Monday, 1 September 2014

5 Myths of Cheap Translation

They say that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. When it comes to translation, be careful with choosing cheap options, because you might end up paying much more than you expect. Here are the most common traps that translation buyers fall into.

Google Translate

Really? You've spent plenty of time crafting your text, making sure your message is understandable and interesting; you even used thesaurus to weave in those fancy words, and now you think that with a click of a button you will create the same effect in another language?
Even though in many industries machines have become a better substitution for a human worker, translation is still a profession that is and will be practiced by human translators for years to come, if not forever.

Machine translation should be used for personal purposes only, for example to get a gist of what a given article or a website is about. Used professionally, it can harm your reputation and put off many potential customers because of the embarrassing errors it makes. MT hasn’t been developed to a stage where it can replace human translators. Experts say, it never will.

DIY translation
“I’ll do it myself and have it checked by a professional” - this strategy initially seems viable and tempting, as proofreading will usually cost you half the price of the translation. Be careful though, because if you get it wrong, your translation will in fact have to be re-translated, and you will end up paying for the translation anyway having lost plenty of time that you could have spent on doing what you are best at.
Translators very often charge hourly for proofreading; and if the translation is very poor, it will clearly take much more time to proofread it, which will increase the cost. Mind you, it takes less time overall to translate a document by a competent person and then have it proofread for minor issues than translate it to a low standard and try to improve it – the result is also much poorer in the latter case.
Besides, some of my non-linguist clients who tried to translate their documents by themselves to cut the costs, complained about being impatient and frustrated when translating, because they lost plenty of time they could have used more productively. In the end, they admitted that they should have given their documents to me for translation in the first place.

Ask for a summary translation
Ordering a summary translation of your documents is not a cost-effective way of buying translation services, as summary translation may take longer to create than a standard translation. Usually, the cost of translation depends on the number of words in the source document (i.e. the original document to be translated) or the number of hours that your translator will spend on the project. Therefore, even if the final product is shorter, the translator still needs to take into consideration the whole document, so the number of words has not really changed.
Ok, you’ll say, but because not everything needs to be translated, the summary should be cheaper. Yes, not every word will be translated but in order to know which fragments should be omitted and which abridged, a translator needs to carefully read the whole thing, and understand it sufficiently enough to make a summary of it. This in fact may be more time consuming than the full translation, so you might end up paying extra for the service. If you really need to cut the costs, make a summary of the original text and then give it for translation.

Use your bilingual employee

“My employees are fluent in foreign languages, surely they can translate a few letters or even our company’s website. It’ll be a huge saving!” – this is what many business owners often think and always get it wrong. Your staff may speak other languages but they do not know how to translate; it takes a minimum of 3 years of studies and a couple of years of experience to be qualified to translate accurately. It’s like asking a person who knows basic anatomy of a human being to perform a surgery on a person.

I still remember a tweet by a translator who overheard a conversation of two women – one of them was complaining that she had been asked by her manager to translate a company document: she felt she wasn't capable of doing this well, and she found it a waste of time, as a relatively short translation took her a few long hours that could have been used more productively.

Even though your employees speak a foreign language, this does not mean that that they are able to translate, unless they have been properly trained. If you are still not convinced, see what other professionals are saying about being bilingual and translating.

Choose the cheapest quote

As a business owner or manager, you must be using outsourcing on a regular basis, and you must have also figured out that - more often than not - a cheap service is not even worth that little amount of money you have spent. Low price usually equals unreliability, poor quality, unsatisfactory results and unsustainability. 

With so many cheap translation providers on the market, it is easy to get into a trap of enjoying potential savings which in consequence can cost you dearly. A badly translated marketing text will communicate a lack of detail that will affect the consumer perception of your product or service. This will obviously put off potential clients, and considerably damage your reputation.

Mistranslated legal documentation can cause miscarriage of justice; contracts with translation errors can lead to misunderstandings between companies and as a result even to litigation. Think of the consequences of a poorly translated manual of medical equipment - wrong instructions can even lead to a loss of life. Bad translation can have disastrous and very costly consequences - always have them in mind when choosing your translation provider.

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