The True Cost of Translation

What is the true cost of translation? In today’s global market place, it seems that we can’t get away with having our website and/or our products written in English only.  Small and medium enterprises now have to localise their web content and product information for several countries, whilst remaining within budget.

Downward trend in translation rates

Quality v Price

What is expensive?

Previous results from a survey by Common Sense Advisory have found that translation rates have gone down again.

  • Are prices being driven down by end clients?
  • Are we able to sustain quality translations against such low rates?
  • Which translators would be willing to offer translation services against lower rates?

Are lower rates being offered by language service providers from lower income countries, or are more and more unqualified translators entering the market offering translation services against lower rates? Or should one say there is a difference between internet sites offering cheaper translations of blogs and mobile phone apps, and the more specialised translations, which simply cannot be offered for a lower rate.

Price v quality

Should we ask ourselves the question, what is more important, price or quality? We all seems to understand the vital role that languages and thus translations have in how we interact with the world, but few people understand what is needed to deliver a ‘quality’ translation. The goal of a quality translation is to translate the message, to translate the true meaning of what the original author meant to portray.  Paying a lower rate for a poor translation that miscommunicates the original meaning is ultimately a waste of money, no matter how cheap this translation is. The fundamental problem facing the translation industry is that people don’t know what they’re buying, and therefore cannot  differentiate between a cheap or expensive translation.

Cheap translations

The danger of pushing for cheaper and cheaper rates is that we are pressurising translators into translating more words per hour in order to sustain a decent living, and increasing the workload of reviewers who should in fact only check if the correct terminology is used, if there are spelling errors and/or punctuation mistakes. It’s been far too often that I have seen cheap translations that have been translated with help of Google translate in order to speed up translation.  This means that either previously faulty translations have been used, or words are translated in the order of the source language, and therefore make no sense in the target language at all. A reviewer should by no means have to rewrite whole sections of a translation.

Industry experts

Is it possible to have a legal document translated for some of the dump rates that are being offered in the market? For starters, a translation must make sense in your industry; this means a translator must have either gained experience through his/her educational or professional background, or have gained substantial translation experience within the industry.  The translator must be familiar with the context of the terminology within a particular industry. Translation  is not simply the art of translating words from one language into another; it is the translation of a complete message.  It is meant to be read by a certain audience, possibly a certain industry or profession that is used to a certain writing style and/or vocabulary. The translation should also be consistent in its terminology, a quick fix translation, may not have been revised properly, and where there may be a consistency in the terminology of the source language, this may not always come across in the end translation!

Are you looking for a quick fix translation?

Another point that I would like to point out is the speed of a translation.  I do realise that every translation needs to be finished as quick as possible.  “I’ve got a translation of 10,000 words, could you have it done by the end of tomorrow?” – Let me answer that for a translator to be able to deliver a quality translation, he or she can translate about 2,500 words per day, this way the translator can properly re-read the translation, check up on inaccuracies, spelling mistakes, lay-out issues etc., before handing it over to the proof reader. You could answer me by saying that it could be outsourced to several translators, and although for certain types of text this is probably true, it begs the question on how this will influence the writing style of the document. When translating a document, each translator has its own translation style, and when using 4 different translators, you could end up with the document containing 4 different writing styles.  Is this really what you were looking for? In the end a cheap translation could be a lot more expensive than you had bargained for! We pride ourselves in working with high quality translators. This means that in the short run you may not always see the cost benefit, in the long term, however, you will certainly notice the difference! If you would like to have more information, you can always get in contact with us.

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten!” – Benjamin Franklin