government impoverishes translators, stimulates unfair competition, and debases the entire profession.

So we agree. Twenty-nine thousand, four hundred three euros for the translation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is utterly scandalous.

The translator — without the intervention of a greedy agency that paid itself €6,000 for doing nothing — should have earned at least €10,000 more.

____________________

July 19, 2013
by Anna Martellato

What does the “Patient Protection and Affordable Act” [sic], the hard-won reform of the American healthcare system and warhorse of U.S. President Barak [sic] Obama, have to do with a local health department office in Mirano (Province of Venice)?

Nothing, truth be told, except for an expensive translation from English to Italian that cost the Mirano branch of the health department – and thus, the Italian national healthcare system – just shy of thirty thousand euros.

The incident was brought to light by Moreno Teso, councilman for the Veneto Region and a member of the center-right Popolo della Libertà party, and reported in the Verona-based newspaper, L’Arena.

Teso presented an official query to the regional council asking for an investigation into the matter. “The [healthcare reform] law is certainly important,” Teso stated in an interview in L’Arena, “a decidedly significant reform of the American healthcare system and one for which President Barak [sic] Obama made an enormous investment of political capital. But the idea that a single local health department in Mirano would spend 29,403 euros to translate it into Italian strikes me as inappropriate at best, especially in a situation in which budget limitations have forced Italian health department offices to reduce even essential services.” So much, in fact, for belt-tightening, spending reviews, cutbacks, and the economic crisis.

For Teso, something doesn’t add up in the decision of the Mirano department of health to hire an agency, Eurostreet di Biella, to translate Obama’s healthcare reform law. Teso wants to know whether the commissioning of translations of legislation passed in other countries is actually a legitimate activity for the Veneto’s local health department offices.

“If it is not,” Teso continued, “the regional council should make a clear determination and, obviously, communicate its finding to the public.”

_______________

The original of this article in Italian is here: “Sanità, la riforma di Obama in italiano Spesi 30 mila euro per la traduzione Scoppia la polemica su un’Asl veneta.”

About No Peanuts! for Translators

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This entry was posted in Resistance, Respect, Translation#Fail and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to La Stampa Criticizes a Translation for Being Too Expensive — And Entirely Misses the Point

  1. Eveline Erfolg says:

    I was curious, so I calculated with my own prices.. It summed up to 29,355 euro (387,640 words), only translation without editing. Considering the subject, it should cost even more…

  2. hermione says:

    The problems in Italy are always the same: corruption, nepotism, ignorance.
    Meritocracy is almost non-existent, especially in careers like journalism. Should we be surprised? I don’t think so.
    As for the people in charge in Veneto, the least said the better.

No Peanuts! doesn't pretend to be a representative democracy. We don't publish comments that denigrate our movement, attack our writers, or show disrespect for translators. All comments must be signed with first/last name and include a verifiable email address.

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