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How much does a bad translation cost?

How much does a bad translation cost?

Almost all buyers of translation services face the same issues when assigning a translation project. There are two main inevitable factors, which are the service price and the delivery time. However, we have all used online translation services which are extremely tempting due to their instantaneousness and the fact that they allow us to get a free translation of a text immediately.  We are ready to sacrifice something as indefinite as translation quality because what we really want is immediate access to the information. We want to know what the text says. But it is one thing to decipher a text that we don’t understand in Arabic, Russian, Chinese or German, and another to believe that the service will allow us to publish something decent in those languages. If anybody has ever asked how much a bad translation costs, we can clear it up right now: a laughable amount, when we take into account the cost of reassigning the translation in order for it to be done well, not to mention delays, etc. Maintaining the balance between cost, quality and time is the key to avoiding a bad translation of a text that cannot be read, and avoids its shortcomings being badly spoken of by third parties: users, clients, readers, etc. Fulfilling each of those aspects is the secret of success for us, and at Pangeanic we know that machine translation is very useful. We’ve developed our own machine translation technology and participated in European research and development projects such as the  EXPERT Project, as well as other efficient translation management developments in Spain. At Pangeanic we work in such a way that the price, time and quality are always as you expect, with no exceptions. There is an old saying in the translation industry:

 The pleasure of saving a few pennies disappears very quickly when the shame of having published a bad translation becomes real.

When a client or proofreader realises that the text they’ve received is a bad translation”, this is usually down to

  • A lack of understanding of the original text on behalf of the translator;
  • A failure to review the job (as is the case in so many other professions) which causes misunderstandings between the author of the text and the recipient;
  • Having used a translation service with only the cost and time in mind. That is to say, as translation buyers, we had already decided right at the start that what mattered most was the cost instead of trying to get maximum quality (which is not necessarily much more expensive);

Finding errors in a translation job is always painful. We find ourselves receiving opinions about a written text which, on many occasions, we don’t even understand ourselves. As well as being incredibly frustrating, it also leaves a bitter and shameful taste in our mouths. Furthermore, this situation becomes worse if the translation has already been sent to a printing office or if you have already paid for a printing service. To rub salt into the wound, it may have been published on a website.

The demands of many companies require immediate translations. In certain cases, when the content is not of such high value (simply for consulting), machine translation is the perfect option. For example, this is the case when translating reviews in the tourism and hospitality industry (making bookings over the internet).. But these services that promise instant translations with human quality can only use non-specialist machine translation tools. Without a translator who reads and post-edits the text, the end product will always be rather rough and ready; the product of software that is far from the cadence and coherence with which people express themselves in order to communicate. It is only necessary for us to copy and paste a piece of text from a foreign newspaper to realise that non-specialist translators such as Google Translate or Bing Translator can help us to muddle through, but if the text in question has a specific style or is designed to rouse certain feelings or passions in the target audience (for example, to get them to buy or become interested in our services, to explain what we do or to give a briefing or serious report), they are useless.

For these reasons it is essential to evaluate not only the budget that we have in mind to pay for the translation service, but also the time and deadline that we’re giving to the translator in order to do their job well and the conditions in which the project will be carried out. All of this will impinge on and have a very direct impact on the translation quality. For example, not all translation buyers are aware that it is essential to have the text revised by a different linguist or translator to the one who did the actual translation. This is a very important aspect. Not only because two heads are better than one, but also because it is always easier to find errors in other people’s work than when we critique our own.

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