The truth about translation industry: fact versus fiction
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Translation myths and misconceptions: we sort fact from fiction

the translation industry

We explode the myths surrounding translation services

With many companies still smarting from the effects of the global recession while industries become more competitive than ever before thanks to global competition, is not surprising that many businesses are looking to save pennies. Whenever a company analyses its outgoings, it’s easier to justify cutbacks in certain areas, when these areas are often providing incalculable value to a company. Investment in translation is just such an area, because it can be hard to track the monetary value of translation, and because in times of crisis businesses are reluctant to ‘speculate to accumulate’, preferring to play it safe. But misinformation and misconceptions are rife when it comes to translation, and the myths that surround this little-understood industry could be losing you money and ultimately weakening your business. Read on to discover the facts behind the fiction and learn why translation is a vital investment for any savvy company, which will pay for itself many times over.

1. Translation is too expensive

Many businesses are put off making even basic enquiries into translation because they believe it is too expensive. But this doesn’t have to be true. Translators nowadays work with sophisticated software that can considerably cut costs, and many agencies offer discounts on for bulk jobs or long-term contracts. Looking for a translation agency based outside of large international cities like London and New York, or even an online company can save you money without sacrificing quality. And an investment in high-quality translation can unlock hitherto untapped markets, making it worth its weight in gold.

2. Translation is easy

Among the more pernicious myths about translation is the idea that anyone who speaks two languages can do it. Actually, this could not be further from the truth. Truly great translators are extremely hard to find, because translation demands a range of skills, including stylistic flair, a knack for research, a gimlet eye for accuracy and often in-depth knowledge of another industry, such as IT or engineering. Translators often hold postgraduate qualifications as well as their first degrees, and spend years investing in high-quality resources such as software, dictionaries and encyclopaedias in order to provide the very best service. So before you ask your bilingual colleague to translate your new website, make sure you’re not missing out on a much better deal.

3. Machine translation will do the job

Another hopeful misconception about translation industry is that computers are already up to the task of replicating or even bettering human translation. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. While advancements in computer technology have led to all sorts of useful software that can automate part of the process in the hands of professional human translators, computers are still nowhere near obtaining the skill level required to translate on their own. Automatic machine translation is usually a false investment, because only a human has the necessary contextual intuition, understanding of nuance and subtlety to translate the text properly. Machines don’t get jokes, understand idioms or comprehend connotations, whatever the sci-fi films might suggest. Thankfully we’re still a long way off from an uprising of robot translator overlords, so until that day comes you’re better off sticking with the flesh and blood kind.

4. The translation process is too complicated

The translation process can indeed be complicated if you’re trying to do it yourself, which is why hiring a professional translation agency to handle the entire process from start to finish is the best way to go. Most professional translation services companies will offer DTP services, so even if your text needs to be extracted from your website, scans of paper documents or single layer image files, the translation agency can take care of this for you. Look for an  agency with a dedicated project manager for each client, so you’ll have just one contact person who will be available whenever you are.

5. Our company isn’t ready for translation

Many clients put off translation indefinitely because they feel that their company is not ready to move into foreign markets. The problem with this is that until you take that very first step you have no way of knowing if you’re ready. One thing is for sure: if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Companies who aren’t ready miss out on potential sales as well as the opportunity to learn, grow and adapt for the better. If you don’t make the first move, it’s likely that your company will end up stuck on a plateau, stunted and constrained by the natural boundaries of your home market, never getting the chance to really fly. Research 1 shows that companies that invest in translation enjoy increased revenue. The process of expansion may seem overwhelming, but by breaking it down into small steps you’ll pave the way to new opportunities and give your business the very best chance of success.

6. I don’t need a professional, specialised, native translator

In fact, these are the three most important qualities you should look for in a translator or translation team. Professional translators are well qualified and have access to all the resources they need to do a great job, as well as years of experience dealing with similar texts so that you don’t have to worry about novice mistakes. A professional translation services company will provide all the editing, proofreading and checking that the text needs to shine. As well as looking for professional services, you should also seek out a translator who is highly specialised in your subject area and in the type of writing you need. Choosing a team is a great way to achieve this, so that your engineering website can be translated by an engineering specialist and then edited by someone with an in-depth knowledge of writing for the web. Finally, it’s worth noting that only a native speaker will be able to produce texts that fit in perfectly in their new environment. No matter how talented a non-native speaker is as a writer, researcher and editor, their lower-level language skills will let them, and you, down in the end.

7. There’s not much difference between translation agencies

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. There are a huge number of translation agencies, teams and companies out there, and just like any kind of other organisation, quality varies wildly. It pays to do your research before choosing a translation partner. How do their rates compare with market averages? Do they have testimonials or sample translations on their website for you to gauge the quality of their work? Do they work only with specialised native-speaking translators? Do they offer the other services you might need, such as DTP, transcreation, SEO translation and localisation? Do they have an impressive editing and quality assurance process? Entrusting a company with your translation needs is a big investment, and it pays to get it right, so don’t just go with the first agency you come across. Shop around until you find the team that’s right for you.

8. Translation can be done overnight

Alas, we haven’t yet invented a time machine that allows us to translate thousands of words in a jiffy! Excellent translation takes time, and translators also have their personal lives, which is the reason why you can expect to pay a premium on last-minute rush jobs. That said, rush jobs can often be accommodated with a larger team of translators, although you’ll likely pay a premium for this. The more time you can allow for a translation, the more likely it is that you will get a quality text in return, as well as save money.

We hope these tips will help you sort the wheat from the chaff and find the right translation services vendor for you.

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