October 30

Question and answer with the Business Times 2014 Part 3

In April 2014, The Business Times approached Lingua Technologies International with a list of questions on the state of the Translation Industry here in Singapore. The CEO of Lingua Technologies International replied with a very interesting perspective.

We will be sharing his viewpoints over 3 parts with you.

Part 3

  1. For Lingua Technologies’ supply of translators, may I know their general profile, especially with regards to their experience and professional certifications for translations?
    I prefer to call our translators Linguists because they do more than just translate. They have a passion for language and that’s why they are doing it.Translation is a very tough job with very little recognition given. The level of qualification and professionalism required for this job is not lower than that of a lawyer or a doctor but yet, the level of respect given to this job falls far below many other professions.Maybe because picking up languages seemed like something anyone can do and thus the misconception that it is an easy job.We use many different type of linguists: Linguists with translation qualification and without. Linguists who are subject matter expects. Linguists who are passionate about translation and has garnered enough experience over time to be able to perform the task efficiently and effectively.Good translation qualification does not equate good linguist. Experience and passion play very important roles. Commitment is also another pivotal factor.One more thing, if we are translating into another languages, we only use linguists who are natives and based in their home countries. That is a must.Just last month, Singapore set up the National Translation Committee. Among other aims, the committee seeks to accredit translators so as to increase the professional standards of the industry.
  1. What are your views on this? Do you foresee any potential challenges that Lingua Technologies, or the industry will face?
    I don’t know if this is a good move. This will no doubt help sift out the good from the bad. But we are still talking about individual translators. We are not talking about translation companies.I don’t understand why is there a need to train so many translators for the Singapore market. Do you know how small the local market is? Apart from the government agencies, most businesses and consumers are comfortable with English.If this initiative is to ensure that translation blunders do not happen so rampantly, then I think we are really over doing it: 杀鸡用牛刀。The problem does not lie with the lack of good local translators. I am sure we have many. The problem is with the agencies awarding their jobs to the cheapest quote.It’s a vicious cycle.How does one quote such cheap prices for Chinese language? By using cheap resources of course.Where can you find cheap resources for Chinese language? Obviously, China.Not even Malaysia but China.A country that, apart from the language, is so different from us in terms of culture among many other things.Even in China, there are different grades of translators. With the cheap price quoted, in order to maximise your profit margin, you can only go for the lowest of the low. To make matters worse, if you have no in-house quality assurance process in placed, you are just doomed to get “匈牙利鬼节” type of translation.

    You pay peanuts. You get monkeys.

    Most translation companies in Singapore make their money not from translating for the local market. We make money translating for the global market.

    We must do what Singapore is best at. Post-processing. We shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel.

    I may make many enemies when I say what they are doing now, pleases only the academics. Period.

    It does nothing but limit the growth of translation companies that are ready and able to do international business.

    As long as you are awarding the jobs to irresponsible translation companies quoting at very low prices, even those who say they have qualified plus accredited translators in-house, you will see the jobs going out to some obscure sweatshop-like translation companies in China staffed with unqualified undergraduates ready to earn a yuan any time. I hope you are not expecting the companies to staff themselves with numerous qualified and accredited local translators to handle the job for you? Not with the price quoted.

    Currently translators can accredit themselves with the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters in Australia, the American Translators Association (ATA) or SIM’s Certificate Examination for Professional Translators.

  1. The pass rate for candidates sitting for ATA is at 20%, what are your opinions on that?
    I am not very familiar with these examinations but I understand even these associations are not equal.
  1. The take up rate for SIM’s Certificate Examination is very low (12 candidates last year). What is your take on that?
    Again, the reality is that translation is a tough job.If you don’t have the passion for translation, you won’t last in this industry.If you think translation can earn you big money with lots of free time to spare, most will be shocked beyond belief when they realised that their earning is tied to the number of words they can translate.And with the kind of perception and respect the society has for this trade, sometimes, it may not be worth the while.Last but not least, it is all about demand. We just do not have enough demand for local languages to allow them to make a comfortable living.Even if they are good enough to handle translation for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong market, can they be more competitive than their counterparts in China?At this moment, it is a pessimistic NO.

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