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Cheap Translation Services: Do You Really Get What You Pay For?

If you’ve ever been in need of translation services, or are currently looking into them for your company, chances are good that you’ve likely shopped around for what you consider to be the best deal while looking into the different options. You’ve spent a lot of money and time ensuring that your current brochure, form, website, etc. is perfectly crafted for your company and your customers. If you are looking to have the same translated for another audience, it only makes sense that you would like the best for them as well. If this is still fairly new for you, it can be a bit overwhelming and we understand wanting to find the best price for your company. However, that best price may not always come with the best quality translation, so if a pricing option seems too good to be true, it may be important to remember that you often really do get what you pay for.

If you do decide to use cheap, often unaccredited translation services, or even accept the help of a bilingual friend who may not be truly qualified to translate your text, you will end up with an initially cheaper service. However, you might compare it to the quality/cost comparison of just about anything currently on the market. Just as a $5.00 shovel may work well for a single yard project, chances are good it won’t last the entire season, and you will end up needing to replace the shovel again anyway. If you continue to purchase the $5.00 shovel, you will likely spend more money and time replacing it than you would if you had just purchased the $30.00 shovel to begin with.

Translation is similar. If you print a subpar translation on your brochures, your customers will notice. There will be errors, and although they won’t always be critical errors, if your customers can tell that it’s a translation at all, it impacts your reputation with them. The mark of a good translation is one you do not even realize has been translated. It should read smoothly and naturally so that the reader believes it was written with him in mind in the first place.

Professional linguists do not and should not have the cheapest rates around, so if you are quoted an extremely low price compared to others, it’s likely that the linguists used are not the most qualified, or perhaps, the agency uses shortcuts to keep the price so low (using machine translation to begin with, and only using a human proofreader to review that text, for example). A reputable translation agency will have strict measures in place to ensure the quality of your product. A translation should always be handled by at least two separate qualified linguists to both translate and proofread/edit the text, and then undergo the agency’s own quality assurance measures to avoid any issues from the onset.

If you are truly interested in saving money, have the translation handled correctly the first time to avoid costly mistakes down the road. ATS is proud to say that we do not take shortcuts with your projects and always use professional translators and proofreaders who are qualified to handle the content of your project. If you would like more information on a current project you have, or would like to request a free consultation, we would love to hear from you!

Common Misconceptions about Translation

You may have heard the phrase, “Translation is an art.” It may have even crossed your mind to wonder just how in the world translation could be an art. Isn’t it just replacing words in one language with words in another? Simple, right? And hardly an art form. The fact is, translation is serious art, and can have definite ramifications if done poorly. When considering translation, bear in mind the following misconceptions:

Being bilingual makes you a good translator

The idea that someone who speaks two languages would make a good translator makes sense at first blush. However, being able to communicate in a second language does not necessarily imply that you have the skillset to translate into or from that language. A skilled translator possesses a great command of both his/her native tongue and the foreign language, picking up on subtle nuances and cultural subtleties throughout. He or she should also be a skilled writer, having a strong grasp of the rules of both languages.

Translation is just replacing text word for word in another language

Translation is almost never so literal as to replace text in a word-for-word fashion. Every language has different grammatical rules and sentence structures. If we try and translate something word for word, it will likely lose its intended meaning, and often results in something quite comical! A translator will have a good grasp of these rules in both languages to ensure that it is well-written and not overly literal. He or she will also recognize local idioms and their equivalents. While “Break a leg” is well-known to mean “Good luck” in English, a literal translation into another language could imply that you wish someone harm! A skilled translator will be able to take the local idiom and convey the same meaning in the target language.

Machine translation can replace human translators

While many computer programs are able to translate on a basic level, no program is without error. A human translator is able to distinguish between words and phrases with multiple possible meanings, to take on the complexities of languages that are ever changing, and to ultimately ensure that the meaning of a text is conveyed in its proper context. While a good machine translation can provide a rough idea of what the text is about, it cannot replace a human translator when it comes to needing a quality translation.

Translation is quick and easy, so turnaround times should be short

Depending on the nature of the text and the language into which it is being translated, an average translator is able to handle about 2,500 words per day. For a quality translation, you should also factor in time for proofreading and/or revision. If your document is 5,000 words, for example, it is not realistic to expect a quality translation to be returned the next morning, unless you agree to have a team of translators work on your project. However, extra steps should be taken to ensure consistency and quality.  

Do you have a misconception you would like to add or a question about the translation process? Comment below or visit our website to contact us!

4 Things Your Money Will Buy Besides a Quality Translation

Beginning a new translation project for your company can be a daunting task. Having a good quality translation is key to the project’s success, but you may also be looking at your budget, wondering how the translation will fit into it and why it is worth spending the money to have it done professionally. When looking to make every dollar count, it is important to know what you are getting when you have your document, brochures, website, etc. translated. Below is a brief list of what you can expect to get for your money, other than a good quality translation.

  1. A growing customer base. Having your project translated gives your company the potential to reach a whole new group of customers. A consumer is more likely to engage with a brand if there is material available in his or her native language. It is more comfortable for the consumer, and as a result, this person feels at ease with your company, knowing you are making the effort to reach them directly. These curious consumers could easily turn into loyal customers for your business.
  2. Reduced customer service interactions. If you’ve translated your materials into the language of your customers, these individuals will have fewer questions for a customer service department. Let’s say, for example, that you are looking to translate an instruction manual for assembling furniture. If the instructions are only available in English, a LEP individual (limited English proficiency), may only understand the main ideas and as a result, could put together the item incorrectly or have to call the customer care line for assistance. Every interaction is a cost to your business, so reducing these interactions with well-written translated instructions could help reduce the cost in this area. Customers who are able to follow along easily with your product are also more likely to turn into…
  3. Happier, loyal, repeat customers. If the instruction manual was difficult for the person to read, and he or she struggled to complete it without additional help and support, the customer will remember this experience and potentially choose another company’s products in the future when looking to purchase similar items or a replacement down the road. If, on the other hand, the materials were translated well and the customer had an easy time following along and putting the item together, he or she will remember that, too, and will be likely to continue purchasing your products in the years to come.
  4. Increased profits year over year (YOY). The initial investment of translating your materials may seem costly. However, the potential for reduced customer service interactions, along with happier, loyal long-term customers you’ve been able to reach because of the translations will turn a profit for your company in the long run. You should be able to see the great return on investment (ROI) in your YOY profits.

Translation is a fantastic tool for reaching new markets and building a loyal customer base. When considering the ROI for translation services, be sure to think mid-to-long-term for your company. Although you may not see a profit right away, the investment is well worth the numbers you will see over the years to come as your customer base continues to grow and expand, earning your business more profit all the while.

What Are Back Translations and When Are They Necessary?

Back translation is the process of translating a previously translated document back to the original language, using a different translator. Depending on the size of the document, it can be costly to do, so it is not requested that often. However, there are instances when the process of completing a back translation is beneficial, or even necessary. It is a great way to verify the validity of the original translation work, and can help to avoid unnecessary issues once an item goes to print.

Since this process requires a second translator to review and re-translate the material, it will increase the cost of the translation project, so knowing when if a back translation will be beneficial to perform is helpful. If the original material contains local idioms or specialized jargon, it could certainly benefit to go through this process. This can help lessen the chances of having an overly literal translation that does not translate properly back into the original language. It may also be used to check marketing and advertising slogans. If a slogan is translated too literally, it often loses its meaning or advertising power.

You may have heard of the milk advertising slogan, “Got Milk?” When putting the slogan into Spanish material, it was originally translated as “¿Tienes leche?” This is a correct literal translation of the words. However, when you translate that particular phrase back into English, it actually means “Do you have milk?”, which can imply “Are you lactating?” This is not the intended meaning of the original marketing campaign, so the issue of not having performed a back translation in this particular case is evident. Had a second translator done a back translation of the slogan, the mistranslation could have been avoided.

Back translation is also often used in research texts, when verifying the reliability of the responses is of highest importance. The translator responsible for the back translation will help the research team ensure that each response given is correct and appropriate. If it is not, the team can then investigate the true translation of what the individual intended to say.

Have you ever witnessed a translation job that you think could have benefited from back translation, or seen an example of back translation that caused one to find a serious error in the original? Let us know about it in the comments!

Is That Online Translation Really Free?

The idea that using an online translation tool to translate materials for free has a certain appeal. It is no surprise that many are tempted to use these free tools to translate materials for their company; the idea of saving money on a service is attractive. However, while a free online translation might give you the basic idea of what a text says, the saying “you get what you pay for” is certainly true with regard to translation. A free translation is likely to contain errors. What’s more, if used in place of a professional translation service, using the free version could actually cost you money instead. You likely already know that large translation blunders are risky. If you were a hospital administrator, would you take a chance on free translation software at the risk of your patients? Even a mistake in the wording of instructions for taking medicine could make the difference between life and death in the most severe cases. A translation error like that could cause a major lawsuit, resulting in significant losses for your company or organization.

Even if your translation error is not likely to result in something so significant, it could end up costing you more in the long run. If your customers notice the, it could impact your company’s reputation of professionalism. At this point, you may hire a professional translation company to fix the error. It will also cost you more time than if you had translated it correctly the first time. In addition, if you have already printed the translation in a brochure or other material, you will end up with extra production and printing costs to replace the incorrectly translated versions, also costing you more in time and production in the long run.

If you are looking for ways to save on translation, keep the following in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Sending your project to a translation company with plenty of time before it is due will help you avoid rush fees.
  • Is there a large amount of text? Check with the translation company about bulk discounts, especially if there is a lot of repetition throughout.
  • Avoid very small projects to avoid minimum fees. Otherwise, you will pay extra to compensate for the time spent in managing the project. It is best to combine several small projects into one larger project for a better overall rate.

While there may be a cost up front to translate your materials if you opt to use a professional translation service instead of the free translation software, the aforementioned tips may help lower your overall cost, especially knowing that the “free” translation you received online may not actually be free for your company’s reputation and budget in the long run.

Quality as a differentiator in translation? Think again...

When asked what makes your company different from others in your industry, what do you tell people? What truly makes you stand out? If your answer is quality, think again. Everyone's selling quality these days. Sure, it's fine to point out that you utilize high-quality materials or services to deliver the final product to your clients, but that's not really what makes you different. At least, it shouldn't be. The same is true in the world of translation. We don't know of a single translation vendor who would say they don't sell quality services to their clients. If you find one, please let us know. If you're not selling a quality product, why sell anything at all? So rather than listening to a translation vendor brag about its quality and accuracy in translation, (which should be a given) find out what makes the vendor different than its competitors. What makes it unique within the Translation and Interpreting (T&I) industry and stand out among other vendors? What will make you choose one vendor over another when it comes time to purchase translation?

From our own clients at ATS, we've heard several things that help them in making a decision. Here are the top 3 we hear most often:

1. A Personal (and Personable) Experience: Clients want to feel that their project is important, no matter the size or scope. If they have to deal with a lot of red tape in order to receive the translation, they'll soon look elsewhere. Personal experiences don't always mean local ones. Many of our clients are all over the United States and world and have been referred by colleagues and other clients. Why don't they choose a more local vendor? Well, just like any shopping experience, they want to go with a service they've heard will serve them well.

We try to offer that experience to all of our clients. We want to know about our clients and what they do in order to better serve them by respecting their time and allow them to make their decisions based on the information we can make available to them. Even though we may never have the chance to meet them in person, we want our clients to know we value them and can add value to their business or organization by providing them with a seamless communication experience across languages.

2. Specializations: Our linguists specialize. What does this mean? It means we won't send a clinical trial consent form to a translator who specializes in automotive texts simply because her native language is the target* language for this client. We make sure our linguists are specialists in the area(s) they translate, as well as natives of the target language with the education and training necessary to complete the translation as though it were originally written in the target language.

Although specialized linguists might not be a huge differentiator in the T&I industry, it can be the difference between a professional service and language student or instructor from a local language department. Consider your industry's terminology and the complications that arise when complex topics are discussed with those outside the industry. Now, consider the complications that could arise from having the document translated by someone who does not specialize or has little knowledge in the area.

3. Thoroughness: One very special point in which our team at ATS takes great pride is thoroughness. In providing our clients with specialized linguists who work on their texts, we know that our work is thorough. To add to this, we make sure to ask our clients questions about the text itself before we ever touch it. To name a few: Who will be reading the text? What might be confusing to them or has possibly been confusing to those who have read the English text in the past? What industry-specific terms should be maintained in English? Will our clients have in-country reviewers working alongside our team to develop the text for readership in other countries and markets? In what format do our clients prefer to receive the translated documents or materials?

Thoroughness is a broad differentiator. So, if your potential vendor expresses that you'll receive a thorough or accurate translation, ask them to break down what they mean by "thorough" and "accurate". We often have new buyers ask us, "How will I know it's an accurate translation? I don't speak Spanish." That's where we come in. And we further explain how we are able ensure the thorough, accurate and yes, top quality job they seek. But we don't do it just like our competitors. We have other differentiators that add incredible value for our clients, and quality is just a given.

*target language: The language into which the text will be translated. For example, if a client requests that a document be translated from American English into Canadian French, the source language is American English and the target is Canadian French.

Quality Assurance in Translation: 3 Questions to Ask your Provider

Quality Assurance is something promised by all language providers, or at least, it should be. However, what makes the QA process from one provider different from that of another? How do you know that the process will work for your translation project? These are two questions you should be thinking about if you are in the market to purchase translations, and here are some tips to help you.

Ask about the overall process before you contract the provider.This can save you a lot of questions from superiors and your own clients. How do you know that the translation will be accurate and free of errors? Do you speak the second language (of the translation) well enough to assess it? We love when our new clients ask, "Well, how do I know that the translation is correct?" Obviously there must be a strong sense of trust in handing over documents for translation to a provider. So, interview the provider and inquire about the overall processes. If you see any red flags, this could be a sign to shop elsewhere. You should hear answers about the process that ensure proofreading, editing, final revisions and collaboration among the linguists who will work on your project. Objective revisions that ensure quality are key, whereas subjective changes should be avoided.

Require that changes made to the text be handled by the linguists themselves. This may seem apparent, but there are providers who will request more information from the linguist as they prepare your documents for delivery without having the linguist review the actual file. Ask that all revisions to files be made directly by the linguist (not over the phone, not via an instant email message or chat, but to the document itself). This way, you can rest assured that the linguist was able to review the file in its entirety when making the revision, which is crucial in the QA process. Without complete context, one might not have enough information to properly revise a phrase or paragraph, and this is where errors can easily occur.

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Ask what tools your providers uses in the QA process.Does your provider keep client-specific glossaries, Translation Memories (TMs) and a style guide on hand and provide these to the linguists who will work on the project? Will your provider be willing to work with your in-country reviewers, if you have them? What evaluations does the provider have for its linguists and how are they reevaluated for their work?

These three tips will help you to understand the translation process and quality assurance of translations more, as you decide which provider is best for your company. Quality Assurance processes are found in all industries, and the translation and interpreting industry is no different. If your potential or current provider cannot answer your questions directly and without hesitation, it might be time to shop elsewhere.