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If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys

…as the ancient Chinese proverb goes

You wouldn’t ask your brother who enjoys a bit of Sunday DIY to refit your kitchen…

You wouldn’t ask your neighbour who plays around with computers to design your website…

And you wouldn’t ask your friend who’s obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy to perform your next surgical procedure (too far?!)…

So why do we think translation is any LESS important?

Time and time again we hear of companies turning to amateur translators they find online, their own staff who know bits of another language, or even Google Translate (yes, really!!) to translate content for them…

The end result is rarely of a high standard, and you know what they say – if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur!

So here are our top 3 reasons why you should hire a PROFESSIONAL translator…

1. Reliability and Honesty

Okay, so it might sound boring, but when it comes to translating these qualities are actually way more important than we might care to think…

If I asked you how long you thought it would take for a translator to translate 1000 words, would you know the answer?

You could probably hazard a guess, but only professionals in the business will know exactly how much they can achieve in a certain amount of time. This is something that comes with experience and knowledge of the translation industry. Of course they’d probably need to take a look at the source text as well 😉

We are constantly asked by our clients how long it will take to do their translation…

…and we always give them an honest (yet reasonable!) estimate!

It’s better to be realistic and provide a good service than to make a promise you can’t keep.

And let’s face it, if someone is promising to get a 2000 word translation back to you within an hour, you know that the quality isn’t going to be the best – and you don’t need to be a translation expert to figure that one out!!

At the end of the day, your clients and customers will appreciate that you didn’t compromise on quality and that the end translation is of a high standard!

2. Expertise

Professional translators know their source and target language(s) inside and out…

They are linguists who have been trained in dealing with the subtleties and complexities of their languages and subject areas…

They are aware of the problems that source texts can throw their way, and they know how to solve them…

They are experts in particular fields, specialising in legal translation, medical translation, financial translation and numerous other areas…

They know both their source and target cultures like the back of their hand…

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

But these are the kind of guarantees that you don’t get when you ask Bob from accounts to translate a summary of your annual report into French for you – well, he did learn a bit of the language at school after all!

And as much as technology has made huge advances recently when it comes to translation, it certainly can’t offer any of the above!

If you start cutting corners, you end up going in circles

We like to make sure that all of our translators are native speakers of the language they are translating into, but also that they are based in the country where the content is going to be used.

This is the only way we can be 100% certain that they will be up to date on current language usage, slang terms, inappropriate cultural references – the list goes on!

Neglecting this could result in some serious (and rather awkward!) misunderstandings!

There are plenty of hilarious, but also shocking, marketing and advertising translation fails online – cases where companies have hired an amateur or even just used an online translation tool to do the job for them…

You’d be surprised how far these things go before somebody spots that they’re clearly sending out the wrong message!!

Look at these extreme examples and you’ll see what I mean!

  • It’s all in the slang – the hair-care brand Clairollaunched a curling iron in Germany which they called the “Mist Stick”. Unfortunately “Mist” is actually slang for manure in German…

  • When idiomsand cultural referencesdon’t translate – Pepsi launched their “Pepsi brings you back to life” campaign in China and used a Chinese translation they found which meant “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave” – not exactly catchy and unlikely to go down well in a country where worshipping your ancestors has huge cultural significance…

  • Dialects differ – Ford launched their car the Pinto in Brazil, but didn’t think to check the meaning of the word in Brazilian Portuguese… where it means “tiny male genitals” – taking the idea of suitable cars for small man syndrome to a whole other level!

Asking questions and saving you money

This is another aspect that is often overlooked by businesses…

If you want a job done well, it’s likely that there are going to be some questions about your requirements…

An amateur translator without qualifications or experience is unlikely to question anything that doesn’t seem right in the source text, and is unlikely to seek guidance on how you want certain things translating in the target text…

Great, more time for you to get on with other things!

But not so great when the end translation has glaring errors that could so easily have been avoided…

A clear line of communication between client and translator is key to getting the results your company wants…

  • Maybe the translator wants to know how you like your customers to be addressed – using the formal or informal ‘you’ that crops up in so many languages – in order to stay in line with the tone of your brand

  • Maybe they’ll ask for access to previous translations to check how you like certain terms to be translated for consistency

  • Maybe they’ll have suggestions for aspects of your business that don’t work as well in the target culture as they do in the source culture

Whatever it may be, asking questions will help the translator to come up with the best text possible to resonate with people on a global scale… And that can never be a bad thing!!

Another tool that professional translators use and that amateur translators tend not to have at their disposal is CAT (computer-aided translation) software…

And no, this isn’t a fancy way of saying Google Translate!

These are tools that save the translator time and that could save you money.

They deal with mundane tasks like word counts, text segmentation and repeated words…

When we run a text through one of our CAT programmes, we can see how much of the text is repeated… this means that repeated words and phrases are not translated from scratch every time, which in turn lowers the amount you end up paying for your translation!

Amateur translators and online translation programmes also tend not to have a proofreading step in their translation process – meaning that spelling and grammatical errors and mistyped facts and figures are often overlooked!

So have we convinced you?

Will you be hiring a professional for your next translation?

Have you had any awkward encounters when using an amateur translator or Google Translate?

Let us know in the comments below…


Isabella Fink

Isabella Fink

I am native Austrian and studied Linguistics and Literature at the University of Innsbruck and in Manchester, so language and translation has always been a passion of mine. Before joining Tongue Tied, I have worked as a Translation Assistant and in Customer Services and Purchasing.

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1 Comment

  1. Barraq Ali

    A great article!

    Thank you.


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