August 15

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Part 2 – Using cheap and unqualified resources for translation.


When you send your inquiry to different translation companies and you received several of quotations, did you noticed that there will always be this one company that can provide you with a quotation that is half or less than half of what most reputable companies can offer?

How do they do it?

If you have been doing business for quite some time now, you will know that there are many alternatives for cheaper resources available in the world.

Quality takes time. Time means money.

It is the case for many thing and definitely, it is the case for translation.

Good translation must be done by professionals with good qualification or years of subject matter experience. For the latter, this must also be coupled with a strong foundation and a passion for languages.

Authentic translation must also be done by native speakers although some may think otherwise.

Even with the 2 criteria above fulfilled, in order for a translation to be rid of any critical error and be fit for it purpose, it must be put through an editing phase, followed by a proofreading phase. Ideally, a review has to be done but realistically, this may not be possible due to many reasons, time being a crucial one.

Even with all Quality Assurance process in placed, translations are subject to ambiguous expectations and stylistic criticism, making it almost impossible to ascertain the true quality of the translated materials. Of course, that is one whole discussion by itself.

For now, we are discussing how some companies can charge really cheaply for translation services.

In Singapore, and we are quite sure it is the same case in many other countries, one of the ways to keep one’s translation cost low, is to seek the cheapest resource available to handle the translation.

Logical. Low cost means higher profit. But at what expense? What type of low cost resources are we talking about here?

For example, let’s say the client requested for translation from English into Chinese for the local Singapore market. Instead of getting a local linguist to perform the translation task, this job may be sent to someone in China who is willing to do it at a very low price.

Without a proper TEP in placed, even if the translation is of acceptable quality, it may not be suited for the local market. Local terms, local slangs, local language usage would all be missing. Thus, a notoriously famous error of the local Hungry Ghost Festival being translated and Hungarian Ghost Festival. What has Hungary got to do with Singapore? Really? No checking of context?

Another example. A document is to be translated from Simplified Chinese in English. Yet again, a cheaper resource either in China or somewhere else is used.

We know how notoriously Chinglish some translated text can get if it is not edited properly. Thus, you end up with a “make-do” translation that would make no sense to native English speakers. A case in point; have you read some of the User Guides for products made in China? We rest our case.

Lest you think that we are of the opinion that there are no qualified resources available in China or anywhere else, we would like to state for a fact that there are many good and qualified resources in China and we are partners with some of the best in the industry. But they do come with a price.

The moral of the story is that, if you are going to be buying translation and the price offered to you is too good to be true, most likely it is not true.

If price is so important to you, then you will have to accept the risk that comes with low cost translation. You may say that it is fine and can “make-do” with it but do think about the repercussion it will have on your brand, your service, your products and the reputation of your company.

It may not be worth the while.

Before you say yes to accepting a lowly priced quotation, do some homework.

Check on the history of the translation company.

Ask for their processes and the standards they adhered to.

Ask for references if possible.

Don’t be lazy. Make a trip to their office to see if they are an actual outfit or they are just operating from home.

These will help you reduce the chances of getting yourself “tongue-tight”.

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