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The "X" market for translations

The X market for translationsOur post on crowdsourcing translations created good comments and discussions.

On LinkedIn, Jose Henrique Lamensdorf introduced the concept of an X market for translations. Here is an excerpt for those without a LinkedIn account:

...each and every client, on each and every job, should consider the cost/benefit ratio. Benefit involves an advantage being used by the buyer; if the buyer doesn't use an advantage, it never turns out to be a benefit, so it's not worth whatever it costs.

If a translation is needed because "a translation MUST be delivered", but nobody will ever read it, free machine translation will be good enough. No need to waste some change on a rock-bottom-cheap translator, who will turn in a job about just as bad.

On the other hand, if a translation behooves quality, the buyer will seek the best value for average market rates. This is how the Japanese auto industry beat the Detroit old-timers.

Now that the translation market is settling after broadband Internet, a chasm is apearing at a certain translation rate, let's call it "X". It divides the lower-end "just passable" translations from the really bad translations that compete directly with their automatic computer-generated production.

The truth is that no end-client will pay "X" for bad translation work that can be purchased for less (or even obtained for free). Conversely, no translator able to do better than that will take any job for "X" if they can get more. So the "X" translation area is gradually being vacated by both translators and clients/outsourcers alike.
Jose, who is a professional translator himself, is onto something here...

Recent developments like crowdsourcing translations and Google's Translator Toolkit will help define clients' quality-versus-cost expectations and will force low-quality translation providers out of business - or into the higher-quality segment.

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  1. cgtradmed said...
    Very interesting !
    The destination/quality/price ratio is and will be the key.
    It was confirmed only last week. Here is the story :
    Three weeks ago, an agency owner contacted me about a rather voluminous project, of which only a (big) part was purely medical. We prepared an estimate. The final client didn't follow up on the estimate, apparently giving the preference to another provider. That's OK !
    On last Thursday, the agency owner contacted me again, asking me to have a look at a text which was supposed to be the French translation of a part of this famous project.
    When I opened the file, I could not help laughing out loud. Even if this part was the not-purely-medical one (my speciality), I immediately realized that it was an awful translation.
    In fact, the agency and I had the same immediate reaction : this cannot be a "human" translation!
    For some reasons, I was not able to take the edition of this disaster - I should say "the re-translation" -, but it was obvious that it did need to be edited. Nearly every sentence was a catastroph.
    The final client was furious and terribly disappointed by this so-called translation. Not only was the first translation not exploitable, but he has now to pay for the complete edition/re-translation. Even if he refuses to pay the first translator, he has lost time, hence money, and maybe even the business project for which he needed this translation.
    What a waste !
    But let's be positive, even if it sounds a bit ironic : the more waste of this type will happen, the more the clients will come back to us, the true Professionals, and the higher -I mean normal and deserved :-)- the price of our services will be.
    We just need to be patient ...
    Tom Guckian said...
    I am amazed that the agency in question shipped the translation to the client in the 1st place. Do you have any quality standards to assess the quality of the translation? It's not about the cheapest price, its about the lowest cost to provide a translation acceptable to the client. There were no winners in your story. None.
    Leah Aharoni said...
    From what I understood, the 1st (horrible) translation was not provided by the agency.

    Our agency has clients that call us asking to "check" a machine translated document. We always take the time to educate the clients and explain that such "checking" usually requires more time and effort than high quality translation would.

    On a more positive note, a client called me the other day asking to translate their marketing materials into German. He said he was disappointed with machine translation results (his German was good enough to appreciate just how bad the translation was).

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