Bargain translations: you get what you pay for

Quality over quantity

Too much choice can actually make life more difficult. Sifting through a wide range of offers can be confusing, no matter what it is you’re looking for, and it takes time and effort to pick the right option.

These days, even translation services come in abundance, and it would seem to make the most sense to go for the cheapest. It’s only natural! After all, who wants to spend more on basically the same results? The only question is, are those results really the same?

Read more to find out why cheap isn't always a good idea.

Is the translation good or bad?

Okay, so you've hired a low-cost provider to translate your text. You might be lucky and get a pretty good translation. On the other hand, it’s just as likely that the results will leave something to be desired.

The quality of a translation often comes down to a matter of taste, and bad doesn’t always mean wrong. In other words, just because you don't like the style of a translation doesn't mean it contains mistakes. Similarly, it could be technically correct, but be totally wrong for your target audience.

Whether it's the style, spelling or grammar that's flawed, when the translated text has nothing in common with your own language, it's almost impossible to tell how good or bad it really is. If you then discover that the translation contains errors after it’s been published or sent to print, not only is this embarrassing, it also damages the good reputation your company has built up over the years. It doesn’t look professional.

Then again, even if you do notice problems with the translation before you give the final approval to print, and even if you can have them corrected, this can still cause timing issues, especially if the translation is needed urgently.

For all these reasons and more, it’s essential that you hire a good professional to translate your text.

Translator training

There’s just one problem here. “Translator” is not a protected job title, meaning anyone can claim to be one. However, genuine, professional translators are not simply good at foreign languages; most of them have also completed several years of training, usually in the form of a degree course. And, as is the case with all professionals, their services are not available at bargain-basement prices.

So, before you sign a contract for your translation project, make sure that the translators have completed the appropriate training – regardless of the price. This is the only way to ensure you get quality work.

Working with professional translators

Reputable translation agencies work exclusively with professional, native-speaking translators. Furthermore, many translators are specialised in particular fields, such as medical technology, contract documents or product descriptions for lifestyle products. Reference lists will give you an idea of the specialist areas in which your translation agency is particularly well versed.

To find a good translation agency, look at their references and check for certifications. Does your agency of choice work according to DIN EN ISO 17100? If so, then you know you can rely on standardised process flows and an established quality management system. These companies also offer a final post-translation proofread by a professionally qualified editor, to help further eliminate potential errors.

Translators as mediators between cultures

Translating doesn't mean being a human dictionary. If that were the case, anyone could do it using the huge range of online and print dictionaries available. Obviously, translators do translate text, but they primarily act as intercultural mediators.

Even professional translators cannot spontaneously translate every foreign word that they hear or read, and may use tools in the translation process. Nonetheless, translators are experts in their own culture, and that of others, and know which wording will best appeal to your target audience.

Quality is the main criterion when choosing a translator

To recap, when you need a translation, don't simply pick the cheapest provider. Instead, make sure that the quality is good too. Reference lists and certifications will help you choose the right translation agency.