I am an EN-JP translator. I am not new here, but it has been a long time since I became no longer so active with Gengo. Still, I’m here now and was truly shocked by a recent incident I encountered.

The other day, one of my jobs (#52158769) was rejected based on a demand of a customer (it was the first time for me). But, I can’t figure what I did wrong at all.

As I worked on the job, I noticed there were some points that were incomprehensible due to the lack of context (this happens a lot when you work on business mails). Specifically, I could not figure out the meanings of two words to the very last. I requested the customer to clarify them, but I did not get any response. So, I translated the words into Japanese words that seemed relevant, if only remotely, to other words used in the text or the job directions the customer provided, and I also left a comment on the two words immediately after submitting the job. The customer never contacted me and on the next day abruptly rejected the job on the ground of quality issues. The customer left a comment that “there are factual mistakes” by referring to the two words, and “there are many other cases of this.” The customer also stated “We need a refund for this translation or we will never be using your services again.” On the other hand, the customer did not provide any explanation as to what other mistakes were (I think if they are errors about facts, you should be able to easily identify them). So, I can assume that the customer rejected the job only based on my comments requesting clarification. I believe if my job should be rejected despite all my efforts and time, the customer must at least provide explanations about my requests for clarification and as to why he/she could not respond to them.

The job was reviewed by a Language Specialist, and the Language Specialist supported the demand by giving me a score of 5.26/10.00, marking the above two words as major errors without providing any specific explanation. All reasons the reviewer provided to me was that he/she could not find any reasonable grounds to translate the words in the way I did either from the context or from the comments I left. But, I wouldn’t have requested clarification if I had not been uncertain about them in the first place.

I think that the behavior of the reviewer is problematic. The reviewer even could not provide any idea on what the words are all about. I assume that the reviewer evaluated the job without understanding the meaning of them. Then, how could he/she give me a score that is sufficiently low to deny the reward to which I was entitled otherwise? Actually, I had a eureka moment, and I believe I got it now, but it’s too late now.

By the way, the action I took is the very one provided in the following article:

Before getting started, ask the customer any question you may have.

For very short jobs, the customer might not be able to respond in time. If you think this might be the case, please translate the text using your best judgment and provide a comment explaining the approach you took.

I naturally requested re-review by stating that if payment was denied as a result of review, I should be entitled to be provided with sufficient expiations, and the action I took was the one recommended in the above article. However, the second reviewer supported the first review and additionally marked one word as a minor error by suggesting an alternative word which I believe was a matter of stylistic preference, and does not affect the meaning of the sentence or text. As to the action I took, the reviewer said that I did not choose common words like those you could find in dictionaries; if you used uncommon words, you had to “provide a comment explaining the approach you took” as stated in the above article. Yes, I chose uncommon words, but they are listed in dictionary and seemed at least relevant to other words used in the text or job directions the customer provided.

What I can assume from the above circumstances, if any, is that the reviewer did not judge the job based on the quality of the translation itself, but on alleged procedural mistakes I committed in providing the customer with explanations. I believe that this deviates from the legitimate procedure intended for review. It is also open to arguments: (i) why it is better to use a common word found at the top of dictionary entries than to use a word that seems at least relevant, if only remotely, or (ii) “provide a comment explaining the approach you took” naturally includes a comment that I left. I stated that I was not sure about some words for which I had requested clarification, and I asked the customer to reach out to me if any correction was required.

I also cannot figure why reasonable grounds are necessary in the first place. The context was not sufficient beyond any doubt. The reviewers could have simply excluded the words from the scope of review. The customer rejected the job without responding to my request for clarification. Accepting rejection may encourage this kind of behavior. I don’t think it serves the interest of Gengo.

I also wonder why anyone at Gengo just cannot nicely ask the customer to provide explanations as to why he/she could not respond to my questions and what other mistakes are?

I strongly believe that you are entitled to be provided with reasonable explanations if you are deprived of payment to which you are entitled otherwise. I doubt that they understand that you cannot reject work and deny payment without “reasonable grounds,” which may violate some laws at worst. If not, at the very least, it is ethically questionable. Of course, I don’t seriously consider just losing $32.5 is a graver issue than a significant drop in my score (the latter has lasting impacts). However, you can still claim that you incurred concrete, actual damage when your payment is denied unreasonably. I don’t have any intention to bring the dispute outside Gengo for $32.5. I just want to have reasonable explanations to which I am entitled.


  • 12

    I'm sorry this happened to you. Gengo abandoned us translators a long time ago and everything I read in this forum lately only makes that clearer and clearer. 

  • 6
    Lara Fernandez

    Hi @from Japan,

    Thanks for this post -- I'm sorry to hear that your experience wasn't the smoothest.

    I've spoken with our EN>JA LS and taken a look at the job in question myself, and I have to confirm that the decision of our LSs regarding your score stands true and is final.

    The two words that you mention having doubts about were not technical or difficult words. Both of them were daily use words ("countries" and "flags") that should have been translated as is, and whose mistranslation critically affects the whole.

    We can understand that a translator can have doubts or questions about certain technical or difficult parts of a job, but these two words were simple and straightforward, and when reading the whole text, it was very clear that they were to be translated as is (a text giving instructions for the creation of an infographic comparing an issue in different countries, where the artist was asked not to use flags.)

    You are correct to say that we generally recommend that a translator makes a best (educated) guess when translating a difficult or unclear word, as long as the translation makes sense. However, in this particular case, the mistranslation of those two words did not make sense in the context, and made the text unusable.

    Thanks for your understanding,


    Edited by Lara Fernandez
  • 0
    from Japan

    Hi Lara,

    Thanks for your reply. If you say so, I must accept the result. But, is it truly that obvious? I didn’t read the article or see the illustration. Of course, I know “flags” are daily used words, but I thought it was an industry jargon relating to a word “editorial” mentioned in the job direction provided by the customer.


    Maybe I am stupid, but once I get something wrong, I could be lost in a maze, it is very hard to get out from it. I didn’t really figure what the words were all about. The mail is not about business of mine but theirs. You will never be 100% sure about it, sometimes you need a context to just realize that most primary daily words should be translated as is. This happens a lot. You need help of the customer. So, I thought it was better to focus on technical stuff contained in the text. You have only limited time at Gengo, which is not the case for the conventional agencies I usually work with.


    Do you truly think just two wrong words make a translation unusable? Is it that hard to replace two words to get it right?


    The customer said that “there are many other cases of this” “to ask for at least 15 corrections is a complete waste of our time. The LSs say the latter is not about the translation, but I think it is. Ok, they may be right, but the “other cases of this” refers to the translation without doubt. Then, what are other mistakes? Why didn’t Gengo ask the customer to identify them and the reason why the customer could not respond to me, before accepting the rejection?


    I don’t want offend you, and it may be because of my lack of comprehension, but I didn’t get what “infographic comparing an issue in different countries” is. For me, it sounds foreign to the other words used in the text like “separation and custody of child.” I think it is just an article about divorce of wife and husband having different nationalities which results in separation from a child. The illustrator tried to convey the situation using their respective national flags.


    Yes, I made mistranslation. But did I really commit such serious sin as to be punished that severely? The text lacks the context at least for me. That’s why I requested clarification repeatedly. And, the customer did never contact me.


    You said “your experience wasn't the smoothest.” However, the process Gengo took seems seriously wrong to me. I strongly believe that they should have contacted the customer first. The explanations of the LSs were also far from sufficient. The first reviewer didn’t even provide alternative words, and the second reviewer didn’t tell me why they should be translated into “旗” “国.”


    I am very upset now. But, I don’t mean to offend you.



  • 7
    Lara Fernandez

    Hi @from Japan,

    I can completely understand your frustration, but the process followed with regards to your rejected job is the standard procedure for rejected jobs -- whenever a job is rejected, that job is sent directly to an LS for review. If the rejection is found to be justified (in this case, it is), the rejection goes through.

    "I don’t want offend you, and it may be because of my lack of comprehension, but I didn’t get what “infographic comparing an issue in different countries” is. For me, it sounds foreign to the other words used in the text like “separation and custody of child.” I think it is just an article about divorce of wife and husband having different nationalities which results in separation from a child. The illustrator tried to convey the situation using their respective national flags."

    You don't offend me at all - no worries.

    However, from this, it seems like you misunderstood the source text. Whether it was comparing the issue of separation and custody in different countries, or between a couple where each member comes from a different country, the word "country" is still "country", and the word "flag" still means "flag" and it cannot be turned into something else. In this specific job, the context was contained within the source text. Please allow me to remind you that, when accepting a job, it is important that you look at the whole and ensure you fully understand it, in order to provide an accurate translation. The issue here goes beyond the two words that you mention. In cases like this, where a translator is unable to make sense of the source text (for whatever reason) it might have been more advisable to decline the job. 



    Edited by Lara Fernandez
  • 0
    from Japan

    This is not a reply to Lara, but just talking to myself.
    As I stated above, business mail is not about your business but others’, and it could be a reply to a previous mail or contain a reference to another subject (like this time) of which you have no idea of details. I wonder if it was even possible to fully understand it before accepting the job with those technical topics. I don’t know others, but whenever I work on that kind of job, I’m rarely fully comprehend it before I reach the end of it, and sometimes, there remain some uncertain points. I don’t think it automatically makes you impossible to work on them. But, not at Gengo anymore where I am no longer able take a tactic to work on parts that are understandable first, expecting a reply from a customer, because you have to decline the job when a customer does not respond to you in time. Sometimes, I am even unable to figure whether “unable to make sense of the source text” should be attributed to the fact that is not about my business or I am just stupid (like this time. still was it truly that obvious? I am really discouraged.). For that matter, a business letter of others rarely makes sense to me completely (it is rarely completed in itself. it could be a reply to a previous mail or contain a reference to another subject). If my memory serves me right, Gengo used to try to educate customers to provide context as much as possible. Is it no longer the case?

    I understood they took a predetermined procedure, but I don’t think it is a good procedure. I believe they should first look into circumstances and reach the customer to ask what’s happened if necessary before sending it to review by an LS. There are also many instances I have encountered where a translator is forced to decline a job he/she completed due to a customer’s criticism, because otherwise he/she has to undergo review by an LS. Do you think it is a healthy practice?

  • 5

    Hey from Japan. I'm a little late to this thread, but I'd like to offer some advice.

    I understand your frustration. As you said in your OP, sometimes there's simply too little context to work from (and honestly, I don't think there's much Gengo can do about that). Your only practical option as a translator is to be more choosy about the jobs that you take on. Don't accept/submit a job unless you're 100% sure what's going on. I realize that this means you'll miss out on some work, but you have to look at the reward/risk balance. A short, unclear business email is low reward/high risk, so I would avoid doing it. Aim for those high reward/low risk texts!

    I hope you have a better 2019!

  • -1
    from Japan

    Hi andrew.heijoushin,

    Thank you for your comments. I actually went on discussing the matter in this thread (https://support.gengo.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/115010595268-%E6%9C%80%E8%BF%91%E3%81%AE%E3%83%AC%E3%83%93%E3%83%A5%E3%83%BC%E3%81%AE%E5%8E%B3%E3%81%97%E3%81%95%E3%81%A8%E3%83%AC%E3%83%93%E3%83%A5%E3%83%BC%E3%81%95%E3%82%8C%E3%82%8B%E6%A1%88%E4%BB%B6%E3%81%AE%E9%95%B7%E3%81%95%E3%81%AB%E3%81%A4%E3%81%84%E3%81%A6?page=2#community_comment_360002874553).

     Just for information, they seem to want to claim that I ruined the translation because I failed to understand the text was about so-called infographics (I didn’t understand why Lara used such an unfamiliar term, but it seems to refer to something like this (in terms of the flags or countries): http://tg.tripadvisor.jp/BeerDrinking/). However, as you can see from the discussion in that thread, it had totally nothing to do with that, but it was just about an ordinary illustration depicting some scene. I think they should admit they didn’t read the entire text.

    You are right. Your recommendation is the only way to defend ourselves, but I hope that Gengo will also provide their views on the matter if they continue accepting orders for business mail. They must explain what course we could take under circumstances like that (where I was able to carry out the job confidently despite those unclear words). Thank you.

    Edited by from Japan
  • 2
    from Japan

    I think this like/dislike voting system is not good. Likes and dislikes should be counted separately. I continue getting dislike votes for discussing specific matters that are supposed to concern only limited people. The likes I have got were all gone now, which gives an impression that I am just disliked by all. It’s ridiculous.

  • 1

    That is really shocking. Hope won't get through this experience again.

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