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03/17/07

Permalink 10:26:00 am, Categories: For translation buyers, For professional translators, 462 words  

Why is translation such a tricky project to undertake?

You might wonder why there seems to be so much concern about quality when it comes to translation. Aren’t all translation providers more or less the same?

The truth of the matter is, there is a bit of everything in the translation arena, and probably less excellence than mediocrity.

Let’s face it: translation is not a highly reputed profession. Only if you are well ahead in your learning curve do you know that computer translation is not a good idea, and that speaking two languages is far from enough to make anybody a good translator. There is a generally held belief that translation is easy. Hey, even I was naive enough to choose translation studies because I thought they would be easy for me, considering my knack and love for languages! When you are in this frame of mind, you expect professional translation to be quick and cheap, and you will do everything possible to find a translation provider that matches your budget. And you probably will, no matter how low you set your limit.

On the other hand, high-quality translation providers strive a great deal to find quality translators. They start out by selecting translators with seemingly solid profiles and qualifications, and then they test them, only to keep about 1 out of 10 of them. Top-notch professional translators tend to be on the expensive side because they generate a lot of demand for their services. But some translation providers are less concerned with quality than they are concerned with boosting their bottom line, and hire translators who charge low rates. Why do these translators charge low rates? Usually because the quality of their work does not attract that much business, and instead of trying to study and work harder to improve themselves — which admittedly takes a good deal of time and effort — they choose low pricing as their winning argument. Whether they do this out of immediate financial necessity or lack of pride for what they do, the outcome is more or less the same: substandard translations.

Of course, not many things in this life are completely black or white, but these are general patterns. You can sometimes find good translators who are cheap — though they tend to quickly increase their rates as they are soon flooded with work — and you can find not-so-good translators who charge high rates. How do they manage it? Who knows!

The point of this post is not telling you to go with the most expensive translation provider you can find. The point is rather highlighting the importance of taking appropriate measures to assess your prospective translation provider’s quality, and hopefully caring about price later. With a little bit of luck, this reading will save you some hard trial-and-error steps in your learning curve!

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