The old adage is true: You get what you pay for… especially when it comes to translation.
Cost is typically a major factor in most business decisions, but keep this in mind: cheap translations are cheap for a reason. You can’t get a good translation at rock-bottom prices unless someone is working below market rates, and chances are it’ll be missing some of the added value and, more importantly, the assurances that come with a professional service.
First-time translation buyers often choose the least expensive option because they don’t appreciate how translation works. Before using a professional service, many simply rely upon someone they know who “speaks the language” or use free online tools such as Google Translate. The results can range from embarrassing to inaccurate -- or worse. Simply put, language translation is a craft, not unlike writing or graphic design, and the experience of the individual translators is highly correlated with good quality results and the appropriate cost structure.
Pricing will vary from company to company so make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting before you make a decision. Sometimes cheap means non-native translators working in an unfamiliar language. Sometimes cheap means skipping important steps or quality reviews. Sometimes it means using generalists that don’t have knowledge of the terminology or content. You wouldn’t ask an electrician to fix a leaky faucet. Similarly someone that knows nothing about due diligence or electrical equipment will be challenged to reasonably translate specialized information.
If you’re in the market for professional translation services, consider the following before jumping at the lowest price:
• Does this price include sentence-by-sentence editing by a linguist to guard against mistakes?
• Are the translators subject-matter experts?
• Is it machine translation?
• If machine, will it be post-edited by a qualified translator, and to what degree?
• Does this price include layout editing or review in the final form?
• What is the warranty for mistakes?
• Does this price include returning the text in the original document, or do you have to cut/paste?