A good translation is too expensive. Or is it?

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You are what you eat, right? And we all know that. However, quality food may seem ridiculously overpriced until we see the effort that stands behind each organic apple we buy. On the one hand, apples simply grow on trees. On the other hand, you have dry weather, pests, and other things to care about before customers get their shiny apples grown with love…

But are you ready to pay for the effort? Especially if you are unaware of its extent…

The same thing happens when we are talking about a good translation. If you have never been behind the scenes of the translation process, you will hardly understand why you need to pay much for the mere replacement of words in one language with words from another one.

Let’s see what quality translation made with love actually implies:

  • It is done by someone who knows the subject matter. Let’s admit it: not everyone can explain things well even in their native language, let alone speak on any topic with any person. Try talking professionally to a surgeon, and you will find that you hardly make any sense of what he is saying – even though you know the language. Can you translate an article on surgery then – even if you know two languages? The right answer is “No”.
  • The text was polished by the editor and the proofreader. And it was not the translator who did these tasks just to be more productive: a good translation agency will never allow this. It takes three (at least two) to tango in translation, so don’t be lured by a low cost. The text has to be recognized as a piece written clearly and correctly by several people before it can be handed over to the customer.
  • A translator needs professional tools. A home office costs something, right? A real pro needs at least one CAT tool that usually requires an annual subscription fee. A translator is in fact an entrepreneur that incurs all associated expenses on marketing, web hosting, and money transfer costs.

What happens if you decide to cut all these corners?

  • Someone who does not know the subject matter is likely to yield a strange piece of text: you will read it and wonder why parts of it are written by a human being and other parts seem to be compiled by children, aliens, or bots. This is a slight exaggeration, of course, but there is a grain of truth in it.
  • The text translated by a professional may look good even without an editor or proofreader. Still, it will lack the ultimate elegance and perfection.
  • A translator can work without a CAT tool. However, he or she will hardly achieve full consistency, and the customer will have to pay for repetitions.

And it’s up to you to decide whether these things look critical to you.

What other things does a cheap piece of translation imply?

  • Artificial intellect working instead of a human brain. Google translate does solve some problems. However, there are cases when all things matter: form, content, and even elegance of the text. If you respect the person who will get that piece of writing (it may be an important customer or counterparty), you will do everything to ensure that the text looks good.
  • Your text will be handled by a person who knows two languages but is not a professional translator. What does that mean? Well, amateurs are sometimes really good, but a specialist is someone who requires training to give stable quality. Would you choose an amateur surgeon to do an operation for you? Never in a lifetime. There is a huge difference between the ability to say or write something in a different language and the production of a good text. And translators know how to do that.
  • You pay a low price for a full-fledged TEP process (translator-editor-proofreader) and still get poor quality. The reason is that all these roles may be entrusted to one translator, and you will never find it out. Sometimes you may even get a good text out of that, but you should still know that the TEP process is a good industry practice that ensures stable quality – not just a way to get more money from the customer.

There are customers who are OK with such services, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, you should know what you buy.

Have you ever read a poorly translated book? Here is what happens if you do:

  • First of all, you will hardly read it until the end. It’s like music – you can adore a particular piece, but it will be real torture to listen to it if the instrument is out of tune.
  • Second, what will you think about the author? Will you appreciate his ideas as much as you could if they were elegantly stated? In most cases you will not – let’s admit it. And if this is your first acquaintance with the work, you are unlikely to select this author next time.
  • Third, poor language makes any ideas look cheap. If you read the book to the end, you may get something valuable out of it. But you will automatically put a tick in your head to mark the book, the author, and the whole series as cheap. And this, unfortunately, will be hard to change later on.

The first impression happens only once, and your text should convey the right message about you straight away. In fact, a translator is a trusted person responsible for the impression you produce in a foreign language. Isn’t that a responsible position?

As you see, there are many things behind the scenes in the translation industry. If a person knows two languages, it does not make him a professional who can be your “voice”. And if you need a piece about your company (or any project you may be engaged in) that produces a good impression, be prepared to pay a decent price for the services.

Miser pays twice. Don’t pay twice – pay reasonably.

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