Expo 2015 in Milan – La gioia di stare al ribasso! [in English]

Expo 2015 arrives in Milan, Italy in late 2015, another fabulous opportunity for Italy to show off its very best for an international audience!

So why do we already think it’s going to be a flop?

logo_expo_In part because the organizers of Expo 2015 are about to award translation contracts to bottom-feeding agencies in several cities in Europe, including (for Italian to English) to a notorious Italian agency known for its rock-bottom rates, shameful working conditions, indifferent treatment of translators, and leisurely (let’s just say it that way) payment practices.

The agency, which is now madly fishing for translators from its “team,” is offering 4 to 7 cents per word with the expectation that translators will deliver between 50 and 100 cartelle (a page of 1375 characters, according to the terms of the call for tenders) in time frames that range from 2-3 days.

Oh, but it gets worse. So much worse. The documents related to the bidding for the Expo 2015 project are public. (The relevant ones are here and here, in Italian.) What they say is alarming.

First, the 50 cartelle/2-3 days requirement is imposed upon the winning contractor, not the individual translator. In other words, an agency might well agree to deliver 50 cartelle in 3 days, knowing that it can divide the work among a group of translators. It’s an iffy practice, but it’s quite common. It’s also an enormous hassle: a team has to be assembled for each separate translation request and someone then has to compile all the translations and edit them for consistency. Here, the agency has completely twisted the rules of the competition by imposing this condition on translators rather than handle the responsibility in-house as it should. Money saved!

Second, the base prices established in the call for tenders are: €35-45/cartella (1375 keystrokes) for standard delivery times and €48-60 for urgent work. Agencies are offering, instead, between €9.40-16.40/cartella with no differential for urgency (though at least one of the agencies in  question has a reputation for calculating cartelle at 1500 characters without spaces rather than 1375 with).

That’s quite a tidy profit! You bust your southern bits and the agency earns a 200-300% markup!

Evidently, no one has learned a single thing from the Italia.it / Trust Traduzioni / Italian Ministry of Tourism scandals of exactly four years ago (https://nopeanuts.wordpress.com/resistance/ministero_di_turismo).

No qualified, experienced, self-respecting native-English-speaking translator will work under these conditions or for that rate of pay, so the translations will largely be carried out by what amount to scabs: non-native translators working in sweatshop conditions for market-snuffing rates.

To our Italian colleagues in particular: La parola d’ordine è solidarietà. Respingete le “offerte di lavoro” vergognose per Expo 2015! Dite alle agenzie perché le loro richieste sono infami! Se pretendete un futuro migliore per la professione, bisogna resistere insieme. No alla concorrenza sleale. No alla pressione al ribasso.

The theme of the 2015 Expo is “nutrire il pianeta” – feed the planet. Apparently translators who’ve starved to death are going to be the fertilizer.


We name names:

  • Translated.net (www.translated.net; Dena Hayes, Director of Business Development: dena@translated.net) is offering Expo 2015 translators €0.04/-€0.07/word (€9.40-€16.45/cartella) for various language combinations.
    Elena Mazza (elena@translated.net) is offering €0.04;
    Debbie Verschueren (debbie@translated.net) is offering €0.07 or, in a different email,
    only €0.045.

  • The Milan-based Asap S.r.l. (Daniela Pedrazzani – milano@asapnet.itcongressi@asapnet.it) says its hands are tied; Asap isn’t allowed to pay more than the €0.07/word they’re offering from Italian to English because “these are the terms dictated by Expo 2015.” In other words, a bald-faced lie. 

About No Peanuts! for Translators

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15 Responses to Expo 2015 in Milan – La gioia di stare al ribasso! [in English]

  1. Reblogged this on OneSec Translation and commented:
    What’s going on? mmm…. Something went wrong. Yup, it did.

  2. Reblogged this on EN TRADUISANT TRANSLATION and commented:
    Che le “grandi esposizioni”, così come le “grandi opere” siano “grandi occasioni” di guadagno (per piccoli gruppi di persone poco oneste) forse lo sapevate già… Ma qui c’è un interessante sguardo dal punto di vista del mondo della traduzione!

    “Buona” lettura!

  3. ecSTra - Translation Service says:

    Reblogged this on ecSTra – Translation Service and commented:
    I beg your pardon ?!

  4. Alex Roe says:

    Will Italy ever learn that Awful English Costs Italian Businesses Billions in Sales http://italychronicles.com/italy-awful-english-costs-businesses-billions-in-sales/
    Probably not, it seems. So sad. So inept.

  5. Wendy says:

    Reblogged this on Kiss the Translator and commented:

  6. it’s terribly, terribly sad but I am not surprised in the least (Y_Y)

  7. Giusi says:

    Oh, don’t worry, they’ll find some self-deluded wannabe “native” English speaker which will do the job, maybe using “Gogol” 😉 . Nobody will read it anyway…

  8. Agnese says:

    I totally agree with you, but could you please delete the name of the two ladies? They are probably young project managers who are not responsible for such low rates, don’t you think it’s enough to name the company?

  9. André Lachini says:

    Greed, always greed. It’s Italy, i’m sorry for that, i’m sorry for my family and for the italians…I think Italy deserves better things.

  10. Alessandra Voi says:

    Shame on them! Poor Italy… 😦

  11. [Edited.] (T)his post should be read by potential agency customers, so that they know how THEIR money is being spent by these agencies. I will save it and show it to any potential customers who ask why my rates are “high”.
    On the other hand, translators don’t even need to know the name of the agency, we can tell what sort of business we are dealing with just by looking at the rates and deadlines we are being offered.

  12. Richard Adams says:

    I can never wonder why people get so outraged by Italy. If you live here for more than 10 minutes you’ll understand the pride that surrounds the use of the word ‘furbo’. People think it’s cool and clever to be dishonest, to rip other people off, to screw everybody who is silly enough to bend over. Italians are the problem, not the thieves.

    Italians vote for dishonest politicians who tell them ‘I’ll fix all the problems so that everything can stay the same as it is, but better, if you votefor me’. Nobody in any other country would believe them but here in Italy, the politically insane or politically ignorant do all the voting. So, you get Craxxi, Bossi, Berlusconi and a whole host of other criminals in government. They don’t want to stamp out corruption because it’d cramp their style, so the local government parasites continue with their 20-year feeding frenzy. They award contracts to the highest bribers, who then use sand instead of cement, forget to add steel to building foundations, employ halfwit university dropouts as translators and then close their company shortly before they were scheduled to pay their staff.

    It’s the Italian way.

  13. Annalisa Mantovani says:

    Certainly NOT working for those prices! Never have and never will, that’s why I live abroad and do not work with Italian agencies, although I am…Italian myself! What the f*cKkkkkk

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